New Product Spotlight – Introducing LionChief Plus

3 02 2014

Our soon-to-be-released 2014 Signature Catalog will bring the next evolution of our LionChief™ Remote Control system with five new locomotives equipped with this versatile control. What is LionChief™ Plus and how is it different from LionChief™, Conventional or Command Control? We’ve already had lots of questions on the subject so before we look at the new locomotives themselves, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the different systems and what they have to offer.

Conventional Control


The CW-80 is the most common transformer in our Conventional starter sets today.

Conventional control is the way we’ve powered our trains since the very beginning. A transformer supplies variable AC power to the track. By adjusting the voltage using the lever on the transformer, you control the train’s speed.

Over the years we’ve added many features to our conventional locomotives including working whistles, bells and other effects. But the control of the trains remains at the transformer. And while you can wire your railroad with “blocks” to run more than one train at once, you still need one transformer per train.

Command Control

Lionel broke new ground when we launched our first Command Control system, TMCC™, in 1995. With TMCC you could finally control multiple trains from one controller, or cab. And that cab was wireless so you could go anywhere in the room and follow your trains. Command control uses a constant AC power on the rails and sends specific coded electrical commands to the locomotives to control their movement and many other functions.


LEGACY offers the most complete control systems possible for your model trains.

To enable operators to control more than one train at once without the need for blocks and multiple transformers, each Command locomotive must be programmed with an address. The commands to speed up, stop, reverse, etc. are all preceded by that address so that only the locomotive you want to operate will respond.

TMCC™ evolved into LEGACY™ bringing even more extra features and finer control to the trains. For a locomotive to respond to the commands it must be equipped with a special receiver which can interpret the signals from the cab. A LEGACY™ equipped locomotive can run on conventional layouts as well, and the LEGACY™ system is designed to allow the option to control a conventional locomotive. For more on Command Control see our Wiring Your Layout pages.

LEGACY™ remains our finest control system for our premier line of products.


In 2013 we introduced the LionChief™ Remote Control system in new Ready-to-Run sets. LionChief™ isn’t Conventional control or Command Control – it’s radio control.

preproduction sample

Our radio control options began with our Thomas the Tank Engine set. Like LionChief, easy and reliable operation is at the heart of this design.

Like Command Control, LionChief™ uses a constant 18 Volts on the rails – only this time the wall-pack produces DC. But unlike TMCC™ or LEGACY™, the commands which tell the locomotive to go, stop, whistle, etc. don’t come through the rails; with LionChief™ they are sent via radio signals from the hand-held remote. And unlike command control, there are no locomotive addresses to program. Each locomotive has its own pre-programmed remote controller.

Because it only needs to see 18V of DC or AC power to operate, a LionChief™ locomotive can be run on any LionChief™, Conventional or Command Control powered layout. Just put 18V on the rails and use the remote control to run the train.

And you can run more than one LionChief™ train on the same track at the same time without blocks. On Command layouts, you can run multiple LionChief™ locomotives and command equipped locomotives together on the same track without any extra wiring. When running with a Conventional transformer, a conventional train won’t run with the LionChief™ locomotive(s) without wiring blocks – the same limitations you would face for controlling multiple conventional locomotives still apply. You can run more than one LionChief™ locomotive at once with a conventional power supply.

LionChief™ Plus

The new LionChief™ Plus system is designed to give you all of the control options of LionChief™ PLUS the ability to run the locomotive via your conventional transformer as well. Now you can run the locomotive on any layout (Conventional, LionChief™, TMCC™, LEGACY™ – even competitors’ control systems) with your LionChief™ Remote, or flip a switch on the locomotive and run it as a conventional model.


LionChief Plus locomotives will use the LionChief remote or a conventional transformer.

Our new LionChief™ Plus locomotives have more than just this added control option however. The LionChief™ system was designed to make operating model trains as easy as possible – no wires, no programming, self-explanatory controls, lots of fun in the palm of your hand. With LionChief™ Plus we’ve added many of the features found in higher end locomotives. These are a transition between an entry-level set and a high-end LEGACY™ model.

In addition to more detail on the locomotives, you’ll see features like working electro-couplers, improved sound and smoke, and Odyssey speed control. LionChief™ Plus is designed to give you complete control, exciting operation, an introduction into the many options available in model railroading and all a price point a lot more manageable than our premier products.

We think once you see what LionChief™ Plus can do you’ll be as excited as we are about these new trains. After testing preproduction samples of the Hudson and Pacific, we shot a little video to show the sound and power of these locomotives. Our Pacific handled a train of 25 scale freight cars plus the caboose up a FasTrack grade without any hesitation. If you like smoke, you’ll love LionChief Plus! Unfortunately it doesn’t show up well against the light gray walls of our test layout room, but take our word for it, these locomotives can put out quite the cloud.

See the videos here:  LionChief Plus Sounds  LionChief Plus Power!

Next week we’ll spotlight the new Hudsons here on the blog and go into greater detail on all of their special features. Stay tuned!

Lionel Releases LEGACY Protocol

15 01 2014

Lionel has announced that we are releasing our LEGACY protocol to promote a more universal control standard for the O Gauge hobbyist. Here is the official press release:

Concord, NC – January 15, 2014 – Lionel LLC today announced it will make public its Legacy command protocol and open its WiFi-to-model-railroad interface in an effort to grow the hobby by allowing a single remote to control all manufacturers’ locomotives.

Industry hobbyists have long pined for a universal remote to integrate and control model railroad layouts. Lionel is taking the first step towards realizing this goal via the user’s own smart device and Lionel’s WiFi adapter. Layout Control System (LCS) WiFi creates a common access point with a royalty-free protocol designed for model railroading. Any manufacturer can use LCS WiFi to support their unique locomotive command sets. Within this framework, hobbyists will be able to control different manufacturers’ locomotives seamlessly from one app running on a smart phone or tablet.

“To keep up with today’s mobile-centric landscape, unified control from a smart phone or tablet is critical in growing the hobby of model railroading,” says Jon Zahornacky, Chief Technology Officer at Lionel. “Publishing our WiFi protocol gives the hobby a royalty-free path to controlling any manufacturer’s model trains from smart devices using our WiFi adapter.”

Lionel is working closely with LCS partners to develop their own apps that connect to Lionel’s WiFi interface. The first announced such product is Blue Train developed by Bob Krivacic, a long-time innovator in the model railroad industry. The BlueTrain app runs on Android devices, connects to LCS WiFi, runs Lionel locomotives and can be used simultaneously with any other LCS-compatible controller.

“By opening the Legacy protocol, Lionel is allowing other manufacturers’ products to control Lionel Trains. It’d be great to see other manufacturers follow suit and begin sharing their own proprietary protocols. Everyone involved in the model railroad world stands to benefit,” says Bob Krivacic, industry innovator and developer.

The Legacy command specification is available and can be downloaded from The WiFi specification is available through the LCS Partner program.

New Product Spotlight – Command Control Speeders

5 11 2012

“Speeders,” self-propelled cars used by track gangs, have come in many shapes and sizes. Today, they are as popular to preserve full-scale as they are in models.


6-37066 Maintenance of Way

The speeder, or track car, replaced the hand-powered pumpcars and velocipedes, beginning in the 1920s. The first cars were not much more than a small engine, four wheels and a bench. Often they were home-built in railroad shops. Crude as they may have seemed, compared to pumping your way several miles just to get to the work site, these were a welcome relief to those who used them.

6-37064 CSX

Over time, the speeders evolved into larger and more elaborate vehicles. Roofs, windshields, and eventually side walls enclosed the passenger compartments. Larger cars could carry six or more men. Some speeders had top speeds of more than 40 mph and were often powerful enough to tow an extra cart or two with tools, spikes, etc.

6-37065 BNSF

Starting in the 1950s, the traditional rail-only speeder began to be replaced by larger and more-versatile hi-rail vehicles which could run on both rails and roads. By the mid 1980s, most had been replaced on the larger lines. Today, hundreds of the little speeders have been preserved in museums and tourist lines and by private owners who often gather for excursions.

They are one of the most affordable ways to get into 1:1 scale railroading as a hobby. And while some have carefully restored their cars to the original appearance, others have applied unique paint schemes based on favorite prototypes or complete fancy.

6-37067 New York Central

There are lots of uses for these little cars on your layout. Whether you want to have one for your section gangs to inspect your railroad, or gather a fleet and model a modern excursion, the new Lionel command control speeders will add a fun element to any model railroad. They’ll even look great sitting beside the tracks on a set-out when not in use.

For small cars, these critters are packed with features:

  • 6-37063 Pennsylvania

    Run with Command Control or Conventional

  • Forward and Reverse operation
  • Directional headlights
  • Blinking strobe light
  • Interior light
  • Die-cast metal frame
  • Maintenance-free motor
  • Traction tire
  • Detailed Interior
  • Driver figure

The speeders will negotiate an O-27 curve and come decorated for seven popular railroads past and present and a generic Maintenance of Way scheme.

6-37061 Union Pacific

  • Union Pacific (6-37061)
  • Norfolk Southern (6–37062)
  • Pennsylvania (6-37063)
  • CSX (6-37064)
  • BNSF (6-37065)
  • Maint. of Way (6-37066)
  • New York Central (6-37067)
  • Canadian National (6-37068)

The speeders retail for $149.99 and should ship next month. Pick one up and tour your layout in style!

6-37062 Norfolk Southern

6-37068 Canadian National

Wiring Your Railroad – Putting It All Together

18 07 2012

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our wiring articles. So it’s good to take a step back and see the big picture. This week we thought we’d do just that.

Now that you know about all the controllers and their capabilities, what does it really take to convert a railroad to command control? Every layout is different, and even if they weren’t the operators would be, so there is no quick recipe for mixing up the perfect command control package. We do however have lots of great ingredients that you can blend together for yourself.


So what does it really take to convert something like this to command control?

To get you started, we’ve created a “typical” layout – if there is such a thing!

Our sample layout contains most of the common features on classic Lionel train platforms – multiple continuous running loops (with connecting crossovers), sidings, a yard, even a turntable and roundhouse. We’ll walk you through this platform step-by-step to show you what you’d need for power, switch control, and accessories. While it is true you’ll need to attach more than just the one wire from your LEGACY base to get complete command control, we think you’ll be surprised at how easy it still is to add all of these features. Take a look!

Like our other pages, this one too features a how-to video, so if you’d like to get started just check this out:

We also snuck in one more accessory page this week. Just to prove you can equip anything to run on TMCC and LEGACY, we’ve converted a turntable (from Atlas O). Whether you have one of these on your layout, apply the techniques to another motorized accessory, or just have a curiosity, we think you’ll find this quick project enjoyable.

We hope you’ve enjoyed and learned a little something from these pages. We’ll continue to add new information and ideas on wiring and other projects in the future. In the mean time, as always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask. You can send comments via any of these blog pages or contact our Customer Service Department directly at or call (586) 949-4100.