New Product Spotlight – Thomas and Friends Featuring Lionel’s New Remote Operating System

1 10 2012

Lionel has remained at the forefront of technology in this hobby. Usually that means exciting  new features in our VISION Line locomotives or with our LEGACY command system. But as important as it is to us to use new technology to advance features for the dedicated hobbyist, so too is it an opportunity to make the hobby more approachable to all skill levels – especially our next generation of model railroaders.

Thomas train

6-30190 Thomas & Friends – An old friend with a new twist!

That is why we are very proud of our latest operating system creation. This new remote control will put the operation of your train right in your hand – or your child’s. Like our TMCC and LEGACY systems, the freedom the type of control provides is amazing, but now we’ve done it with a simple controller that anyone can handle. But perhaps most importantly, these trains will work just as well on your existing layout (no matter what control system you use) as they will with the track and wall pack that come with the set.

preproduction sample

Pre-production sample of the new controller and Thomas – kid-tested at several shows over the past year with great results.

Since we’re setting our sights on our younger railroaders to start with this new technology, our first remote operating system set is the popular Thomas & Friends starter set with Thomas, Annie and Clarabel. Beyond the new control system, this set includes all of the features you’ve already come to expect from this set – durable construction, dependable operation, even the interchangeable faces and moving eyes on Thomas.

Remote Operating System

The set includes an oval of FasTrack, a basic wall-pack power supply and the hand-held controller. All you need to supply is three AAA batteries for the remote and an engineer. To get going, simply assemble the track, plug the wall-pack into the adaptor track and the wall, and you’re ready to go.


The remote is user-friendly and comfortably sized.

The remote features easy to understand controls. Forward / Reverse direction and speed control are all accomplished with one convenient knob. Three push buttons are also available for whistle, bell and an additional sound control. For the Thomas set, this third sound will be an “All Aboard!” from Sir Topham Hat. We can substitute other features in future sets. There is also an on/off switch to help save your batteries.

Each remote controller will be color coordinated with the locomotive it controls for convenience, and you’ll be able to operate multiple trains independently on the same track. There will be more Thomas & Friends™ sets coming in the near future, and we plan to expand the system beyond the Thomas line as well.

More than a Starter Set

The most important feature of this new set is that it has the ability to go beyond just the starter set phase. You can place this train on an existing Lionel layout and run without any problems. All you need is the constant voltage on the rails for power. So whether you have a conventional, TMCC or LEGACY control system your children will be able to put their train on your track and have their own control. What better way to ease them into the hobby and share the experience and fun?

As more sets are released, the possibilities for shared experiences will also grow. Kids can have their friends over to share in the fun as they each run their own train around the same track. And to expand the sets, you need only look to our regular product line for all of the track, cars and accessories you could want! It is all compatible.

We have heard some concerns from many of you that we will be using this new technology to completely replace the conventional train set. Not to worry – this isn’t a replacement it’s an enhancement. Just like our product line grew with TMCC and LEGACY we will continue to offer conventional sets and products alongside this new line. After all, our young engineers are going to need something to look forward to!

The Thomas set (6-30190) retails for $159.99 and has shipped this month. (Note that we still offer the conventional Thomas set (6-30069, MSRP $229.99 as well.) See your dealers to pick one up in time for this year’s Christmas adventures.


13 03 2012

March is National Reading Month, and from bed-time stories to thrilling novels there is no mistaking the role trains have played in the literary scene. As railroads spread across America and the world in the 1800s, they captured the imagination and interest of the people they served. The trains, rails and workers took on an elevated status and symbolism.


Thomas the Tank Engine is undoubtedly the new face of trains in literature - but he didn't appear until the second book in The Railway Series.

In some stories, the railroad became an essential backdrop to the plot. In others, the railroad became a metaphor for ideas both good and evil. The rails came to stand for freedom, for opportunity, and for an endless journey. They could be an agent of change, or oppression. For children, the trains themselves became the characters – teaching values and morals and good work habits.

There are so many train-related books out there that a comprehensive list seems almost impossible to compile. Here however are some of the most popular choices if you’re looking for a good read for your children or yourself.

Children’s Books

  • The Little Engine that Could, Arnold Munk
  • The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Railway Series, Rev. William Awdry
  • Tootle, Gertrude Crampton
  • Train to Somewhere, Eve Bunting
Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express was a place where characters met and friendships were formed - a common use of trains in story telling.

Young Adults

  • The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner (Warner wrote the first 19 of what is now a 127 book series.)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rawling
  • The Railway Children, Edith Nesbit

Adult Fiction

  • Breakheart Pass, Alistair Maclean
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  • Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
Polar Express

The Polar Express was about more than just a train ride!

Adult Non-Fiction

  • The Horseshoe Curve: Sabotage and Subversion in the Railroad City, Dennis, NcIlnay
  • The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, Leo Marx
  • Main Lines: Rebirth of the North American Railroads 1970-2002, Richard Saunders, Jr.
  • Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949, John W. Orr

Of course you could fill a library with books about trains. All of the titles shown here are about more than just locomotives, paint schemes and track maps. They all place the railroad in a larger context, be it moral, emotional, or historical.

With your Lionel trains, you can have the best of both worlds. Curl up with a good book tonight, then go relive the action and adventure on your layout tomorrow! Or maybe your trains reflect, or might even inspire, a story of your own. Either way, thanks for reading!