As many of you are aware, on Friday April 20th, Dave Olson -
Lionel’s Director of Engineering, announced at the Legacy Users Group meeting
in York, that Lionel would effectively end the sale of the Electric Railroad
(ERR) Upgrade kits to consumers in May of this year. He also stated that
Lionel would continue to endeavor to support the existing OEM manufactures
(Atlas & Sunset Models / 3rd Rail) who utilize the Electric
Railroad technology moving forward with boards to support their products in
As expected, reaction from the most passionate users was
quick and a post was created on the OGR Forum titled “The death of the TMCC
upgrade”. In that thread, Jon Zahornacky, the original creator of ERR and
Chief Architect of Lionel’s control systems helped further explain a number of
factors that went into the decision to suspend the ERR operations. Simply
put, the ERR technology is dated. Lionel’s Engineering and Development
resources have been deployed against many new initiatives and the componentry
needed to produce many of the parts is becoming obsolete and harder for the factory
to procure. The closing of the California office and retirement of Ken as
well as rapidly diminishing sales are all material factors leading to this
As anyone who has ever had to make difficult business
decisions understands, in most situations, there is no single answer that
remedies the business issue while making all constituents happy.
Sometimes you have to choose a path that seems appropriate with the information
you have. As a result of our decision and subsequent announcement, several
things have occurred.
has received nearly half a year’s worth of orders since the announcement.
- Ken will work
hard to fill what he can with the parts we have available in a timely manner.
- There is not
enough inventory to fill all the orders, some will be canceled and until Ken
can sort it out, we are temporarily shutting down the PayPal account tied to
of you have reached out to express your feelings.
- Every letter
received has been read and fortunately, the majority were very professional,
and on topic. Those that weren’t were simply ignored.
- Please know, efforts to contact
any Lionel employee you can find digitally to voice your frustration only
results in you wasting your time.
and perhaps most importantly, Lionel has entered into conversations with a
third party to discuss the feasibility of taking over the distribution directly
to consumers some of the more widely used ERR kits.
- Provides a
solution to continue to offer the ERR / TMCC upgrade solutions and addresses
many of your concerns.
are in the early stages but positive.
As some have implied, In no way was this decision meant to
be anything more than a business decision. If a deal comes to fruition
between Lionel and another party (which seems likely), it will take several
months for them to get stock and be back in business. I also want to
point out that many of the letters I read discussed the intention to upgrade in
the future. It is important to understand that Lionel will not be
investing any additional engineering resources into the ERR line of
products. The factory may in the near term be able to interchange
suitable component parts in order to continue to produce boards and avoid part
obsolesce issues, however there will come a day where this option will no
longer be available.
Lionel’s team of talented engineers have been hard at work
on an enhanced platform hardware and code that leverages all of the positive things
about each of our current platforms and will allow all of our technology (TMCC,
Legacy, LionChief and Bluetooth) to remain viable well into the next
decade. By creating a platform that is easier to use, more efficient,
more easily manufactured, able to communicate through the full range of O Gauge
products offered (Ready-to-Run starter sets through Vision level product)
Lionel will advance the industry standard platform in O Gauge and ensure a
future for this hobby and Lionel.
For over 118 years, Lionel has made products that have
captivated consumers both young and old, churning out generations of
enthusiasts who have been supportive of Lionel for as long as they can
remember. During that time, Lionel has been the leader in technology. From
new product features to advanced sound and control systems, Lionel has always
lead the market with innovation through change. Change, while not always
easy, gives way to progress, in fact it’s how our hobby progressed from
conventional control to the early days of TMCC and now to the industry leading
Legacy Control System platform.
Lionel’s core mission continues to be the expansion and
growth of the model train hobby. Over the last five years, Lionel has
worked hard to bring to life new enhancements and innovations. At a time
where other manufacturers are retrenching, Lionel has moved the opposite
direction, embracing innovation and change. We have introduced
significant new tooling, launched many new products including LionChief and
LionChief +, Bluetooth App Control, Universal Remote, on board cameras, Brass
Hybrids, Vision enhancements including depleting coal load and force coupler
feature, the Layout Control System (LCS) and ICab to name a few. All of
these innovations have come with a great deal of invested time and resources
from the team at Lionel and continue to position Lionel as the market
We will continue to strive to ensure that future generations
will be able to enjoy the same joy of trains that prior generations have been
able to enjoy. Trains, model trains and Lionel are part of America’s
fabric and we want to ensure that it can be shared for many generations to
We appreciate your continued support and patience during
this process and encourage you to keep an eye out for further updates regarding
Howard Hitchcock - President, Lionel LLC