Monday, December 2, 2013

Lionel model trains: problems with lights in cars.

Jerry Calabrese, President and CEO of Lionel received this January 3, 2014.  His e-mail:

Problems with two of my four train sets:

New York Yankees™/ New York Mets™ Subway Series™ Set
SKU: 7-12016

  • Locomotive Features:
    • Transformer controlled forward, neutral, and reverse operation
    • Powerful maintenance-free motor on powered car
    • Operating headlights and electronic horn on powered car
    • Interior illumination
    • Manually opening doors

The description does not mention anything about the three non-locomotive cars but both trucks on each car has a roller to get power from the tracks and wires.  Those cars should definitely have lights that should work.

New York Yankees™ Berkshire Steam Set
SKU: 7-12000

  • Locomotives Feature
    • Transformer controlled forward, neutral, and reverse operation
    • Air whistle in tender
    • Operating headlight
    • Operating coupler on rear of tender
    • Powerful maintenance-free motor
    • Two traction tires
    • Puffing smoke unit
    • Die-cast metal locomotive body and frame
    • Separately applied metal handrails
    • Passenger Car Features
    • Interior lighting
    • Decorated drumhead on Observation car
  • ________________________________________

Clearly the locomotive should have lights that work.

I have four separate loops, each with its own Lionel transformer.  I run all of them at the same time so that they get about the same amount of work.  All four sets run properly on their tracks, so there is power.

The lights on my two older sets work OK, except for one passenger car which had the wire on each truck detach.  I don't know why that happened but at least I know why that car does not have working lights.  The oldest set is about 4-5 years old.

The two newest sets mentioned above were bought in the summer, so they're only about three months old.  Both sets are baseball oriented.  Maybe there is a problem with how Lionel produced those.

On the subway train all three cars have lost their lights after only three months.

The Berkshire locomotive now has no lights.  It's three passenger cars all have lights that work.

I contacted Lionel but their only advice was to send the cars to them for repair or take them to a Lionel repair person.

Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 3:04 PM


You can take the locomotive to any of these service stations for the bulb to be changed out and the engine repaired:

Thank You,


Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 3:14 PM


You can take it to a local service station or we can bring it in for repair.  This is up to you.

Thank You,


My final reply to Lionel:

Mon, Dec 2, 2013 at 3:53 PM

The lights is all THREE passenger cars failed within THREE months.

My Santa Fe El Capitan set has been running for about five years and the lights still work. I run all four of my train sets at the same time, so they get the same work.  The newer trains are doing much worse.

Something is wrong with the Yankee subway train set and also in the locomotive on the Yankee steam train.  I sent a separate message on that, which I bought at the same time, only three months ago.

Now I am supposed to pay for repair?  Your subway manual does not even show how to change the light bulbs.  After all these years Lionel should have this designed so that it is simple and can be done by the owner, not a specialist. 

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

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