Quality of Lionel Sets Sold In The Big Box Stores

I would be interested in hearing comments about the quality of the Lionel train sets that are sold in the big box stores such as Target,
Menards, Hobby Lobby, etc. in respect to those sold by other sources.
Thanks
TMT
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Anyone?
More questions...
Do we know all the stores who actually sell Lionel starter kits?
I am aware of Menards, Target and Hobby Lobby...any others and what sets do they sell?
Another question....what would you suggest buying in addition to the basic sets? I have seen several expansion sets which include some rolling stock and miscellaneous stuff.
Track additions?...what kind and why? Most kids get bored watching a train going around in a circle. Any sugggestions as to what expanded layout would be good to pursue for the beginner.
Thanks
TMT
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On Sun, 9 Dec 2007 20:57:34 -0800 (PST), Too_Many_Tools wrote:

Understandable. Which makes the popularity of NASCAR even more incredible, unless the audience self selects to those with little imagination or a high threshold for boredom.
--
Steve

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wrote:

The sets the big box stores sell are essentially the same as the cataloged sets sold on line, by the big mail order houses, and by the smaller toy or train retailers. It used to be that a major retailer like Sears would get custom sets that differed from those in the catalog that would meet the specific price points the retailer wanted, and that may still be done, but the components will be similar. With Lionel quality varies in proportion to the price. Lionel has two distinct product lines - "Traditional" and "Standard O". The Standard O is intended for the adult operator or collector, are more or less built to correct 1:48 scale, and typiclly require broad radius curves so that they can't run on a layout built on a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. The Traditional is intended for children, beginners of any age, and for adult collector/operators with a more limited budget and/or space.
I gather you are seeking a starter set for a child, so you should look at the Traditional line. the least expensive sets often come with one of several variations of the 4-4-2 steam loco. I help the local train store (an authorized Lionel dealer but not a formal Lionel service station) with repairs, and have seen a bunch of these over the years - most with stripped teeth on the large plastic drive gear between the drivers, but some with burned out transistors on the reverse controller, and a few with bad motors. Based on this experience, I'd suggest stepping up to one of the diesel or 2-8-2 or 2-8-4 sets.

Go to www.lionel.com and the locate a dealer page to find all dealers (other than big box chains) in your area. You can also buy a copy of Classis Toy Trains magazine, and look at the ads for the major mail order / on-line dealers like Trainland or Charles Ro. My advice is to go to the nearest Lionelauthorized dealer who is also an official Lionel service station. You may pay slightly more for the set, but you'll find folks who know the trains and can give good advice, they will be able to sell the extra track and cars and accessories, and they will be there to fix them if something goes wrong.

I'd start with a pair of switches and some extra track (a pair of switches, a couple curves and several straights would let you expand the basic oval and add a siding to switch cars onto), then see what the child wants. Give the child a copy of the Lionel catalog. Good luck. Geezer
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wrote:

SNIP
Get a Lionel catalog, or go to the Lionel web site http://www.lionel.com/Products/Findex.cfm

You'll have to go to your local big box and look for yourself.
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wrote:

...or just waiting for a gruesome crash with a gigantic fireball! That, IMO, is the only NASCAR activity worthwhile.
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