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.
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
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
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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