Pros / The paint detail on the entire set and build quality of the locomotive are top-notch and lifelike.
Cons / It took a substantial amount of effort to push the track pieces together.
Verdict / This model train set not only looks great, but it should last you and your family a long time because of its outstanding build quality.
Lionel is one of the longest-standing model train companies around. This electric train set has solid build quality and craftsmanship. Unlike other model trains that look or feel like they won't be able to stand the test of time, The Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer LionChief locomotive is sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear of years to come. This model train is a wonderful balance of premier craftsmanship and impressive features.
The Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer LionChief is an O-gauge model train. This is the second largest model scale, only behind G-gauge models. The train set includes the locomotive, tender, boxcar, tanker and caboose. Each car has die-cast trucks (the wheel and frame the cars sit on) and also features metal handrails and ladders on the tank car. This attention to detail makes Lionel trains sturdy and essentially maintenance-free but also provides a lifelike feel.
The paint detail and craftsmanship on the locomotive and all the train cars is fantastic. The locomotive is all black with a matte-gray front. The cabin number for the train we reviewed is number 421 and painted in gold with a little sparkle in it. The bell and whistles on top of the locomotive are gold, sturdy and look real. The locomotive itself is heavy because it is made entirely of metal. It feels much sturdier than locomotives made of plastic.
All logos and numbers on this train are painted on – they are not stickers that will peel off over time. We evaluated each train car individually and found zero chips in the paint and no paint smudges. One of the caboose's passenger windows had some small scratches on it, but other than that, the paint job on this train was flawless.
Not only does the locomotive have top-notch craftsmanship, but it has engine strength to back it up. We tested this locomotive by adding weight to the train cars to determine the pull strength of the locomotive. The Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer was able to pull up to 13 additional pounds, the maximum amount of weight we used to test. It handled the feat with ease. If you add additional train cars to this set, you won't have to worry about the locomotive's ability to pull them.
The tender connects to the locomotive via a special connection, which powers the speaker on the bottom of the tender. To activate the speaker, you need to make sure the Chuff switch is on. When in the on position with the tender connected, this model train set makes a variety of different noises. When the train is sitting idle on the tracks, the speaker creates a rumbling noise of the locomotive staying idle. The sound authenticity of this model train truly shines when the train is in motion. The chuffing of the locomotive sounds great. It has a deep in tone that starts slowly and gradually builds up to a fully chugging steam engine, like a real train.
This metal train set also features a whistle, announcements and bell noises that you can control with the remote. The bell noise repeats rather quickly but sounds sharp and definitive. The whistle is a little higher pitched than we expected, but still sounds good and authentic. Overall, the sound authenticity of this model train is great, and model enthusiast will be pleased with the detail not only in the train cars themselves but also the sound.
This model train set comes with a track 50 inches in length and 40 inches wide. This track comes with eight curved pieces, one straight piece and a terminal section, which is where the power source connects. The track is a snap-together design so you connect the pieces without any tacking or additional tools. You can get your train out of the box, piece together the track and have a fully operating train track within minutes.
The age recommendation for this train set is 14 and up. This is for good reason: The train set takes a decent amount of effort to put together. When we were assembling the track, it took a decent amount of effort to push the pieces together to snap properly in place.
One unique feature of LionChief toy train sets is that they operate on a set 18 volts of power. Other train sets increase or decrease power as you speed or slow the train. This means you can expand the LionChief track set as long as you want and not run into any power conversion issues. You can also operate multiple trains at once on a single track. Lionel train sets pair a unique remote control to each train, so you could combine two LionChief train tracks and operate two different trains on the same track while maintaining independent control over each train. The continuous running power also means that even when the train is at full speed, the smoke chuffer and sound effects will operate just as well as when the train is sitting idle. This is not the case with many trains that don’t operate on a set DC 18-volt track.
Lionel LionChief steam sets are universal in the sense that they can operate on just about any track. You can even use older, AC-powered tracks. If the track is powered to 18 volts, the train will not reach maximum speed, but it will still operate.
Unlike the Bachmann Chattanooga, this Lionel steam set does not come with many accessories, like signs and signal bridges, as some other train sets provide. Along with the track and train set, the only included accessories are a remote control and a roadbed to ensure that your track stays flat on the ground. You will need three AAA batteries to operate the remote control.
The battery cover on the remote control is held in place by a little screw. This makes it a pain to insert batteries upon receiving your train and any time you need to replace them. The screw is tiny, so you'll need a special screw bit to open it up.
Help & Support
Lionel makes some of the best model train sets available and backs them up with reliable customer service. Lionel was quick to answer any questions we asked over the phone. The company also provides instruction manuals and support via email. The Lionel LionChief line of model train sets is backed by a one-year warranty.
The build quality and the detail of this model train are impressive. The Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer looks and sounds like a real train, but also boasts superior build quality that will stand the test of time. This model train is a great option for both young and old train enthusiasts.