Thursday, October 15, 2020

LGB AMTRAK Genesis - Part 2

 In the very early 1990's AMTRAK started a trial of high speed trains with a number of partners. One of them was the German ICE train, modified to American/Amtrak track. The pilot track was the NEC (Northeast Corridor) between Washington and New Haven.

The Amtrak ICE train on the NEC
Courtesy of

This train served as the archetype for the LGB/LGBoA model # 91950 which was first advertised in the 1996 Christmas Flyer for USA. This was a bit strange since by then Amtrak had decided against the German ICE train and in addition had also already focused on developing the new long-haul diesel-electric engines for the Genesis. This might explain why advertising for the Amtrak ICE train was less than lethargic. It was also treated as a toy train and sold in a set whilst simultaneously LGBoA offered a middle car, LGB 91953, to extend the set.
LGB 91950 - Courtesy of Only Trains

LGB 91953 - Courtesy of Only Trains

Some internet research revealed that in later years this set hit the second hand market most often ripped apart: only one loco, often two "locos" in Janus-style (remember: only one loco had a motor, the other 'loco' was actually a 'car'), less often the complete set, even rarer the complete set with additional car. Price in 1995/6 was somewhere in the US$ 200.00 category for the set and about US$ 90.00 for the additional car. Volume might have been seriously above 3000.

LGBoA had more than some trouble selling this train(set). It wasn't really advertised properly and  the main focus group (children? then price too high or LGB fan - then product not sophisticated enough) was never defined. Now what? The solution would cost more money and sell even less. By 2000 somehow Warner Bros got into the picture and gave LGB(oA?) the license for the Superman - Decor and thus was born the  LGB 92950:
LGB 92950 - Courtesy of Only Trains

Allegedly a limited series of 1500, the true volume might have been closer to 2000 or even higher. Maybe not printed yet but with a buffer for more if they would a price of more than US$ 350.00. Yeah... right.

So why are we talking about this AMTRAK/fantasy/ICE train at all? Well AMTRAK did try to find a passenger engine to modernize its fleet and the ICE was one engine tested. AMTRAK is an important American railroad line and their locomotives and rolling stock have more than once excited the US-LGB fan. And LGB did once again prove that it is not enough to make fine model trains but one also needs a bit of understanding why and why when.....locomotives where made and made into a success.
Something neither Tony Castellano nor Rolf Richter knew anything about...

++++++++++++++++to be continued.................................

Saturday, October 10, 2020


LGB came to the Genesis type loco their life. It wasn't until 2005 that LGB advertised  the Genesis. While the similar ICE train was already an LGB fixture the AMTRAK Genesis was a new maneuver.

There was a test-drive in the mid 1990 with a toy-train set. First - in 1995- came the LGB # 90950, based on the ICE 2DB train. The LGB train was labeled LCE, probably for copyright reasons...

LGB 90950 - courtesy of

LGB 90950 in original packaging-
 courtesy of Only Trains

Then LGBoA and their customers wanted their own American version and right they were, since Amtrak had just started to invest in a new Diesel generation. And LGB realized the 'face-value similarity' of both bodies. Thus the AMTRAK version LGB 91950 was born and a bit later the LGB 92950. The LGB 90950 LCE was actually based on the German ICE train, a high-speed multiple unit train.

ICE train in Frankfurt main station -
 courtesy of

At the same time the ICE was developed and manufactured the Americans were also looking for a modern Diesel engine. Where the German ICE 's main task was to transport passengers by train instead of by plane and thus be as fast as possible in a somewhat small country, the new Genesis had the aim to operate heavy long-distance trains with fewer locomotives and at lesser costs. 

Its modernity and later success of the ICE train in Germany/Europe let the USA to inquire about the technology and after a series of tests the Germans didn't make it. The award (of contract) went to the French who ultimately provided all multiple units operating in the US as of today.

Amtrak wasn't looking for speed. Their main concern was to provide efficient transportation at justifiable costs for more and more freight volume across the US. A population growing by 30 million people every 10 years required infrastructure to be built, people to be fed, housed, clothed, educated and entertained with a need for freight alongside of that. The new Genesis  generation provided just that, a modern Diesel-electric configuration with a light body engine with high horsepower and light housing.

Amtrak P42DC - courtesy of

Where long freight trains needed 3-5 and more locomotives the new Genesis generation required 2, 3 most for longer and heavier trains at even better speed (up to 100 mph). Time for the model-train'er to get one.......

LGB offered 5 engines over time. As mentioned above starting in 1995/96 with a toy-train model and going out in style with the LGB 22490:

Year    LGB model #

1995/95     91950

1996          92950

2005          20490

2005/6       22490

2006          21490

The question is, why did the first LGB Amtrak toy train  looked like an ICE train and why did it take LGB so long to offer the Genesis?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ to be continued..................................

Friday, October 2, 2020

LGB In Motion

 There is no better evidence of  the master-ship of Klaus' craft than the LGB locos of his customers in action.

The ESU sound system provides such natural and original tonality. Klaus programmed recorded voices of the  owners directly into the locos and you can hear and differentiate those voices clearly - BRILLIANT !

Some of these owners were gracious and video-ed their layouts for Klaus.

Here are two examples of fine layouts

John and his wife enjoy their Napa Valley F 7 ( South Carolina ) at sunset. The voice you hear at the end of the video is that of John himself which is on the ESU sound decoder

Here is Bob's layout in Raymond/NH on a beautiful summer's day (please click on the file, then click again on the photo you will see)

And Jared from Utah asked Klaus to maximize the sound output by using all he could. Klaus installed 3 (three!) loudspeakers with a combined output of 13 Watt !! Here is a sound bite from Jared's Santa Fe F 7 still on Klaus work bench. As soon as we have Jared's video we will share it with you. 

The video clip opens in YouTube

LGB F 7 Santa Fe w/super boost ESU HiFi sound

Please note: the sound bite includes an introduction by Klaus, followed by the great conversation between the engineer and the yard master (ESU original). Also please note the engine light No 1 and the MARS light towards the end of the video. Klaus is currently working on a video clip featuring all capabilities of the ESU 5 XL sound decoder.

Friday, September 25, 2020

GREAT NEWS will continue next week......................

Saturday, September 19, 2020

(LGB) 25554 - reporting from the wild side

 This is a story straight from Klaus' workshop

Tom calls and starts ranting:" I have an (^***&#)-  engine here that runs only for 3 feet and then stops. For no obvious reason. It doesn't display headlights and the sound is not working". 

 Klaus asks:" What type of engine is it?"

Tom:" (LGB) 25554- the green one"

Klaus now asks Tom what kind of power supply he is using (standard analog 5 Amp). This excluded a motor going bad which would have overpowered a starter set throttle. As Tom didn't want to mess with it he shipped the engine to Klaus.
(LGB) 25554 by Maerklin/Simba-Dickie

The engine arrived three days later and was put on the bench right away. With the engine on its side Klaus connected regular DC power to the power shoes of the front motor block. Then, gradually, he raised the voltage having a close eye on the Amperage. Only to discover that the engine did not pick up any power on the front motor block. The same test on the rear motor block revealed a strange behavior:
Klaus' precision testing device - the voltage generator

the wheels were turning and when the voltage was raised above 4 Volts the Amperage would shoot beyond 4 Amps. Klaus immediately stopped the test to prevent further damage to the engine. Now Klaus opened up the engine to find a strange configuration of electronics in the rear body.

There was a soundboard (MTS) mounted to the base plate held by only one screw and an MTS onboard decoder mounted to a lead weight. Turned out it was the lead weight of a Forney. Now, this was something special.
Klaus has never seen a White Pass & Yukon engine with this kind of interior. The suspicion arose that this is an engine made in China. Another hint was the cover of the engine's switches and volume control: normally it takes a bit of an effort to remove the cover but this cover nearly fell into his lap. Which points to a different kind of plastic that LGB used in Germany.

Meanwhile a bit of research revealed that the engine was made somewhere in 2010 by Maerklin possibly while the takeover by Simba-Dickie took place. That meant China was still a possible manufacturing place before Simba-Dickie turned to open up Gyor/Hungary.

Back at the workshop the next step was to isolate those motor blocks and test them individually with regular DC without having the internal electronics of the locomotive connected. The front motor block did not pick up any power and only the motor worked. The rear motor block picked up power with the motor being OK but the motor would even run when power was only supplied to the power shoes. As this was a DCC motor block track power and motor leads should have been totally isolated from each other. So question was why did the motor run with power supplied to the power shoes? There was only one solution: a massive short between the motor leads and track power pick-up.

Opening up the lower lid of the rear motor block revealed two dislocated power bus bars. The bus bars were made out of sheet metal which was about half the thickness as the regular LGB bars would be. So it was possible that the lower lid was closed with the power bars dislocated and nobody noticing it. The imprints in the bus bars that were made by the lid and the body of the motor block confirmed this theory. With the lower lid screws being untouched it was clear that this happened in the factory. Unfortunately it also proved that there was no quality control performed in the factory.
Basically the same condition was found in the front motor block.

Klaus repaired the motor blocks and inspected the onboard decoder which turned out to be fried and
the yellow line circles the burnt decoder part

was replaced as well. Klaus programmed a new onboard decoder to match the locomotive and reassembled the engine.

After a quick test drive in DCC and regular DC the 'patient' was released as healed and shipped back to Tom - working just fine.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

LGB Firebox Light - A Klaus Creation Part 2

The light bulbs of the choice had to be the 5 Volt plug-in bulbs which Klaus colored manually. The reflector was initially a piece of aluminum foil. Peter Stock, a close friend of Klaus since childhood times, designed the electronics. Klaus then cut open the firebox door of the LGB Mogul to insert the firebox-light parts and everything was implemented in a pre-production 2019 Mogul body. 

cutout in the firebox door 

The initial pause between firebox activation was 45 seconds long. So everybody kept watching the locomotive closely until the firebox lit up again. Surprisingly the light even illuminated parts of the track between the loco and the tender just as in reality. Later in production the pause was reduced to about 8 seconds.                                                                                                               

Old LGB factory in Nuremberg

Klaus demonstrated this locomotive and firebox to Wolfgang Richter and Gunter Ruhland in Nuremberg. Everybody was surprised and exited about this idea. They wanted to implement this product into the Mogul and Klaus was asked to finalize the product for mass production; namely design a reflector which can be utilized in the final product.

Klaus made several molds out of Dental Silicone - see below - to produce multiple reflectors of the same shape which then can be manually altered. The reflectors themselves were made of Dental Plaster. That way Klaus was able to alter the reflector surface manually to find out which surface works the best.

Note the 2nd piece from above: Klaus grinding bit surface - aka his "signature"

A couple of weeks later Klaus found out that tiny dents in the reflector made by a ball shaped grinding bit delivered the best results. LGB then had an electrode made according to this reflector and used this electrode to manufacture the injection mold for the reflector. This happened by way of the electrode being used in electro-discharge machining. This is the reason why the mass-produced reflector even still today shows the manual work of Klaus and his grinding bit - just like his signature.

Klaus firebox light parts before mass production

It became a huge success. After furnishing the Mogul with the firebox-light LGB installed it in other steam engines as well. All leading model train manufacturers picked up the idea and manufactured their own versions. A number of little electronic firms started offering those firebox lights in all their variations. Today it is a standard feature for pretty much all steam engine model trains regardless of scale.

Here is a brief video of Klaus original firebox light in a very old LGB Mogul:

Monday, September 7, 2020

LGB Firebox Light - A Klaus Creation

 One warm summer night in the mid 1980's Klaus was sitting on his back porch. 

He had just finalized the improvements for the first Mogul #2018D, namely the driving characteristics.

Now he was relaxing,  enjoying his LGB layout with an American freight train passing by. Led by a Mogul and trailed by a lighted caboose. After a while he noticed that watching the loco go by all he could actually see was the dominant headlight followed by dark ghost cars and the lighted caboose marking the end of the train.
Courtesy of Hollyhobo

Klaus had a clear sense that something was missing here.

There was a stoker standing in the front of the (Mogul) tender apparently doing something but he could neither see the engineer nor the stoker. Klaus assumed that the stoker was about to open the firebox door fixing to shoveling coal into the firebox. This must have some influence on the lighting situation in the cabin and front of the tender. The stoker must be standing right in the midst of this light. And that was it.

Now, how did he put this into reality? His first idea was to install 3 or 4 lights hidden somewhere in the rear part of the boiler shining through narrow tubes single light beams onto the stoker. The drawback of this idea was that when the engine passed by there could have been a chance that a bystander could look right into one of those lights. Basically, a good idea but not close enough to reality.

This made Klaus realize that there is actually more to reality than initially hits the eye. In a real steam loco there is a light source (fire box) which illuminates the control cabin and the stoker and the front of the tender. This light source should not be kept a secret. The bitter truth is that the stoker opens the fire

courtesy of
box and is then showered in a flood of (fiery) light. This consequently led to the idea to have lights being reflected in the lower door half of the fire box door. The lights had to be one red and one orange to give a warm, realistic light. the lights had to flash in two frequencies that are not compatible to each other. The red one would do a slow pace while  the yellow one worked a faster pace. The firebox light was supposed to jump into action every 90 seconds.

To install the firebox light Klaus would have to remove the lower half of the firebox door in the rear boiler part of the Mogul. Behind the still closed upper half firebox door the lights could hide. The light would be reflected by a reflector behind the lower open firebox door. This would even give the impression of embers glowing.

A smart electronic board would control the light bulbs.

He had it all worked out - in theory. Now he had to translate all into reality: finding the fitting light, creating the needed electronic board, cutting the Mogul open (again...)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++to be continued ...........................