Manual Model Railroading with M.T.H. Electric Trains

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MTH Trains

With the model train industry. MTH's business philosophy is in. MTH's product line is exceptionally broad. Wolf's early experiences included the production of "Standard" gauge equipment, and he continues to offer by far the largest selection of quality Tinplate models in the marketplace.

Model trains that do more!

But merely large scale models they are not!! These colorful reproductions of Ives, Lionel. And, we're sure you. Accessories too, show how history. Traditions" at MTH. There are. Magnetic Crane, Ives' Deluxe. Water Tower, Telegraph Poles,. And he arranged an unusual pickup system with the UPS man in order to keep the shipments moving while he attended classes at a nearby community college. He parked an unlocked Ford Falcon in front of his house as his mailbox. A red rag on the antenna signaled a pickup. There were plenty. It wasn't long before Wolf became Williams' largest distributor.

When Williams decided in the mid-'80s to sell part of his business, Wolf was his buyer of choice. At age 22, a year younger than Joshua Lionel Cowen had been when he founded Lionel, Wolf was becoming a player in the industry. In fact, he was something of a second coming of Cowen.

Wolf, too, topped out at 5-foot And he would prove just as competitive, self-promoting, and audacious as the man he considered his role model. For a time, all MTH people wore black shirts at train shows. People have to notice us to find out ours is a better product, so we did a lot of in-your-face advertising. On that day in when he realized that Lionel was bearing down on him with a vastly -- and to his eyes, suspiciously -- improved product, Mike Wolf wasted no time responding.

Wolf had closed the gap by offering innovative products and lower prices, but most important, he made better trains. If Lionel was now matching his quality, he faced trouble. He knew only too well the power of the nearly century-old brand -- especially among men going gray and bald, men for whom the name Lionel was a ticket back to childhood.

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Wolf showed the suspect Lionel engine to his top managers, all childhood friends, many of whom also had worked in Jerry Williams's basement. They backed his decision to board a plane for South Korea and try to jump-start an investigation at his design and manufacturing subcontractor, a company called Samhongsa. Like a lot of companies, MTH had reached a certain size and realized that irresistible advantages lay in moving manufacturing overseas. It had some downsides, but in 15 years Wolf had never had reason to worry that the company's proprietary design drawings and tooling were half a world away, under someone else's control.

Now he realized how vulnerable he'd become. When he hit the ground in South Korea, however, he did benefit from prompt and diligent attention from both his Asian business partner and South Korean authorities. Investigations pinpointed a former designer of MTH trains at Samhongsa who had moved on to become chief engineer at a rival company called Korea Brass. The former designer confessed to receiving stolen MTH designs on computer disks from accomplices at Samhongsa.

It was a thoroughly modern theft: Before computer design, a single die-cast train engine might have required more than desktop-covering drawings, and copies would have been as easy to sneak out the door as a rolled-up throw rug. Nowadays that amount of digitized information can fit on a USB flash drive, the sort of thing people carry on key chains.

Somebody simply downloads your entire hard drive. Samhongsa's former designer was convicted of trade-secret theft, as was the head of Korea Brass, who was found by a South Korean appellate court to have paid for the stolen designs and used them in the manufacture of trains it sold to Lionel. A total of four people were convicted. The harshest sentence was a jail term of several months. The link to Lionel was a U. Yang's hard drive contained e-mail correspondence with a high-level Lionel employee that pointed to Lionel as a knowing recipient of the stolen designs and some of MTH's production schedules as well.

By any reckoning, those were smoking guns. When Wolf tried to interest the U. Department of Justice in prosecuting the case under the Economic Espionage Act of , however, he got an ear, but no action. Not one has been to the courtroom. Halligan's monitoring of trade-secret cases indicates a bit more than 50 instances of charges being brought in the nine years since the act's inception, generally in cases that tend to be slam dunks.

And prosecuting Lionel would not be easy. Not only had the evidence trail begun on the other side of the globe, but it would involve putting an icon on trial -- not quite on the order of prosecuting Santa Claus, as in Miracle on 34th Street , but surely not a case coveted by prosecutors with political ambitions. Nonetheless, Wolf wanted Lionel brought to justice.

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In truth, he wanted more. He wanted Lionel brought to its knees. He was fighting for the survival of his company and also for a measure of revenge. He had for a time maintained a partnership with Lionel, had even thought he might one day run the company, and now the competition between MTH and Lionel was bitter in a way that perhaps only relations between former partners can be.


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The industry was aghast. Simpson case of the model-railroad industry," says Fred Hamilton, executive director of the Model Railroad Industry Association, a trade group. It's a hobby.

What would be the ultimate train empire for Mike Wolf? To supplant and replace Lionel. Had things played out differently back in the late '80s and early '90s, he might already have accomplished that goal. Back then, he'd actually hitched his business to Lionel. In the mid-'80s, Lionel decided to resurrect its old tin plate designs. It approached MTH's manufacturer, Samhongsa.

But Samhongsa stuck by him, alerted him to the incursion, and told Lionel it would deal with the company only through MTH. Lionel eventually came around and welcomed Wolf aboard in We were painting and assembling them here in Maryland at the beginning; then the volume grew too big and we transferred that to Samhongsa. Wolf wrote to his customers, explaining the new order of business.

MTH was now a subcontractor making trains for Lionel and had stopped making trains under its own name. And, as part of the deal, Wolf's company became a Lionel distributor, selling all models of Lionel trains. Wolf traveled frequently to Lionel headquarters in Chesterfield, Mich.

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He says he felt "almost like an employee" at the company that first put electric trains under the Christmas tree. In smaller scales, things are more standardized, except for track systems with an integrated roadbed base. Fortunately, while the locking systems on the track bed are normally proprietary, the metal joining clips on the rails themselves are not. You can easily mix standard and integrated roadbed tracks of different makes on a layout by using those joiners. Another good example of trains of different scales using the same track would be the case of a larger scale using a smaller scale's track to represent a narrow gauge railroad.

On30 trains are probably the most common example. These scale O scale trains run on HO gauge track, representing a track gauge of 30 inches instead of the normal Trains from various manufacturers are very interchangeable between brands. In fact, every car in a train could be made by somebody different.


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  7. There are a few things you need to know, however. Couplers : Over the years, many different types of couplers have been used on model trains. While things have become more standard in recent decades, there are still lots of older couplers out there. The good news is that in most cases, you can convert to the couplers you use without much difficulty.

    Command Control : Command control systems have become increasingly popular since the early s.