Trains go a New Direction with ME Models!
Apr 01, 2011 2:00 pm
by Joe Meno
For the past few years, there have been a few people who have sold custom-designed LEGO sets. Among these, there is the group ME Models. The group, actually Mike Fetsko and Eric Olson, have designed and sold dozens of designs and thousands of sets.
Now, however, they have developed a new product in response to many a LEGO train fan's request: to bring back 9-volt conductive track. The product, ME Metal Rails, is different from the LEGO original track, as it's completely metal. However, it is set to the same measurement to LEGO 9 volt track, making it compatible to both the old metal-lined track and the new all-plastic track.
BrickJournal was able to talk to Eric Olson of ME Models about what they have done and what they plan to do.
When did you start making custom models?
We started business in January 2003.
What have been your most popular set?
We have several in our product line that have proven very successful including the hippie van, ice cream truck, London cab, the London bus line, the Parkside house and Eadin house. The hippie van and ice cream truck have both surpassed 3000 units combined keeping in mind, sales are web based and AFOL convention sales only. We often wonder what would happen if it were sold in the retail mainstream.
What led you to making the metal rails?
Our business model has always been to deliver products to hobbyists to enhance their own collections and experiences. Being railroad hobby enthusiasts ourselves and observing the existing limitations to the LEGO railroad hobby, we felt that we could deliver a viable solution to the community.
What was the biggest challenge producing the rails?
There were several obstacles that presented themselves during the production of the rails and it's hard to just pinpoint one. We learned a lot about electrical conductivity, metallurgy, and the ABS injection molding process.
Are you going to focus on the rails and accessories?
Absolutely. We already have plans in the works for expansion of the rail products as well as ideas for expansion into the entire railway system which includes basic essentials needed for a model railway.
What are your future plans for sets and rails?
In addition, this summer, we will be launching a variety of locomotives, railway cars, and typical railway buildings.
A look at ME Rails
The rails are nicely packaged in a shrink wrapped box, like all of ME Model’s products. The rails themselves are aluminum and are milled with stud holes on the bottom. In the package, you get 4 lengths of track. 2 x 8 plates are also included, as are special connector pieces that use the same snap connection the 9-volt tracks have. In terms of clutch, the rails fit a little tight into the plates, so expect to put a little effort into placing track down on baseplates.
While it’s impressive enough that the track is compatible with the classic track, what’s really good is that the track is adaptable. Unlike the 9v track, builders now have the ability to change the color of the railroad ties, and ME Models plans to sell dark grey tie sets and brown tie sets. With the ability to place the rails directly on plates, it becomes much easier to build tracks for street trolleys, as there are no ties to build over.
The length of this set of tracks is the length of a standard 9v segment (16 studs), and ME Models plans to make longer and shorter lengths, making the possibility of large layouts relatively easy to set up. The beta product sent to me had enough track to make 6 track segments (the length of three green baseplates). As mentioned in the interview, there will also be more additions to the track, such as curved track and crossovers.
If you are a train builder, this is a game changer, as support for 9v from the LEGO Group was dropped a few years ago. This track is a worthy successor to the old track, and offers options for builders old and new. And if you’re not a train builder yet...now would be a good time to start!
Prices for the rails are:
1/2 Length: $6.99 w/ties (=2 standard sections)
Standard: $4.99 w/o ties (=2 standard sections), $19.99 w/ties (=6 standard sections)
Dual: $9.99 w/o ties (=4 standard sections)
Quad: $14.99 w/o ties (=8 standard sections)
You can buy ME Models sets and rails at: