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Boardman man takes right track home

August 26, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
Mike Reagan has made a career of model railroading and has now reached the top position in the No. 1 model train manufacturer in the world. He serves as director of customer service for Lionel Trains, which is now located on the Boardman-Canfield border at 6655 Seville Drive.

Reagan is a Boardman High School class of 1991 graduate who said he has been into trains all his life.

“It’s a bit of a disease,” he said.

He joined the National Guard where he said he got a degree in time and space management. He took that ability into the business world and opened Train America in Canfield in 1996. The hobby shop not only handled everything a modeler would want, but went beyond by providing classes to help model railroaders. One such class was on building a modular railroad. Over a dozen people signed up from individual modelers to father-son and husband-wife teams.

The modelers would show up every week for a lesson covering everything from bench and track work to wiring and finished scenery. When the class was over, several of those involved got together and formed the Western Reserve Modular Railroad Club. Today, that club owns a special trailer that carries the entire layout to various events throughout the Valley.

While running the successful hobby shop, Reagan got involved in electronics, making sound and speed controls for several of Lionel’s competitors. He left the hobby shop business and in 2007, Lionel contacted him and asked him to come work for them.

In 2008, Reagan made the decision to enter the Lionel family and for the next year, he would commute from Boardman to Chesterfield, Mich.

“I would get a hotel room for the week, then come home on the weekends,” he said.

While in Michigan, he noticed the workload was not running as smooth as he would have liked it to be. He said he tried to change it, but the work crew wouldn’t cooperate.

“They said that is the way they always did it,” Reagan said, adding "that makes my blood boil.”

He said the service department in Michigan had 10 technicians that had a five- to seven-month turnaround on repair work with an average cost of $128. He spoke with the Lionel top executives about moving the operation to Ohio where he could put together a stronger team. Lionel went for it and in 2009, 16 loaded semi-trucks delivered the entire global service division of Lionel to Seville Drive.

Today, Reagan has a team of two technicians and a few office people who can ship a finished repair in less than 24 hours and it is shipped out within two to three days at an average cost of 35 cents. Furthermore, Reagan said his repairs ensure a happy customer.

“This is the only place to go and get a modern train with electronic controls repaired right the first time,” he said.

The new facility has a large test track on the second floor that has all sorts of obstacles on it. Trains that are repaired are sent through an eight-hour operational test. They set the engine on the track and have it pull freight cars around the track. Included are switches and even a graded hump to test the speed control. The trains are supposed to maintain their speed whether on a downgrade or climbing a hill.

At the end of the day, the engine is given the seal of approval and sent back to its owner in perfect running condition.

Reagan is glad he made the move to Ohio. He said it has been a good experience and one that he knew would work out.

One of the big projects he has going right now is the dismantling and parts recording of all the Lionel trains. When Lionel comes out with a new unit, it is sent to Reagan and then dismantled piece by piece. Each piece is then photographed and numbered. A diagram is then made of the engine and all the parts that go into it. The information is then put online at under the service section and anyone can then order a specific part from the parts list and diagram.

Reagan and his team keep current with all the new Lionel engines, but when things slow in the summer, the team starts dismantling and logging the older engines. Reagan said right now he has parts and diagrams for engines from 1995 to the present.

“Prior to 1995, if we don’t have the part, we will know who does,” Reagan said.

Even though his hobby shop days are long gone and he is not part of the corporate world, there are some things he won’t change. Reagan still comes to work in his blue jeans and sports shirt. He said he doesn’t like suits and ties and sees no reason to change that thinking.

Article Photos

Mike Reagan, director of customer service for Lionel, tests a recently repaired locomotive on the corporation's large test track in Canfield.



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