News & Reviews Product Reviews The MTH Premier Hudson is a modern classic

The MTH Premier Hudson is a modern classic

By Chris Montagna | July 25, 2023

The J-1e 4-6-4 comes in traditional and fantasy schemes with two tender options

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The MTH Premier Hudson is a modern incarnation of arguably the most iconic steam locomotive ever made in O scale. The classic 4-6-4 wheel arrangement, originally offered in by Lionel in 1937, can be seen on artwork from decades ago and carried on today by the works of artists like Angela Trotta Thomas.

The MTH Premier Hudson Big Four version
This Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati & St. Louis “Big Four” Hudson is offered by Mr. Muffin’s Trains.

Due to its popularity in the hobby, we can’t go too many years without one of the manufacturers offering a variation. MTH has done just that with the October 2022 announcement of their J-1e Hudson.

Find out why New York Central’s 4-6-4 Hudson is a legendary locomotive in O gauge.

The MTH Premier Hudson

With the full Protosound 3.0 package and latest features, this is the first MTH Hudson to feature whistle steam. On previous models the effect is piped through the whistle detail piece itself which has changed the game for this feature. Also, there was a separate fill hole for smoke fluid under the steam dome on other whistle steam models from MTH.

The MTH Premier Hudson pacemaker version
This Pacemaker version of the J-1e 4-6-4 is offered by Trainworld.

For the Hudson, the whistle is not “connected” to a steam dome and it had to be more creative. The manual is unclear and only states smoke fluid is added through the stack. However, I can confirm there are two smoke units you’ll need to add the liquid for the whistle steam carefully through the tiny hole under the detail itself. This is why MTH adds a smaller dropper in the box. The “steam” does not flow through the whistle piece on this model; it escapes through a small hole in the boiler shell under the detail, like Lionel’s design. However, the hole is drilled at an angle which allows the steam effect to blow backward in a prototypical fashion.

Checking the details

This model features LED lighting, a detailed cab interior with curtains and drop plate, a Protocoupler on the rear of the tender, and exchangeable drawbar.

The MTH Premier Hudson Pacemaker front end
The front of the J-1e is all business.

The standard drawbar on the model is quite long, causing a large gap between the locomotive and tender. It allows for operation on O-42 curves. MTH offers shorter ones which can be installed to tighten this gap if your layout has wider radii.

This model features an onboard DCS/DCC decoder, Kadee mounting pads, Rule 17 lighting, and a quillable whistle, in addition to other features. The cab is well detailed with a painted backhead and crew figures. The tender features a speaker housing and real coal load.

The MTH Premier Hudson Big Four tender
The Big Four tender has CCC & St L lettering. There are also versions with PT tenders.

Whenever working with modern scale steam engines with real coal, make sure you remove any loose pieces that have fallen into the box before repackaging your locomotive. Loose coal can easily scratch the paint on your model.

How a J-1e Hudson captivated a railfan.

Several versions

The red Hudson is a custom run from Trainworld. Based on the success of recent fantasy schemes, the brass at the dealer decided on a Pacemaker variation of the iconic locomotive. It seems clear the inspiration for this scheme was born out of the release of the Lionel Pacemaker Mohawk from the 2021 Volume I catalog. Lionel’s version took over a year to be delivered and as the time from announcement to delivery continued to drag on, the fascination with the bright red boiler locomotive only seemed to spread.

The MTH Premier Hudson pacemaker boiler
The details are easy to see on the Pacemaker version.

Upon delivery the 4-8-2s flew off the shelves and now can only be found on the secondary market, sometimes a few hundred dollars over the MSRP of $1,599.

The Pacemaker version has passenger sounds for the 20th Century Limited. It sports a deep red boiler, silver smokebox, and gray piping and rodding.

The MTH Premier Hudson pacemaker version wheels and running gear
The detailing extends to the running gear. Note the legible builder plate.

The red is darker than that on the Lionel Mohawk and also the Pacemaker cars that are on the market. However, to me, it’s striking and even more fitting than the paint on the 4-8-2.

On the track

Operationally, the Hudson performs well. It brings with it a combined weight of 11 lbs. 3 oz.  I had the chance to run two, the Trainworld Pacemaker and Mr. Muffin’s Trains’ Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati & St. Louis “Big Four” offering. Each ran nicely; the only hiccup was the Big Four version didn’t like slightly dirty track. Other engines were operating just fine but the Hudson would stall out on a specific section. That said, it could be an unlucky circumstance of the pickup roller location. Looking under the engine, there are only two of them, both on the locomotive. It would benefit from a third roller.

The MTH New York Central Premier Hudson render rear
At the rear of the tender is an operating Protocoupler, back-up light, classification lights, and more.

MTH offers six variations of the 4-6-4. Dealers commissioned seven custom runs, all of which are also listed on the MTH website. These models MSRP for $1,399.95; dealers and at the publication of this review they can still be found at most retailers.


Premier J-1e 4-6-4 Hudson by MTH

MSRP: $1,399.95

Roadnames: Boston & Albany (No. 20-3863-1); New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3864-1); New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3465-1); New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3466-1); New York Central with New York Central on PT tender (20-3467-1); New York Central with New York Central on PT tender (20-3468-1).

Custom runs: “Big Four” (CCC&StL) New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3471-1), Mr. Muffin’s Trains; New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3473-1), Jr. Train Junction; Gold New York Central with New York Central Lines on tender (20-3472-1), New York Central with New York Central Lines on the tender (20-3470-1), Pat’s Trains; Pacemaker scheme (20-3869-1), Trainworld; Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo with two road numbers (20-3874-1, 20-3875-1), E-Z Catch, Dixie Union Station, or Stockyard Express.

Get more O gauge action on the Chris’s Trains & Things channel on YouTube.

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