Lionel Ambassador Review

by Phil Calabria

Lionel CAB-1L/BASE-1L Command Set   (6-37147)

Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.

If you been in the O-Gauge hobby for a while the CAB-1L/Base-1L system may look very familiar to you. It looks very similar to the TMCC system Lionel released more than 20 years ago. The exterior cases for the CAB-1L and the Base-1L look to be identical to the original system components with a few notable exceptions. The new system has no antenna and the CAB-1L and Base-1L are blue in color as opposed to dark grey/black of the older Trainmaster system 6-12969.
6-12969 Trainmaster Command Set
If you have acquired TMCC equipped locomotives and accessories over the years then this system will allow you run your fleet in command mode. If you are looking to replace your aging TMCC command system or looking to run in command mode for the first time then this may be the command system for you. All the base TMCC functions are there in a simple to use interface that you will be familiar with if you have used the original TMCC command system. 
Connecting the system to your railroad is exactly the same as the original system. Make sure that all transformers are in phase before connecting the command base. Attach a wire between the “U” post on the command base to the “U” posts of all transformers powering your layout and connect the command base power supply to a standard grounded wall outlet. You will also need to install 4 AA batteries into the CAB-1L.
Once you completed these step you are ready to being programming a unique engine identifier into each of the TMCC Locomotives in your fleet.

Every Command-equipped locomotive comes factory-programmed with TMCC ID of 1. You may wish to assign a new ID#, using any number from 1 through 98. To make it easy to remember, try using part of the locomotive cab number. For example, assign your Lionel F3 no. 2343 to "#23" or "#43." We will use 23 in our example.

Here’s how to give a Command-equipped locomotive its new ID#.
  • Make sure the Command Base is ON.
  • Holding the locomotive, slide its control switch to the PRG, PROG or PROGRAM setting.
  • Place the locomotive on track and power up your railroad.
  • Using CAB-1L, press ENG, press 2 and 3.
  • Press and release the SET button located under the removable panel on CAB-1L. The horn or whistle will blow or the headlight flash. This confirms your new ID #.
  • Power down your railroad.
  • Slide the switch back to RUN and you’re ready to go.

Follow the same procedure with your remaining locomotives setting each engine to a unique ID#.
Now power up your railroad and let’s get the trains rolling.
  • Press “ENG”, press “2”, press “3”, press “AUX1” press “0”. This is the engine reset sequence; you should hear your start up sounds.
  • Press WSTL/HRN to sound the steam whistle or air horn on your diesel engine.
  • Turn the red dial clockwise to speed up your engine, turn red dial counter clockwise and your engine slows down.
  • AUX1 + 4 lowers engine sounds, AUX1 + 1 raises engine sounds
  • Press “DIR” , turn the red dial clockwise and your engine will move in the opposite direction.
  • Move around, you are no longer tied to the transformer. The communication between the CAB-1L and the base had no issues in the 4,000 sq. ft. train room.
Phil Jr. having fun with the CAB-1L
This system also has some additional feature that the original TMCC system did not have:
  • Multiple communication channels between the CAB-1L and the base.
  • Allows control of 99 power masters and lash-ups.
  • Activate quilling whistle on newer legacy locomotives.

This is just a sample of what you can do with your CAB-1L/Base 1L. For the full feature set check out the product documentation on the Lionel web site.
There are also some additional notes that you should be aware of:
  • The CAB-1L/Base-1L cannot be used/interchanged with the older TMCC systems CAB-1 or Base unit.
  • CAB-1L can be used with Lionel’s Legacy system. If you are using Legacy system you won’t need the Base-1L. You can use as many CAB-1L as you want with the Legacy system. If you are using the CAB-1L with a Legacy base you will need to program additional information into the Legacy base using the TMCC program modules that come with the Legacy system.
Lionel Trains fun for all ages.  Steve is Running Legacy with his CAB-2 and Phil Jr. running TMCC with his CAB-1L.
My personal observations of using the CAB-1L/Base-1L are the following:
  • Simple and familiar interface for me. Nothing new to learn since I’ve been using the original TMCC system since 2002.
  • It has all the functionality I need to run my older TMCC engines in command mode.
  • Lower cost than Lionel’s Legacy system.
  • I currently don’t own any Legacy equipped locomotives and now I can run them on my railroad as well as other railroads with either the TMCC or Legacy operating system.
  • MSRP for this system is $249.99. The MSRP for Lionel’s Legacy system checks in at $399.99.
  • Simple one wire setup to connect to your railroad.
See the CAB-1L in action.  
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Click image to see more photos of the CAB-1L test session. 
If you are interested in seeing Lionel's Legacy system in action check it out live at one of our 2016/17 open house events. See our open house schedule at