Top critical review
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Perfect to test scale or HO toys with kids
on November 29, 2010
Scale model trains generally aren't hands-on toys, especially for smaller children. They're fragile and they can easily fail to work and break irrepairably. They can also be very costly in purchase price and in the investment of time and materials put into building a layout. I won't extol all the virtues of model railroading but obviously it includes art in the scenery, science in the electrics and electronics, social science and even economics in modeling society and industry. So they are much more than a toy and can become a life-long hobby or avocation for an interested person. One way to get started is to research and buy the good stuff, not wasting your time and money on junk like this LL set. But if you over estimate your child's readiness to work with a model versus a toy, your mistake can be costly. You may also not appreciate what modeling takes in terms of how much work it is, how much space it takes, how much is involved in terms of skills and learning.
This train set has got to be the rock-bottom cheapest HO set out there. If not, it's real close. The weaknesses abound. I won't elaborate on them all. The train is not accurate to the prototype (the real thing#. It's made with poorly detailed plastic shell. The engine's motor is cheap, won't slow-start but jumps, won't run slowly, won't stop slowly but jerks to a halt. The cars are too light #they feel like an empty egg shell) and easily derail. The controller only has one DC circuit and one AC and a poor potentiometer type twist throttle that is hard to regulate. The track is very phoney-looking black molded plastic and code 100 rail. Code 100 has very tall metal rails that are easier to manufacturer carelessly and hold trains well but look far too tall for scale. If you "get into it" you won't re-use this track but instead you'll want some code 83 track or to hand lay your own code 70 or 55. Still, the track and the rest of this set is so cheap, you can't beat it to have something almost 'disposable' to get started with and learn all the hard lessons. It's like learning to drive in a beater.
The LL set I have doesn't have the plastic road bed. This is a big improvement for durability in play. Without the plastic road bed, you have to nail the track to a foam or cork road bed on a sheet of MDF or something or the track will easily break. The plastic road bed is, of course, completely phoney for scale modeling and is a concession to the toy aspect of this product. For a toy, I like the Fisher Price Trackmaster trains better. They're bullet proof, both the engines and the track. The durability is amazing and yet they're slightly bigger and better detailed than the wooden railways and less expensive. I do prefer wooden railways for their craftsmanship though, particularly the older Swedish made Brio and the modern Thomas ones. Another awesome toy to check out is the Lego trains. They're quite costly with the power options but have two big advantages for play in that they're able to be totally customized, and they integrate with the whole Lego play system.
So their your have it. If you want to try scale model railroading, this LL set is a cheap start and you'll learn plenty on your way to a rather sophisticated endeavor. If you're looking for a toy, try Trackmaster for children 6 and under, and Lego trains for older children. The play value is far better with either of those. Of course, when I was six, I had to have the 'real' thing. I got an N scale model and loved it. If your child is attracted to the scale realism, no mere 'toy' will suffice.