If you're inquiring about the Polar Express train set in particular I've purchased both the O and G gauge sets and the G is slightly bigger but is all plastic including the track where the O gauge set has a very detailed cast metal locomotive and metal track. The train stays on the metal track at full speed where the plastic track quality is poor and comes apart causing the much slower train to derail. For a smaller child the plastic might be a better starter train but by 5 year old loves the O gauge!
You DO realize that you're hard pressed to find ANY Lionel train set for under $100 right? Then to factor in that this is a specially designed one that they have to pay royalties on, well... it's pretty obvious why it's more than $100. It's still far cheaper than a LOT of their other sets and it's just terrific quality.
My best friend growing up had both of her parents working for Lionel so I've been playing with ALL of their trains since I was 8 (am now 24) and I have to say that this set is one of the best quality sets that they've produced for this price. It's amazing really. I do wish the locomotive had a flywheel because of the add-ons they've made. But aside from that, this set is truly breathtaking and quite underpriced in my opinion.
And sorry to disappoint you but this set isn't just for kids. Lionel trains have long been a hobby that a great many adults enjoy.
In fact, I purchased this set for my MOTHER for use as a Christmas decoration. So, it's a little short sighted to think that only kids will be using this.
But, fact of the matter is, a lot of kids CAN afford this. Kids are walking around with iPods and Xboxes which are at LEAST the same price as this, if not more. You'll pardon me if I scoff over the notion that kids (parents really) can't afford this.
I know a lot of parents who've bought this for their kids. Before I purchased it, I asked around my friends and found that 8 people I knew had the set or had close friends who'd purchased the set. We're not upper class people. Just normal run of the mill suburban middle class folks.
Yes, there are still a lot out there who won't be able to afford it it but hey, that's life. Tough break. I wish I was rich like Prince William so I could buy an Aston Martin. Alas, I'm not so tough break for me.
Not sure but could be that the track wires are reversed/and or connected to the wrong side of the transformer. The connections are both the same color for accessories and track and if you have just one wire on the wrong side, this could mess things up. Just double check your connections. I do know the engine and its wistle is polarity sensitive and weird things can happen if that polarity gets crossed. You could also try running the tender on someone else's layout to see if it still stays on, then you know for sure you have a bad wistle or bad transformer. Hope this is some help.
Mine had the same issue. For a $300 train I was expecting cartwheels. I returned it and ended up getting my son the same train but the G-gauge for $75 at Barnes and Noble and it works great! My son was super excited that it actually works!