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Ok for a starter set
on February 1, 2012
At this price, I didn't exactly have high expectations - especially after reading some of the more negative reviews. This is NOT your Dad's Lionel set. Just about everything noted in other reviews is correct. While the engine is fine (for what it is), the remaining cars are VERY light and cheap. The best tip I can share is to make sure you take your time putting the track together. I was quite dismayed at first, as the train derailed constantly. And, it can be very challenging getting all the cars lined up again, properly on the track, and linked. With young kids impatiently waiting to play, it can be very aggravating. However, I had also made a crucial mistake. I attempted to assemble the track on a rug. Not a good idea. If you slide the track pieces into each other to get that "lock" they advertise, on a smooth floor or other surface, it's incredibly easy. But if you try to get that click on a carpet, forget it. The joints in the track will be just a little off in places - just enough to make your train derail. Once the kids were off to bed, I returned to the track layout and calmly, carefully went over every joint, running just the locomotive slowly along the track to look for problems. Once I corrected three misaligned joints by sliding a thin board underneath and re-joining the track there, the train worked perfectly. It was that simple. The curved track that assists in aligning the wheels of the trains onto the track is invaluable. Once I got the hang of using that, and the track was aligned properly, the train ran its course without a problem for as long as I would let it run.
Now that I know that, my opinion of the set has improved considerably. Nothing like giving a setup another try before abandoning it. Still, the additional cars are very cheap and very light. Little kids will NEVER get them to work or have the patience to get them to work. And, they're too flimsy to last long in the hands of a small child. I have no illusion that I can let my three-year old anywhere near it. The set won't last two minutes. But with supervision, it can be great fun.
Some have mentioned adding weights to the freight cars, but that sounds too involved and complicated to me. As a model train enthusiast, I'd rather spend a little more and get a better, heavier-quality set of freight or passenger trains. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I can accept the flimsiness of the freight cars because the whole set was so inexpensive. With the money I saved, I'll go find a decent used set of freight trains somewhere. The engine works great, btw. No complaints there, though the coupling on all the trains leaves a lot to be desired. The transformer, the item that kids would actually use to give power to, control forward and reverse of the trains, is also pretty flimsy. Not very comfortable letting my youngest use that himself. I went out and bought a more substantial transformer at the local train store. The transformer cost as much as the whole set! You may understand now why I wrote 'ok starter set" as the title.
Look, it is a fun set to get your toes into model railroading. And for some families, they may decide that they need go no further into the hobby. On the other hand, if the kid's face lights up like my son's did, this set may lead to many hours, days and years of fun with Dad, building something ridiculous and wonderful in the garage, attic or basement. Just don't limit yourselves to the cheap freight trains it comes with. And know that quality trains have better couplings and are more enjoyable in the long run. The track is great though, if you align and connect it on a flat surface. (You can move the whole thing to a carpet or rug once it's assembled.) Would I buy this again? Probably not. I would simply buy track, and a locomotive, then add quality freight cars, and a better transformer. But hey, you get what you pay for. For what it is, the price can't be beat. Because I like the ease and stability of the track, I might invest a lot in additional track so the train can run around the circumference of my office. The kids are still on the young side to leave the trains alone with them. But I hope to set up a "ceiling track" that will allow the kids to run it high out of their reach. Controller is mounted on the wall. One less thing to worry about.