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Showing 1-10 of 92 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 115 reviews
on January 11, 2012
Let me just stay first and foremost that this is a beautiful train and it looks great under the Christmas tree. I grew up with a train under the tree and now that I have my own tree to set up this year, I'd like to keep the tradition going. I must stress that the track that it comes with is Lionel Fastrack and it is the LOUDEST track I've ever heard. Combine hollow rails with hollow plastic underneath and you've got yourself quite a ruckus. I bought this on Amazon just before Christmas (Love Amazon Prime!). I brought it home, set it up, and it looked beautiful. Perfect. Was very excited. But as soon as I ran it for the first time my wife and I looked at each other in disbelief at the noise! So keep this in mind: It's not that the train is loud, it's the track. You've been warned. That's why I knocked off 1 star. Otherwise, this is a 5-star train all the way. But there's hope! Read on.

Now that I've warned you, I'm going to help you. If you really wanna make the most of this train, plan on upgrading the track. Atlas makes a new track called 21st Century track. The great thing about this track is that the rails are SOLID nickle-silver AND the center rail is blacked out to make it less noticeable and look more traditional. The Atlas track is not only MUCH quieter than the Lionel FastTrack but it sounds so much better (more solid and higher quality sounding). They sell a great starter kit on Amazon (O Track Starter Set). It comes with O-36 curves (which will work just fine as it's the same size as the FasTrack included in the Hogwarts kit) but I wanted O-45 curves (bigger circle, more pieces needed - 12pcs vs 8pcs). I actually went to a local train hobby shop (Loose Caboose in Bogota, NJ) and picked up a dozen pieces to make the size circle that I wanted.

Some notable features is the great detail on the engine and cars, the passenger car windows that light up (lots of spare bulbs in the kit), the engine headlamp is nice and bright, it creates smoke when you use the smoke oil, the engine whistle sounds great, and you can run it forward, backwards, or have it sit in neutral to keep it in place but have it still light up. Great for photos!

BOTTOM LINE: This is a really great train but if you want to run it more quietly, especially under a Christmas tree, replace the Lionel Fastrack with Atlas 21st Century track. It really takes this kit to a higher level.

Check out my pictures up top!
review image review image
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on January 9, 2014
Santa Claus put this train under the tree for my eight year old son, and we love it. At first, we tried setting up the track on top of the tree skirt, which is thick and lumpy, so the train would easily derail. After I pulled away the tree skirt and made sure the track was on the hard level surface of the floor, the train worked great. At full power, smoke billowed out the smoke stack and the whistle is a nice effect too. The engine has a bright headlamp and all the boxcars light up, which is really neat. I like the fact this train is loud going around the track. What little boy doesn't like making tons of noise? It makes operating the train more exciting. After New Years, I packed the train back in it's box and put it with the Christmas decorations, but I wouldn't be surprised if we pull it out in July for a little spin around the living room. This is a nice product!
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on January 5, 2015
Definitely like it a lot. Wonderful addition to Christmas mornings. Slightly unimpressed that it takes a lot of effort to align the track and the wheels.
Note to newbies: I bought extra Straight and Curved tracks thinking the ones supplied may not be sufficient. My recommendation is to just first just buy the train set...then set it up where you are planning to use it and visualize what you would do differently if you had the extra tracks before purchasing the extras. Turned out I really didn't need either of the tracks (straight or curved) and if anything, I might end up using the straight ones more than the curved since the kit comes with sufficient curved tracks...the extra curved tracks only ended up messing up the track run. You live and learn.
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on December 29, 2010
Background: I grew up having a few Tyco HO Scale trains and have always thought train sets in general were fun, but never jumped whole hog into them as a serious hobby. Five years ago we bougth a G scale train for around the tree. Sometime this fall while envisioning what our finished basement would look like, I decided the family room needed to have a ceiling mounted train around its perimeter, and that O-scale was the size to go for. Life is busy so the basement finishing will take a while, but when I saw this train on sale at Amazon for a very reasonable price, I decided it was exactly what I wanted for the ceiling train. At that time there were about 10 reviews and the morning after I ordered, Amazon posted that they were no longer selling due to some vague issues, which another reviewer has already mentioned. My train arrived yesterday and I decided I had better set it up to see what issues I might have with it. I am pleased to report that I have found none. The fast-track is easy to set up and keeps the track flat and together; I had to make a wooden base for our G scale train. The whistle works fine in our set (sounds great), and the puffing smoke is a nice touch although I turned it off since I don't plan on using that feature while the train is in storage awaiting its grand layout. Derailing wasn't much of an issue. Yes, it did come off the track a couple of times during the two hours we tested it today, but I adjusted the tracking on the front wheels after the first derailing. I set up the track in an oval and if I ran it at 100 percent, it would derail--but honestly, that is just way too fast for this small of an oval (in terms of enjoyment). We ran it at 50-60% full throttle, which is an enjoyable speed, and had no issue with derailment. This is an O36 train and so the supplied track radius is a minumum, and when I install my ceiling layout, I will do something more like at O48. Since most derailments happen on the curves, a layout using a quarter turn, then straight, then quarter turn (rounded square with the supplied track) is probably better than the 180% oval layout--but I am only speculating and a real Lionel hobbiest might address that issue better. The train was packaged very well! There is virtually no ability for the engine, etc, to move during shipment, but use care when unpacking. There aren't unpacking instructions; I can envision someone short on patience John-Wayning the stryofoam out from around the engine wheels and damaging the parts. The engine is solid, but there are fine parts as would be expected and a young child could damage some parts depending on what they decide to grab and pull on. Lastly, again as other reviewers have said, silouhettes in the windows of the dining cars would have been nice. But the tops can come off the dining cars and I'm going to using some overhead transparency and a sharpie to make my own. Overall, for me, its a five star train. Exactly what I wanted, nice looking, and I look forward to many years of service. .
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on December 25, 2012
Updated: 01-30-14
I just wanted to note that last year (2012) this product's smoke system stopped working shortly after the holidays. However, since it ran well, and since we had to return it multiple times prior for other issues upon arrival, we decided to not worry about it and leave the smoking option turned off. Oddly enough, I hear that for some unknown reason, it started working again and proofed wonderfully during this holiday season (2013). I know there are issues with this model's smoking system, so be warned that this might be a problem for you. I hope this review helped.

Original Review:
I recently purchased this Train Set and encountered multiple issues with the product, none of which were Amazon related. The first train set sent to me had a broken smoke unit and had to be sent back (most-likely a manufacturing issue since the smoke stack had chipped paint on it while being perfectly wrapped and cushioned). The Second set sent to me had a broken decorative wire on the outer surface of the engine (most-likely due to delivery since the box was torn and punched in many places). The Third set worked great, but was missing a few small items in the set which I decided was not worth sending it back (once again, a manufacturing issue). I did keep this set since the engine worked well and the passenger car's lights look great at night. I must give Amazon credit since they took care of all the return shipping labels ASAP and increased both of the new sets with one-day shipping each time since this was a gift to be given for the holidays.

Now, as for the train set itself, I own many Lionel trains and thus will compare this set to other "sets" I have boughten over the years, rather then more expensive models. The engine is heavy in quality; however, the smoke unit is poor when compared to many other sets and the decorative wires and feature are extremely fragile (as such, this engine needs to be carefully handled and might not be best for younger children). The Passenger cars look great at night and light up well. However, it would have been nice if they added silhouettes of the children witches and wizards in the windows, but that can be easily resolved with transparent paper and a printer (make them yourself and slide them in the window slots). Sadly, the Passenger Cars do not look as good during daylight. While the engine has nice detail, the passenger cars feel lacking in visual quality, mainly via the color of the roofs since they almost blend in with the window coloration. I know every Harry Potter fan (including my wife and myself) interested in buying a Lionel Set will want this, but if you are more interested in having a heavyweight engine and a beauty Passenger Car set from Amazon, I might ask you to look at the Polar Express Set which I also purchased. In conclusion, the set is nice, but in the world of Lionel Train Sets, there are better options out there if you are not a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter books and films.

Side Note: You can add passenger cars to this set which is a nice feature (I did this). The other passenger cars are just like the ones that come with the original set with the exception to the numbers only. However, the dementor passenger cars are very interesting. They even have silhouettes of the dementors in the windows which really make the cars look sharp. However, the dementor cars continuously flash on and off and really mess with your eyes at night.
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on November 26, 2012
I ordered this train just to put around the Christmas tree, but it has exceeded my expectations so much that I'm thinking of expanding the set (I've already bought some extra track and am thinking about buying some other accessories). I picked this particular model for under the tree since we had ridden the Harry Potter train when in Scotland, and this set has lighted cars, smoke, and a good design and color scheme that I liked. I got it for a good price ($250) from Amazon (it is normally a little over $300). It came nicely packaged and every thing about it has worked just exactly as it supposed to. The transformer and locomotive are both heavily built. The Fastrack goes together easily. We were REALLY surprised that it is this nice. Before I bought the train, I saw a few reviews that complained some of the parts are too delicate (especially for young kids). I have two observations: 1) the box says it is intended for children 14 and over; and 2) it IS somewhat of a precision-type toy that is not intended for rough handling. I guess a $500 to $1000+ "more serious" train set might be tougher?? But I am really surprised that a train set of this quality can be made this well for the price. Bottom Line: Assuming that the build-quality and reliability of my train set is representative of most of the Lionel sets that are sold, then I would have no reservation recommending the purchase (even at the $300+ normal price). BUT I would not buy it for younger children, unless they are unusually mature, or will be fairly closely supervised.
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on December 28, 2012
I purchased this train with the intent of sharing it with my grandchildren hoping they would derive as much enjoyment from its use as I did with my first Lionel train which I received for Christmas when I was nine years old. The Hogwarts Express looked great with lights on the locomotive and in the passenger cars. The smokestack smoked and the whistle whistled. The problem was that no matter how much I tried, I could not keep it from derailing for more than one or two circuits of the track. I personally question whether the curved track supplied with the train simply has too small a radius for proper function of the locomotive. The tender and passenger cars stayed on the track just fine but the locomotive kept jumping the tracks--even at low speeds. Its not much fun to play with this train when you keep having to walk around and adjust it. Of the several dozen purchases made from Amazon this Christmas, this is the only one that I decided to return. I rated the train two stars only because it looked great and other features like the lights and whistle were just what I had hoped they would be.
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on December 10, 2010
I wanted a nice train for under the Christmas tree. I had a G gauge train in past, and I did not know the difference at first so if you don't know, I would recommend you research about the different sizes first before you buy. I decided I wanted the O gauge because I did not want the G gauge again and did not want to go much smaller. The day I got the train, the kids could not wait to get it set up. I was a little concerned at first but was able to set up easily by looking through directions briefly. My kids are 13,11, 4 and 2 and everyone of them wanted a chance to operate the train (minus the 2 year old - but he likes to press the whistle button) and could operate easily. The steam that comes out is pretty cool, but it's not super noticeable and it needs to go pretty fast in order to work. As far as durability goes, the engine is of die cast metal and seems very sturdy while other parts are plastic. The kids have been operating train ALOT this past week and so far all is good. This is a very nice train and track, and my older kids are into Harry Potter so it made a great early present for us all. I would highly recommend this train, especially with the good price from Amazon!
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on December 25, 2013
The current owners of the fantastic Lionel brand have made a strategic error with this and all similar Lionel train sets: the transformer included in the set is a CW-80, which does not have a circuit breaker to protect against track minor short circuits. Short circuits happen frequently when you (or your children) place a train on the tracks slightly out of alignment. The CW-80 has only an internal fuse which is NOT end-user serviceable. See the Amazon review for the CW-80 or the many blog posts about hobbyists figuring out custom tools to "crack open" the proprietary screws on the CW-80 in order to modify the design with a sensible (and inexpensive) circuit breaker.

The CW-80 costs ~$100, so the Lionel folks in Michigan could have easily included a simple resettable circuit breaker as a rounding error in the price. There are only two logical explanations: stupidity or a misguided attempt to force people to buy one of their much more expensive transformers.

See the MTH Z1000 transformer for a properly designed alternative --- of course, you might as well buy a full train set from MTH with a properly designed transformer.
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on March 1, 2015
Bought this as a Christmas gift for my kids (12, 11, 4), really pleased with it so far. Solid, well painted cars, reliable locomotive, good basic train set. The kids love the Hogwarts theme--I had been tempted to get them a Grand Central set, but wisely opted for this instead given the kids' interests.
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