Customer Reviews: Lionel Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Train Set - O-Gauge
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on April 1, 2009
I liked this set so well, I bought a second one. If you're modelling Hogs Meade, or platform 9 3/4, from the Harry Potter series, this is a "must have" addition for your O-gauge layout. The tightest curves that the train will negotiate are O-36, so if your layout is based on O-31 or O-27 curves, you will be disappointed. Lionel includes an O-36 based oval as part of the set. My layout is based on O-42 and larger curves, and I haven't had any problems.

The locomotive, tender, and cars are nicely detailed, and well built for this price point. As with any nicely detailed train components, it is necessary to exercise care when handling.

The locomotive is not ready for digital control or for digital sound effects. It has a working smoke unit and an air driven whistle. Lionel could add sound by offering an appropriately equipped car, as they have done with their Polar Express O-gauge train. I hope they do.

If you're looking for a modestly priced train set as a starter for elementary school age children, you might be better off getting one of the bulletproof nondescript freight sets (Pennsy, NYC, Santa Fe, etc). If you would like an authentically detailed collectible based on the Harry Potter stories, either to run on a suitable layout, for display, or just for collecting, this set will fill the bill very nicely.
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on February 17, 2011
I was very pleased to receive this Lionel train set from my daughter for Christmas. I was a bit disappointed that it will not runon my O31 track layout, so I went ahead and set up a small addition to my layout just for the Hogwart Express. I am not at all happy with the Lionel Fastrack. It is over priced, noisey, anddifficult to keep the sections together unles they are screwed down. The 90 degree cross over I purchased stopped the locomotive cold! Lionel could offer me no reason why this Lionel product would not run on their track properly. I finally came to the conclusin that the locomotive was losing its electrical ground whencrossing. I removed the rubber traction tires and now it runs fine. It is definitely a design flaw inthe wheel spacing. With the traction tires in place, the metal rear wheels could not carry current. Thelocomotive jerked at low speeds. I determined that something was binding in the drive. It turnedout to be the rod that drive the smoke had too severe a bend. After I straightened it a bit,the locomotive runs smoothly at lower speeds. The couplers onthe cars are pure junk. They are plastic and willopen without warning at any time. This is a nicely detailed locomotive and train set but the quality infinal inspection is just not there. I wanted one to run, not just set on a shelf to look at. The headlight already hs to be replaced...there isn't even three hours on this unit yet. Customer support is wanting from the way, the replacement led headlight is $4.00 plus $9.00 shipping!!!!!! Frankly, I expected more from Lionel.
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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 September 2, 2008
At long last, Lionel has produced a model of the Hogwarts Express(tm) that is big enough for small hands to operate. Fantasy lovers will owning a realistic model of the train that Harry Potter rides to Hogwarts. Train lovers will enjoy a truly historic event in the world of toy and model trains. This is Lionel's first ever model of an historic British train, which required completely new tooling and molds.

Railfans will notice the bumpers on the front, the fenders over the drivers, and the "missing" sand dome (the sand reservoirs are attached to the steam dome). All of these details give this die-cast 4-6-0 locomotive an appearance that is streamlined, classic, and uniquely British.
In fact, fans of English railroads will quickly recognize a Great Western Railway "Hall" class locomotive, one of the most successful steam locomotives ever built. The Olton Hall was built in 1937 and is one of about eleven Hall class locomotives to be preserved. Unlike its brethren, which tend to be painted deep green, the Olton Hall was painted a rich scarlet for the movie "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and has not been green since.

The illuminated passenger cars also represent the kind of cars used on British railways for nearly a century, and also used in the film. They also required all new tooling.

Here's some more good news - this train runs on the same track as Lionel's other sets, including the Thomas and Friends(r) sets. In fact, James the Red Engine(tm) is based on a similar British engine. So if Thomas and James have given you an appreciation for British railroading, but you're ready for something a little more realistic, this is an ideal "step up" for your family.

Paul Race, editor Big Christmas Trains
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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 2, 2008
We purchased this train to add to our large basement railroad display.

The engine piston design is unacceptable. There are plastic pieces which slide along plastic tracks to simulate the piston motion. The metal piece which is attached to the wheel and then to the plastic piston broke off with the lightest of handling. There is a metal piece on the back of the plastic piece which holds it all together -- this piece came off with the slightest bit of tension. Any child handling this train is going to break this piece off and then you are not going to be able to use it until you either detach the metal rail from the wheel or glue the metal piece to the back of the piston and hope that it doesn't pop off again.

This, however, isn't the biggest problem.

The front wheel carraige is composed of a four wheel truck. This truck will not stay on the track as the train goes around a standard O-31 curve. It also will not stay on the track as the train goes over a switch. We tried this train on our Lionel O-gauge three rail track - no good on turns and no good going over switches. We tried it on our elevated MTH Real Trax - no good on curves and no good over switches. Our track is "level" and our other MTH freight train and our Lionel Polar Express operate on both with no problems (the Polar express likes to jump its front pair of wheels on occasion as it goes over standard lionel three track switches, but if you have the speed right, it normally isn't a problem.)

Bottom line: Disappointed 8 year old boy and 44 year old dad. Train is on its way back to Etoys - not their fault - but this isn't a quality train, and I just can't believe that Lionel didn't take the time to do the least bit of testing with this train before sending it out to its loyal customer base -- it's MTH for us for now on - less expensive and better quality.
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on August 13, 2009
This is a beautiful train that looks and feels like quality. Unfortunately, like most everything made in China, underneath the facade is pure junk. It ran beautifully the first day, then started having problems. After one week the wheels would no longer turn, they were bound up. So, I took it apart to see what the problem was. First off, the motor looks like something out of a $5 toy car. It turns out the locomotive is only one wheel drive. The linkage and the chassis makes you think that there are 2 motors and 4 wheel drive, with 2 freewheeling. Not so. The 6 quasi-drive wheels are linked together with the external decorative chrome rods, that quickly bend and bind up, along with the plastic piston assemblies. The cars and the couplers are plastic and the couplers begin to fail, after a few days, too.
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on December 27, 2010
Like many other reviewers, we purchased this train for Santa to install under our Christmas tree. After reading the reviews, we realized this was a gamble to wait until Christmas Eve to check out the set as many of the current Lionel trains have problems ranging from derailing, broken parts, and faulty whistles and smoke stacks. Luckily, ours worked (for the most part.) We had debated over the Polar Express and Hogwarts Express for several days, but Harry Potter won out.

The train looks very nice. We love the British-style locomotive...very different from all the American style Lionel locomotives out there. The locomotive is all metal and seems to be pretty durable. The tender and cars are all plastic. We've had no problems with derailment issues (except the man-made kind! =)) The smoke stack makes nice smoke rings...cute.

Our train's tender whistle did not work. When we found this out and checked Amazon's page, the train had already been pulled due to problems and was only available from 3rd party sellers. We didn't want to have to resort to sending it back to Amazon because a replacement was not an option. We called Lionel and were given a few options to remedy the situation. They did not have a replacement tender available so we would have to 1) ship the ENTIRE set back to them at our expense for a replacement 2) ship the tender to them at our expense for repair, but this could take a month or 3) drive 1 hour one-way to their warranty repair shop in another city for on-site repair. None of these options were too appealing as it would require our time and our money to fix THEIR problem. My husband had checked the voltage of the rails and determined that the problem must have been in the whistle's motor in the tender. He decided to take it apart and discovered that the motor would not run without downward pressure being applied to the motor housing. He solved this issue by flipping the top bracket that secures the motor to the unit, rolling up some electrical tape and adding it between the top bracket and motor housing to force more downward pressed to the motor, and it worked.

I also wish this set came with figures or more cars. The Polar Express set has add-ons available, but not the Hogwarts Express. I feel that more detail could have been given to the passenger cars with silhouettes in the windows and such. The windows light up, but all you see is an empty train. The train does seem to slow down on certain areas of the track at lower powers. I'm not sure if this is something isolated to this model or a function of this level model train.

I would have given this train a higher star count had we not had to come up with our own way to fix the tender. Not everyone is mechanically inclined and would have been left with a non-functioning unit or had to invest more $$ in the unit to fix Lionel's problem.

I will update with any issues that may arise during the following months.
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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 September 28, 2011
Train is great but here are a few tips:
Face the train counter clockwise on the tracks to avoid derailments.
Slow ramp up the speed also prevents most derailments.
If you are going to use the smoke feature make sure the fluid is added before you start the train. I also bought some scented smoke (works great). The smoke will start only around the speed setting of 60ish or greater and only after running for a bit (needs to warm up)
All in all not a bad train. I bought it for under the tree and now looking to add more track ;)
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