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on December 29, 2016
Bought for my 69 year old father who has severe depression and dementia. He had one as a child and the past several months he has been talking about "his train". This has brought such joy to him and the whole family. Very realistic and sturdy. The engine is dicast and super heavy. The cars all hook together so easily. The track is a little hard to push together but that is expected. Once together they stay very well and can be pulled apart a lot easier. The engine actually smokes when smoke fluid is put in and smoke button are on. It's the coolest thing ever. Worth every penny!!! The package came factory sealed in plastic and then in a separate box than what it was shipped it. Would highly suggest this to any first time train enthusiasts!
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on January 1, 2017
"Santa" brought this train set for the kids, but the parents and grandparents have really enjoyed it too! The scale and detail of each car is quite impressive and the LionChief remote makes operation a cinch. Like others have said, the sound effects are on the loud side and I resolved this matter by partially covering the speaker at the bottom of the tender with some packaging tape -- it took some trial and error to cover just the right amount to keep the effects loud enough while not to the point of annoying, and this simple fix has worked great. The track also creates a good bit of noise especially at high speeds so we just keep to "medium" throttle for the most part and it's fine. My kids love the smoking stack and the radio dialogue, and one of their favorite scenarios is to disconnect a few cars and then run the train in reverse to make them reconnect, and then zoom off again with the bell clanging. Also, since the caboose has such nice windows, I picked up some low voltage lamps from a local hobby store and installed them into the top of the car along with a small switch and AA battery, and 'voila' -- lighted caboose (pic attached)! Really easy to do and adds another neat scale effect. We've only had this train set a short time, but it's worked great so far and I can definitely see us adding more track, cars, etc. in the future.

Update - 11/23/17: It's almost been 1 year since purchasing this train set and I wanted to report that it has held up great with a lot of use from my youngsters. One car suffered some damage and a connector no longer works, but this is likely easily repaired. The track is now mounted on a piece of plywood as setting up and taking it down was becoming too much of a chore. Very happy with this train set.
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on December 14, 2013
There is a ton to like about this train set from the substantial die-cast locomotive model to the remote control system, unfortunately poor execution of the audio electronics is a major negative in this set.

A couple quick observations that have not been mentioned previously - the body of the locomotive is die cast metal, not plastic, as other reviewers have stated. The paint color of the locomotive is a matte gunmetal gray-green which is subtle, not the bright forest green finish implied by the promo pictures. The caboose is no longer illuminated as it was in the 2012 version, the cars are otherwise identical with new paint schemes.

As far as basic operation, the brilliant thing about this set is that even at maximum speed around corners in either direction I could not get the train to derail, nor could my 2, 5 or 6 year old children. I seem to remember frequently derailing my father's O-gauge train sets running on traditional AC transformer controls back in the day so this is probably less likely to prone to damage as a result.

The issue with the tender car & Railsounds RC audio system occur on many levels.

First, the physical connector between the locomotive and tender that carries both power and signals from the Lionchief electronics in the locomotive are integrated into the coupler that is subject to constant mechanical stress and shifting. The wires on the locomotive end are very short and soldered to a small circuit board on a connector that swings around on the coupler arm as the train turns corners. When going around a curve (which on a beginner set oval is a LOT). When the locomotive goes around a corner the wires pull against the solder joint and, in the case of my locomotive, led to a break at the solder joint after about 2 hours of operation. There simply isn't enough slack in the connector and I expect more of these will fail after a few hours of operation. This isn't specific to this model, it's also a complaint that's shown up in the 2013 Polar Express set which shares a common locomotive-tender wiring connection.

While they worked, the audio effects themselves sucked. There are 5 audio effects included; two automatic and three user controlled. The two "automatic" effects are a "standing still" clanging/steaming effect (always on when the track has power and the train is still), and an "in motion" chuff sound that simulates the way a steam locomotive sounds in motion. There are also 3 user initiated effects via buttons on the remote, a bell (terrible fast clanging sound), whistle (only slightly less terrible than the bell, decidedly non steam locomotive sounding) and a completely strange bit of radio dialogue chatter that was lifted off of their modern diesel engine models but is totally out of place in an 1800's steam locomotive. Clearly money was saved by recycling audio samples from other sets rather than developing a decent sounding whistle or sensible dialogue for a steam engine ("All Aboard!" would have been fine on the middle button...). It would be ideal if you could also disable the standing-still sounds (or if they shut themselves off after 60 seconds) because short of powering off the track you cannot silence the train when it's not moving and the track has power, a frequent complaint from the earlier Thomas the Train remote control O-gauge sets with the same audio effect functions.

Regardless of your opinion of how the samples sound, the bigger issue is that the audio system electronics in the loco picking up horrible noise interference from the motor (probably due to the combination of a plastic motor housing and long runs of unshielded wire between the loco/tender through the previously mentioned coupler). When it works there is so much interference that the audio system is pointless anyway... not only does the noise of the train drown it out but at slow speed you hear mostly electronic buzz mixed in with the bad samples they chose to use.

Everything else about the train set is actually really nice and makes it great for a beginner, the complete failure from poor solder joints to noisy electronics playing poor samples in the Railsounds RC system is an unfortunate flaw specific to the Lionel 2013 LionChief steam locomotives with tenders (the Thomas/Percy and diesel locos like the Santa Fe Scout do not have the same issues). If the sound effects are not a huge deal it's an otherwise great starter set.
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on January 30, 2015
I bought this through the Warehouse deals for my wife who had been wanting one for a long time. I paid $150 for it so it was a great deal. Even though the warehouse deals said "Contents in perfect shape, Package may be damaged", I did not see any damage to the package. It was in perfect condition. The train is pretty rock solid. I mean it. It is at least 2-3 lbs and looks like quality construction. The rest of the cars are also very detailed but pretty light weight. Setting it up was a cinch. I put the tracks together, very gently. One trick I noticed that worked well was to put the tracks together half way through then turn them upside down and use the plastic tabs to pull the pieces together. That was a lot easier than pressing the pieces together.

I was afraid that the packaged track will be too long, but it is actually fairly short which works great for me since I did not want to dedicate too much space to it. The track can be setup as an oval O shape or more like a square shape. I decided to go with the oval. I heard from some of the reviews that the noise from the train starts grating on your ears after a while. However, I noticed that there are two buttons at the bottom of the engine. One of them switches the smoke on or off and the other switches "chuff" on or off. When I switched the "chuff" to off, the engine does not make the slightly annoying "chuff" noise from speakers when running normally. After that, when you use the remote and press the buttons "whistle", "ring" and dispatcher sounds, they come up. Press the ring button once to start ringing. Press it again to switch it off. I think most people, unless they have kids in the house who love the chuff sound, will want to turn it off. The remote is a bit unusual in that it actually has a tiny "On off" switch like the electric switches on regular electric panels. Then, the other thing that was a bit weird was that the remote has to be "On" for the train to be running. If the remote switches off, the train stops automatically. The remote takes 3 AAA batteries so I wonder how long with the batteries last, if I want the train to run continuously.

Anyway, that is just a minor criticism. I seated a few of my lego mini-figures on top of the train and grinned as they went round and round. The LED light in the front is really nice touch as it really gives the cool feel that the train is real.

Overall, I am really pleased with the train and my wife said that "her childhood dream has been realized" so I guess that counts as a big brownie point. Well done Lionel!! Attaching two pictures to show my lego mini-figures riding the train and the train with the headlight and all the carriages.
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on December 22, 2015
Like others, it stopped working properly the first day out of the box. The connector on the locomotive was spotty so sounds sometimes didn't work properly. It would stop, but then not go unless you gave it a nudge (moved it to make better contact).

It's too bad because the attention to detail on the locomotive, cars, caboose is great, but functionality leaves much to be desired.
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on January 7, 2014
I'm a newbie when it comes to trains and bought this based mostly on reviews of last year's model. We wanted something to go around the Christmas tree that would also be fun for our (very precocious) two-year-old. Weren't sure what size (gauge) to go with. This fits the bill.

Pros: Easy to assemble and set up; heavy die-cast engine; impressive detail on the engine and cars alike; remote allows toddler to "drive" the train (and blow the horn, ring the bell, etc.) from a distance.

Cons: LOUD sound effects; remote sleeps when idle, train must be unplugged and plugged in again for the remote to work.

Overall, this is great. The detail is impressive. It makes appropriately train-like sounds. It doesn't derail easily (or at all). Still, the sound effects (bell, weird-sounding whistle, bits of canned radio chatter between engineer and station master) are surprisingly loud, and the volume is not adjustable. The constant "chuffing" noise isn't controlled by the remote, but fortunately can be switched off on the bottom of the train (the chuffing noise is also disturbingly loud).

Re: the remote, we may be doing something wrong, but after a few minutes of idle, it seems to go to sleep, and you can't reestablish control of the train without unplugging the set and turning it back on again. It's a hassle, especially when the adapter is plugged behind the Christmas tree.

All things considered, though, as I said, we like it, and our son loves to "drive" it. The remote gives him enough control that he can refrain from tackling the train itself, which is great.

A nice bonus is that additional track isn't very expensive, so as years go by we may add to the layout and perhaps keep it in circulation during the "off season."

ON EDIT: Checked back to the item description, and as others have pointed out, the caboose on this is NOT illuminated, though the description says it is.
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on September 4, 2015
Read all reviews before purchasing and I have to agree with the 5 star ratings. Ordered this train set on Tuesday and operating it on Friday. Heavy metal engine with headlight and smoke and awesome sound. I purchased it early to be ready for my Christmas tree and I am loving it!! Truly a must have. Middle aged individual wanting a nice treat for myself for the holidays and always wanted a cool train set....will have just that for Christmas 2015 :-)
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on January 18, 2017
I ordered this train for a Christmas present for my grand son. When I set it up on Christmas eve it would not run. I tried every remedy that was listed in the enclosed troubleshooting instructions. Still would not run. I quickly re boxed it and put it away. My grand son never knew about it. Was he disappointed Christmas morning? Yes he was. He had asked for a train set. I ordered a replacement to give to him after Christmas. When it arrived it would not run either. Now I have had to return it as well. This engine is made in China. I suspect that they have very little quality control on this product. One would think that they would have verified that it will run before they even boxed it up. This made me sad. I always loved lionel trains. When I was a boy. I thought they were the very best trains in the world. This is another example of corporate takeovers cheapening a product and whoring the brand into extinction. My advice is try another brand. Lionel has hit the skids.
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on January 12, 2017
While I believe the train itself is a very nice product, the condition of the one I received was poor. I purchased this as a gift. The outer box was in fine shape, however, the original box was crushed. I couldn't tell initially because it was packed in a 3rd box. Upon original inspection, it looked like only 2 track pieces were bent. Being so close to gift-giving time, I decided not to send it back, as it looked like they could possibly be fixed. Once the recipient opened it, put everything together and fixed the broken track pieces, they removed the remote, only to find it cracked as well. At that point everything else was assembled & he chose to not return the entire item. He was able to tape the remote together & it functions, however, as the purchaser, I was very disappointed to receive something so damaged. Had I seen the cracked remote too, I would have exchanged the order immediately.
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on December 26, 2014
Super disappointed. The track was very hard to connect and finicky, therefore the electric flow was spotty. The engine would start and stop often. The train sounds were really loud with no volume adjustment. After a few uses, the engine has some internal issues that sounded like slipping gears. it would not go, but just make a loud cranking sound. Sent it back. Sad, as son was very excited about his train. Now we have to find a "new Christmas gift from Santa".
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