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Style: Train Set|Change
Price:$165.98+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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Showing 1-10 of 331 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 346 reviews
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 December 11, 2013
(This is the first train set I've ever used in my nearly forty years on this planet, so take this review with that frame of reference.)

Feeling shortchanged by our own upbringings, my wife and I had been talking about creating some Christmas traditions for our toddler and, in the back and forth, we wondered if people really did put trains around their Christmas trees (clearly our families did not and, apparently, neither did our friends' families). There was something that felt a little too Norman Rockwell/Saturday Evening Post about it, but when I saw this set pop up on a Gold Box deal I decided to pull the trigger. I'm glad I did.

Setup was quite painless, taking about 15-20 minutes from unpacking to the maiden voyage around the tree. All the instructions were straightforward and, if you've got the patience I didn't have, the Lionel site has a 20-minute video about the set. Size-wise, it fit pretty perfectly around the base and skirt of our 7-foot tree with the track in square formation; oval would've presented more problems. Operating via the remote was easy and even my 20-month-old was able to 'drive' the train and make noises with the buttons (though he got a little too vigorous with the speed dial and made me nervous that his quick spins were going to break something since the remote does feel more fragile than I'd like).

What makes this a great purchase for me is just how much my little one enjoys it. I figured it would be a nice novelty that would zip around a few times during the holidays, then go back in the box for 11 months since, really, how many times can you watch a few cars go in a circle? A lot, it turns out, if you're an excited toddler. Since I've set it up, my kid is pointing to the room with the tree and repeating "Train! Train!" and "Choo-choo!" fairly frequently. It's one of the few things that can get him to sit quietly and watch for several minutes and he's fascinated when I start pointing out details like the little people in the engine. What I'm worried about now is that I've introduced him to some kind of gateway drug to a very expensive hobby.

To be fair, I guess the above could apply to any train set, so here are some specific thoughts on this one:

The boxcar and caboose are both darker than they appear in the product picture, much more maroon than the orange/rust color shown.

Similar sets I've seen (including the older model of this one, I think) have shown features like an illuminated caboose and scenery like billboards or rail crossings. This set has none of that. The light on the front of the engine is always on, however.

As I mentioned, the remote feels more fragile than it might actually be. It's that whole thing about heft=better sense of quality, whether it's true or not.

The sounds on the train are a mixed bag. My kid loves the horn, but he also loves the conductor sounds, which are a small collection of phrases that are generated based on the train's movement or idling. Apart from the redundancy of them, the most bothersome element is just how loud they are. I may end up having to tape over the speaker on the bottom of the tender car to muffle it a bit. Some kind of volume control would be welcome, even if it were just a low-high option (if there already is one, I haven't found it). Same could be said for the chuff function which, when engaged, is so loud to me it overwhelms everything else.

Bottom line is that this set looks nice around the base of the tree and it makes my toddler happy, which is enough to make it a good purchase (though I don't know that I would've bitten at full price). I'm taking off a star for the noises, however, because they're something that's going to be a natural appeal for kids, but can easily become grating for adults at their set volumes.
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on November 17, 2013
This is the first O gauge train we've bought and it has been a fun experience. The remote works very well and the sounds with this set add to the fun you have while playing with it. I'm not sure how well this would work with older models since the remote changes speed in the train and the track has a set voltage etc.

The engine is quite heavy but still a plastic shell. All pieces look like they are well built and will last a long time. Keep the ribbons with the engine to help with storing it and keep the smaller box for the track or it will be almost impossible to get it all back in the big box.

When in the square shape, the track looks to be the perfect size for around a tree. For other fun you would really need more track.
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on November 5, 2015
I hesitated to buy this train because of the negative comments about the sound not working properly and the tracks hard to fit together. On my train, everything works! It chugs, it whistles, the engineer and dispatcher have conversations, the light shines brightly on the track in front of it. Not one negative thing to say. It's great and I feel like I'm ten years old again. My husband and I ran it around that track the entire evening. What fun!
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on April 20, 2017
I purchased this train as a test to see if I would like a remote train set, I did not want to spend a whole lot of money in case I was not happy with it. Boy was I wrong , I love this thing and can't wait to get more. I have a nice sized 0-27 layout and this train works great on it I am interested in buying the lionel plus engine on my next purchase. if you buy this set you will be happy as a first timer or add it to your train fleet,for 159$ you cant go wrong. ps this train has not been off my layout since I bought it.
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on March 28, 2015
Stopped working (sound and runs intermittently) just after return period expired. Now I must take the time to take it to a Lionel dealer and explain what it's doing and hope they can reliably repair it. The reliability and quality of this train is very poor for the price.
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on December 24, 2016
Though I call it Grandpa's train, it was really purchased for my 4 year old grandson who can operate the remote, and carefully move all of the stock from the track and then back onto the track. He is very good with it and very careful with it and guards it against his older sister.
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on March 26, 2017
A very great train at a very low price
O gage-fastrack-72W power pack-metal locomotive-nice smoke-whistle,bell, chugging sound (switch option), and voice communication between engineer and yard master
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on March 17, 2017
The proved to be the best value starter set and my kids really enjoy the sounds. Yes the sounds are a bit tinny and cliché, but they're fun. Only ding I'd give it is that the remote frequently looses contact with the locomotive, at which point you have to turn it off and back on to reset.
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on December 22, 2016
I guess the best way to start is by saying this train was back in its box and a return label was on within 3 hours of receiving it. This train is LOUD, and not just its horrible sound effects but the new Fastrack is rails sitting on hollow plastic. So as the train goes around the track, it is incredibly loud. I looked for a solution online and found this was a complaint on a lot of blogs. People suggested everything from putting insulation into the hollow part of the track to using a carpet pad between the track and a board that you screw the track down to. If you plan on putting the thing under a Christmas tree, you can't run it for very long because the sound is deafening to the point where it drowns out any sound effects that you play from the train itself. Speaking of the announcement sound effects, they are modern day announcements that don't fit the 1800's era style of the train. On a funny note though, the horrible Minnesota / North Dakota accent they gave the conductor is hilarious when I don't really think it was supposed to be. I don't have kids but I couldn't imagine having to listen to this train for hours and then listen to a kid flip his $*** when you tell him to turn it off...
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