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Style: Train Set|Change
Price:$275.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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Showing 1-10 of 462 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 500 reviews
on November 21, 2013
I'm going to compare this model (6-30218) to the previous model of the Lionel Polar Express (6-31960), since many people seem to be asking what the difference is. That set is already thoroughly reviewed on Amazon. There are many similarities and a few big differences. Which one is better is a matter of opinion. For me, it's the new LionChief version due to the updates and remote control.

We'll start at the front of the train: The mighty Berkshire engine is almost exactly the same, with some exceptions: There are no longer separate hand rails adorning the sides of the tank. This was a nice detail on the previous model, but I don't miss it. It's been replaced by a handrail that's cast to the metal body. Also, there are two toggle buttons in the cab of the engine, one that turns on/off chuffing noises and the other that turns on/off smoke. (The chuffing sound doesn't actually come from the engine; all sounds are from the tender). The third difference, and this is big, is the previous model used a very simple metal bracket to "couple" the tender, which I never liked. This model uses a new over/under coupler (quick connect drawbar) that's heavy plastic with copper diodes inside. The diodes are responsible for sending sound commands from the engine to the tender and also syncing the chuffing noises with the speed of the locomotive. This works very well - I'm impressed with how accurate it is. And, last, the smoke! The smoke on this engine works very well. The old engine was hit or miss - most of the time the train had to warm up by going at least half speed around the track for a few minutes before there was any smoke. This engine started making smoke rings right away, and they are perfectly timed with the chuff of the engine. I'm impressed.

Next, the tender: Like I stated, the tender is where all the sounds come from. I was surprised to find the tender didn't have any volume controls. In fact, it has no controls at all since it now interfaces with the engine. The tender simply has a speaker inside with a sound screen on the bottom. The sound is decent. Still, I'd like to control the volume. This is Lionel's "RailSounds" module, as opposed to the less feature rich "TrainSounds" or "SteamSounds". If chuffing is turned on, your train can chuff and play other noises simultaneously. With previous versions, the bell, whistle, or announcements would interrupt the chuffing. This is more realistic. All sounds (except chuffing) are controlled by the remote buttons. This works pretty well and makes more sense than using a transformer to control sounds. The previous Polar Express only came with basic sounds. You actually had to upgrade the tender to hear any conductor announcements or chatter. The fact that this is now standard is a very good thing. One thing I do want to point out: The whistle only has a single tone. Some of the better RailSounds have a more realistic steam whistle that changes frequencies. Not a huge deal, but enthusiasts may be disappointed. I'm very happy with the sounds included on this model.

Next, the three passenger cars: Not much has changed here. You still get very high quality passenger cars with metal carriages and sturdy plastic cars. All cars have interior lights that are on when the track has power. There are silhouettes in the windows that adhere to the book and movie - children lining one car, forgotten toys in one, and the last has one lonely child near the back. The last car also has an observation deck and rear light on the crown. The observation deck comes as a separate piece that you attach. The plastic tabs that attach the deck to the train are flimsy. I feel like this piece could easily break, so I used a line of super glue to keep the deck permanently attached. This is really my only complaint with the passenger cars.

The track: You get 12 pieces of FasTrack (8 curved, 4 straight), which is a good deal considering the price of additional track. This is the same FasTrack set that comes with most Lionel starter sets, with the major exception of the single straight terminal section that supplies power. Sets that come with a transformer (this one does not) have a positive and negative wire terminal. This set simply has a jack to connect the power supply. So, here is a question that's better suited for the hobbyist: How many accessories can I power with the supplied adapter? I haven't tested this or running my train up any inclines, so I can't answer that. I do know this power adapter supplies 18 VAC to the track and everything included has ample power. I've even seen video of multiple LionChief trains running on the same track with a single power supply. But, at some point, when you add track or accessories, you'll have to add a transformer. Do I mind that a transformer wasn't included in this set? Not at all. I'm glad they kept the price down. Even a starter transformer would have added too much overhead and this is something you can always add as your set grows. (Tip: If you plan to put this around the Christmas tree, I recommend ordering additional track. This 4 pack should give you plenty of room for presents to fit inside your layout: Lionel - FasTrack - Straight Track - 4 Pack )

The remote: This is the real innovation. Remotes on O-Scale trains are traditionally very expensive. A remote on a starter set is kind of a game changer. The remote itself is lightweight plastic and requires 3 AAA batteries (not included). It's a shame that it doesn't feel more sturdy. Plus, it isn't interchangeable; meaning that this remote has a set frequency that will only power this model. You can't simply pick up a replacement and set the frequency to match the engine. The control knob moves to neutral, forward, and reverse and there are three buttons for the bell, whistle, and announcements/chatter. The response of the controls is very good considering the less-than-wonderful quality of the design.

Function: Once you plug the terminal piece of track into your power supply, the track is powered. Oddly, there is no toggle to cut the power on or off - you have to unplug the adapter to kill power. The remote has an on/off switch, but that only turns the remote on or off. As soon as you set your train on the track you will have light and sound. If chuffing is turned on, you'll hear slow chuffs and steam noises and some chatter after a little while in neutral. If you put the train in low forward or reverse, it crawls decently, not great, at low speeds. The smoke rings are better at low speeds, since you get big, billowy, puffs of white smoke. At faster speeds you can't see the rings. The train handles fairly smoothly - slowing down slightly on turns. It's capable of running faster than you would want to run it. So, caution if you hand the remote over to a child. It could easily derail at top speed. The supplied track is rather noisy, especially on hard wood floors. Placing the track on carpet or a rug improves the noise considerably.

Overall, I love the quality of this set and I think you get a lot of value, even if you were to pay MSRP. But, considering you can find this set for a substantial amount less than the list price, it's even a better deal. The lack of transformer makes it ideal for remote control around a Christmas tree. If you are getting into the hobby it's a great starter set that I hope will last for years. Only time will tell if the electronic components and remote hold up or not.

Also in the set you will receive 4 plastic movie figurines (Conductor, Engineer, Fireman, and the main character), smoke fluid, and a commemorative jingle bell as depicted in the movie (I guess it makes a nice ornament). Nice little extras, but nothing fancy.

One Final Note: Lionel is releasing a LionChief Plus series in 2014 that will have upgraded features such as a toggle for use with a traditional transformer and automatic decoupling. As of now, they have not announced if they plan to release a Polar Express model with LionChief Plus.

This train is in the first release of the LionChief line. There is no toggle that will allow it to run without a remote. The train will run on a track that is powered by a transformer (not included). But, that requires opening the transformer to full throttle and using the remote to control the movement of the engine. I'm only mentioning this because some people prefer using the traditional transformer over a remote control. My advice to anyone who wants the option of remote or transformer would be to wait for the LionChief Plus line to be release.
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on December 18, 2013
I brought this thanks to amazon at a Lightning good price. I did verify the website at Lionel trains they charge 400 Dollars, compared to eBay or Lionel, Amazon has this at a great amazing price. I brought this for my self as a collector, I fell in love with not only the quality Die cast metal of the train, But also was shocked with the Box package it was really well made and put together. I will soon buy the area 51 train next. But if your reading this rating I sincerely Highly recommend this to any person. This is a serious train for mature youngster or adult... My son is 5 years old I am teaching him how to use it.. When he turns 9 or 10 years old I will buy him his own.
I rate this train set a perfect 10+++( Super important reminder) buy 4 pieces of 30 inch tracks extra with this purchase you will need it if you really want this to enjoy the beauty of the trains speeds, and mechanics, also sparks.

May my evaluation helps you in your purchase.
Sincerely, Ivan
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on December 21, 2016
Terrible disappointment. For the price, glowing reviews and the overall construction of the set, I thought this set was the real deal. Train worked the first night, and never again after that. The train doesn't fit well within the tracks and the electrical connections throughout the set are hap hazard at best. As the train approaches the corners on the track, it slows down to a stop and doesn't restart. Trying to get the train inline with the track itself was a chore and a nightmare; too much effort for such a high priced set. Shocked to see such a high overall rating, maybe I was just unlucky, but beware, set is, after all, manufactured in China.

UPDATE: The overall rating has significantly declined since when I first reviewed the product back in December of last year (2016). Consumers, your voice is being heard! Keep sending those reviews on cheaply and ineffective products! The pen indeed, is mightier than the sword ; )
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Overall this is a good product, but mechanical issues with the engine did the set in for us. After just a day, the engine started making a binding and clicking sound. Not sure if it was the motor itself or actual binding of the rods. Wasn't worth the trip to the hobby shop for a brand new product, and Lionel customer service of course wants you to send it back on your dime. We ended up returning it.
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on December 24, 2015
Santa got it for my five year old. But here I am putting the track together at nearly midnight and.... oops, the track won't close a circuit. I've double checked each track connection point, and then removed each of the straight pieces to see if hopefully one of the straight pieces was faulty and leaving it out would allow for a closed circuit on a smaller track (can't remove the curved pieces or it won't form a loop). I'm guessing the fault must be in one of the curved pieces, or in the straight piece the transformer connects to, or even in the transformer itself.

Disappointment in store for little man for xmas morning tomorrow. I didn't expect to pay nearly $300 for something and have it be a lemon from the word go. I think I'd even be happier if the track would just form a circuit and the engine was messed up. Unbelievable. Thanks Lionel.
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on February 12, 2014
Needs a little more track , but what they give on O scale u have to pay double in N. Great Train for the price.
comes with 3 passenger cars and a heavyweight train and tender. smoke and sound all included FUN
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on December 31, 2016
Well worth the price
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on March 10, 2017
My son (8 yrs) loved it. So did his father
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on December 29, 2016
This was the hit of Christmas! It works great and my 4 year old is able to control it!
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on April 17, 2017
great set and good price.
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