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on September 4, 2016
This was the first O-Guage item we ever purchased. Being a starter set it was able to get us going with simple loop around the Christmas Tree for my sons to enjoy (and oh boy did they love it). I feel that it is a well made set using standard Lionel components. We purchased in 2012 and it has been working perfectly to present and I have high expectations to get many many more years of fun. I highly recommend this set for anyone interested in a good starter set for a seasonal Christmas Tree loop or even for a more permanent setup.
Since purchasing this in 2012, we have expanded the setup greatly with additional loop around the tree, multiple buildings, some additional locomotives and several new cars. The Fastrack is easy to use and the CW80 transformer does the job for powering this train and the few accessories we have. I think the train details are great for this starter set.

The only minor negative thing I could imagine to say about the set is that I wish the box was a little more easy to re-use. Using this seasonally means re-packing the train set and the existing box is good but could be a little better.

Last thing, I love the traditional transformer setup that this set from 2012 uses. I am well aware of newer Lionchief (handheld remote) versions which I have used and these are very good also. If I had to buy this set all over again, personally would like to have the Lionchief Plus (train supports both traditional transformer operation or Lionchief remote) to give more flexibility for future setups.
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on December 28, 2012
I felt inclined to write a 5 star review considering the numerous conflicting ratings for this set. I've been *watching* this set (along with the G-guage) for over a year before making the ultimate purchase. I was conflicted based on the reviews. When I saw the price dip the lowest I had seen I went ahead and took the risk (glad I did because I have yet to see it go that low again!). .. knowing if it was a failure, Amazon would hold up its end of the bargain & provide a refund.

We have not had a single problem with this set. It was very well packaged and everything worked as it is supposed to (granted we've only been running it for 4 days ... I'll update my review as needed). We are not serious model-train buyers, so we don't have much to compare, but for the average family looking for a decent, seemingly sturdy set that will continue to inspire the Christmas spirit in their little ones, as the Polar Express does, for years to come, I think this is the right purchase.

It runs much faster than expected! I was shocked at how fast it would go on full speed.
We love the smoke feature (which has also worked fine).
The characters are a wonderful addition. They are small as others have pointed out, but they seem to be "to scale" with the train. It's nice that they can "stick" to various places on/around the cars. My son was thrilled to see that they can stand in front of the engine, just as they did in the movie!
The whistle is fantastic and sounds so real!
Yes, the passenger cars are plastic, but they aren't wimpy by any means. They are solid pieces. I was impressed with the size of all the cars ... much bigger than I anticipated.
The lights inside the Pass cars are a very nice feature.

The only cons that I can think of :
- it is a little noisy, but I suppose that is expected considering the weight of the engine (it IS quite heavy!)
- there really isn't enough track. We bought an additional pack of 4 straights and it still seems barely "enough". The additional 4 would need to be bought for sure if you want the set to go around a 6+ft Christmas tree. It's really too bad they don't include more (this temps me to reduce my rating to 4 stars ... a true fail in my opinion. For such a powerful machine, it seems almost crazy how little track there is).
- the bottle of liquid smoke is quite small and I can see us going through it rather quick.
- the control box indicates a train "bell". This model does not have that feature so the button simply doesn't work. I imagine these controls are made for various Lionel sets, but it's deceiving and a little disappointing to have it listed when it's really not an option.

Time will truly tell if this set holds up to Lione'ls historically positive reputation (too bad the sets aren't still Made In USA!) and I hope it does. So far I am very happy with the decision despite many of the neg. reviews I've read.

One final thought to consider. Although children can, and certainly should, play with this set, it is not a childrens "toy". It needs to be respected and adults need to supervise kids around it and set boundaries and limitations (based on age and development), otherwise pieces will get lost or even break. Families with children who have a hard time following rules or that receive less parental supervision/involvement might be more pleased with a less expensive set; one that is made to take a fall or two or where replacement pieces aren't costly or even necessary.
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on December 25, 2012
I recently purchased this train via Amazon.com and I have no regrets. It was almost one hundred dollars cheaper than buying it from my local Lionel Shop and arrived in just 2 days from the date I ordered it. I tend to buy Lionel Trains and Rail Cars in pieces instead of sets; however, after seeing this set online, I thought I would give it a try. Once again, no regrets. The smoke unit works great, the passenger cars and window silhouettes of the children look wonderful in the dark, and the observation car looks more like the feature film version then the expensive heavyweight version of the observation car (which I also bought for my collection in a 2-Pack set for almost $400). In addition, this locomotive is powerful and higher quality then the last few years model. After purchasing all the other passenger cars available for this lightweight set (9 cars now after all additions), it pulls them as if it was nothing. The tender's whistle is a bit low in volume, but that is only in comparison to other tenders I have and sounds great by itself. The only flaw I have found is the fastrack itself. It is great for quick set-up, but be warned, it is loud (especially if it is set up on a hard surface like a hardwood floor or tile floor. Carpeting is much better to cushion the sound a bit if it is a temporary display; however, it is still loud regardless). Also, it will slowly separate overtime and needs to be properly cleaned over the years to maintain proper electrical contain to track-track connections and track-engine/cars connections (as is the case in any track). However, for younger owners of the set, the train is simple to set up and will truly captivate their imagination. Once again, this is the best Train "Set" I have ever bought and I fully recommend it to anyone thinking of purchasing a heavy and strong engine you will be able to pass on through the generations with the right care. Plus, you can't beat the price for a complete working set with free super savings shipping.
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on December 27, 2011
My son is 8, and a fan of trains, and the Polar Express. Over the past few years we purchased cheap plastic trainsets and they have always managed to disappoint with how hard they were to keep on track, and general construction. The engine on this train is indeed big, heavy, and impressive. But it also has enough delicate parts around it that you have to feel nervous when a child or careless adult picks it up. What's included is reasonable for a 'round the tree' train, which is what we expected. The light-up passenger cars are a nice touch, though the railing that fits the last car will no longer snap on to car as someone else mentioned in a review (this was noticed by the time we were putting it back into its box when we first inspected the package).

As my son pointed out as an obvious mistake, the coal car needs to be attached to make the whistle sounds. You simply wouldn't run the train without the coal hopper, but still. There's a bell button on the transformer, but our instructions clearly state that we don't have a bell feature. Disappointing on a trainset that cost this much.

The operation, seems rather hit-or-miss. Sometimes we have to try several times to get the train to reverse direction. We were attaching the passenger cars like in 'real life' and would move the train forward, put the car on the track, then back it up to the couplers. It took a fair effort to get it to reverse directions that many times. Also, sometimes we would try to start up and it simply wouldn't move, then after a couple more flips of the lever it would start though we adjusted nothing on track.

We also had the train running from wood floor up onto a carpet. A very slight incline, but it seemed like the train had some difficulty with it (something you would notice at slower speeds).

I never found instructions on loading the smoke fluid, though I knew where from previous experience. The smoke produced was minimal, and not very impressive. But to be fair, I've never really seen a stock smoker put out a decent amount of smoke. This just seemed to be a bit puny, again, for the price.

I know that Lionel now is not the same company as Lionel when I was a kid, but still, I was expecting something more for the price. We paid about $270 more than we would for a typical cheapo train set, but in the end we still had our share of frustration and annoyances.

I couldn't really recommend this product to a friend.
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on January 1, 2013
Bought this as a gift for my grandchild, keep in mind I have bought/collected Lionel trains for over 50 years, for Christmas. I started out a couple months back with Thomas set to see how he would take care of it. Since he did very well I decided to move him up to the "O" gauge Polar Express since he was infatuated with the movie, etc. We set it up on Christmas Day and it was a treat for all until about 1 hr later it stopped working. I called Lionel the next day and explained the symptoms to wit they said the engine was shorted and needed repair. I could send it in and get it back in 3 or 4 weeks, bring it locally for repair (2 months) or return it for a refund. I decided to return it and order a replacement. Received my replacement from AMAZON the next day (THEY ARE THE GREATEST!!!!!) and have shipped the old one back for refund.
It is really too bad that these have to be made in China now because they are nowhere near the quality of what we expect from Lionel. The box says they are located in Chesterfield, IL but I have been there and there are only maybe 3 people left at that facility. Most personnel are now located in N. Carolina, and Ohio. Another American industry, known for high quality, now producing inferior goods outside the USA. LIONEL, Inc,,,,please get your act together and bring the quality back to the model train industry and make these in the US.
I am hoping this was an fluke but I see others who have experienced issues. When they work it is great....time will tell
I would be real sad if it were not for the customer service at Amazon. BTW, the customer service at Lionel was very prompt and courteous too. If yours works these are a great choice. I gave it 3 stars because I expected, for the price, that this train would be QC'd and work. Here's hoping that this unit lasts many years. I have other Lionels that are over 70 years old and running great....I don't think these new units are up to that longevity. Happy New Year to all the other Polar Express lovers out there...it is always great to hear the bell ringing, no matter what your age.
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on December 6, 2012
So this is the second Lionel train we are on. Ordered the G gauge for the kids and the locomotive was INOP, decided to move "Up" to the O gauge, as it looked like it was made a LITTLE better. Anyway, it arrived and the engine and locomotive are nice, but the cars are plastic and pretty cheap. Went to connect the cars and one would not connect. Looking closely at it, it appears there is a small PLASTIC pin that holds the couplers together, and it was broken. When I say small, I mean like the size of a sewing needle, and only a 1/4' long. Contacted Amazon customer service about a replacement car, but their policy dictates sending the whole smash in and them sending me a replacement. I would have been happy with a car, but they have their policies.

Let me be clear and say that Amazon has been great about both issues, but the cheaply made Chinese junk that Lionel is putting out is costing someone some time and money. Like someone else posted, not the Lionel I remember as a kid.

If it weren't for Amazon's perfect customer service I would look elsewhere for something that lasts, as this appears to be headed for the garbage in a few years if not sooner. Pay for the made in the USA if you can afford it (and find it).

Also, buy some extra track if your tree is larger than a shrub, otherwise you wont make it around with whats supplied.

Your mileage might vary, but I wont buy from this manufacturer again.
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on December 11, 2014
Seems real nice at first. A wire was loose in the caboose... no rear light.... had to take it apart and wiggle everything to make it work.

Also it smokes like a champ at first... but after 3 days or so it barely smokes and you also have to put a lot of smoke oil drops inside to make it work. What kind of design flaw is that? It impresses and then let's you down. LAME. I ALSO SAW A LOT OF INTERNET REVIEWS SAYING SIMILAR PROBLEMS WITH THE SMOKE AFTER THE FACT. DO NOT BUY THIS MODEL.

Update: If you are willing to take apart the smoke making section and clean it out and re-stuff it with instillation fibers it will work like new again. I'm still having problems with wires to the lights coming loose and lights flickering or not working... a serious let down. What do you have to be a toy engineer just to maintain this thing for a couple years.... I've only used it 2x.
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on December 17, 2012
I'm an adult, and this is my first real train set. I obviously have no perspective on some of the comments regarding declining quality for Lionel, but I can say that I'm thoroughly impressed with this unit! If this is "low quality" for some folks, then I have to question just how high they are setting the bar!

First, the train and tender are metal...and HEAVY! All pieces are incredibly well made and detailed, and the unit works without issue. It's perfect for around your Christmas tree and the kids will definitely love it (mine do!) Some pros & cons:

Pros:
1.) Quality. Incredibly detailed and sturdy engine & tender units.

2.) Features. Love the realistic smoke stack, lights and whistle.

3.) Set-up. Extremely easy to set up and get going. I had it running around our tree in about 15 minutes.

Cons:
1.) The only real con (and it isn't really a con with this set per se) is that Lionel doesn't offer multiple levels of this set. I for one would have paid more for an ALL metal set (the passenger cars are plastic) as well as a set with more features. It would have been nice to have more lights, a working bell, more steam features, etc. Again, I think the value of the current set is good, but if Lionel had offered a more expensive set with more features, I would have purchased it.

2.) Noise. As I said, this is my first train set so this may be normal, but I find the train to be fairly loud while it is running. With a large room and all hardwood, the noise resonates quite extensively and can get annoying. As a result, I only find myself running it for short periods.
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on January 1, 2011
How many cheap plastic toys have you bought? I have 6 1/2 year old twins and if you're like me, you've bought plenty. Often with disappointing results. Disposable junk. How nice it is to pay a lot AND THEN GET A LOT! Santa brought this train for my boy, who loves it so much. It comes with a VERY heavy metal engine. Solid as a rock. Everything worked, and everything felt like it was produced with attention to detail.

Be warned, this isn't a junky toy, it needs to be respected. If your kids are not naturally inclined to respect their toys, you may want to wait until they do. However, if you feel that they are responsible enough to not step on the trains or drop them etc.. then I can recommend this train without reservation.

It is a joy to play with and operate. My boy is in love.

For those confused about what scale the train is, it's technically an O gauge. But the track Lionel includes is their "fast track". And it's great, as it's already premounted on a solid elevated platform and everything fits together much easier than the tracks I had as a boy.

Santa also brought the north pole expansion set:
http://www.amazon.com/Lionel-North-Central-Freight-Expansion/dp/B000LGVD0E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293896369&sr=8-1

which works beautifully with the Polar Express set! I really recommend both together if you're up for it.
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on January 21, 2012
Like many other posts here, I certainly wish that Lionel Trains could be made in the USA, but given the modern world, I'll take what I can get. I decided to purchase a new Lionel for my 4 year old, who is absolutely crazy about Trains and cares quite well for a couple of Thomas sets and Geotrax. This product is listed for age 8 and up, but there is no doubt that with parental help, this product is fine for age 4-5. I initially intended to restore my fathers post-war Lionels for my son, but figured I could at least get him started this Christmas, and add on the old cars as we progressed.

The Polar Express has a high quality mostly metal locomotive that functioned absolutely beautifully as soon as everything was hooked up. The cars are plastic but well made, will withstand typical play, but certainly not rough play, so if your child is a head banger, avoid purchase until they are a little older. The Fastrack system is great for Christmas, because you can be up and running on carpet or any surface in minutes. Much more secure and holds together better than my Dad's old track. Transformer is well made. I did find that the new Lionels are incompatible with the old because of new coupling systems, which are actually better, but plastic, so could conceivable break with rough play.

Smoke system works great, as do the fun whistle sounds. No bell sounds on this set. Oh, and if you do want the old high quality metal cars and accessories, you can purchase from Lionel, but be prepared for sticker shock. Overall this was a great purchase, my son has not stopped playing with it for weeks...going to be tough putting it away until next Christmas!
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