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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 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 25, 2011
The Lionel Polar Express train was a gift for my husband and two toddlers. When we opened it we were so thrilled to see that it was a nice heavy weight engine and the cars were also nicely made. The part we loved is that it has a whistle button on the control box, but when you push the button the whistle sound came from the train itself! The puffs of smoke and the speed of the train were also great aspects that made us fall in love with this train! This train is super fast and it doesn't even look like it might tip off the track even at top speed it stayed stable! The movie figures of the conductor, the boy, and the 2 engineers are small.Unfortunately they don't really have a place to go inside the train itself. They can sit on the back of the caboose, but they do not fit if you try to stand them up straight. The kids loved playing with them reguardless. They had the engineers on top of the engine pretending to fix the light just like in the movie. They had the conductor talking to the little boy and they watched the train go around with joy and magic in their eyes all Christmas season long! Since Christmas is over,we are looking into buying more accessories and making the track go around the ceiling of our living room as an all year set up. This Lionel train is going to be the first in a long line of trains we plan to purchase for our family! Overall we were happy with this train. Great preformance, great quality, kids loved to play along like the movie, the only down fall is that the characters do not fit on the train.
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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 25, 2012
I recently purchased this train via 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 21, 2012
The train is everything we hoped it would be. It looks great, set up quickly and when we added the figure 8 our grandsons were so excited. They each visited once and played with it and we were excited for Christmas when they both would be here to play with it together. But one of the braces on the engine wheels has broken already. We took it to a train store and they said if we had bought it from them they would have replaced it and returned it to Lionel. They suggested taking it to an authorized Lionel dealer if Amazon will not make it right. The problem is we are three days from Christmas Eve. Is there anything you can do so we can have a working train on December 24? Today is the 21st. Amazon, you are great! You responded immediately to our situation. We had a replacement train in hand by December 22! Fantastic response. We were given instructions how to return the broken train at no cost to us. (Amazon also did not charge us for the replacement train at the time they sent it out to us) We boxed up the broken train on the 22nd, submitted for a UPS pickup and on the morning of December 24, UPS was at our door to pick up the box. it was a true no hassle exchange. i did receive an email on the 24th that a second replacement train was going to be sent. Apparently I had filled out the return form online incorrectly. I clicked on a button for a call so I could talk to someone about the mistake and within 5 seconds a very nice woman from Seattle Washington called me. Yes I wrote that correctly within 5 seconds... not minutes... not hours....SECONDS! I truly appreciate how Amazon responded to this problem The Lionel train is fantastic, especially after we added a figure 8 to the layout (also purchased from Amazon). Our 4 and 5 year old grandson's love the train and we look forward to adding to the layout for them. Thank you Amazon for your part in making this Christmas memory.
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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:

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.

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 February 17, 2013
My son had the G gauge train prior to this one and it was clearly more of a toy but the sounds still work flawlessly. The G gauge is all plastic including the track but my only real complaint about it was the electrical connection between the coal car that houses the batteries and the engine started failing almost immediately. It was necessary to tape the connection every time we set it up. So for Christmas Santa brought my son this O gauge train set and the quality is outstanding! The track and train are far superior in quality to the G gauge set. A big factor in getting this train was it having a transformer rather than rely on batteries like the previous one but sound effects work through the transformer and the bell sound effect didn't work from day one. The G gauge set also had a sound byte of the conductor calling out "All aboard, this is the Polar Express" which the O gauge lacks. All said and done this is a great train, it has lights and smoke and my son loves 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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on December 29, 2011
This is our first real train set bought for my daughter (and myself. ;-) ). This is a lovely starter set with an O-27 loop, and after a week we find it was well worth the money.

The engine is solid, durable, and highly detailed. It also puffs smoke after running a minute. The set includes a heavy, 80 watt transformer that can run accessories with the train. The passenger cars are finished well, except the observation car which comes without the rear railing attached. Once snapped on that part is too easy to remove. (Easily fixed with a touch of glue.)

The set includes four characters from the movie -- the conductor, the boy, and two engineers. There are small pegs in various locations on the engine and the cars on which to mount the characters.

I once had an HO set when I was younger, and the O scale is far easier to work with. Getting the cars properly set on the rails is so much easier than with HO. The Fastrack assembles easily and we were up and rolling in less than half an hour.

Naturally, with an all-in-one set there must be some compromises in the bells and whistles department. In this case, it is the bells ;-) as there is no bell (or other sound effects) other than a whistle controllable by a button on the transformer. After a week of playing with it the 40" by 60" loop is getting to be small, so we plan to buy larger Fastrack turns, maybe a figure eight or other basic expansion set.

Also, a side note -- the O27 turn is very tight and my daughter discovered that at its alarmingly fast maximum speed the engine starts to oscillate on the sharp turns and will eventually derail. Run at a reasonable speed or do like we plan to do -- buy larger Fastrack turns.
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