Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lionel Little Lines Train Playset Review

Did you know that Lionel Electric Trains now has a retail store in NYC? They also opened pop-up stores this holiday season in Cherry Hill, NYC, Westchester, Dallas, and Minneapolis. I'm not exactly sure what a pop-up store is, but if it involves trains I know my boys would enjoy visiting it.

We weren't able to attend a special event in Cherry Hill earlier in December, so Lionel sent us their Lionel Little Lines Train Playset for the boys to play with and me to review. I didn't want it to get missed in the chaos of Christmas, so we just opened it up today to play with. 

Rich and I put it together while a very 
excited Kiel waited a bit impatiently. 
Here is a picture of the pieces right out of the box. The train isn't in this picture, but it includes an engine, coal car, carrier car, and caboose.

As with all toys we review, Thor is right in the middle of the action. He was actually more patient than Noah and Kiel were during the assembly. 

The assembly itself wasn't too bad. I only swore once when I pinched my hand between two of the tracks. I was impressed by the solidity of the track considering it is made of plastic. 

Snapping the tracks together took some force, but other than some difficulty snapping the tracks into the risers until I figured out it was easier to slide them in than snap them in, it wasn't too bad.

The hardest part was getting Kiel to stop playing with the engine before the track was ready.

Here we are mid- construction. 
You can see my little engineer is anxious to get started.

Here it is 95% complete, just before I realized I had a 3" piece of the track under the bridge that wasn't supposed to be there, which was making things not quite snap together correctly at the curves. After I fixed that part the track looked and felt very stable.

The engine itself moves very slow in the forward direction, a bit faster in reverse. We didn't have much luck getting the engine to pull the other three cars around the track. Fortunately, the boys were happy just playing with the engine. 
The remote control is easy to use and a nice size for little hands to hold. You can see Kiel is holding the remote in the picture below.

We have to keep an eye on Kiel because he really wants to push the train around the floor himself. We don't typically have good luck with trains/cars/ Zhu Zhu pets that have a gear mechanism because of that, as eventually the inner mechanism breaks from the misuse. Hopefully, I can prevent that from happening with this train. 

**Updated to add that four hours in and the train now only works in reverse.**

The engine is a little tricky for Kiel to get on the track correctly but Noah does fine with it.
The age range is 2 1/2 +. I think that is a realistic age as far as ability to use the remote, but not to play with the train by itself.

Both boys have been playing with it (together even) on and off all afternoon and the track is still in one piece. We've had a couple small plastic Thomas sets in the past that quickly became frustrating because the track wouldn't stay together. So far that isn't an issue with this Lionel Train set.

My thoughts on this set

Durability of the tracks initially seems good and feels solid. 

The engine is slow, which is a little disappointing. I think it would keep kids attention longer if it had a bit more pep. 

If you are thinking of getting this for a toddler keep in mind that if your kids are like mine you are going to have to supervise any use so they don't try to push it themselves, which will likely break the mechanism in the engine.

I don't see where you can buy additional track for it, but if you can that would be a nice feature.
I'll let you know if you can buy the engine by itself, since its a shame we now have a nice track without a working engine. 

Lionel Trains and Dan Klores Communications provided me with the Lionel Little Lines Train Playset. All opinions are my own.

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