Lionel Polar Express Train Set

Lionel Polar Express train setWe’ve been running this for about a week now. Track-wise, it would “fit” better if it was a 42″ circle (like American Flyer track:) ) instead of 36″. My son loves the way the cars light up, he thinks the the silhouettes in the windows are “too cool”, and he especially likes sounding the whistle. The smoke is pretty cool too, but it would be better if it actually produced a decent amount of smoke. My first project after Christmas might be upgrading the smoke unit.

As for the locomotive – to me it’s almost the perfect toy train locomotive. It’s die-cast metal, so it’s very rugged. All the detailing except the bell and hand rails is cast-in, so there aren’t any delicate parts to break off. The cast-in detailing is very crisp – with my poor eyesight it looks very realistic:) As I said, I wish the smoke unit worked a little better. I think the only thing that would improve this engine would be to add an American Flyer style choo-choo unit. I’ve listen to steamers equipped with Lionel’s electronic puffing sound and it sounds like crap compared to the AF sound – kind of like you’re in an echo chamber or cave.

I also ordered an American Models 4-8-4 Northern that DOES have a “real” choo-choo unit. It hasn’t gotten here yet but I’m really anxious to compare it with the Lionel Berkshire. After my experience with the Budd passenger car set I have no doubts about the quality, I’m just wondering if it will be as ideal as a toy. I’m kind of suspecting it will be a little too well detailed to place it firmly in the “toy” category. I’m really hoping that MTH will come out with a really high quality TOY steam locomotive in S Scale with die-cast metal construction, crisp detailing, minimal (if any) “separately applied” detail parts, a genuine AF-style choo-choo unit, and a good working smoker. Maybe 3 – a 4-4-2 Atlantic, a 4-6-2 Pacific, and a 2-8-2 Mikado. If the quality were as good as the Polar Express loco, I’d buy at least 2 of each. I hope I’m not the only one and I hope the manufacturers are listening…

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