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Got my set from a friends model shop that was closing down. £40, bargain, the trade prices is higher than that! It's a nice little set for the starter modeller in electric model railways. The packing is well designed, and is perfect for adding other items to as the modeler wants.
I was more than happy when my son's interest in all things railway led him to start looking at model railways: this Thomas set offers the chance for young and old to get started in the wonderful world of the railway modeller!
The Amazon price can be beaten if one is willing to work a little harder: try the usual online market sites and even your local model railway shop who are usually happy to give a discount with a view to securing your future custom.
The product comes with a simple oval of track, a Thomas engine and the Annie and Claribel coaches. The quality of both the engine and the coaches is reasonable, although parents may want to keep them away from younger children. Details on the engine and the coaches are susceptible to rough play: I'v ehad to replace the couplings on the engine and the coupling bar on both coaches snapped (superglue makes a quick and easy repair).
The controller is the standard product featured in most Hornby starter sets: four year olds should be able to master the switch and the controller 'knob' quite comfortably.
The product also comes with a 'track mat' which was rather a disappointment. Whilst it provides the basis for a layout and collection (at considerable expense) it is made of paper and therefore rips very easily.
We searched hi and low for the best price that we could find for this Hornby Train set, MailOrderExpress.com had the set advertised for sale on their website for £58.99, Amazon had it on their site at £44.99, which is a difference of £14, a substantial saving. Some online shops only stocked the larger train sets which were over £100.The larger sets had more engines but the main aim of buying this smaller Thomas the Tank set ( For aged 4 and above ) was to see how Ashley got on with it, if he enjoyed it then we could add more coaches as and when we could afford to.
On the day that we ordered the train set we went over to B and Q to buy a 4ft 6ins square piece of hardboard. Then we painted the hardboard green to make it more interesting, so that the track would look as if it was going through the countryside.
The train set included an oval track mat ( 41insx42ins ) but we wanted to put the set on a firmer base, so that the trains would run smoothly and the set could be left assembled.
The train set is relatively easy to assemble, the track pieces all slot into each other. then the power connects to the track and to the wall socket.
The train controller used for speed and direction is easily managed by a young child. But Ashley is always supervised when he plays with it.
Thomas is a strong and sturdy locomotive, well made, no rough edges or sharp points and is well painted.
The two coaches that come with Thomas, Annie and Clarabelle are still well made but much lighter, so when they are hooked to Thomas although they tow easily you have to keep putting them back on track.
Four year old Ashley has no problem operating the train set, and to make the whole thing seem more authentic we have recently stuck the oval track mat onto the sheet of hardboard and added some plastic trees, figures and small buildings from the toy box.
Although this is a `first` train set you can still add to it, by making the track bigger and buying new engines and coaches.
ModelmaniacsOnline.co.uk have a detailed website of popular extra pieces to fit the set.
The train set lives in the corner of the bedroom and is just pulled out when it is played with, and Ashley loves being the Engine driver!
This train set may seem a bit expensive to some but I think it is worth the price it sells for. The RRP is £55 on the Hornby website though Amazon claims it is worth £75 and they are selling it for £58! We snapped ours up at a toy shop closing down sale for £40 and I think that's the absolute cheapest you can get this for.
It is suitable for ages 3+ though really it does require adult supervision while in use for under 5 or 6 year olds. An adult needs to assemble the track too because it's quite intricate. There are several long and thin pieces of electric track in the set that need to be slotted together just right so that the electricity can flow through them.
Next there is a transformer and control box that needs hooking up by plugging it into both the track and a power supply. There is a track mat included which is a plastic mat with a scenery design painted on it but we didn't use this because it does not lay flat. Therefore making it almost impossible to run the trains on the track on top of it because it won't stay flat!
Finally there is a beautiful little Thomas the Tank Engine. It's solid, really well constructed and quite weighty too. He has coaches Annie and Clarabel in a thinner plastic fashion to attach to him included in the set.
This is a beautiful set to watch running around the track. My grandson is absolutely delighted with this and loves being able to control how fast Thomas goes. There are a couple of drawbacks too though. Firstly, you absolutely must use this on a flat surface like a kitchen table or hard floor. The track can only be set up one way and that way covers 1.2m by .9m so this means you need an extremely large flat clear area to use it.
The other problem is that Annie and Clarabel attach to Thomas loosely by just being hooked on with tiny plastic hooks. Not only is this fiddly but they are always coming loose.
Despite this little grumbles, this is a gorgeous first train set for any train enthusiast or Thomas the Tank Engine fan. I think it's quite a fair price at £55 because the actual track and engine is really well made and this is a brand name product on two counts as well. You can get loads of extras to add to this set by either buying the Hornby Thomas bits or by opting for the Hornby Skaledale add ons. Over the years we will probably build on this for our Grandson and I can see it staying with him for years to come.
Includes: Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive, Annie Coach, Clarabel Coach, R965 Train Controller, Wall Plug Transformer, R602 power Connecting Clip, R9080 TrakMat. Track: Oval (requires 1040mm x 1070mm). Age 4 Years