* Prices may differ from that shown
It is that time of the year once more when my childhood mode kicks in and I am five again, eagerly looking at and testing all toys, cuddly or otherwise, with those 'Try-Me' buttons. It started even earlier than usual this year, back in October in fact, when shops and market stalls began stocking Christmas goodies.
I was strolling around our Saturday market, looking for ideas for Christmas and spotted a miniature train set trundling around its miniature rail track, on one of the toy stalls. Not that I am interested in trains, you understand, but I know a man who is and who is constantly joking about how deprived he was, not having a train set when he was a little boy.
How could I resist purchasing this set? However, I had not taken into account the cost of posting a 265g parcel to the Midlands. So decided to keep this one for my great-nephew and buy another on Amazon with super-saver, and get it sent direct to the address, saving me postage.
The miniature toy train set in a tin.
Being a dutiful auntie, I thought I should play with this little train set to make sure it was safe, and easy to construct before gifting it to my great-nephew.
What was in the tin?
6 curved and 6 straight pieces of 2cm gage, black, plastic track.
A Red, gold and silver coloured engine, not the traditional British model, but the type seen in Western films.
One AA battery
A green plastic coal tender,
A Green and purple Freight carrier and a green and blue truck labelled A.T.P.R.
Two spare carriage links.
All tucked neatly into a turquoise blue tin, measuring 14cm x 10cm x 5.5cm, sporting a picture of the engine on the lid.
Dimensions of the track, engine and carriages (for anyone interested)
Engine: Height: 4cm, Length: 10cm, Width: 3cm
Coal tender: Height: 2.5cm, Length: 3.5cm, Width: 2.2cm
Freight: Height: 3cm, Length: 6cm, Width, 2.2cm
A.T.P.R truck: Height 2.5cm, Length: 5.5cm, Width: 2.2cm
Total length of the track when assembled: 56.3cm
Width of track when assembled: 27cm
Cost: £9.99 from the market and £9.95 on Amazon post-free.
The auntie test
After releasing the train, tracks and carriages from the tin, I constructed the track, this proved not so much tricky, as fiddly. One end of the track had a square tab with a button projection and at the other end, a hole into which the button would fit. There were no instructions with this train set, so it was a trial and error start. Once I had discovered how to join the tracks without snapping the fragile looking plastic, the pieces slotted together well, but it involved a technique whereby the tabbed end needed to be held at a slight angle in order to be able to slide it under the adjoining piece of track and slotted into the hole.
That done, I took the battery and hunted high and low for the battery compartment in the engine. The cabin seemed firmly fixed to the wheels by a tab each side of the engine. Eventually, and as a last resort, I squeezed each side of the cabin of the engine; thankfully, this pulled the tabs away from the base and allowed me to separate the engine from the wheels, revealing the battery compartment.
Once the battery was in place and the cabin reunited with the wheels, it was time to play.
Setting the engine on the rails was a doddle, but adding the rest of the trucks was a little more tricky, in that it needed a steady hand and 20/20 vision, the slightest nudge and the tracks would distort a bit. However, it did not take too long and it was ready to do a trip around the track.
The on/off switch was a thin metal lever set at the side of the engine, it is the flimsiest thing I have ever seen and can imagine it could very easily be snapped.
At first, one of the trucks derailed shortly after setting off, not a good start, I straightened the rails and tried the engine on its own with the coal tender, both of which travelled all the way round without incident. I did eventually managed to get the complete set to travel round without a derailment, I think the initial failure was probably due to my not putting all the truck wheels squarely on the rails.
The battery life is fairly good, in that the train will travel constantly for 2hours before the battery flattens, probably slightly less when all trucks are being pulled around, but I wasn't going to waste another battery just to find out... sorry.
This train set in a tin 'won the Gift of the year 2012 Spring Fair Toys award,' so it is claimed. It certainly is a natty little toy, but I'm not so sure it would be suitable for very young children, unless it is set up for them. Even though they claim it is suitable for children aged three and over.
The tracks are understandably, a little on the thin and flimsy side, but good enough to withstand plenty of careful constructing and dismantling.
I would be inclined to fix the rails to a piece of ply-wood to keep it from distorting when touched or knocked.
I am in two minds as to whether to give it to my great-nephew or keep and use it as part of Christmas decoration Thomas Kinkade style, around my miniature Christmas tree.
I kept it and bought another.