“ Brand: Brio „
We have an extensive collection of wooden train tracks and accessories. My oldest wants nothing to do with Thomas anymore though, and my youngest really prefers more realistic models as well. This little train is the pride of our collection, modelled after LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard.
THE REAL LNER Class A4 4468 MALLARD
This has to be one of the most instantly recognisable trains ever created. The original Mallard set the world record for a steam train 1938 at 125.88 mph or 202.58 km/h pulling 7 coaches . This record has never been beaten by a steam powered locomotive. The Mallard is 4- 6-2 engine - four small ( comparatively even these wheels are 3' 2") in the front, six large ( 6' 8" ) driving wheels and two small trailing wheels. This type was first used in Australia and New Zealand - hence the name Pacific. The Mallard has been fitted with a number of tenders over the years, but the pictures I have seen all show 8 wheels. The Mallard spent most of it's career in garter blue with red trim on the wheels and black detailing, but during the war it was painted black, as I believe all British locomotives were. The Mallard was designed as streamlined passenger train for high speed rail journeys, but I was believe it was pressed into service to pull freight as well during the war. The whistle was also removed in case it might be mistaken for an air raid siren. The Mallard was repainted its original blue after the war. The Mallard currently resides in the British Railway Museum, and is not fit for service but their is a huge demand to see this beautiful train on the rails again.
THE BRIO TRAIN:
This train is primarily made of wood with a metal undercarriage. It is certainly recognisable as the Mallard and my sons were absolutely delighted with this little train - but it is by no means an exact replica. It is understandable that the exact curves of this engine can not be be reproduced in wood, and and the large spoked wheels have given way to more functional metal with strong black plastic wheels found on all brio trains. The wheel layout is only 4-6 though, the two trailing wheels have been eliminated. Also the tender has been considerably shortened and has only 4 wheels. I do feel this takes something from the look of the train, but as the tender attaches with a wooden post rather than the usual magnet, perhaps this shortened version was needed to make negotiating curves easier. The competitor's ( Big Jigs) version also has a shortened tender. The small leading wheels do not actually touch the track but are for decorative purposes only. This does not affect the use of this toy in any way, it does move quite well on 6 wheels and is well balanced despite the front wheels remaining above the tracks.
We have had this train just over 3 years now, as it was purchased as a Christmas gift for one of my sons. I believe I paid about £14 for this , used but as new from ebay, as new copies were nearly £30 at the time. The price has sadly gone up - if you can find one at all. Amazon Marketplace has new models which ship from Germany and will set you back roughly £80. As much as I love this train, I would not pay this much for a wooden train, but these are collectibles and you will find more new models going into adults collections than children's sets. You can buy this used on ebay from £12.45 at the moment, however one in very good condition will set you back closer to £25. This is a lot for a wooden train, but considering the amount of use this has had over the years - I do not find it unreasonable. I do have quite a lot invested in the train tracks as well, so if paying a bit more for more realistic looking trains as they grow older means they get another few years of use from this set, then I really don't mind. This engine and the Flying Scotsman are far and away their favourite trains, and very well loved. In all honesty - I love them myself. This won't be going on ebay when they outgrow it, it will stay in the family with most of the Brio items. If you are looking to purchase this item - Big Jigs does make a similar model, but I feel this one is the most accurate. However Big Jigs is a lot less - you can pick up a new one from roughly £10.
Like all Brio toys, this has stood up to many hours of play without the slightest indication of wear. It has traveled miles around the little wooden track by now, had a few crashes off the table and been carried about by a very young child. I could still sell this as new. There isn't a scratch on it. I've always found Brio toys are made to last, and with minimal care I would expect this to be able to be handed down from generation to generation. However, I have seen some pretty rough models on ebay and can only conclude they have been stored in boxes with heavy metal items or deliberately crashed into hard objects.
This toy is not recommended for children under the age of three, and I believe this is due to safety concerns with the magnet at the back of the tender. I do recognise the danger magnets pose to young children and I am aware that many have called for their removal from children's toys altogether. However my oldest has had Brio from about 12 months of age, and my youngest has played with other Brio engines from 8 months. I have never known a Brio magnet to come loose and we have tried everything including pliers just to see. I checked these regularly when they were young, and was always in the same room while they played. My children absolutely loved these from a very young age and pushing the train along the tracks is meant to build fine motor skills as well. I feel as long as a parent is closely supervising that these can be used by younger children, but of course this a matter for parents to decide for themselves.
My youngest was just 1 when we bought this, and my oldest was 4. It was a huge hit with both, and now with my sons being 4 and nearly 8 it is still a very popular item. Both boys feel this is the very best train, followed very closely by the Flying Scotsman. While I would normally consider wooden train sets suitable for a maximum of age 8 - I do think more realistic models like ths can really extend the lifespan of this type of toy. A boy who wouldn't be caught dead playing with Thomas or Chuggington can still enjoy playing with a model of the fastest steam engine ever built. This toy may also encourage youngsters to take an interest in railway history and learn more about the age of steam. My sons' interest in the Mallard lead to a study of Stephenson's Rocket, Brunel's many engineering feats and the age of steam in general.
Despite our love for this train - I do feel it is an expensive toy and would not recommend it for every child with a wooden train track. The only reason I can think of to buy this is for a child who already knows what the Mallard is and will instantly recognise its unique streamlined shape. My sons have several books on trains and really enjoy learning about the age of steam. The Mallard and the Flying Scotsman were both favourites before we bought the trains. If your child has never heard of the Mallard - I would recommend a few good books about trains first - and then if the child is fascinated by this train as my boys were - I would buy the train - even if I ended up paying £25 for a second hand model.
If you are looking for a good book about real trains I would recommend:
My Best Books of Trains - which includes a short paragraph about the Mallard £2.81 used including delivery - Amazon
Trains Legendary Journeys- the most beautiful train book I have ever seen. This has a lovely large picture of the Mallard and it appears briefly under the speed record holders chart. This is £9.59 new from Amazon and easily worth twice the price.