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I have been toying with buying a train table for my children for a few years now, as my oldest son absolutely adored trains and this trait passed down to my other children. I have seen many different versions from a number of stores, but when I came across this particular ELC version in store my children fell in love. I then decided that this would be the one for us, but at £100 price tag it wasn't cheap. I began saving up for Christmas as I knew ELC generally release codes during the festive season and I would be able to get it a little cheaper. As I thought in November they sent me a 20% off code making this table slightly cheaper at £80.
The thing that made me decide on this table is it is not just a train table. If you turn over the middle panels it also has a road layout for cars too. This means depending on what mood my children were in they could use it for different things. This multipurpose idea was the final push towards me choosing this particular table.
***Building a town in a day***
ELC state that this train table will take 60 minutes to build, but from experience their recommended time for building toys need to be doubled on almost every large toy we have purchased from them. To my surprise my husband did actually manage to build this table in around 50 minutes, so for once it was under the recommended time. You do need a screw driver but other than that everything you need is there including an alan key. It comes in lots of different bits, but the instructions are detailed and easy to follow. It is all fairly simple and we had no problems at all following the step by step directions. I would suggest having two people to help build as there are a few pieces that need to be held steady while they are screwed in place. I would also suggest building it while little people are sleeping as there are that many pieces they could easily be lost if little hands tried to help.
Once built we were impressed with the finished table. You do need a large amount of space for this as it is 40cms high, 119cm wide and 83cm deep, and if you want your child to walk all the way around the table to make play easier you need to account for where it is going to sit. It looks great with all the accessories provided and with the train track built it looked like a busy, fun and engaging toy. The set boasts to have1 00 pieces but this includes track, scenery such as trees and people, bridges, a station and lots of other details to keep little one entertained. To swap to the road version you simply push underneath the slats the sit in the table and turn them around to change the scenery. Again this has lots of detail with everything from a fire station to a hospital and a race track. It is easy to swap between once all the accessories are taken off the table.
My main disappointment with this table in train mode is the track provided. A lot of the pieces are short rather than long, and when you try to fit them together it almost looks like they are not meant to be in the places specified. Unlike other train tracks the pieces do not fit tightly together and there are small gaps between the connecting pieces. Now this would be fine, but because of this whenever you try to roll a train across the track it just falls off. At corners especially the train either falls off or the train track falls apart. It is impossible to get the train track to stay in one piece, so my children spent most of the time putting it back together.
Our second disappointment came with the storage draw that sits on the front of the table. The description stated the train track could be packed away while the road was being used which is true for the actual track itself. The thing is that for all the other accessories like station etc they are too large to fit in the draw so you need to find somewhere else to store them. This is not too bad as we just place them under the table itself, but it is not fully storable as we had first thought.
There is just one layout for the train track and as well as it being detailed on the instructions, the train table side also has it drawn on to the bottom panel, so if you do lose the instructions it is still easy to put together. It's almost like a shadow of how the track pieces fit together so it is easy to follow. We have found that just about any wooden train fits on the tracks so there is no need to stick to the ones provided. From Thomas to brio they are all compatible which means little one can play with their favourite characters on this track.
The amount of track with the stations, a mountain and lots of other areas for little to play is great for imagination. There is plenty to do and explore if you can get the track to stay together. The problem is the train side of the track just does not get as much use as I hoped as my children become frustrated. Every time they get into the swing of things the track falls apart or wobbles so the train falls off. In the end they gave up on this side and 90 % of the use now is now on the road side.
The road side is much more appreciated by my children. The large layout of roads, parking bays and a number of every day sites to visit mean they can play for hours without becoming bored. The colours are bright and engaging. There is no parts falling apart to contend with which means they can play as much as they like without anything getting in the way. Diecast cars, fisher price cars and hot wheel cars all work perfectly on the table, so while you are only provided with a couple when purchasing the table it is easy to find compatible parts.
There is a small break in the middle of the table due to the panel that details both the road and train side being split in two parts to make it easier to change round. This is only small and the cars can pass over it without any trouble at all. There are plenty of roads winding backwards and fourth and taking little one to the many sites along the way. There are well known sites such as a fire station, a roundabout and a hospital so that little one can use the whole layout as a base for their imagination.
Even though the table is very large my children can all reach all of the detailed scenery no problem. They can lean over the side and reach the middle of the table, and by walking around it to the areas they want they find it easily accessible. The table is stable for the weight of my children leaning across it, but as the slats in the middle are removable they are thinner than the main table and for this reason we have to be careful. My little girl at 19 months keeps climbing on top of the table and it shakes and wobbles a little so it is not fully stable for full weight.
The great thing about this table is the multi use. Yes it can be used as a train table and as a road for cars, but my children also use it for crafty activities. They love using it for play doh as kneeling down makes it a perfect base for playing. The play doh comes off the slats in the middle with ease, and because of the size it makes it perfect for them to all play together. They use it to draw as the raised sides holds their pens on the table without the rolling off, and it is all wipe able so any mess comes straight off.
I am still very torn about if I would recommend this table or not. As a train table and the main reason we purchased this toy it really is very poor. The design is poorly thought out with the trains derailing ever two seconds, a tight squeeze through the tunnel and the general feel of the track being poor quality and almost as if it shouldn't fit together. It's a shame as it looks as though it would be the perfect base for imagination IF it had worked correctly. On the other hand as a road table it has received hours of use. The simple yet detailed layout makes it perfect for my children building stories and having fun. I think the £100 price tag is expensive considering the train side is so poorly thought out, but at the same time the amount of play it has received on the road side is fantastic.