* Prices may differ from that shown
I thought that because it's now getting close to Christmas and no doubt many of you will be wondering what to buy the kids or indeed the husband of the house, it might be a good idea to tell you about the most used Christmas present I have ever received. The world of model railways can be very daunting especially to someone with no experience and the initial cost can considerable, add on the range of products that is unnecessarily big and it is not hard to see why many young people and not becoming involved in the hobby and are instead opting for video games. The Pendolino set is certainly going to take a large chunk out of you wallet but I think that it has the potential to provide hours of fun.
The Hornby marketing detail suggests that the train is 'exciting and dynamic' and I congratulate Hornby on the fact that it certainly does fulfil these criteria. With regard to being 'exciting' there are multiple stand-out features:
The most publicised and least noticeable of which is the slight tilt that the train has while going around bends in the track. I found that in order for it to be clear that the train is really tilting I had to go down to track level and look at it while it was coming towards me, the tilt very noticeable at this height but not if you stand over the train. My only slight issue with the tilting mechanism is that I have scenery such as trees and hills on my layout so getting down to track level is not always possible without poking my eye out, therefore the feature is somewhat lost on me.
The train set is also DCC (Digital Command Control) fitted and the set comes with a DCC controller. This is more complex than the standard controllers with most train sets. This is an absolute necessity for any model railway enthusiast because it allows for greater expansion than the standard system does, for example instead of only being able to run one locomotive on the track at the time with DCC it is possible to run up to three with great ease, furthermore instead of them all going at the same speed each train is individually controlled, this means that collisions are less likely because some trains weigh less than others and hence can achieve a grater speed. I also like the fact that there is a large red emergency stop button on the control that you can hit if there if going to be a collision, this has given me more reassurance that if I experiment and it all goes wrong I can easily stop everything. I am not a great fan of the way that each locomotive has to be programmed for usage on the DCC set, it is complicated and I felt impatient while doing it because I wanted to try the Pendolino.
The lights on the train itself are absolutely fantastic, they are really powerful and noticeable even during the daytime. The train can run in either forward or reverse because both ends of the train are identical, whichever end is the end that is going forwards the lights will be bright white and in my opinion they look really effective when they are coming towards you at high speed, they add a real sense of realism. As for the back of the train, these lights are red but they are by no means as bright as those at the front, these are also very effective and they suggest to me that Hornby have really focused on the detail.
When it comes to reliability this is where my biggest complaint is, the train is very temperamental. The DCC system is supposed to have made it easier to control trains at lower speed so that it is more realistic. However the Pendolino is a long train and I have found that at very low speeds it has a tendency to struggle, at this point either one of two things happens, sometimes the back set of wheels on the motorised unit will come off the track and the train will not move or the whole train just jams completely and the wheels will not turn at all. The same is also true for the analogue controller. Both of these problems are really frustrating and for the price that it costs to buy I would have expected more in depth product testing to have been done. I have spoken to several other people about the issue and have found that it is quite a common problem. The Pendolino is reasonably easy to put together and linking each coach to the next is not difficult to do, it has to be done on the track though. With regard to how durable the actual train itself is by modern standards it is not too bad. After considerable usage I have no major scratches or dents but it is made of plastic so putting too much pressure on it is almost certainly not going to end well! The Pendolino is very light but for the reasons of fragility that I have found I would not recommend the product for children under the age of six although the Hornby policy is that it should not be for children under the age of three due to small parts. Do not buy this for a four year old, it is much more of a grown-ups toy.
What's It Like To Use
When the train is running at full speed I must say that it has to be one of the coolest that I have had on my layout for many years. It looks fantastic and I have occasionally turned off all of the lights in the room to see if the lights are still as strong and in my opinion they are even better than in the day. The room where I have the train set does get quite cold during winter and I often have problems with trains running slowly when I first start them after not being used for a while but I have had no such problems with the Pendolino. I recommend that you increase the speed to near the maximum as fast as is realistically possible as this seems to avoid the problem with the train at low speeds. The same is true when decreasing speeds, try to do this as fast as is reasonably possible to avoid the wheels jamming.
I have so much praise for the levels of detail on the Pendolino set! The front unit of the train is incredibly accurate and very well proportioned. With many other trains that I have bought, I have often complained about how the buffers are modelled but I have no complaints about the Pendolino because they do not draw attention. They are also spring loaded which is a great and unexpected feature although I am not sure what practical use they have. The Virgin logo is also well proportioned and the colours are bright and shiny, they have not faded despite being kept near to a window.
I always say to people who say that they are looking to build a model railway that they need to realise that it takes hours of being frustrated but can also give you hours of family fun. A train set is an investment that can fuel a passion for a life-time but it can also eat money if you allow it to. The most trustworthy seller of the set has to be Hornby themselves through the website, although do be careful because they now only include a standard controller and not a DCC controller in the box. I believe that this means they are now charging more and the customer is getting less. The current Hornby price is £147. If I was buying the set again I would undoubtedly use an online auction such as Ebay where you can buy the set with the DCC controller for between £120 - £200. If bought separately the DCC controller costs £100 from Hornby so it does make financial sense to make sure that you buy a Pendolino set with the DCC controller included. If you're not bothered about building up the railway and would just like the simple layout then there is no point worrying about DCC, instead you can purchase the standard analogue set for between £90 - £140, if it is purchased at the lower end of this estimate the set provides decent value for money especially when you consider the cost of a modern day games console.
Value For Money
It sounds a little obvious but this really does depend on what you pay for it. When I bought the DCC version which is exactly the same as the one in the picture I paid about £160-00 for the set. I was satisfied with this price as it does include that train itself which if bought separately is going to cost you around the £100-00 mark. Value for money is the main reason why I would say that the set is not ideal for young children who have not got any experience of model railways before because they are clearly not going to get enough hours of use out of it. The train set is great for anyone with an interest and fairly deep pockets because it will certainly allow you to expand any small starter train set.
The target market for the Virgin Pendolino set is not easy to guess at. The price of the product and how delicate it is does not make it ideal for a young audience but most experienced modellers will already have the track so will probably just buy the train on its own. In my opinion this set will be most popular with people looking to get back into the hobby after many years because it is a good starter set. However be warned this is not a product for very young children as it will certainly get smashed, teenagers would be fine though, perhaps an ideal way to tempt a video game obsessed teenager away from a screen! Controversial but worth a shot!!
The Box And Contents
Who doesn't like the excitement when you open a brand new expensive toy for the first time? I honestly don't think you will be disappointed! The box itself is not all that strong as was slightly damaged in transit although Hornby now seem to use extra padding for small items it would be a good idea for them to adopt the same policy on larger items. The layout of the box is logical and shows off the product very well. On the left hand side there are four slots for the trains while the right side holds the entire track along with the controller and plug. The track pieces are securely tied together which is good because it stops it from scratching the surface of the train. The contents of the box are as follows:
* The motorised front part of the train.
* The so called dummy-unit or back of the train.
* Two normal coaches (one of which has a plaque with the name of the train).
* One full oval of track that is of a decent length.
* A plug to connect the controller to the mains power supply.
* The DCC controller.
* A track mat which I do not use because it limits my creativity to design my own layout.
* A bag with some instructions and a Hornby collection poster (a nice touch).
I have chosen to give the Pendolino train set 4 Dooyoo stars because the actual train is very good. The initial cost of the set is considerable and will put of many people who are not enthusiasts off but if you are looking for a quality set that will excite you then this is the one to go for. As far as potential for a Christmas gift avoid this for younger children but for a teenager with an interest in modelling or an adult that is young at heart it is going to be good value for money in the long run.
This exciting and dynamic train set features the four car Virgin Trains Pendolino and carries the latest livery which incorporates the Alstom branding as well as the instantly recognisable Virgin logo. This superb Hornby train, which is DCC Ready easily negotiates the oval of track included in this set and ably shows off its accurate tilting mechanism, especially when travelling at speed. Each 'drive' unit has lights that illuminate in the direction of travel.00 gauge. DCC (digital) ready.Space required: 1.575m x 1.143m.This product is not suitable for children under 3 years because of small parts which can present a choking hazard.