Chuggington is a television show made for the childrens TV channel cbeebies, which first was made in 2008. It is a cartoon animation which follows the lifes of 3 trainee engines, Koko, Brewster and Wilson as they learn about all the jobs that need doing in the town of Chuggington where they live. These main characters are then supported by the minor characters who make up the storyline of each episode.
The series is extremely popular to the under 7s market, so it was no surprise to me when merchandise started appearing, and when my mum started asking what my two might like for christmas presents i thought that the chuggington trains might be a fun item to play with and collect as there are a number of characters who appear in the episodes, and like the series, Thomas, each train has its own personality and role in the town. These trains are all die cast, so while most of the engine is made of metal, there are also plastic details added to make the engines match the characters from the series and impart some of their character.
One of the minor characters, and a young friend of the trainee chuggers is a little scissor lift trolley called Zephie. Zephie is a female character, and i would say a young character based on her actions in the TV series. The character is a bit giddy and prone to toppling over and falling off the tracks. She is often used to help the mechanic Eddie repair things that are at height because she can increase her height.
In this model toy this scissor lift feature has been replicated beautifully. The 5cm high, 5.5cm long and 3 cm wide model is attached to a plastic base which pulls away from the model by pulling down, and then the plastic arm raises the model an extra 1.5cm in height. The base can then be twisted round many times replicating the dizzy spinning you see the character do on the telly. My kids seem to think this is really clever, and there is something very satisfying even to me as an adult when this toy is in my hands. I jsut can't stop fiddling with it.
As with all the trains in this set, Zephie has a ball joint on the front, and then a socket on the rear so that all the trains link together securely and can be pulled around in a big convoy. My 4 year old likes to pretend that Zephie has derailed, and one of the other trainee engines have to take a crane to pick her up and put her back on the track.
The only downside to this model is that the base will only clip back into the base if the arm mechanism can fold in the right way, so you have to make sure it is twisted back to the original position to put it away. The kids can never seem to manage this so it is left to Mummy to pack her away properly.
In 4 months of play, the paintwork on Zephie has chipped slightly on the yellow plate sections and on her face. Mostly on bits that are a bit more raised. I am not surprised she has seen some damage as she is a popular choice and often gets dropped onto our laminate floor. The chips have not spoiled her too badly though. She is still much loved.
Most importantly to me, her dimensions mean she can fit very easily into the Wilson storage case that accompanies the set, and i am mightily glad when most of the engines fit neatly in a box at the end of play time so all the pieces are in one place for our next play session. This is hard to maintain for a lot of toy sets but we manage it with this one.
Chuggington is a modern CBeebies television show that our grandson really enjoys watching. It's a cartoon filled with colourful trains called chuggers, who are learning the ropes of how to be useful trains when they grow up. It's very similar to Thomas the Tank Engine, but it's brighter and happier. The show has finally put together a range of Chuggington toys that were released last month, and the grandson immediately 'needed' six of the new diecast Chuggington trains.
In the show, Zephie is a young chugger who is still learning all the ropes. For some reason, she is also known as Sophie, but I'm not really clear where it is she's known by that name?! Possibly the show is screened in another country and called Sophie there. In the UK, she's known as Zephie though. She's a crazy, fun loving, highly excitable little character who loves to help but often makes mistakes.
Zephie is a trolley, and for that reason, she's a little bit small in length than some of the other models in this range. Her character is mostly happy, bubbly, excitable and young - and I think the designers captured these characteristics really well when they put the Zephie blueprints together. They included an additional bit of fun with Zephie over the other trains, and included Zephie's trademark ability to lift and spin when they created the model.
It's a little tricky to work out how to lift and spin Zephie at first, but once you've got the hang of it, I think you just remember. The grandson was quicker to catch on than I was in fairness! You have to sort of pull Zephie back a little at an angle off her base, and then lift her up to spin her around. You do the same in reverse to put her back. It's the sliding bit that stumped me at first, but it's necessary to keep her sitting squarely on her base with her lifting mechanism hidden tidily underneath her.
This little chugger retails at £5.99, though we got her as part of a three for two offer from Toys R Us along with other Chuggington trains. I don't think the price is unreasonable, especially as Zephie actually does something (unlike most of the other trains in the series!). She's been well made with lots of details, she's sturdy and robust, her mechanism is solid (even if it's difficult to work out at first glance!) and most importantly, the grandson thinks she's great fun.