* Prices may differ from that shown
When my daughter was three her aunt bought her a cute starter wooden railway track and a selection of wooden Thomas & Friends trains. The Caboose came bundled with Thomas and Rosie engines and is a shaped red wooden carriage which looks to have a more americanised design than the rest of the small collection, Hollie was never interested in the track or Thomas but when her brother came along he's proved to be the epitome of 'boy' with an absolute obsession of all things choo-choo so it's all been passed on to him (and expanded on).
It's only recently that David has shown much interest in the Caboose, it's so rarely mentioned or featured on the Thomas shows that he didn't (and still doesn't) make the connection between this carriage and his favourite character. Just lately however he's started playing in a more involved way with his trains rather than just pushing them round the track, and the few carriages he has are being given much more play time as he creates little games and stories.
The Caboose looks fantastic and has proved to be of excellent quality, ours is a bit battered looking now as David isn't the most careful toddler but structurally it's still perfect and I personally think the small paint chips give the carriage character and show it's a loved and played with toy. It's striking in shape and colour, we have no other trains or carriages quite like it and that's one of the reasons why David likes it so much I'm sure. On the bottom of the chassis is printed the words 'Sodor Line Caboose' which turns a bog standard train based toy into something with a little more educational value; Hollie used to love practising her letters against those printed on these little toys even if she didn't really play with them as the wheeled wonders they were intended to be - I definitely credit this Caboose with helping as she tackled 'oo' in her phonics lessons and being a reasonably tricky word was one I was extremely impressed to see her write from memory one day.
The magnet aspect is also very good for small kids as it teaches them about how magnets and metals work without them even realising it. The Caboose connects nicely to the back of David's wooden engines and also connects to other non-Thomas trains, a magnet is a magnet at the end of the day so it can be used with any of the cute engines that feature the magnetic coupling system. The Caboose has nice strong magnets and can easily be lifted in the air by the train it's connected to, David sometimes likes to use the negative magnet to push his trains along nowadays and that's fun to watch too as he always looks so interested in what he's doing.
David has seen the Caboose in other forms including both other Thomas ranges and also non-Thomas sets but he's never shown an interest in them,; we're looking at unusual engines and carriages to add to his collection at the moment and his dad made a big deal of showing him a couple of caboose carriages in Toys R Us, there wasn't a flicker of enthusiasm despite the fact he loves this Sodor Line one so much.
I wouldn't say this is a toy that's played with every single time the train set comes out, David is bizarrely obsessed with Thomas so his trains are being played with to some degree pretty much all day long - I don't see the Caboose every day when I'm clearing up (or gingerly stepping over small trains) but when it's in favour it seems to play a reasonably large part in his games, even if it's just to sit there looking 'different' while the other carriages (he has ones that make noises) are wheeled around the track. Unlike his other carriages it doesn't seem to have a pre-determined role; obviously the egg transporter is full of eggs and the chicken car makes a clucking sound, but the Caboose is like an alien object to David and he doesn't understand what it is. I've shown him videos on You Tube but I don't really think he knows how to incorporate it into many of his games, there's a small magnet on the topside of the Caboose and we've used this to lift the carriage but without a magnetic crane it's kind of silly as you can only lift it up using the front magnet of one of the engines - I want to get David a crane (Cranky) but Mark has put his foot down and said I'm not to spend £40 on a gizmo to make a £10 toy happier!
As part of the set I think it's a nice addition, something a little different from the norm and not a carriage most people would think to pick up as a stand alone Thomas add-on. It's not something that would have caught my eye, I'm seasoned now David is almost three and look for the more unusual option sometimes to keep his Thomas & Friends collection fresh but I still don't think I would have even thought about buying a Caboose.