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My son owns a variety of track sets and trains from the Thomas Take and Play range. This is a range based on the Thomas the Tank Engine series. The collection is a series of plastic track sets that can fit together to make a large playset to push the trains around on. Each set can individually be folded up to become easily portable - hence the 'Take-n-Play' title. He started collecting them on his second birthday and I wanted to add to his set further at Christmas so when I saw this particular set going cheaply at the Argos ebay shop I decided to purchase it. It cost me just over £10 plus delivery - it currently sells at £22.95 plus delivery on Amazon so I think that this represented great value.
Like all track from the Take-n-Play range, the track is a silver grey plastic track. This set is a predominantly circular piece of track with three straight pieces coming off it where it can connect to other pieces of track from the range. It comes folded up in a cardboard box. When folded, it has the appearance of a house (which is actually a Post Office). This has yellow brick walls and a blue roof, with a sign above the two windows which reads 'Maithwaite'. There is also a red postbox outside the post office. On top, there is a red plastic carry handle for the child to carry the toy by.
The set easily unfolds to give a section if track (as described above). It is not the biggest section of track that we have - the product dimensions are given as 27.2 x 17.2 x 7.4 cm - but it is a nice size, especially for the take and play option. The track circles around a countryside scene of grass and a pond. There are two different destinations that the track leads to - the Post Office and the Sodor Mail sorting office which is a red plastic building with pictures of sacks and boxes of mail all over it. One side of the Post Office has a door that opens and a train can be placed inside - this is a handy feature as it allows you to keep a train secure within the track when taking the track out and about to play with.
With the track, you get a diecast Percy engine. In the Thomas the Tank Engine series, Percy is often pulling the mail trucks so this is fitting. Percy is a green engine and the engine provided here is a great replica of the character. The engine has, as with all the engines in this range, magnets on it's front and rear. This allows the trains to all connect together in a line to be driven around the track.
My son enjoys this track as it is different to others that he owns in that it is solid and the middle of the circular track is 'filled in' with grass and water rather than just hollow and you can see the floor underneath through. He enjoys putting his trains in the pond so they get 'wet' or 'have a wash' so this is good for his imaginative play. He also enjoys putting engines inside the Post Office via the side door and using another engine to pull them out with the magnet connection. However, there are a couple of things that frustrate him with this - the engines that he has that come with a load (tender) e.g. James and Ferdinand do not fit fully inside so that the door can be closed. Another is that if the train fall on its side, it can get stuck and it is difficult to remove. Lastly, any vehicles that he has that do not have a magnet, for example the fat controller's car, cannot be removed easily. At first, he found the door quite stiff to open too but he seems to have mastered this now (or it has worked a bit looser!).
The track itself is nice to drive the trains around - the circle is one piece of track so it is completely smooth with no rough connections so the trains move easily around it. Where it folds up for the Take and Play function also remains smooth. As I say, it is a small section of track so my son can't fit all the trains he owns on it at one time - not a problem if we are using this connected to the other pieces of tracks he owns so as to make a big track but it does bother him if we just get this section out for a quick play.
As a take and play set, this is one of the best we own. This is because it folds up so well to make a solid carry case and there is somewhere to keep the train safe and secure - none of our other sets have this feature. It is light and compact to carry and, as the set is quite small, it can easily be played on a table top and can be used to keep a child content in a restaurant, for example.
I do find that the Thomas Take and Play sets are vastly overpriced - this is true for the tracks themselves and the trains you can buy to go on them. Essentially, whilst they are good quality, they are just plastic tracks and I can't really see what justifies the huge price tags they carry. Having said that, I am happy with the price that we paid for this set and I do think we have already had good value from it. At full price, I would not recommend the set as it is so small and you would not feel like you had had value for money. But, as we paid a little over £10 for this set - which also had the Percy engine included - I do think we got good value.
The one thing that disappoints me about this set, other than the small size, is that the Sodor mail centre is very cheaply made. It is literally just a red plastic block with pictures of mail on the front. It would have been nice if this could have been made to be more realistic and building-like like the Post Office and even better if a train could slot inside here too (although I understand, of course, that this could affect how it folds up for the Take and Play function).
The set holds my son's attention well - much better than some of his more expensive sets - and I think this is partly due to the attraction of the brightly coloured grass and water and partly as he has somewhere to put the train. I think he would give his full recommendation for this set, as would I - at the right price.