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Both of my little boys re Thomas mad, so when I came across this set in Tesco I knew they would love it. We own a lot of the track master range so I was surprised we had not come across it before. In the pack you receive a starter track master train set, a track master motorised engine well detailed and notable as being James, a barrel of plastic hay, and a barn to set the farm scene. Everything is very easy to build up, the pieces simply click together and James comes with batteries already supplied. The barn I simple enough made of plastic it is easily recognised as a barn. Hiding inside is a small bucket that can be lifted up to push the hay through a trap window.
The train in this set is different to standard track master trains. For on James has his usual coal tender truck, but at the same time he carries an empty carriage. This comes in to use when James picks up his delivery from the barn. Also on the top of the train is a button. When this is pressed James says a number of well known phrases from the TV show. There are four or five sayings in total, but this was more than enough to entertain my children. If your child owns any other trucks, especially the troublesome trucks then these can be used with the set also. My son opted to remove the truck provided with James, and uses his troublesome trucks as this makes his stories more interesting. The only advantage of the truck provided with James is the sides pull down to make the transition easier. As the loader on the barn is rather large it can still be used with any other truck just as conveniently. Also other track master trains can be used on this set with the truck attached. My children prefer using James as he talks, but they do swap and change so their imaginations can create different stories.
The idea is for James to move around the track until he reaches the barn. By flicking a switch on the track James comes to a stop at just the right place for hay to be loaded into his empty trailer. Using the loading section in the barn, little one simply loads the hay on to the truck, and lifting the switch means James is on his way to make a delivery. It is all very easy to do, and at first I thought it would be fiddly. It is very easy to lead the hay into the barn, and turning the loader to the side so it leads as a ramp way, then tip the hay in to the back of James's truck. My youngest son who is two can do this independently, and although I has a recommended of three years plus I am happy for him to play with it.
The track provided is a simple oval shaped track. Even with the barn, and talking James it is just a starter set so we found it best to be used with other parts of the track master range. One of my son's favourites is using the airport on one side with the barn the other. This means James can pick up his delivery and rush round to the airport on time. By changing small areas it lets little ones imagination run wild making up different stories with different props. It can be added to other sets, and does not need to be a simple oval track like the one provided. As it is still track master all of the pieces are useable with other tracks in the range. As long as you include the barn, and the piece of track with the switch for James to stop at the barn it is fine. My sons did think it was a little boring as just an oval, and they use it with a number of other sets to make a large Thomas world. It is fully functional by itself, and does provide fun but it is good to be able to use it with other track master pieces.
As a track master engine it can roll around the tracks by itself. By flicking a switch James comes to life, but to activate the sound you do need to press the button. My sons tend to push it around themselves, and I find this is how they most enjoy the set. That way they can be more in control of James and his adventures, although they do tend to let go when they approach the barn as they think it is amazing at a flick of a switch James stops. James is often taken away from this set to be used in other stories as of course he has the advantage of talking, which most other track master engines do not. Considering purchasing a track master train separately is £10, to receive a starter track and a novelty talking engine for the same price is amazing. I would recommend it alone for the engine as well as the advantage of the barn.
We love James at the farm set as there a number of things which make it unique. The talking track master engine was like a piece of gold to my children, they had come across the take and play versions previously, but this is the first track master version we have seen. Secondly the barn is fantastic. It looks very simple at first, but the loader hidden inside is used over and over again. Sometimes it drops coal; other times hay and sometimes even cars. It is a perfect base for letting your little one set a story and let their imagination flow. Although the main track is a little simple as it is a starter set it works perfectly with the track master range. I'm not saying you need to purchase hundreds of accessories for it to be fun as you don't. We just found my sons enjoyed it a little more using them, but it is fully functional being used as it is. It is available at Tesco for £10 in store although on the website it is selling it for £20. It is also available on Amazon, but it is showing for around £30 at the moment.