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In the box
My eldest son is Thomas mad. One of the track master sets he had his eye on for a very long time was this Tidmouth sheds set. He has always wanted to own the sheds where the engines sleep, and as he prefers track master over the other range of tracks available we decided on this one. I purchased ours while it was on sale at Amazon for around £13. It can retail for anything up to £40 but looking around £25-£30 seems to be an average price for it. In the set you receive a turntable, the sheds, and a Thomas the tank engine standard Thomas engine. You will need a battery for Thomas to get the set working but other than that there are no batteries required. You also receive enough tracks to make the layout on the box which is a simple oval shape. This is perfect for a beginner with Thomas track master sets but if your child has more of the sets it can be built up to make a more exciting track.
From the moment I took these out of the box I knew they were trouble. On the picture you see a nice built up set of sheds but of course these come in lots of small pieces. I am not sure why they could not be made and boxed as one piece as they are not overly large, and the box the set came in could have easily held a built up version. You have to slot the whole frame in to place and then add the roof which I found really difficult. I ended up asking my partner to help and after a struggle we had them built. There are around 25 different pieces to the sheds and this is a huge downside for us. My son likes to be able to make his own track up, and this is the first track master play set he has found he cannot do that. He likes to play independently with the trains, and he does become frustrated with having to ask for help all of the time.
Even when built up the sheds do not look like they are sitting correct. One side of them seems to pop out and they generally looked misshaped. Within five minutes of my eldest son playing with them they had fallen apart. They had not just broken apart but it seemed that every single join had come undone so they needed fully building again. This went on and on until we got fed up of them and my son decided it may be best if they were left off. The more they fall apart the more they become damaged so they just get worse every time. The slightest knock makes them collapse without any warning.
The biggest hit with this set was the turntable. My son had his eye on this set for a while and it was not for the sheds but the turntable. As soon as we removed this from the packaging he wanted to play with it. I persuaded him to wait until the set was fully built and once they were ready he was very happy with it. You only have to slot the turntable into the other track as you do with any track master track. It is extremely easy to do and even my two year old son is able to set it up.
He began loading his track master engines and would just watch them go round and round. You do not need batteries for the turntable itself. It works simply by the friction of the moving train when it drives in. It still requires interaction from little one as they have to flip the switch that stops the train on the turn table. Then it goes around and around until the switch is pulled back again letting the engine off at whichever destination they need to deliver their cargo. I cannot see the fascination with the turntable myself but my son seems to think it is a little piece of gold.
To be honest this is one of the worst track master sets we own and we own many different versions. The previous models have been brought out with their target age range in mind this seems to be lacking the quality we usually get. My son was unable to play with the sheds as they were so poorly made. He really wanted to drive his engines through the shed doors like he had seen on the advert so this was the first disappointment. He wanted the engines to have somewhere to stay after a long day playing, but he found that they would just collapse around the engines. He was that upset it actually led to tears, which for a toy is very unusually for my son.
One of the annoying things was that the larger track master engines cannot be used on the turntable. There are a number of my sons trains that have the cargo trucks attached to them and they are non removable. (I think it is the Tomy variation rather than the fisher price.) Unfortunately these do not fit on the turn table correctly which my son was a little annoyed about. As the engine tries to move around the track it is derailed as its cargo truck pulls on the track surrounding it. This means my son can only use its fisher price engines on this set, and he has found that he can put his troublesome trucks on separately but then the turntable does not spin as they are not motorised. This makes it very hard to continue with his stories as the engines cannot take their deliveries on the turntable. They are also unable to fit in the sheds correctly and an extra piece of track is needed on the end to even attempt to put them to sleep at night.
With this set you also receive a tunnel piece with a landing pad on the top for Harold. My son loved this as he always has Harold sitting in his sets, and it was a new tunnel for him to sit on. It seems a little shaky the way it sits with the track, and when the trains come round it is a little bit of a tight squeeze. My son thought this was great though as it gave Harold a hard time and h could make up a story about a creepy old tunnel. This set is still the perfect base to let little ones imagination go wild, and my son has made up 101 stories all based on this book. He has an obsession with using his camera to film his adventures and then watching them on the computer.
The track you receive with this set is the same as another other track master pieces. This means it can be used in the oval shape suggested on the box for a starter set. If like our house you have other track master sets they can be joined up to make a mega track which is what my son likes to do. The entire track master accessories range are compatible with this set, but like mentioned before the Tomy engines seem to be too big for the sheds and turntable. The Thomas engine moves freely around the track and it is certainly the high quality we are used too. There are a couple of small connection pieces that seem a little out of shape as they are difficult to link with the rest of the track, but after persistence and time my son can now add these himself.
The only real piece that made a difference to my son's collection is the turn table. This has had a lot of use and is worth the £12 I paid alone for this piece. It gets brought in to every one of my sons track and he really does love it. Age recommendation for this is three years and up. There is nothing dangerous for a younger child, but if my five year old son is unable to play without it all falling apart then it would be impossible for a younger toddler. There is no way I can recommend this set because of the poor quality. This is probably one of the last Thomas sets my eldest son will receive as the Thomas fascination seems to be disappearing. I only paid around £12 for this set which is great, but if I had paid the full retail I would be very unhappy. I have seen this set retail up to around £40 in ToysRus. It was a huge disappointment to me but also for my little boy too. He usually loves any Thomas related item no matter how rubbish it is, but he was very disappointed with this set. The turntable is great, and there is always a need for more tracks but the rest of it just falls short. This is a disappointing end to a much loved obsession from my son.