“ Brand: Tomy / Type: Children's train set / Theme: Thomas and Friends „
Tomy Thomas and Cranky Coal Loader
My nephew was bought this Thomas and cranky Coal Loader toy for Christmas, and as my daughter and nephew are extremely close, he let my daughter borrow the toy for a couple of weeks when he borrowed one of hers! My sister had actually said that my nephew does not really play with it for various reasons which I will outline below, though my daughter seems to have a slightly different outlook on this toy and seems to make more of it.
This Thomas toy comes from the well known maker of Tomy and so before even buying a toy, you know that it is a safe toy for young children. It does not come cheap, though, ranging from £25.00 to £35.00 on Amazon. It is the most expensive Thomas loader toy in this range though does seem to have much more of a complex and imaginative workings than the other two sets which include;
Tomy Thomas & Friends Post Office Loader (Approximately £20.00)
Tomy Thomas & Friends Big Loader (Approximately £25.00)
With this information out of the way, let me take you onto the toy itself!
THOMAS AND CRANKY
At first glance of this toy, I found it rather impressive looking. It can not fail to entice a young child who loves Thomas into badgering their parents to buy it for them. Just the packaging alone is an eye catcher with its bright colours and exciting images of the toy at work, and the sheer size of the box is enough to catch anyone's eye.
So does the toy live up to the expectations of its appearance?
Although instructions are included within the box, they may as well be written in Chinese for all the help it gave us when setting this up! With two levels of track to work with, including the working mechanics of the toy, it originally took us about twenty minutes to figure out where everything went! At first, I also thought that one of the wheel parts of Thomas and Lor1 was missing as this was not explained properly until we had set it up and realised that one set of wheels work both engines. (I will explain more below). The track clicks together easily though can also easily break apart as well which is an annoyance. Slotting in the crane parts was possibly the most difficult part as if you do not put it in the exact correct position, then other parts when connected will knock it all apart and then you have to start again with that whole area! The stands for the upper level, although slot into the tracks easily, fall out easily too rather like the track itself. This is something which does frustrate my daughter immensely as it is not easy for her to put back together. Once we had set it up, though, even I found myself excited to see it going...for the first couple of times anyway! The toy is in the recognisable colours of Thomas the Tank Engine in familiar bold blues, reds and greens with the light brown track finishing off the appearance perfectly. Although not instantly recognisable as a quarry, this toy is in fact the quarry from the television programme and so includes not only Thomas the Tank Engine, but also two of his friends; Lor1 who scoops up rubble and Cranky the crane, to help with the work.
Now what is fascinating about this toy is that the engines do all of the work! This, I think, was the problem with my nephew. After watching the engines go around a few times, he soon got bored as he did not need to do anything to it. My daughter on the other hand, who is the same age as my nephew, seems to use her imagination more with this toy and brings her Peppa Pig character toys to interact with the set though this does become problematic at times as the characters, if placed on the track or on the mechanics, do get in the way and mess up the flow of the engines and occasionally cause the track or mechanics to break apart. In some ways, due to the interaction being minimal, I would have put this idea towards younger children who do not require constant interaction with a toy, though the age recommendation is three years plus for this toy due to the small balls which act as the rubble. My niece is one years old and is fascinated by this toy, though we have to constantly watch her as she still likes to put things in her mouth and the balls are very small and certainly a choking hazard.
So how does this toy work?
As already mentioned, there is one wheel base unit which requires one AA battery. This slots underneath Thomas (and Lor1) and moves them around the track by the strong grip wheels and two little silver pieces which guide the engines around the track. These silver pieces push back into the base unit when not in use and the engines will not drive along the track properly if these are not in a downwards position so do check this! Also, make sure that the switch on this base unit is facing the right way to make Thomas go backwards or forwards. The annoying thing about this base is where the on/off switch is. Once the Thomas frame is placed on top, it is very difficult to reach the switch, though if you turn it on beforehand, then putting it on the track while the wheels are moving is also difficult!
Once you have turned Thomas on and set him up correctly, he will back up at a reasonable pace to the loading bay. Here Thomas pushes back and opens a hatch which allows the already placed balls to fall into his compartment. As already stated, these grey balls are really small and not suitable for really young children, though other than this there is sometimes a slight problem with the hatch itself. On occasion, Thomas gets stuck if the switch does not automatically change to push him forward, causing the hatch area to be pushed slightly backwards and if this is not sorted quickly then the track breaks apart. This does not always happen, though when it does it is annoying! Once the balls are in the compartment and the switch turns Thomas around, he makes his way forward to the green lift where his wheels manoeuvre the plastic mechanical wheel, lifting the track inside the lift upwards with Thomas inside. This lift rarely has a problem, though if a small ball gets lodged underneath the track then the lift does not operate fully. Once the lift is at the second level, Thomas moves forward into a side track and then cleverly turns itself around so he is going backwards. He then makes his way over to the hopper, going slightly slower as the track is a little raised in order to make Thomas move at a less fast pace when he returns to give the balls time to fall down the hopper chute and into the crane. The hopper is only attached to the track via two raised parts which slot thinly into two holes. This can come apart and fall over if Thomas has a problem like he did in the first part with not turning himself around. This is where the action splits into two. As the balls go down the hopper chute and fall into the crane base, Thomas slowly heads forwards and catches upon another plastic mechanical wheel which Thomas moves to lift the crane hand complete with the balls. Once this reaches the height needed, it tips the balls down another chute as Thomas continues into the lift and heads back down. The balls fall down the chute and on to the tack at the bottom of the original loading bay. This chute is sturdier than the previous one and possibly my daughter's favourite part of the whole toy! Now back with Thomas as he is no on the ground level once again, and makes his way around to the shed area which is cleverly disguising a junction track which, when Thomas mounts the red part on one side, the wheels drive out, turn by themselves on the hidden track and then niftily arrange itself underneath Lor1! This is where the confusion of the one set of wheels was cleared up nicely! Now it is Lor1's turn to reverse around the corner, scoop up the balls and place them up the ramp to the beginning loading bay before returning to Thomas, the wheels changing in the shed and passing back to Thomas before starting all over again.
As you can see, this toy is really cleverly thought out and the first few times, even I was impressed, though this is where some children like my nephew will soon get bored as there is not really anything they can do apart from watch the action take place. As mentioned, my daughter uses her little imagination and combines her Peppa Pig figures with the action on the track though even I can see this interaction becoming obsolete after a while causing the toy to be put back into the box for storage. The highest and lowest price for this toy, in my opinion, is very overpriced for what it really is, and although a fantastic idea, it simply does not allow the child to have much creative play.
Thomas, Lor1 and Cranky are all made of a thin plastic which is an above average durability though they are certainly not unbreakable. The digger part on Lor1 can easily be snapped if pressure is added to it or if it is twisted wrong, and the same can be said of the storage compartment on the back of Thomas. This is perhaps another reason why the toy is for three years plus, though even three year olds can become rough or leave their toys around which may end up being trodden on, so do be careful of this. Cranky is really and truly part of the track and mechanics rather than a free-moving engine. The back of cranky slots into the base holding up the upper level of track and spans across the top track, allowing its mechanics to fall down the other side. It is this part which is most flimsy though much better than Lor1's digger part. The track itself and other components are much more durable and all the mechanics are very well concealed to stop any breakages of harm to the child. The two plastic mechanical wheels are on show though are by no means sharp.
This attractive, exciting looking Thomas toy looks as though it is packed full of excitement, and it is certainly a cleverly thought out mechanical toy, though this is where the excitement seems to stop for most children. After about twenty minutes, the anticipation and excitement wears off and boredom seems to set in for my nephew who is three and a half years old, and although my three year old daughter continues to play with the set, the fun she gains seems to come more from her Peppa Pig figures which she plays alongside the set rather than the set itself. The price is very high for what it gives a child, and the age recommendation gives me mixed feelings. Apart from the small balls, I feel as though this toy would suit a younger child as older children seem to want more interaction which this toy does not allow. If anything, it is as though this is a 3D version of something watched upon a computer screen with less interaction!
Would I recommend this toy?
Certainly not at the high price as it just does not allow the child enough excitement for long. Perhaps if your young child is happy to just sit and watch without needing high interaction, then they may enjoy this toy a lot more, though children who need more interaction with their toys will soon become bored.
A great concept which unfortunately does not continue to excite.