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My son is a real Thomas The Tank Engine fan and, since his second birthday, we have slowly been building up his collection of Take-N-Play track and engines. He now has quite an impressive collection that covers quite a large floorspace when set up and he absolutely loves to set this all up and play - it is something that he has out most days. Needless to say, he was lucky enough to receive a few additions to his collection over the festive season and one set (that we had had our eyes on for a while!) that he received was this Cranky at the docks playset.
We ordered the set from Amazon several weeks before Christmas as the price had dropped to £19.99, which was the lowest that we had seen it at. The price of this set seems to fluctuate wildly, with it currently priced at £44.95 on Amazon (January 2014) and generally it is priced between £25 and £35. As with all of the Take-N-Play range, it is recommended for children aged 3 years plus.
The Take-N-Play series is a set of grey plastic train tracks that can be connected to one another to make a large set. A series of individual sets can be purchased and pieced together to make different combinations and a track of different shapes and sizes. Various engines from the Thomas The Tank Engine series can be purchased to drive along the tracks, all of which are diecast with a magnet on their front and rear so that they can attach to one another and be pulled along in a long chain.
This particular set features a circular piece of track and in the centre of the track is Cranky the Crane - a large green plastic crane with a smiling face. The set also comes with a diecast engine - Salty. There is also a small red plastic boat with two blue plastic barrels as cargo - as the setting is Brendam Docks. There is also a red plastic crossing gate that can be lowered and raised. Cranky the crane can be raised and lowered - it has three clear sections that slot inside one another. It has a long arm at the front with a string attached. At the end of the string is a grey plastic hook. This also has a magnet on and can be used to lift the barrels from the boat - so as to move the load. The trains will also stick to this. On the side of the crane, there is a red plastic handle that turns to wind up the string (and lower it again). There are two points on the track that can be connected to other tracks.
The track can be compressed and folded in half - in a semi-circle shape so that it becomes portable and therefore you can 'take and play'. The red plastic crossing gate locks the two halves together and becomes a carry handle.
Salty, the engine that comes with this set is a red engine with a smiley faces. It is more of a rectangular shape than the traditional engines like Thomas and James etc. Around the face, there are yellow and black stripes. These also feature on the back of the train, which is covered in yellow and black diagonal stripes. The engine has a smiley face, with two bottom teeth. On it's side is the name 'Salty' and the number 2993, with small lighter red stripes along the bottom too.
This set makes a lovely addition to my son's track and, with the crane in the centre, there is a lot more to do on this track than most of his other pieces - which are confined to simply driving the trains around the track. It fits nicely with his other pieces of track at it's two attachment sites, although I think my son would have preferred at least one other site for attachment of other track to make this piece more of a centrepiece.
My son loves to play with the crane and pulls it up and collapses it again regularly throughout play. The aspect he enjoys most though is winding the hook up and down using the red handle. He likes to use the magnet on the hook to lift the trains up but they are a bit too heavy for it and cause the string to unwind before it has reached the top, which frustrates him quite a bit. When used as intended, with the barrels, it works much better as they are much lighter. Another aspect that frustrates my son a little is that the crane does collapse when in play. Obviously this is a key feature of the crane so that it can fulfil the 'take and play' role but it would be nice if it was easier for him to set up for play to ensure it stayed up as long as he wanted it to.
The trains move along the track well and move seamlessly over the track where it connects to other pieces my son owns - the connection is flat and smooth. My son also likes Salty, the train that comes with this set, and I was pleased to see an alternative (and lesser known) train be included. A lot of the sets my son owns have come with Thomas, so he has accumulated a number of these so having a train that most people probably won't have in their collection already is a definite plus point for us.
The set is well made and durable. As with all track in this range, it is made of a thick plastic that stands up to being connected and pulled apart very well. The crane is also quite sturdy and made of a thick plastic so stands up to my son's somewhat heavy handling well. It is also easy to collapse and fold up - into a semicircle shape - and the red crossing gate makes a good lock to hold it together in this shape. This means that it can easily be taken to friends homes to play and it makes it easy to store. The only problem being that the boat and the barrels cannot be stored in this without them falling out - and this it is hard to take these with you and the crane lifting the barrels is quite a fun feature of the set.
Overall, we are very pleased with this addition to our set. I do find that the Take and Play range is very expensive for what it is in general and this set is no different. I am happy with what we paid for this set but do not think it is worth what it generally sells at - there is not enough to the set to warrant £30 plus. It is fun to play with and it is probably my son's favourite part of his collection now and he spends a lot of time winding Cranky up and lifting trains or barrels using the magnet on the hook. As with all sets, it is well made and my son spends a great deal of time playing with it so I think it is definitely good value for us. I would recommend this set for Thomas fans and anyone that owns any Take and Play sets, but would say to definitely wait for it to be available at a reasonable price.
The Thomas & Friends Take 'n' Play™ Cranky At the Docks Playset is a portable playset for lots of fun wherever you are.The playset's sides fold down to create an oval track, Cranky the crane pops up and has a working crank and magnetic hook. Comes complete with a Salty engine, a barge, 2 barrels, and a loading dock. Track connects to other playsets (available separately)Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts Age range: From 3 years.