Pros / The track snaps together easily, and the train is safe for children.
Cons / The stickers on the windows were already beginning to peel off out of the box.
Verdict / This train is synonymous with the holidays, but the Polar Express is great toy train set to get your child any time of the year. Model enthusiasts may be hindered by the lack of detail, but it’s a great first train for your child.
No other train set brings in the holiday spirit like the Polar Express. This is arguably the most popular model train set since the book was written in 1985 and is one of the most sought-after trains for the holiday season. This train set is a G-gauge scale – the largest of all model trains. This train makes sound effects and is operated by a remote control.
This large, G-gauge model is one of the few passenger trains that we reviewed. It comes with a locomotive, a tender, a passenger car and an observation car. The passenger car has two doors that open and close. A hobo sits on the observation car. If you press behind him, he rotates into the floor and disappears. If you press on the front of the rotating floorboard, the hobo will reappear. The hobo is permanently attached to the train and is not removable from the rotating floorboard.
We took a close look at all the train cars within each set and inspected them thoroughly for any paint chips, dings or other defects. On the train we evaluated, we noticed that the bell on the front of the locomotive is made of rubber and painted gold. The front of the bell was a bit dinged up. There was also a small paint chip on one of the silver handrails in the model we received.
On the passenger cars, the windows are covered with stickers that have silhouettes of passengers inside the cars. Our main concern with the passenger cars is that some of the stickers have already begun to peel off right out of the box. One of them in the back had a small tear it in as well. Stickers tend to have a shorter life than painted parts found on trains like the Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer.
Although this is a Lionel train set, the locomotive and the rest of the train cars are made of plastic instead of metal. The wheels are even plastic, as there is no need for conduction because the track is plastic as well. The track – like the train – is large in size. The track is 72 inches in length and 55 inches in width. This is by far the largest train set and track in our lineup.
The toy train set includes a handful of features. The train set has a working headlight when the train is in operation. It also features sound effects, including bell and whistle noises. The most unique feature of the Polar Express train is the announcements. When you press the announcement button on the remote control, the conductor yells, "All aboard, this is the Polar Express!"
The set comes with 12 curved track pieces and four straight pieces. You can adjust the size of the track by adding and removing the straight sections from the track configuration. The track is made entirely of plastic and does not use electricity to power the train. Instead, the train is powered by six C batteries that you load into the tender. The remote control to operate the train takes two AA batteries to operate. That means it takes eight total batteries to operate this train, which is costly, considering the batteries for this train set are not included.
We assembled the track using all of the pieces, and the Polar Express train track snaps together fairly easily. Some pieces needed a little more force than others, but it didn't take much time to piece the entire thing together. Since there are no electric or metal parts, it is entirely safe for a child to put this track together.
Lionel trains do not come with many accessory items. A large amount of detail is focused on the train cars, and not the landscape you can create for the train. However, the Polar Express train set comes with the conductor, boy and hobo figurines, along with a Christmas bell.
Help & Support
You can contact Lionel via telephone and email. An online manual is also available on the Lionel website. The Polar Express train set is covered by a one-year warranty.
Since this train doesn't have any metal parts and is battery operated, it is great for children eight years old and up. This is a classic toy train set that is great for the holidays. However, model enthusiasts who pay close attention to detail might be hindered by some of the issues we came across in our evaluation.