The Polar Express train set from Lionel in O gauge (and S, for that matter) evolves with the technology. The train itself, celebrating the Christmas book and movie, has been in the catalog for years. The train maker continues to find ways to keep it fun and fresh with each iteration.
The latest version of this traditional-sized outfit (No. 2123130; $449.99) features LionChief control via a supplied hand-held remote, or with a Bluetooth 5.0-equipped smart device such as a phone or tablet.
It’s not your father’s Lionel set, though it will provide just as much fun – if not more!
The Polar Express from Lionel
Much like the Santa Fe Super Chief Set I reviewed previously, the Polar Express outfit is a delight. No matter your level of experience with model trains, it’s easy to get up and running quickly.
The set comes with a 40” x 60” oval of FasTrack that includes one straight section with a receptacle for the “wall-wart” transformer, and another with a Plug-Expand-Play port. The latter is used to power accessories, like the add-on Hero Boy’s Home (No. 6-82100, sold separately).
Train control is with the supplied remote that’s lettered for the set and has a graphic of a round-trip ticket. It requires three AAA batteries which aren’t included.
Get on the train
The consist includes the No. 1225 2-8-4 steam locomotive and tender. The engine is equipped with a smoke unit and traction tires and features some neat detail including a bell and whistle. The tender, connected via a snap-together drawbar, houses the electronic sound unit that includes chuffing, the whistle, and crew talk.
The three-car consist includes two coaches and an observation. One of the items that distinguishes the set is the hobo having a fire on top of one of the cars. The element can be flipped over of you want the car to have a “normal” roof.
The set also comes with articulated figures of the conductor, hero boy, engineer, and fireman. They have holes in their feet allowing them to be posed on metal pins atop the cars. They are fun to pose in various ways depending on the scene from the book or movie you’re trying to re-create.
This set of passenger cars is decorated with “snow” on the roof, along with footprints to indicate lots of traffic up there.
Also included are spare traction tires and a bottle of smoke fluid. In addition, there’s a copy of the bell the hero boy receives as the first gift of Christmas from Santa Claus.
Let’s go to the North Pole!
It almost takes longer to unpack the box than it does to set up the track and get trains running. Snap the track together, plug the transformer in, and put the train on the track. After batteries are inserted in the remote, you can get a quote or two from the crew, turn on the bell, and whistle off. A twist of the knob gets you going forward or reverse.
The train runs really well and we let ours go for a couple of hours without a hitch. Just be sure you put a few drops of smoke fluid in the engine’s stack. While the smoke unit might have some in it from the factory, it won’t last long.
You can have even more control using the LionChief app for Apple or Android devices. A user can set individual sound levels, turn the smoke on and off, and change the momentum.
There’s a lot of play value in this set. Just about everyone that came in contact with it in the office remarked on how fun it is.
Lionel has a good formula going with its sets. If you’re looking for one to run around your tree, or a first outfit for a child, or just to complete your run of Polar Express collectibles, check it out.