Friday, September 8th, 2006
Review: Battery-Powered Thomas Train Car
Alternate title: Cross-contamination of Toys is Fun!
A short time ago I was opposed to battery-powered trains. Why go electric when my daughter enjoys pushing train cars?
A month after I bought a generic wooden train set and activity table the answer became clear. My daughter loves playing with the train table she sees at our local toy store â€“ it’s packed with tracks, cars, buildings, bridges, scenery and tons of moving parts.
Then we come home to our dinky plain track where the only thing she can do is push the train around a barren loop. What to doâ€¦ what to doâ€¦
I ran out and spent $400 on a ton of new train accessories. No, just kidding. I only spent $20 and repurposed some of our existing toys.
The electric engine powers four of Thomas’ six wheels, enough to pull several cars. A small light also shines next to Thomas’ face. Both are activated via a large button on top of the conductor’s compartment.
The engine works well, but produces a significant grinding mechanical noise. My wife wishes the train made traditional train noises, including a whistle. I suspect that would get annoying quick.
When not turned on, the train can be pushed like a normal train engine, except it is accompanied by a clicking noise.
My daughter’s interest was truly captured when I put her toy blocks onto the activity table where we store the train. We began building tunnels and structures around the track.
At 27-months, my daughter doesn’t build complex structures, so I place a basic rectangular block cave over portions of the track. My Little Miss stacks more blocks on top and sometimes assists me as she begins to understand what I’m doing.
The battery-powered engine is essential in this situation because a kid can’t manually push a train through a block tunnel without knocking the tunnel down. Our electric Thomas just chugs along by himself as we build around him.
Our farm play set has also entered the act, with my daughter positioning animals and people to observe Thomas. Nothing is off limits. Extra pieces of train track easily serve as long roof blocks for stacking more stuff on top.
When the train invariably derails on a loose fitting track joint, my daughter yells, "I’ll help him" and puts Thomas back on track. Other times she runs around the table pretending to chase or be chased by Thomas.
What I’d really like to do now is buy a second battery-powered train engine so that I can conduct train races around the same trackâ€¦ waiting for one engine with a weaker battery to be overtaken and pushed by the victor.
Did I say that? I meant my daughter. My daughter is the one who wants another electronic train car. *cough*