It's a sunny day in October 1898. With a shrill whistle, the noon local crests the hill and rounds the final curve into Durango. Exhaust huffs from the cylinders as the 0-4-0T slows to a stop, temporarily shrouded in a cloud of exhaust steam which the wind and sun make short work of.
The bright goldwork on the engine gleams in the sunlight of the little Colorado mining town. The <-O-> logo and gold number 3225 in the side of the engine fairly glisten, as well they might, picked out in gold filigree. Life is good and the 20th century is almost here!
The nattily turned out engineer in his yellow uniform blows a sharp blast on the cab mounted air horn to summon the local agent. Hard hat on, and clad in newfangled reflective gear the agent wheels the station barrow over to receive the urgent ore samples from the dump car, and begins to unload the high priority contents, with the help of the local mining agent clad in his jaunty white vest and striped tee.
The mail is here, and what's this? Two crystal chalices have arrived for the mine owner's mansion, as well as some much needed saftey chain and the weekly payroll. The engineer clears the paperwork in his caboose and releases the freight to the agent. Just another day's work for the unsung heroes of the trusty <-O-> line.
A multicolor mixed train, predominantly black, yellow, red. A black steamer with red accents pulls a black and yellow dumper, a black and brown logsided gondola and a red coach/caboose. No track or speed control is included.
1 train motor, 8 buffers/couplers/magnets, 6 2 wheel axle units, 3 6x16 black plates, lots of black slopes, 6 train windows with trans light blue glass, two trapezoidal new style dumper ends, 2 adventurers chests, 1 brown pirate chest
This at first glance is a very cute set. It will make a fine introduction to trains for the non-train head and will look great around the Christmas tree. On closer examination though, for the hard core AFOL, especially the train head, this whole set has an "odds and ends" feel.
A note, the catalog has the horn in the wrong place! It's not really mounted on the smokestack, it's back on the cab. The box is German in origin with no parts count. Parts content appears to be 100% Billund.
The engine is predominantly black with red trim. The cab has a (non working) coal bunker suggested in the rear by using inverse steep slopes, and is made of 1xN blocks, open at the sides, with two triangular notched windows suggested by 1x2 slope openings in the cab front. The cab roof is formed from 3x3 and 3x4 low slopes.
The cab is very clunky, why not use the 1x2x2 train/plane windows instead of slopes? The boiler is formed from medium slopes (normal and inverse) with a 4x4 round radar dish for the smokebox front. A blocky stack is just behind the smokebox. No other domes are present (the engine NEEDS at least a steam dome to function, and the steep grades and tight curves of mountain railroading beg for a sand dome as well). The boiler sits on a red frame. There is a confusing use of yellow on the inside of the engine where it is not visible.
Cylinders are merely suggested at, since the power mechanism is the standard one with outside sprung wheels and no connecting rods on the drivers. It will take considerable reengineering to mount a light, as the front of the engine is built on top of the power tap. It's doable though. The twin ditchlights are non functional.
The locomotive captures the sense of a small steamer (0-4-0 T == tender on board) about as well as can be, (except for the cab) without a new motor/mechanism. However the red trim makes it look like a German idea of what a 0-4-0 T should look like. It reminds me of some HO Marklin and Pola engines I have. (If you give it a tender, make sure to REMOVE the coal bunker and open the back of the cab up so a fireman can get at the tender's coal.) It gets 9 of the 11 stickers (4 2l gold on black small <-O-> logos inside gold filigree trim, 2 2l 3225 numbers inside gold filigree trim, two 7l brass piping stickers for the boiler sides (with completely non prototypical valves) and 1 6l backhead sticker for inside the cab. A reverse bar, several valves and 2 gauges are suggested.
Next is a yellow dump car. Ho Hum, another dumper. How many of these do we really need? Well, it's got lots of dark grey in it, as well as 4x8 yellow plates. A barrel takes up space for no apparent reason, instead of making the dumper longer. The dumper itself is done with 1x2 technic bricks and 3L technic connectors for stiffness. Two yellow 1.2x6 x 1.2 train railings are at the ends. No stickers. There are a whole 8 dark grey 1x1 cylinders for a load, just barely covering the floor. More of a load would have been nice.
The undercarriage for all three cars is the same, a 4 wheel affair with no adornment. The wheels are inset two studs from the car ends for better curve performance.
Next is the log gondola. What I mean by that is that it's built of log bricks, not that it carries logs. What it carries (loosely, thanks to 4 1x6 grey tiles) is the mailbox, chests, and a garbage can with tools. It captures the sense of a work flat or gondola, and the logs are starting to grow on me. However prototype practice used boards running horizontally in this application, never vertically aligned logs. Two dark grey train railings are mounted high. No stickers.
Bringing up the rear is the coach. Some refer to it as a caboose, but since it has seats, and no cupola, living quarters or work area, it's a coach. Sitting on the same 4 wheel frame as the other cars is a cute red body. 3 1x4x3 train windows per side sit on top of two 1x12 red bricks. The ends are the 1x4x5 window frames in black, with no doors. That's gonna be cold come December when the wind and snow starts blowing through those deep cuts. There's room for three mini-figs inside. The roof is removable, sitting on a grey tile base, and is formed from 8 3x4 black lowslopes. Dark grey handrails, red mini-fig ladders, and two red 12lx2h stickers with the <-O-> logo in black outlined with gold filigree complete the picture.
One minus on the coach: it has trans lt blue window panes on the 1x4x3 windows, which interfere with other uses, as most of these have come out in clear.
Finally there's a barrow. I can't believe it took 6 steps to build as it is basically one 1x4 red tinypin axle, two black small wagon wheels, and the small dump body. a 1x2 laser handle in black provides graspability.
The back page of the instructions seem to imply that the wheel assembly and the bodies come apart easily to allow interchange (or new bodies built from other parts) but every time I tried, the undercarriage disintegrated instead of separating cleanly, so I have no idea what they were getting on about.
There are no alternate model instructions per se, and I haven't tried to build it. It doesn't look too hard. Pictured on the back of the box and on the back of the instructions are two very slightly different (not different enough to really be useful in building) views of another train. This one features a small diesel/electric (it's schizophrenic) pulling three flats, the last one of which is is a euro practice brakeman's van (with a small cabin at one end) Most of the windows are used to make a small stationlike platform.
The more I look at the alternate model, the more I think IT really drives home the point about this being an "odds and ends" set. Those 2x4 med slopes on the nose look way too big to be vents. And if there is a pantograph on the roof, why the dark grey exhaust on the front of the hood? Still, it's nice to even be shown an alternate.
This set is a good value for the money. It's worth the price for the special parts (red window prices will drop through the floor now, thank goodness), but a motor alone is 25 or so, and the wheelsets and couplers it has are about 20 more, and when you factor in the slopes (black! in 3x4 low, 3x3 low 1x2, 2x2 and 2x4 med, and 1x2, 2x2 inverse med) and big plates, you're there. I may buy a few to part out and keep just the windows.
As I said, if you have track and a controller, you NEED this set. It's just plain cute, even if it is a bit of a mishmash.
I think I ripped the models pretty thoroughly in the narrative above, so I'll just say:
- The loco is euro, the cab is bulky, the stack is way off, no domes.
- Why another dumpcar? And they skimped on the dump load.
- The log car? What's that all about? it's weird.
- Coach has no doors! and only 3 seats...
- Silver stripes and hardhats? talk about an anachronism.
- Stickers that span multiple pieces, and on the END of a 2x6.
But I still like the models anyway! This is an excellent train compared to 4559, and I'm GLAD it doesn't have track or a speed regulator, I don't need them.
I know Nik (my 6 year old in 1998) will be just overjoyed with the play possibilities. The odds and ends that make an AFOL wonder are just more stuff to work with for a kid. There's lots to do, stuff to unload, dump, people to let into the coach, and so forth. Good playability.
This is the type of set that Lego should be making more of. It's a trainheads dream come true. I am hopeful for the future of trains now that I've seen this one. I plan to get several more. I gave this set 3 stars (due to adequate.com management request not to over-rate sets, which I agree with) but just so you know, I'd rate 4559 as 2 stars. If 4559 is REALLY 3 stars, then this one is 4. (and metroliner is 6 out of 5 :-) )