Ever since Thomas the Tank Engine appeared in England in 1984 and in the United States in 1989, children have fallen in love with the blue engine and his train friends, and Thomas the Tank Engine train sets. And who can blame them? I too had a fascination with trains when I was growing up.
Fortunately for today's kids there are many Thomas and Friends toys to occupy the time. Over the last year my son has been given a few electric Thomas train sets as gifts. All have been different and each has its own advantages over the others. But most importantly, my son has had fun and enjoyed them all.
What makes Thomas the Tank Engine train sets fun?
There are a few things that make Thomas the Tank Engine electric train sets fun for children.
- Each track has a switch that allows Thomas to stop. This gives the child control over Thomas, and allows for more interaction than just watching Thomas go in circles. For younger children this also can be a great way to introduce mechanics to them as they figure out how and when to make Thomas stop and go.
- While some of the tracks are big and complicated, many tracks are small with parts that are easy to assemble and take apart. This makes it easy for the child to build the track and makes it more interactive. For parents this is great because they do not have to continually reattach the track pieces to each other.
- Extra Thomas and Friends characters can be bought and added to each train set. Some of the sets are made for characters that attach to each other with latches (similar to actual trains) while some are magnetized. The track sets include an engine and usually an extra boxcar, but other characters can be bought and added so that the trains become very long.
As for my experience with Thomas the Tank Engine train sets, here is the rundown of the tracks currently residing in my house.
Thomas' Busy Day was the first train set that my son played with. The track is very basic, as it is just a small oval with just one engine. A train station is included, which is where the stop/start switch is located.
My son was about 2 years old when he played with this track for the first time and was mesmerized by it. The first time we put it together he played with it for an hour straight. The rest of us just sat and watched at how excited he would be that he could stop and start the train as it would pass the train station. It was a terrific way for him to wade into the world of trains.
The Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway - Battery Powered Sir Topham Hatt Figure 8 Set is still a battery powered train track, but this track is wooden. This seems to make the track easier to assemble, although the figure 8 and the bridge can cause some complications.
This track's stop and start switch is Sir Topham Hatt. When he is turned one way, Thomas stops. When he is turned another way, Thomas is allowed to continue.
With this train set, you also get a caboose. You can still purchase other cars to go along for the ride. However, for this train, be sure to get cars that attach magnetically to each other. One note though: with this track, my experience has been that if you make the train too long, Thomas doesn't have the power to drag it over the bridge.
The Zip, Zoom, and Logging Adventure Thomas the Tank Engine train set is much more advanced than the other two mentioned above. However, it is the most fun.
The first thing you will notice about this track is that the assembly looks daunting. But the instructions are easy to understand, and once you get oriented with the pieces, the track is not difficult to assemble. Also, the track is larger than it looks on the box. You will need about a 2 foot by 3 foot space to operate.
But once the track is put together, this is a very fun train set. As Thomas makes his way around the last corner there is a switch that allows him to either go to the logging mill or across a zip line. The zip line works well as Thomas and one other car are usually able to land successfully and keep moving. The logging mill is fun as you are able to stop Thomas, unload a log, split the log and return it back to the awaiting train. It sounds complicated, but after a few tries my 3-year old was able to figure it out and have a lot of fun with it.
If you have the space, this is a great option.
Other Tracks and Characters
While these are the Thomas tracks in my house, these are not the only tracks available. You can find many other Thomas the Tank Engine characters and train sets almost anywhere toys are sold. They are a great gift idea for young Thomas fans, and great for parents as it provides a fun way to spend time with your child. Or you can simply enjoy watching your child have a blast as they play with these train sets and other Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
Other Thomas the Tank Engine Articles
These and Thomas the Tank Engine train sets will bring hours of fun to your kids.