All the best for the New Year everyone. I promised a review of the Banbao freight set and I must apologise for that not happening only I've been ill again and I spent Christmas and New Year not being very well at all. Now I'm feeling better and I'm on the mend I thought I'd make an effort to give you all my thoughts on the Freight Set, - perhaps not the full review I intended, but at least I can give you the main points about owning and assembling the set.
First of all I'm not a great photographer so I'll point you to this Brickshelf link where you can find plenty of nice clear photos of the Freight Set and its components: http://www.brickshel...ry.cgi?f=498205
These are definitely not my photos and many thanks to Buzzard for making them available as a resource to the brick train building community.
As I mentioned in an earlier post the loco in this set seems to be based on the HXD2 from the 'Harmony' series of Chinese locomotives built in conjunction with the French company Alstom. The Banbao version does a reasonable job of representing many of the prototype's distinctive features and overall I liked the set well enough to order a second set so I could have another Freight loco to run in a lashup with my first one. There are some shortcomings with the Banbao loco though and I will outline those as I go along.
The set is packed in a sizeable cardboard box which is nice and sturdy and does a good job of protecting the contents. Inside the box all the set parts and the instructions can be found in two slide out cardboard trays. One of the trays has the loco base tidily tied in place to prevent it from being damaged and it also has a small compartment which contains the motor block again to prevent it from being damaged. All the parts are packed in plastic bags as is usual with most brick sets, but I can tell you from experience that Banbao doesn't believe in having the parts for each of the main items of the set in their own separate bags. I don't know what system they use to fill the bags, but I think it has more to do with chaos theory than any logical method that I could discover. All the track was tidily packed in their own bags however, so there must be some logic operating somewhere I suppose.
The set has four main parts not counting the track; the locomotive, its r/c gear and motor block; a cargo box wagon that looks more like some kind of power car to me with the all the parts representing the electrical gubbins for an overhead power pickup on its roof; a highside gondola and a small green truck with a tipping tray. My set contained the new Banbao 'Tobee' figures instead of minifigs and I'm still not sure what I think of these. They certainly would appeal to children though and I will comment that the whole set is very much about having a high play value.
(From left to right; A Banbao 'minifig', the five 'Tobees' in the set and at the end with the spanner 'Olivia' from the 'Friends' series.)
There are four instruction booklets provided, one for each of the main brick built items in the set. These booklets follow the trend of being non-lingual and use very good large clear illustrations of each stage of assembly. I found these instruction booklets very easy to follow and I was never left in any doubt as to how to it the bricks together. At the back of the instruction booklet for the loco there are two pages of diagrams and written instructions for the remote control unit which are clear and easy to follow.
A sticker sheet is included and I'm afraid I didn't like the majority of the stickers. Unfortunately some Chinese makers have a tendency to over-sticker their products and their attempts at English wording that actually makes much sense are very much lacking. I'm going to leave most of the stickers off my set and only make use of the bare few essential ones.
So what was it like to put the set together? When I was still into brick wargaming before I decided that I didn't want have anything to do with war anymore I'd purchased a few Banbao military sets, mainly their tanks and helicopters. Overall I liked these Banbao sets well enough at the time to overlook their faults, so I was expecting to have problems with brick clutch and the lack of it with this freight loco set. Was I ever in for a surprise because the bricks just went together so beautifully and stayed where I put them without any problems at all. Comparing the bricks in the freight loco set with some of the older bricks I had from the military sets it looks very much as if Banbao is using new moulds and possibly a different grade of plastic these days. The ends of the studs now have a new trademark symbol on them that wasn't present on the older bricks and the way these new bricks pushed together was just so different to what I'd experienced before with a Banbao set. The bricks themselves were all cleanly formed with no trace of flash and I would say that their quality is now very close to LEGO. For those of you who don't know Banbao bricks are taller in height than LEGO and the studs on Banbao bricks are taller as well. The two different makes can be made to work together Ok though once the size ratio between them is figured out. Some of my military models were built using both kinds of bricks and they worked out just fine.
I really enjoyed building up this set and I had a lot of fun for my money even before I got to playing trains.
The Banbao design for the freight loco makes for a strong structure than can be readily handled without losing bits. It has four chunky brickbuilt opening doors, two at each end, that pivot on very stout hinges. At the front of the loco there is a crew compartment with seats behind the driver's compartment where either Minifigs or Tobees can ride, BUT unfortunately there is no way to get a driver figure into the driver's compartment without major surgery. Tobees don't fit at all even if you take their legs off and Minifigs will only fit if you take their legs and hands off and stick them in with Blu-tac. Not good Banbao.
The base on which the loco is built does its job alright and it was straight and true with no warping, though i have to say I don't like its design which makes the housing for the r/c receiver a full six wide so it has to form part of the loco bodyside. I don't like having a large grey rectangle on the blue and white bodyside of the loco and I'll most probably devise some kind of custom sticker to cover the thing up.
Banbao wheels and motor blocks are a little taller than LEGO ones which is fine, only it makes trying to fit a LEGO motor block difficult, but I can't say that I've really had a decent go at doing this just yet. The bottom plate on my loco's motor block wasn't fitted on quite right when I unpacked it, but otherwise it was fine once I refitted it. The motor block looks quite Ok and serviceable inside (see pictures on Buzzard's Brickshelf) and I'll be interested to see how it works out once it starts earning its keep. The driving wheels are fitted with rubber traction tyres btw.
One big moan is that the wiring and connector plug between the r/c receiver and the motor block is decidedly lightweight and likely to cause problems if not handled carefully. This would have to be the loco's Achilles heel and for something that's supposed to be a children's toy likely to be a constant source of trouble.
Couplings are sealed magnetic ones that are nice and strong and seem to work just fine with LEGO and Enlighten couplings.
The radio control isn't especially powerful and it pays not to wander too far away when driving a Banbao loco. Controls have a deadman's effect in that you have to keep your finger on the button to keep the train moving, so if you get out of range the loco will just stop. There are three channels so up to three different trains can be run on the same layout. Controls consist of a forward and a reverse button as well as a speed control button that's supposed to make the train run faster when you push it, but it doesn't and really it's just another forward button. Don't use the so-called 'music' button ever because it starts the most awful generic train sound effects you've ever heard.
The Cargo Box Wagon/Power car:
I had no problems with this as it went together exactly according to the instructions. I had one brick that seemed to be a little loose when assembling the underframe, but after a bit of fiddling it behaved itself and stayed put. The only other moan I have is that the sliding doors had moulding marks on them that couldn't be resolved by turning them to the inside because being handed one door was always left showing off it's moulding marks. They're not blindingly obvious, but it is a little disappointing.
Lots of play value with being able to load and unload this wagon via the sliding doors and there are hinged doors at one end for a guard to hang out of so he can blow his whistle, wave green flags & etc.
Again this went together according to the instructions without any problems. A feature of this wagon is that there are two large hinged doors on each side that open so the gondola can be loaded and unloaded. A good sized handful of 1x1 cylindrical grey bricks are provided in the set as a load for the gondola as well as a Tobee sized pick and a shovel to give the wee folk in this set something to do. There are two small compartments one each side at one end of the gondola with hinged doors for carrying extra tools, chains, Tobee lunches or whatever as well.
Something I found very peculiar was that at one end of the gondola there was a recessed glass door/window. The loco and the cargo box wagon have them too and they seem to be there to represent corridor connections which is fine for them, but I have yet to see a gondola with a corridor connection!
The Little Green Truck:
A strangely cute, but slightly ugly little truck is provided in the set to help haul away goods delivered by the train or else bring freight to the railhead. With the set there are three largish sacks, two drums and a jerry can as well as the 1x1 grey bricks for the gondola load. Clips are provided on either side of the truck's tip tray to carry the pick and shovel which adds to the play value, but unfortunately the wee truck is so small that it's hard pressed to carry very much at all. Two of the sacks stacked one on top of the other is about the limit and I haven't tried to see how many of the gondola's 1x1 brick load I can get into the tray before it all comes spilling over the sides.
Another strange thing is that the truck has no seats and the driver has to sit on the floor. They do get a steering wheel though, so I suppose I should be grateful for that.
Three other odd accessories that come with this set are two dogs and a cat. I'm not sure why they are in the set, but I'm sure the kiddies like to see them there.
You get 18 curves, 8 straights, a RH point/switch and a LH point/switch in this set which will make up into an oval of track with a passing loop. Banbao track is black and has a closer sleeper spacing, but is compatible with both LEGO and Enlighten track.
Overall I liked this set well enough to order another one. At $NZ144.00 you get a lot of trainset for your money and I think it's a very good deal. My only major concern is the delicate connection between the motor block and the r/c receiver, but on the other hand I think I shouldn't have any real problems with it now I'm old enough to look after my toys properly.
I purchased three Enlighten 633 Hopper Cars to go with my Banbao freight loco as they share the same blue and white colour scheme and they should make for a nice looking train when all setup together.
Edited by Locomotive Annie, 03 January 2013 - 01:11 PM.