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ARTICLE: The Enjoyment of Lego Trains


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#1 TheBrickster

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 06:53 AM

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Mini-Article: The Enjoyment of Lego Trains

For the Town Fan Who Doesn't Own a Train Set
- By TheBrickster 5/4/09


Background

After years of collecting Classic Town, it wasn't until 2001 that I purchased a Lego Train set.  The "My Own Train" collection became available and offered a small or large locomotive, in a variety of colors, as welll as an Open Freight Wagon (10013), Caboose (10014), Green Passenger Wagon (10015), Tanker (10016), and Hopper Wagon (10017).  What a great collection of various single train cars to get started with Lego Trains.  The locomotive utilized a standard 9V motor with simple instructions to add it to the train, as well as a light connecting to the motor.   With the addition of a plug-in transformer and track, 16 curves that made a circle, and a box of 8 straight track, I had my first Lego Train running around a Wild West town.  I was quite excited and pleased with my new toy.

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My Own Train: Steam Engine w/Tender (3741 & 3742)

Does an Electric or Battery System Intimidate You?

If it does, it shouldn't.  Speaking as a collector of 9V trains; I'm up to 10 trains now (Emerald Night being the only non-9V), the 9V system is simple.  The 9V motor is a single piece with four attached metal wheels.  The wheels draw power from the metal plated track, and simply attaches to a holed train baseplate.  There's no need for even wiring unless one wants to add a light.  The light is attached to the motor and has a wire that runs through one of a few holes in the train baseplate.  The 9V track is powered from a transformer that plugs into a standard electrical outlet.  A wire runs between the track and transformer.  The transformer controls the speed of your motor/engine.

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TheBrickster's Train Collection: 5/4/09

In regard to the newer R/C system and Power Functions, there's one major change.  Track is no longer metal plated and does not require an electrical current.  Rather, a batttery box placed inside the train powers the train motor.  A remote control allows one to control the speed from a few feet away, just like your television set.  How easy is that?  Well, Power functions is slightly more complicated and with the new Emerald Night (10194), the complete system requires a few more building tricks.

Understanding the New Power Functions (PF) System

The new Power Functions system requires a few additional parts not needed with 9V.  The entire PF system includes a motor that is attached inside the train requiring some sort of gear system or mechanism to create wheel movement from a single turning horizontal hole within the motor.  A few gears are used within the Emerald Night to create the wheel movement.  In addition, an Infared Receiver (I/R) is also attached to allow use of a remote control, placed within the engine.  The power source is a rechargable battery pack that is tucked away in the train tender and connected by wire to the motor.  The new PF light has two bulbs (not one) like 9V also attached by wire.  The advantage of PF, there's no transformer or need to power the track.  There is no limit to the number of track you can add to your layout without the need to provide an elecrical current, a huge adavantage over 9V.

In case you were wondering if existing 9V train transformers plug into the new rechargeable battery pack, they do not.  This is another reason the entire PF system is needed.  Price is a huge consideration; however, with the complete set costing $100+ (US Dollars), although PF can be used to power trackside buildings as well as other non-train related creations.  I'm looking forward to all the terrific train and trackside structures Lego train fans will be building utilizing the new PF system.

So Many Choices, So Few Dollar$

Is the cost of a train set preventing you from owning a Lego Train?  Well if it is, I can understand that.  But you can always pick up one of the new R/C sets (specifically  7897 Passenger Train for $90 or equivalent foreign currency).  This set includes everything you need to add a train to your town, including the track.  You'll just need to go out and buy yourself 9 AA bateries.  For $150, you can own  7898 Cargo Train Deluxe, a far better train in my opinion.  But if you want to go "full steam ahead", I'd strongly recommend the Emerald Night, a beauty among Lego Trains.

Why a Lego Train?

For those of you who don't own a Lego Train, you don't know what you're missing.  It's so fun to build your town around a Lego Train layout, sitting nearby as you control the speed of one or more trains through your town/city.  You are in control and you can make your train go forward, reverse, manually switch track (for more advanced layouts), crawl, or race along the track.  This adds an entirely new dimension and element to an otherwise uneventful tabletown.  It's also fun to turn on your train while you're typing an article to share on Eurobricks.  They make for great background sound.

Other Fun Things to Do With Trains

Just like with other City/Town sets/elements, building a train MOCs is very enjoyable (perhaps even a Ghost Train).  While passenger trains are fun, cargo trains offer an abundance of MOC opportunities with the variety of freight one can haul aboard a train.  In addition, trackside structures like stations and freight depots are great additions to any layout.  The possibilities are endless.  One can even use their train to host a  Murder Mystery.  What ever your fancy, the addition of a train can make the fun of a tabletown 100% better.

What's Next

I've created a small train & town layout in my computer room, and now I'd like to expand it by adding another train.  I will most likely have to raise the 2nd train, perhaps even adding a bridge to the layout.  I've always wanted to create a train tunnel, perhaps I'll try my luck.

What's Stopping You?

So, to WhiteFang and all my other friends on EB who do not own a train, what's stopping you?  Go out and buy that train set.  5-10 years from now, you'll regret not picking up a set (or two) when they are no longer available.  Sure, there will always be new trains, designs, and power sytems, but there's never a better time than the present to enjoy your Lego hobby.  

I've hope you enjoy this short train article.  Please let me know if you decide to go out and buy a Lego Train.

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TheBrickster's Train Town: 5/4/09

#2 WhiteFang

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 07:33 AM

Another short interesting quality article written by our TheBrickster.  :thumbup:

View PostTheBrickster, on May 5 2009, 02:53 PM, said:

What's Stopping You?
So, to WhiteFang and all my other friends on EB who do not own a train, what's stopping you?  Go out and buy that train set.  5-10 years from now, you'll regret not picking up a set (or two) when they are no longer available.  Sure, there will always be new trains, designs, and power sytems, but there's never a better time than the present to enjoy your Lego hobby.
Well, I got a feeling that article was pointing towards me somehow before I click onto this topic, especially when I shared some of my thoughts earlier with you on usage and perception of trains setup in a tabletop town. Reading from this comprehensive article benefits lots especially when I am rather new towards trains system when it has existed for more than 20 years. 9V, 18V, RC, PF are some of these train jargons which I could never understood its real differences, just by reading it. To be honest, I had never touch or operate a train system before, but judging from the "fun" descrption of yours, you are tempting me to start getting some of this real locomotive actions in my future setup.

Of course, I am contemplating whether to start getting a PF train set over RC train sets. Both RC train sets are officially in their twilight which are the Passenger Train and the Cargo Delxue. I didn't start investing into any of these, fearing it might have problems with railway system compability issues or way of integrating together that could allow it to co-exist together on a single plastic rail track instead of the new flexi-rail track, which I am still pretty clueless. Another thing to note that, railway systems are much costly to purchase though. Well, this is my perception. In Singapore, the Cargo Train delxue cost about SGD$310 retail price. That same amount could be used to break down to get more sets. Of course, I am not against having train set up in the future.

In fact, I will love to have one, especially viewing at the recent exclusive Shop@Home Emerald Night Train is a pure beauty. Come to think of it, I will need to ship this set in, since its not available over here and additional cost are factor into my overall purchase cost. It does involved quite abit of thoughts.

If I were given a choice where money is not an issue, between railway systems of RC and PF, which is the better technology to get into, especially when you are in my shoes. Apart from the Emerald Night Train, should I seek out and complete or get one of the RC train sets, before it's completely discontinued. I had read your recommendations, and I did find it pretty useful.  :blush:

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#3 mikey

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 09:02 AM

This is a cruel article!  Waving your train setup in front of us who do not have room!  
My space is limited to two baseplates at the moment, I do not think I could fit a train there!

Seriously this is a great article, but who can really dislike trains though? They look great and i'm sure they are good entertainment.
If I had more room I would have a train (or two).
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#4 TheBrickster

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 07:17 PM

View PostWhiteFang, on May 4 2009, 11:33 PM, said:

That same amount could be used to break down to get more sets. Of course, I am not against having train set up in the future.
Yes, I completely understand.  It's all a matter of priorities, but given the fact that you love Towns/City, it would be awesome to add a nice train to the mix, perhaps even a complete 9V set from Ebay or Bricklink.

View Postmikey, on May 5 2009, 01:02 AM, said:

If I had more room I would have a train (or two).
Space is always a limiting factor.  I wish I had more room for a set of four tables to build a large layout around the room.  I had thought about doing this for some time now and I could add numerous themes as the train passes different sections of the layout (e.g. Wild West, Indian, Classic Town, World City, etc.).  I am limited to the table that you see in that last picture.  Now I want to build upward to add a 2nd train.  I did this once before, but I have to completely redo my layout, which took me quite a bit of time to work out.  I've always wanted a train room and could maybe create one in the garage, but it's too hot and dusty.

#5 MarcusV3

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 01:10 AM

Amazing article Brickster, I've been thinking about getting a train system throughout my town for a while now, and this review really convinced me  :classic:. I'll be purchasing the Passenger Train, I think it's a great way to get started on a track layout and have a train to run on it  :thumbup:. I LOVE the emerald knight but I didn't want to buy it without any tracks in my town and the passenger train included some tracks so I thought it was the perfect starter kit. I'm getting $20 dollars tomorrow and that's all I need to buy it. But I have a question, there are only 3 non-9v trains out right now and I wanted to pick up the holiday train at bricklink but I didn't want to buy 9v tracks since my passenger train and all the other sets available right now have RC tracks. Is there any way to convert the holiday train and other 9v trains to RC or PF? Or do you think I should make my tracks 9v so both can run on them?

#6 Tom Bricks

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 01:34 AM

This is a great article and it has inspired me not to buy a lego train, but to search through my closet for the old motor somewhere in there. Before this I have just been using some straight tracks to go behind some of my buildings as a subway but now I am off to find the rest of my 9v train stuff.

So far I have found the motor and all but one of the curved track pieces for a circle, sadly this means that I cant run a train on it yet

Edited by Tom Bricks, 07 May 2009 - 02:05 AM.

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#7 TheBrickster

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 04:14 AM

View PostMarcusV3, on May 6 2009, 05:10 PM, said:

there are only 3 non-9v trains out right now and I wanted to pick up the holiday train at bricklink but I didn't want to buy 9v tracks since my passenger train and all the other sets available right now have RC tracks. Is there any way to convert the holiday train and other 9v trains to RC or PF? Or do you think I should make my tracks 9v so both can run on them?
I've never tried converting a 9V to RC or PF, but I'm sure it can be done with some creative building.  The PF motor may be a bit tricky as well as the need to make space for the battery case.  There's also the new motor (8866) that I haven't even tried yet, but it attaches like a 9V motor, just needs to be wired to the power source.

I have a lot of 9V track (or at least a modest amount), so I'm just running my new Emerald Night on 9V track.  I actually like the way it looks (metal track and all in old gray), and if I decide to add my Santa Fe Super Chief or BNSF, I can just attach the transformer and I'm up and running, without having to modify anything.  Plus, this shouldn't affect the Emerald Night.  I've also got a few 9V motors for each of these trains that I don't want to replace with new PF motors and battery cases that would be pricey.  I like the 9V track solution - it's easier and I don't have to buy any additional items.

View PostTom Bricks, on May 6 2009, 05:34 PM, said:

This is a great article and it has inspired me not to buy a lego train
Excellent!  Share some pictures if you buy one or find all your pieces.

#8 Tom Bricks

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 08:51 PM

The way I am quoted above it sounds like I don't like trains. I think that I will build a train but I would also like to buy one. I was thinking about the Emerald Night but I don't have the money for that now and it's not 9v. The most inexpensive train set that I could find in bricklink was 3747-1 but I don't know what is included. Is this set a good buy for someone restarting their train collection?
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#9 Mark Bellis

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 10:37 PM

View PostMarcusV3, on May 7 2009, 02:10 AM, said:

Amazing article Brickster, I've been thinking about getting a train system throughout my town for a while now, and this review really convinced me  :classic:. I'll be purchasing the Passenger Train, I think it's a great way to get started on a track layout and have a train to run on it  :thumbup:. I LOVE the emerald knight but I didn't want to buy it without any tracks in my town and the passenger train included some tracks so I thought it was the perfect starter kit. I'm getting $20 dollars tomorrow and that's all I need to buy it. But I have a question, there are only 3 non-9v trains out right now and I wanted to pick up the holiday train at bricklink but I didn't want to buy 9v tracks since my passenger train and all the other sets available right now have RC tracks. Is there any way to convert the holiday train and other 9v trains to RC or PF? Or do you think I should make my tracks 9v so both can run on them?

Hold on before you buy RC.

RC and PF have different infra-red controls.  The RC passenger train is just that, and has a lot less MOC capability than PF trains.  It is fixed to the standard loco base that carries the batteries.  It has only 3 channels, for 3 trains at most on a layout.  If you're happy with the RC passenger train as it is then fair enough.

PF-compatible trains like Emerald Night are a lot more versatile.  The instructions show how to add the battery, motor, light and IR receiver.  Ordinarily PFtrains have 4 channels but if you piggy-back the light it instantly becomes 8.  With more electronic tricks you can get to 128 channels!

The advantage of PF is that the parts can be placed where you want them - battery hidden somewhere with a wire to the loco etc... instead of being forced to use a fixed RC loco base.

Both systems will use the same tracks but do you want to hold 2 remote controls?  You could also put other PF remote devices in your town - a windmill, lit-up buildings, fairground, the list is endless... and all controlled from your train remote handset.

To do 9V now would require a serious investment including enough kit to support it for as long as you want to run it - a lifetime buy for an obsolete product line.  Most 9V enthusiasts have made lifetime buys by now and Bricklink prices are going up.  Availability of track, especially in old grey, is dwindling.

I recommend PF.  You can convert the holiday train to PF this way:
Hide the PF battery in the tender or in the coach.  the loco, tender or coach could carry an 8866 or 10153 train motor.  If you get a 10153 9V train motor, you would be able to run it as 9V on someone else's 9V layout without modification.  The IR receiver can go in the porch of the coach or be embedded in the tender.

Other trains might be easier to convert than the holiday train.  Emerald Night is simplified by the instructions but any 9V train can keep its motor and just add the battery and IR receiver.

Consider the PF battery as an investment.  It is best for 500 charge cycles over 3 years.  Each charge cycle is equivalent to a set of Zinc batteries or about half a set of alkalines in this motor application, so you save a lot of batteries!  £42 for the PF battery or 200 x £4 = £800 for AA batteries!  Saves £700 by the time you have a charger.  I recommend that you build the battery in in such a way that it can be removed for charging.  Then you could have many trains but only two batteries if only 1 train runs at a time, saving even more cost and getting the most out of a few batteries.  1st train comes in, 1st battery taken out and charged, 2nd train goes out.  2nd train comes in, 2nd battery taken out and charged, 3rd train goes out with 1st train's battery etc...

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#10 prateek

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 02:27 AM

View Postmikey, on May 5 2009, 09:02 AM, said:

Seriously this is a great article, but who can really dislike trains though? They look great and i'm sure they are good entertainment.
umm, me :tongue: well not really, most of the train sets are pretty good looking. but i just dont have any use for lego trains; i have no town let alone enough lego bricks and/or space for one. good article but its not convincing me :wink:

Edited by prateek, 31 October 2010 - 09:53 PM.


#11 frogstudio

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 01:26 PM

View PostMarcusV3, on May 7 2009, 01:10 AM, said:

Amazing article Brickster, I've been thinking about getting a train system throughout my town for a while now, and this review really convinced me  :classic:. I'll be purchasing the Passenger Train, I think it's a great way to get started on a track layout and have a train to run on it  :thumbup:. I LOVE the emerald knight but I didn't want to buy it without any tracks in my town and the passenger train included some tracks so I thought it was the perfect starter kit. I'm getting $20 dollars tomorrow and that's all I need to buy it. But I have a question, there are only 3 non-9v trains out right now and I wanted to pick up the holiday train at bricklink but I didn't want to buy 9v tracks since my passenger train and all the other sets available right now have RC tracks. Is there any way to convert the holiday train and other 9v trains to RC or PF? Or do you think I should make my tracks 9v so both can run on them?


Integrating PF to older train sets or 9V trains is much easier that you think.  Basically, you have a couple of options:
1) creating the gearing yourself and using the new PF generic motors + batery box (either the new expensive one or the old one which is bigger and requires bateries).  Ading remote control capabilities is really optional (I would advise to add it, since it will allow you to control speed and to start and stop the train without having to lift the engine from the tracks in order to do so).  This is how the Emerald Night works.
2) using the new PF train motor (which isn't really new, as it's the same motor that ships with the RC train sets, as the techies in LEGO told me) + batery box and remote control capabilities. So, in this case, it's pretty much the same as adding a 9V mnotor, but with the advantage that, since electricity isn't conducted via the wheels, you can put other types of wheels to the motor (the new bigger wheels or custom wheels such as Big Ben wheels)

Of course, the difficulty in transformig older train sets into PF trains depends on each train.  For example, the Metroliner is quite easy to convert, while other train sets are much difficult, basically due to the fact that you have to fit the batery box somewhere (which you can always fit in a tender or in a box car)

If I were to start collecting trains, I would'nt go 9V as my powering system.  Mainly because as time goes by, it will get more and more expensive to get tracks and replacement motors (motors at some time will die).  I wouldn't go RC either (though I own both RC sets, and the cargo train is really great) as they don't allow too much MOCing (you're always limited to the shape of the baterry box base plate).  I would strongly go for the PF system and get those 9V set which can be easily transformed (with the advanttage that you can find non working versions of these sets on ebay for a fairly low price, compared to getting a working one).

Concerning tracks, PF trains and RC trains can run on either the newer tracks and the old 9V tracks, while 9V trains won't run on the newer tracks.  About the flexi tracks, it seems that many have misunderstood the usage of this track system.  It's not meant to be the sole track piece in a layout.  It simply gives you the possibility to get new layout geometries by inserting some of these pieces between the regular ones.  Many people have complained that they look awful, but, if used wisely, they are a GREAT addition to the track system.  

For those who still don't have a train... GET ONE!!!! You will never regret it. :)

#12 MetroiD

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 03:38 PM

A thoroughly enjoyable read, thanks for that, Brickster!!! Sort of a coincidence too - I have been scouting eBay lately in hopes of snatching an old(ish) train set at a decent price. Unfortunately, the economic crisis doesn't seem to affect LEGO (I passed on a 6399 Monorail / Airport Shuttle before seeing it hit 260+ Euro!!!), so I'm still hunting but I haven't given up hope.

Seeing as we're not currently willing to spend too much on LEGO, I don't believe we'll be in the market for an RC set, especially bearing in mind that the Passenger Train is useless compared to the great yet rather expensive Cargo Train set. We might consider getting an Emerald Night though, since the price on that will keep going up as time goes by. However, in the meantime I've been checking out the 10205 My Own Train set and I must admit I'd love to get my paws on one of these (not necessarily in black). Question is - how good is this train's PF compatibility? We're definitely not keen on having to buy overpriced 9V sets (not with their firmly established collectors' status), so with the new PF trains & track I think we can get started on setting up our own rolling stock... Hopefully, I'll be able to MOC up the 10205 engine a bit, even if doesn't quite suit PF, but I was curious to know whether there were any actual problems with that (seeing that you already own one of those).

Furthermore, from the stuff I've been checking out, I've come to the conclusion that the 10183 Hobby Trains is hands down the best train set in terms of value for money... What are your thoughts on that?
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#13 TheBrickster

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 08:59 PM

View PostTheOtters, on May 8 2009, 07:38 AM, said:

from the stuff I've been checking out, I've come to the conclusion that the 10183 Hobby Trains is hands down the best train set in terms of value for money... What are your thoughts on that?
10183 Hobby Train is a fantastic set.  I picked mine up from Lego SAH for half the price ($50 USD).
The main Crocodile Engine is a wonderfully detailed engine.  Strangely, I never added a motor to mine or had it on the train track.  After building; however, I had it displayed for a long time before taking it apart.  Perhaps I'll add it to my current Train Town.

The set has excellent train parts and I used many of the useful parts to create my Ghost Train, which had me preoccupied at the time (that's probably why I never got around to adding a motor to it).  I had not tried building any of the other trains with instructions on LSAH, but some of them are very nice as well.

So for even full price, the Hobby Train is a great set.  Someone posted images of each of the creations on Brickshelf a while back.  If I find the link, I'll post on this thread.

EDIT: After building the Crocodile Engine from Hobby Train 10183, I just had to share.  This is a fantastic set!

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#14 Vestabuyer

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 04:29 PM

Hello,

I have been an avid fan of legos since the early 80's but haven't gotten around to purchasing a train set until now (go figure now that the 9V system has been discontinuned for some time). Anyway, I recently bought the Lego Express set #4534 and can't wait for it to get here. In addition, I have gone all train crazy and bought the MOT hopper and caboose, along with lego set #4546 to keep the rails maintenanced  :tongue: I liked this article because it further supported (validated) the mass train shopping spree that I just went through! Thanks :classic:

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#15 spade450

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 05:34 PM

One or two responses mentioned a lack of space for a train.  One option that I am considering for my small town is a MOC trolley.  It would not have to go all of the way around the town -- maybe just a straight line from one end to the other (shelf style, about 10 feet along one wall of a room). I have an idea for Mindstorms control that would put the trolley on a timer at each end of the line -- stop for a while then run to the other end.  I'll admit that  have not done much about it yet but I do want a train (sort of a train, anyway) and I do lack space.
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#16 Eskallon

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 05:43 PM

I am planning on buying the emerald Night soon and I have a few quick questions for anyone knowing the answers(This is my first train).

1. Is the Emerald Night compatable with the RC tracks?
2. Is it actually worth buying?
3. For parts, what is better, this or the Passenger Train(Remember I need the basic ones too)?

#17 TheBrickster

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 06:00 PM

View PostEskallon, on Oct 25 2009, 10:43 AM, said:

I am planning on buying the emerald Night soon and I have a few quick questions for anyone knowing the answers(This is my first train).

1. Is the Emerald Night compatable with the RC tracks?
2. Is it actually worth buying?
3. For parts, what is better, this or the Passenger Train(Remember I need the basic ones too)?

1. Yes, as well as 9V track.  LEGO track is all the same size (except for the new track contained in the Indiana Jones set Temple of Doom, which is narrower).
While the Emerald will run on 9V track, it can't draw any power without a 9V motor.  But yes, it is compatable w/ R/C track.

2. I definately think so.  Take a look at the review I referenced in your previous message.  It's one of LEGO's best trains, and Power Functions is the new platform for LEGO trains.  For parts; however, at least for beginners, I very much like the Cargo Train Deluxe.  You'll get more plates, wheels, and buffers to make additional trains.  For beauty and detail though, the Emerald is the best!  You will also need to order the PF system/parts for it.  See this article for a list of the PF items.

3. I'm not a big fan of the Passenger Train, and while the price may be much more reasonable, the Cargo Train Deluxe is much better for parts.  The Passenger Train and Cargo both have the loop of track which is great, and you could use it for the Emerald down the road.  Other pieces are rather limited though.  Take a look at the review for the Passenger Train as well.  You can find a link in the Train Tech Index.

#18 legoboy3998

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 08:59 PM

View PostTheBrickster, on May 5 2009, 12:53 AM, said:

The entire PF system includes a motor that is attached inside the train requiring some sort of gear system or mechanism to create wheel movement from a single turning horizontal hole within the motor.  A few gears are used within the Emerald Night to create the wheel movement.

There is also a motor identical to the 9V motor ecept for the metal wheels avaliable that can be connected with the small extension wire to the IR reciever so you dont need to mess with gears.

Sal
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#19 harrysnapperorgans

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 09:31 PM

That is a great article. As an AFOL who has been out of the game for a while, it's cleared up all my confusion about Lego's train options.
I'm officially saving up for the PF Kit, some track and some train bases/boogies in 2010.

#20 halfpenguinhalflego

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 08:59 PM

I am hoping to get my first LEGO train for Christmas this year (cargo train) and I have never been into City sets, although what I think is putting people off would be the price and what you get. For example there is only 3 train sets out at the moment, all are above £50. I think if LEGO went back and sold carriages and small steam engines as well as the bigger sets I would of bought one ages ago. Furthermore if you want to make your own LEGO train that can move (we all want our trains to move :laugh:) you have to spend £42 on just the rechargeable battery box on its own! However I can see why trains are so good, but at the moment cons weigh out the pros to be honest.
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