Now, as for the new sets. We know they will be PF as the RC line has been discontinued. As to whether they will use gearing (ala Emerald Night) or the PF Train motor remains to be seen. Either way, I would urge all of you to support the line regardless. You have to look at the Train sets as a 'box of elements'. I recently purchased the RC Cargo Train because it came with a number of rare elements in rare colors that are useful for building trains. I built the set per the instructions, played with it a bit to see what it was like, and now I will be tearing it down and MOC-ing it. For me....that's what LEGO Trains are about. The MOC are (90% of the time) going to be way cooler than what LEGO produces. That's what made the Hobby Train so awesome! It was a box of 'train specific' elements for MOC-ing.
As for people not wanting to buy multiple Emerald Night's to get additional coaches. Why is this??? The price/element ratio for that set is <$0.10/piece and it comes with almost exclusively rare colors!!! What other set gives you that much Dark Green???? Plus...you get MORE STEAM WHEELS. I bought five or six of the Emerald Night, built one engine, four coaches, and parted the rest into my collection. My wife is now using a lot of the pieces in her MOC's to add a splash of rare color. Yes, I know to get a train with an engine and five coaches, you will spend $500...but look at how expensive model railroading is. We actually get off pretty cheap.
Finally, I'm going to rant a bit here regarding the LEGO Train Community. I said this to the round-table at Brickworld and I will say it here. I love you guys and you're all my friends...but 9V is dead and it's not coming back. Deal with it. Move on. No amount of complaining or pining for it will bring it back. If you want to stay all 9V on your layout...by all means do it, but understand it will be expensive and you are running a system no longer supported. If you're just getting into trains, I suggest you jump in to PF with both feet. There is a LOT of flexibility in that system if we all start being creative. I guess I'm just tired of the community bashing LEGO for making a decision that helped them remain profitable in a time when they were in financial turmoil. It was something that had to be done. Yes, I miss the 9V stuff...but aside from the motor and track...everything else is the same with PF trains. And we've demonstrated that the new PF trains can EASILY pull as much (actually MORE) than the old 9V system if the train is designed properly. The system isn't as bad as everyone thinks.
LEGO Trains will always be a small portion of TLG's business. I'd love to see them grow in popularity, but I'm being realistic. It's up to us in the Train community to take the elements that LEGO gives us and build the amazing creations we desire.
I'll name drop here a little: John Neal, Cale Leiphart, Tony Sava, Mark Bellis, Swoofty, Scott Wardlaw, Brian Williams, Holger Matthes, Tim Gould, and others I'm forgetting. All of these people are pushing the boundaries of LEGO Trains without needing sets to necessarily be released. They are all building amazing MOC's that are an inspiration to the community.
Check out the Flickr LEGO Train Pool...you won't be sorry. Do we really need sets? No...I think we just need elements and a good dose of creativity.
Thanks for the name drop Dave
I suggest that trains are more likely to use the PF train motor, as it's easier for a younger customer. That is where I would urge caution that might counter some of the "supporting the line regardless". I have found the PF train motor to be geared too highly for AFOL trains. It's fine for kids who enjoy driving trains as if they were Scalextric cars (flying off at every corner) but it doesn't have the same controllability as the 9V train motor. When I bought the PF train motors I did so without prejudice - I wanted to cerify that they were a drop-in replacement for the 9V train motor. I'm disappointed for the whole AFOL community that they are not.
This leaves AFOLs with primarily PF XL-motor powered steam trains (like Emerald Night) and dual PF medium-motor powered diesels (one motor per bogie, mounted vertically on the bogie to avoid torque steer, the whole rotating within the loco body). This is a considerable design philosophy change for AFOL trains, not insurmountable, just inconvenient. We need to petition for the PF train motor to have the same gearing as the 9V train motor, such that it is a drop-in replacement. The PF LiPo battery and IR receiver work well with two 9V train motors in the loco, so why not? Comparison between the PF train motor and the 9V train motor is something I asked of Ben, but unfortunately he's dismantled the train test rig If it were not for this one mess by TLG, I'd be with you in saying the system isn't as bad as people think.
My reasons for pushing the boundaries:
- I'm an engineer, both by trade and by character! It's one of my roles in the community.
- Someone needs to sort out the PF system to facilitate AFOLs buying into it. I want to get us to the stage where we're as happy with PF as we have been with 9V, and it takes work to adapt.
- My trains are bigger than many people build, so I have to be sure the power capability and reliability are there, in order to exhibit PF trains.
- I have a couple of crossovers, one of which I've motorised with pneumatics, but I need to use PF trains in the yard because of it. That delays my railway layout completion for exhibition. I hope there isn't another similar hiatus before I've completed it in a few years' time!
I have found some really positive things about PF trains:
- The battery is easily as good as its price tag. It works really well and will drive 2 motors easily.
- The lights are the most versatile we've ever had and they fit in smaller spaces and are brighter than their predecessors. I was privileged to help design them (Philo, Stefan and I sat round a table one night in Billund and drew the ideal light, designing it to fit into other bricks. The only compromise from that design was that the wire had to be incapable of being pulled out, which meant the light couldn't go right through a beam hole). Now I make circuits to set them automatically to the train's direction and keep them on when the train stops.
- The electric parts may be placed where we wish, unlike the RC train chassis.
- The IR receivers are becoming more versatile, with 4 extra channels (usable by NXT IR messages). They can also be cascaded to get 128 bidirectional channels, even without the extension.
There's just the PF train motor power to sort out, but those who have built with 9V train motors can continue with those motors for a while yet.
BTW for permanent public exhibition (e.g. discovery centres), a little bird told me that in constant use a life of 3 months is expected from PF train motors, with the track lasting 9 months. That is with 6-wide trains. Bear in mind that AFOLs would do two 8-hour days at a show, so motors should last for 45 shows and track for 135.