Despite the fact that I've always been a huge fan of trains in general, and despite the fact that as a kid I could spend hours looking at pictures of LEGO trains, up until now the only Train set I'd ever owned was a Rail and Road Service Truck. Even though the Star Wars theme appears to be getting better now, I was looking to expand to a new theme, and the Trains caught my eye. I'd always liked steam engines better than diesel, so with that in mind, I purchased the Emerald Night. Aware of the fact that this set included no tracks and no motors, my biggest question was, how worthwhile is the Night to a new Train fan?
Set Name: Emerald Night
Set Number: 10194
Number of Pieces: 1,085
MSRP: $99.99 USD, £69.99 GBP
Year of Release: 2009
Shop@Home Description said:
Here comes the Emerald Night! Build this incredible classic-styled train with loads of amazing details, from the steam locomotive with furnace to the opening tender and dining car with removable roof, opening doors and detailed interior. Measures 27.2" (68cm) long! Includes three minifigures, elements in rare colors and all-new large train wheels with piston motion! Add LEGO® Power Functions to motorize.
- This classically-styled train features a steam locomotive with furnace, opening tender, dining car with removable roof, opening doors and detailed interior!
- Train measures 27.2" (68cm) long
[*}Lots of authentic touches including elements in rare colors and all-new large train wheels with piston motion!
- Includes 3 minifigures!
- Motorize your Emerald Night by adding LEGO Power Functions #8882 Power Functions XL Motor, #8867 Flexible Train Track, #8878 Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box, #8887 Transformer 10v DC adapter, #8884 Power Functions IR Receiver,#8870 Power Functions LED Lights, #8879 Power Functions IR Speed Remote Control!
The Emerald Night steams through a station during (when else?) the night on the front of the box, slipping in front of the D2C set banner on the left. The box isn't that big - about the size of a $50 Star Wars set - but it's definitely got eye-grabbing artwork that features the set well. I especially liked the camera angle the designer chose for this shot, though it does look a little unusual when stores place the box on shelves lower than eye level.
On the back of the box, TLG's placed the usual pictures of functions:
We can see all the moving parts and interior, and a box at the top showing what's needed to equip the set with Power Functions. (something I won't be doing in this review) In the center the train appears in what is probably the same station as the one featured on the front. The view is slightly different, enabling us to see the clock showing the time as just before 9:30, presumably PM. Once again, the camera angle here really flatters the train. I like it.
On the top of the box we get a parts inventory:
This is something new to us Star Wars fans. It is helpful when you're in-store deciding whether or not to buy the set and are unable to look up the inventory online. For the picture demonstrating scale, TLG has opted to display the large flanged driver wheel (probably the most anticipated part of the set) rather than the normal minifig or minifig lineup. Can't say I can argue with that decision.
And finally, on the side, we can see a side view of the whole train:
Not quite as impressive as the other pictures, especially now that we can see how long the locomotive and tender are compared to the rest of the train, but it's not a bad picture, either.
Opening up the box, this is what pours out. We have eight bags, numbered, which turned out to be a good thing during the build, as I'll point out later on. There's also one unnumbered bag that contains the flex tubing and some specialized train pieces. The stickers and instructions are packaged in a bag with a piece of cardboard, to keep them flat, as is now the norm for sets of over 1,000 pieces with stickers.
The set makes use of two instruction booklets, both of which came out the box nicely flattened thanks to the cardboard insert. Noice. Same art as the front of the box, without some of the information.
Here's a sample page:
Part call-outs in light blue, sub-steps in tan, and a medium blue background with yellow border. Also note how the instructions specifically tell you to line up the wheels. This is important. From what I've read, it helps prevent the pistons from jamming. This is where numbered bags come in big. The Dark Bleys and Blacks don't contrast very well, the Dark Browns appear darker than Black, and in bad lighting you could also get Dark Green confused with them as well. Even with the numbered bags, it was hard enough building half the locomotive the one time I was building with poor lighting.
In the back of the first booklet, we've got an advertisement spread:
This for flex track and the Volkswagon Beetle set.
And on the back of the first booklet:
...we see the Taj Mahal set. The Beetle and Taj Mahal are retired sets, now.
Then in the back of the second booklet, we have the parts inventory:
It's the same as that of the box, just bigger and arranged a little differently. I did find it unusual that TLG listed two flanged drivers and one blind driver as one piece, and you get two of that piece, instead of listing them as four flanged drivers and two blind drivers.
Then we've got an advertisement for the Power Functions accessories:
And you can also see the beginning of the instructions on how to add those to the set.
At the end of those instructions, we have:
Advertisements for the Cafe Corner and Green Grocer modular buildings, both retired and fetching high prices on the secondary market.
And then for the last spread:
There's an advertisement for the Medieval Market Village, which is itself an excellent set and is probably to Castle fans what the Emerald Night is to Train fans, and a sign-up sheet for the LEGO Club. On the back there's the WIN! picture that no one likes to look at.
The set has a large amount of stickers, which I will not be applying to the set. (which is not to say they're bad, they're beautiful stickers, but I don't like applying stickers to my stock sets) They are also stickers with transparent backgrounds, save the two printed on black, which makes them very versatile in uses other than on this set.
First up, all the pieces of the bags marked '1'. These will go into the locomotive, so naturally, they make up the bulk of the set. A lot of the pieces look lovely, especially those beautiful Dark Green slopes with gold printing. The two white cardboard envelopes hold the four red rubber rings (not to be confused with red Technic rubber bands; these have a finish that isn't as glossy) for the four flanged drivers.
Here's the contents of the only bag marked '2':
These pieces will make up the tender. There's also a good amount of Dark Green here, though none of it has any printing. Other than that, there's not much color in this bag. The white cardboard box holds the metal axles for the tender wheels.
Here're the pieces in bags marked '3':
As you probably deduced, these will be used to build the coach. Notable are the large stacks of windows. Once again, the white cardboard box holds the metal axles for the wheels. There's a good variety of colors here - we even see a couple pieces in Dark Blue.
And finally, here's the unnumbered bag:
Which is probably the most important bag of all. All the couplers, the large driver wheels, and the prefab train base are in here, in addition to the flex tubing. Good stuff.
And the parts I found notable:
Two different lengths of flex tubing, one of the most versatile elements LEGO's ever made. You get two of each. Four neck brackets in Light Bley, always useful, a piece you probably can't ever have too much of. One drawer set in White and Light Bley, rarer than their cabinet cousins. Two Technic T-pieces in Dark Bley, these are new for me and I can see them being quite useful in the future. Fifteen (!) jumper plates in Tan, always good to have around, especially in this color and in this quantity. Eighteen of those beautiful Dark Green slopes with printed gold striping. And last but certainly not least, the new driver wheels - four of the flanged variety and two of the blind.
Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 16L / 12.8cm
Hose, Rigid 3mm D. 25L / 20.0cm
Minifig, Neck Bracket with Back Stud
Container, Cupboard 2 x 3 x 2 - Solid Studs
Container, Cupboard 2 x 3 x X Drawer
Technic, Liftarm 3 x 3 T-Shape Thick
Plate, Modified 1 x 2 with 1 Stud (Jumper)
Slope, Curved 2 x 4 x 2/3 No Studs with Two Gold Stripes Pattern - Set 10194
Train Wheel RC Train, Spoked with Technic Axle Hole and Counterweight, 37 mm diameter (Flanged Driver)
Train Wheel RC Train, Spoked with Technic Axle Hole and Counterweight, 30 mm diameter (Blind Driver)
The set contains all of three minifigs. Overall, they're rather plain, and three's not huge number for a $100 set. A fireman would've been a good addition to this lineup, as would a conductor.
None of the minifigs are named, but seeing how important the engineer is, I think he deserves one. How about...Zorbas. Yeah, I like that! Zorbas wears a grey shirt and blue jeans with a red scarf and black hat. Not a bad outfit for him. Evidently, he got himself covered in enough ash to turn his entire torso grey.
The first of the passengers is a woman. She, too, sports printing-less clothing. Honestly, if TLG is going to make the minfigs so plain, I would've liked it if they had classic smiley faces. They'd look better than way, I think.
Look, this one has printing! He's wearing a jacket with the LEGO Trains logo on it. Perhaps he's the conductor? Or maybe another worker for the railroad. In any case, he's the best of the minifigs, in my opinion. In addition to the printing, he has Sand Blue legs and orange hair, akin to the hair the Weasley twins have in the Diagon Alley set.
So as I said, overall, the minifigs are pretty plain. I would like to see one more in a set of this price point as well. In reality, though, this set has so many great other pieces that the minifig lineup is forgivable.
And we're onto the build! It all starts with a gearbox inside the base of the locomotive that'll be attached to the rear set of driver wheels. It's good and solid, as any base should be.
Attached to that we've got the base of the cab:
Note the rows of jumper plates that'll allow us to make the cap 7-wide. The model does get a little fragile with this addition, though that'll be remedied soon. A temporary stand has also been added beneath the front of the base to make building easier if you're pressing down on the model on a table.
Then we bulk out the base:
To make installing PF elements easier, there's some tiling going on inside the boiler area. The gearbox is continued upward, and a temporary stand identical to the one on the front is attached to the back.
Next, we begin to build the core of the locomotive:
It's a row of bricks with studs on their sides for the Dark Green slopes to attach to. Some of the exterior details also cover up part of the cab and the pistons by this point.
With the core built, shaping can commence!
We see long strips of Dark Green cheese go on, as well as some black curves over the area the wheels will occupy. We also build and install the firebox.
Now we can start to flesh out the locomotive:
The first of those lovely slopes go on, as well as the cab windows and the dish on the front. The SNOT on the sides also serves to reinforce the model; it's quite solid now.
That in mind, the stands come off and more slopes go on:
The top portions are mostly finished now. The flex tubing has been added, which eases the transition between sets of slopes nicely.
The 4x4 hole in the top is now filled:
If you add PF to the set, this is where the IR receiver would sit, so its placeholder here lacks the printed slops and is partially made up of some of the pieces that would be used to mount the PF accessories.
Next, we add the driver wheels:
Again, paying special attention to how they're aligned. It's a little tricky getting the driving rods to line up, but nothing a builder with a little experience can't handle.
Then we've got to build the two other sets of smaller wheels to go on the bottom:
Despite the Technic piece you can see on the trailing truck, (on the right) neither can move vertically, only horizontally, so fans with layouts that include inclines will want to modify these.
Once those are added, the bottom is complete:
It looks good for the bottom of a model. On a lot of other sets, TLG neglects this area, but this set looks decent from this angle.
Now we can finish up the locomotive!
Just add the whistles, smokestack, and headlight, and this beauty is done! We've also reached the end of the first instruction booklet. Don't feel bad if you give in to the urge to test drive it before you build everything else - I certainly did.
As with the locomotive, the tender begins with a base. It's mostly basic plates and bricks, with a couple details thrown in. (specifically, the red light, some tiling and cheese, and a ladder on the back that you can't see right now)
With a small build like this, though, that quickly changes:
We cover nearly all the studs on the top in cheesy, tiled, sloped goodness. The two doors to allow minifigs to access the tender are added. Since the tender is used to hold the battery box if you add PF accessories, it remains empty. Those doors also provide an opening for PF wires to travel between the locomotive and tender.
Two identical sets of wheels are built to attach to the tender:
Unsurprisingly, these bogies make heavy use of specialized train parts, unlike the locomotive which used Technic to attach wheels and couplers. (not that that's something to complain about - the specialized metal axles run much smoother than the frictionless Technic pins)
The bogies attach to the bottom of the tender:
Once again, TLG hasn't neglected any details on the bottom portion. The finished tender, too, looks great from all angles.
As you've probably figured out, this model starts with a base, too. This one, too, is mostly stacked plates, though because it uses the prefab train base, it doesn't need as many. There're also some tiles where the doors will go.
With the base built, we can work on the interior:
There're two sets of tables and chairs, plus luggage containers and set of drawers. Support for the roof and the doors on the ends are also added.
After the interior is complete, it only makes sense that the exterior is added:
Ten large tan windows and four doors are added. Looking good so far! I love that the doors are brick-built, rather than prefab. TLG does too much prefab with details like that nowadays, in my opinion.
Flipping the model upside-down, we've got some bricks to add to the bottom:
Once again, simple, identical bogies for the coach. We've also got some detailing between them. TLG really did a great job overall with their work on the bottom of the set.
With the addition of the roof, the car, and with it, the set, is finished!
The roof is completely studless. Sleek, curved, and totally unlike what you see in some other sets.
And here are the extra pieces:
Some cheese, nice, some tiles, nice, a flame, nice, some studs and Technic pins, normal, an- wait. Those are extra train wheels. Not sure how these ended up in my set. They don't show up in the Bricklink inventory as extras. Oh well, I'm certainly not going to complain if TLG wants to give a new train fan an extra pair of wheels.
The Finished Model:
The finished model is a joy to behold. I've been looking at pictures of LEGO Train sets for a long time, and this is the most beautiful one I've looked at yet. It does look a little unusual, with only one coach to the locomotive, but another coach would've driven up the price. Though I must admit, with this being the only train I own so far, the locomotive looks better pulling nothing than pulling one coach. Better proportions. I'm no train expert, but the model appears to be inspired by the LNER Class A3 Pacific 4472 Flying Scotsman. I say 'inspired by', because it probably wasn't intended to be a replica, and I don't intend to judge it in that regard.
With that in mind, and because this set is so long, I've photographed the locomotive and tender together and the coach separately. Here's a three-quarters view:
If I had to pick one word to describe this set, it would be 'beautiful'. Maybe it's because I favor the studless look, but this model looks awesome compared to other, more studded sets. I do think it looks a little gappy up where the smokestack attaches to the boiler, but it's nothing some simple modding won't fix. Green wheels, or at least green bands on the drivers instead of red, would've been an improvement, but it's nothing major.
And a rear shot:
The tender does look a tad blocky at the section where it slopes down a brick, but it doesn't interrupt the general look of the train too much, so I'm okay with it. I think those tan frictionless Technic pins attaching some of the wheels of the locomotive stick out too much where color is concerned, though. Light Grey pins look only a little bit better. Black, of course, would be optimal, but since that's a color normally associated with the pins with friction, it's not something I can realistically nitpick on.
Here's a side view:
Again, especially from this view, the locomotive and tender look better without the coach, simply because there aren't enough coaches. Not that it doesn't look good with the coach, it just looks even better this way. There is the one space between the trailing truck's Technic connector and the bottom of the cab, which I think would've look better filled in. On a real locomotive, there are gaps where you can see from one side through to the other, but this gap is the only one in that area, not including the ones between the train and the track, and it's big enough to stick out if you're looking at that general area.
Next, head-on and rear views:
The pearl gold studs add a really nice touch to the head-on view. They prevent it from becoming one huge blob of black with a couple bits of Dark Green. In the rear view, you can clearly see the ladder on the tender I mentioned earlier. The tender doesn't have many details, so the addition of the ladder is crucial, especially for this view.
And now, some shots of the coach:
Despite how I keep saying the locomotive and tender look better without it, the coach is not at all a bad model. It's only a shame TLG didn't follow up with sets of individual, specialized coaches in this style.
Enough light is let in that the interior is clearly visible through the windows, which may be expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't appreciable here. The tan diamonds look terrific from this angle.
And views head-on and from the rear:
You can see right through to the other side, as there are no doors here. With the side doors in the same area, though, doors on the ends wouldn't be a simple addition, so I won't complain too much about it.
The Play Features:
The train is fully-functional on tracks, but I, unfortunately, can't test it because I don't own any track. On brick-built tracks, though, it runs smoothly on straightaways and curves, as far as I can tell. There are some other play features, though. In the engine, we've got the firebox, which can be removed by releasing latch accessible if the roof is removed. (that was designed to make adding the PF XL motor easier) The firebox has a clip to hold a shovel, as well as a door that can be closed.
There is but one play feature on the tender:
That being that the doors open and close. It doesn't matter much in the sets stock condition, but if you decide to fill the tender with black studs to simulate coal, it's convenient to be able to close the doors.
In the coach, we have the obvious feature, the interior:
As I said during the build, there're two sets of tables and chairs, some luggage compartments, and a set of drawers. It works well for me, not too crowded. Minifigs can also walk in the space between the tables and the windows on the left side.
We also have opening doors:
They open smoothly, better than I'd expected them to, considering their width. They look great both opened and closed, and there's sufficient space for a minifig to stand in the doorways. The handles do stick out too much, realistically, but that makes the doors easy to open, and really, that's just being nitpicky about minor things.
That's about it for the set, so on to the ratings!
Price/Piece Count: 18/20 The piece count is above the magical 10:1 parts per dollar ratio. I think the minifigs were a bit few for the price, especially considering they weren't extremely special minifigs, but with so many nice colors and varieties of bricks in here, that can't hold this set back from a good score.
Bricks: 20/20 Normally I don't like giving out such high numbers in succession, but with this set, it's inevitable. There were few, if any, poor parts choices, and a good amount of rarer parts. I like to reserve the use of the 20/20 rating for absolutely outstanding sets, and this is one. And it's not like those specialized train parts are easy to produce.
Build: 18/20 It was a great experience for me, a new train fan, to build this set, and the design was sleek and elegant. That's something I don't get very often in other themes I buy. A couple parts were a bit repetitive, and the instruction colors were hard to follow, but those are minor issues if you know what you're doing. The numbered bags helped a lot.
Minifigs: 15/20 These, I think, are definitely the set's weak point. At the very least, I would like to see a fireman added, and perhaps printing for the engineer's torso. But in all seriousness, when you get a set that so beautiful in other regards, I don't think it's fair to expect outstanding minifigs. And I was probably biased because I'm accustomed to the fancy minifigs in Star Wars sets, and there are other sets that have some simple minifigs.
Playability/Features: 19/20 Everything that should move does move, and moves perfectly for me. Some other members have reported problems with jamming, but since I'm reviewing this set without PF, I won't factor that into the score. I did subtract one point, though, for the lack of vertical movement in the locomotive trucks.
Grand Total: 90/100, or 90%. I tried to be critical. Honestly, I did. Some of you may have read my Star Wars reviews and know that I'm usually very critical. But it's impossible not to like this set.
As a D2C set, this set is one of those special ones that does so much right. The only way you can not love this set is if you totally hate LEGO trains, in which case you shouldn't be reading this review or considering buying the set anyways. When all's said and done, the Emerald Night is the first set to score 90% or more on my rating scale where a set get's an 'Outstanding' rating for scoring in the low eighties.
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Unless you hate LEGO Trains to a fault, also yes. Even for the LEGO fan who has no intention of ever buy any other Train set, this is still a beautiful display piece. The Emerald Night is to Train fans what the Battle of Endor was to Star Wars fans and what the Medieval Market Village was to Castle fans. They don't come along too often; best to grab one (or two or three or four) during the years they are.