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71044 Disney Train and Station

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@legoman666 - Sorry for the necro here... any chance you have, or can create, a sticker sheet for the EP Ripley version?

Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

So, having been away from LEGO last year, I got this set on BF (so 30% off, which actually made it worth, IMO); I would not consider full price for most of what TLG has been releasing lately.

I was really impressed, overall, with the build, but realize they are never going to make everybody happy.  The world is full of compromises.  The 8 wide didn't work on my Winter Village (built for Christmas, after all) without modifying the station and the crossing, but it was hardly a big deal.

The new train wheels... well, I had a problem with 2 of the 10 new wheel holders, they were mismolded and bowed inward, so I couldn't fit any 2x parts on top, but the wheels were OK; it's not terrible how the new wheels run, but I suppose running for lengths of time (for a Train LUG, or around a tree, for example) could be problematic.  Since I didn't want to wait for replacement parts, I used a couple of old wheel sets that fit just fine.  If you got this set because you're a train fan, they are easy enough to replace (although paying for parts you don't use is not an easy pill to swallow).  I would say, in all my years, I never had a problem with previous wheel holders.

If I had one complain it's with PU and the Hub.  Using it for just a couple of minutes at a time (showing the wife, then each kid as they came around), I feel like the first set of batteries couldn't have lasted more than 1/2 an hour.  The second set even less.  I've since got rechargeables, but never had an issue with the AAA PF box, so was very disappointed that TLG claimed battery life would be similar to PF.  Additionally, I watched their rigged video with the train wheels, too; I know they are a profit driven company, but so far they've been one of the good ones, and while I can see them changing things to cut costs, I wish they would be honest about it.

Ultimately, it's more of a display piece for me.  I may even take the hub and motor out for other things (they are expensive!)  I was very excited about PU, even buying an extra hub and motor, but now I'm not sure about it.  I think sbrick might be a better alternative, and may even retrofit this train with sbrick and PF to see if it lasts longer, just as an experiment.

I did do one thing that I think is really awesome - I used the light sensor from the Boost set (which I spent very little time playing with - I only got it at the TRU closings), and was able to make a little program to run the train around the track a random number (small random number, though) of time and stop at the station for a while, and then repeat.  Kind of neat.

Enough about PU; the station is really a nice build, too, but I do wish we had more complete buildings.  Then again, I'm an adult, and want things for display and not play (well... I like running the trains).  Don't mind the figures, don't love Disney but understand the set wouldn't exist otherwise.  Mom is a big Disney fan... but I have a mental problem that won't allow me to give parts of a set away such that what I have is incomplete.  I can add to a set, but not really remove from it (unless I have multiples, which really isn't an option here).

The mini trains in the station are really neat two... definitely inspiration for a microbuild.

 

Edited by fred67

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10 hours ago, fred67 said:

I did do one thing that I think is really awesome - I used the light sensor from the Boost set (which I spent very little time playing with - I only got it at the TRU closings), and was able to make a little program to run the train around the track a random number (small random number, though) of time and stop at the station for a while, and then repeat.  Kind of neat.

If I may ask, how did you go about mounting the sensor? Were you able to hide it?

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16 hours ago, Fingolfin said:

If I may ask, how did you go about mounting the sensor? Were you able to hide it?

Ahhh.... no... I was more interested in "could I" and figuring out the programming than making it look pretty.  I just attached it to the top of the tender and built a solid yellow wall.

I suppose if I was doing it "for real," I'd aim it down and put color coding on the track.  It's not something I really need for the Disney Train; if I was in a Train LUG and was doing a Disney section, I might try it.  I was really just excited for my first PU train, and the programming possibilities.

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On 1/7/2020 at 4:11 PM, fred67 said:

 If I had one complain it's with PU and the Hub.  Using it for just a couple of minutes at a time (showing the wife, then each kid as they came around), I feel like the first set of batteries couldn't have lasted more than 1/2 an hour.  The second set even less.  I've since got rechargeables, but never had an issue with the AAA PF box, so was very disappointed that TLG claimed battery life would be similar to PF.

I'm not sure why your having this issue.  I run the same batteries for 8hrs and still have some left the next day.  I only buy the Energizer Lithium ... They are a little more costly buy but the run time is well worth it.  I have the same AA batteries in my PF air compressor that have been in all year with no issues.  The AAA I can run the train all day (with it not taking breaks) and still run half the day the next day before needing to change batteries.  I do it daily though because I don't like changing batteries mid show.

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On January 7, 2020 at 4:11 PM, fred67 said:

If I had one complain it's with PU and the Hub.  Using it for just a couple of minutes at a time (showing the wife, then each kid as they came around), I feel like the first set of batteries couldn't have lasted more than 1/2 an hour.  The second set even less.  I've since got rechargeables, but never had an issue with the AAA PF box, so was very disappointed that TLG claimed battery life would be similar to PF.  

For the purposes of simply running a motor, sure, I'm willing to believe that PU is similar to PF (assuming they had a simple battery box with an on/off switch).  I'll also accept the argument that driving the motors is probably the biggest drain on the battery pack.  However, I'm still skeptical about claims that the overall system is as battery friendly as PF was.

The old PF system used Infrared (IR) to transmit half-duplex (one-way) commands to the receiver.  That technology uses extremely little power when passive/sleeping (waiting for a command to come in) and even its peak draw (changing state in response to an input) is pretty low.  

The new PU system uses Bluetooth which has all sorts of interesting features that are hard/near impossible to mimic using simple IR schemes, but those features come at a price from both a complexity and a power consumption perspective.  Peak energy consumption for bluetooth receivers is about 3x that of most IR based receivers.  There is a relative new low power variation on Bluetooth that trades off various features in the name of longer battery life and less heat generation (I don't know which standard PU is using, let's give them benefit of the doubt and say they've embraced the low power version), _peak_ power consumption for this guy is only 30% higher than IR peak on average.  So even if you're using the 'low power' flavor of Bluetooth, you'd expect, all other factors being equal, that your batteries would only last for two thirds as long.  

Trouble is, all other factors aren't equal, IR receivers are usually passive devices that sit around waiting for a signal that it's time to change state.  Bluetooth devices are actively managed, master-slave pico-networks with registration, authentication and polling happening at regular intervals whether there's been new input or not.  In short, the IR receiver on a PF scheme consumes appreciable power when you press a button on a remote.  The PU Hub consumes power at least every 100 ms so long as it's turned on, that power has to come from somewhere.  Unless you're issuing 10 commands a second (well, actually 13 to cover the difference in IR v. BT peak consumption) every second the train is running, the Bluetooth hub is going to draw noticeably more power.

I understand why TLG decided to support Bluetooth (personally I don't agree with that goal - no Lego box should every bear the phrase "requires smart device - not included" - but that's a different story) but for something like a train controller, they need a simple PU compatible IR-based remote (ditch the Bluetooth, ditch the app - or at least make them completely optional).  In the mean time (which is parent-speak for: "my daughter begged me to get this set and I caved, but I'll be damned if I'm going to mix smart phone apps and Lego..."), I suspect I'll be redesigning the tender to use all PF stuff and just throw the PU junk in a drawer.

 

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I feel like my issue may have just been repeatedly connecting - I'd only run for a minute or two at a time.  Don't know.  Could be cheap batteries.  Like I said, I got rechargeables, but I'd never experienced anything like it from LEGO.

I did read reviews of the train that complained about battery life, but nothing on the order that I experienced it.

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4 hours ago, ShaydDeGrai said:

In the mean time (which is parent-speak for: "my daughter begged me to get this set and I caved, but I'll be damned if I'm going to mix smart phone apps and Lego..."), I suspect I'll be redesigning the tender to use all PF stuff and just throw the PU junk in a drawer.

FYI no phone needed for PU 

https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=bb0895c01&C=1#T=C&C=1

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17 hours ago, ShaydDeGrai said:

For the purposes of simply running a motor, sure, I'm willing to believe that PU is similar to PF (assuming they had a simple battery box with an on/off switch).  I'll also accept the argument that driving the motors is probably the biggest drain on the battery pack.  However, I'm still skeptical about claims that the overall system is as battery friendly as PF was.

The old PF system used Infrared (IR) to transmit half-duplex (one-way) commands to the receiver.  That technology uses extremely little power when passive/sleeping (waiting for a command to come in) and even its peak draw (changing state in response to an input) is pretty low.  

The new PU system uses Bluetooth which has all sorts of interesting features that are hard/near impossible to mimic using simple IR schemes, but those features come at a price from both a complexity and a power consumption perspective.  Peak energy consumption for bluetooth receivers is about 3x that of most IR based receivers.  There is a relative new low power variation on Bluetooth that trades off various features in the name of longer battery life and less heat generation (I don't know which standard PU is using, let's give them benefit of the doubt and say they've embraced the low power version), _peak_ power consumption for this guy is only 30% higher than IR peak on average.  So even if you're using the 'low power' flavor of Bluetooth, you'd expect, all other factors being equal, that your batteries would only last for two thirds as long.  

Trouble is, all other factors aren't equal, IR receivers are usually passive devices that sit around waiting for a signal that it's time to change state.  Bluetooth devices are actively managed, master-slave pico-networks with registration, authentication and polling happening at regular intervals whether there's been new input or not.  In short, the IR receiver on a PF scheme consumes appreciable power when you press a button on a remote.  The PU Hub consumes power at least every 100 ms so long as it's turned on, that power has to come from somewhere.  Unless you're issuing 10 commands a second (well, actually 13 to cover the difference in IR v. BT peak consumption) every second the train is running, the Bluetooth hub is going to draw noticeably more power.

I understand why TLG decided to support Bluetooth (personally I don't agree with that goal - no Lego box should every bear the phrase "requires smart device - not included" - but that's a different story) but for something like a train controller, they need a simple PU compatible IR-based remote (ditch the Bluetooth, ditch the app - or at least make them completely optional).  In the mean time (which is parent-speak for: "my daughter begged me to get this set and I caved, but I'll be damned if I'm going to mix smart phone apps and Lego..."), I suspect I'll be redesigning the tender to use all PF stuff and just throw the PU junk in a drawer.

 

Powered Up uses Bluetooth 4.X LE (Low Energy), so it's the power saving variant. Of course it needs a bit more energy, but on the other hand you can do much more with it. Also, many people complained about the disadvantages of IR (line of sight, problems in sunlight, not safe for exhibitions etc). Also, there is a remote for the hub v4 (the one included in the trains) that doesn't need a phone.

I can't confirm claims of batteries lasting only half an hour.

 

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On January 10, 2020 at 7:34 PM, Roadmonkeytj said:

Thanks for the pointer.  I'd prefer an IR based device but at least for the purposes of not having my daughter mix "Lego time" with "Screen time" this is a start.

I realize that IR has its drawbacks, but from my experience most of those were non-issues.  My Lego stays inside so bright sunlight/light pollution isn't an issue; line-of-sight issues can be overcome with strategic positioning of reflective surfaces; and, restricting LOS angles with IR absorbing surfaces can actually be used as an advantage at shows to prevent obnoxious kids with IR remotes from screwing with your set-up covertly (though for shows, I still think 9V is the best option - but that's a different soapbox).

Bluetooth, on the other hand, hasn't worked properly for me in a decade.  It's sort of like that secluded vacation spot where you used to have the beach nearly all to yourself and then it gets a great writeup in national media about what an unknown gem it is and the next time you go back, the beach is so crowded you can't even see the water let alone spread out a blanket.  My bluetooth stuff malfunctions/drops connections on a regular basis.  I got a bit frustrated dealing with my wife's new ear buds so I borrowed a sniffer from work and at peak it detected over 300 active bluetooth devices within a 100m radius (only about a dozen or so were mine - the rest was just backscatter from a sea of mice, keyboards, speakers, fitness trackers, remotes, game controllers, toys and other such belonging to my neighbors.  If you live in a densely settled area where everyone's alarm clock needs to talk to their coffee maker to tell it when to start brewing, Bluetooth signals become the electronic equivalent of dust bunnies under the bed. 

And while I'm ranting :wink: I'll just say that for the price of the Disney Train, a simple remote should come _in the box_.  I'm okay with a box that says something along the lines of "Downloadable App available for additional play features (Smart Device not included)" but having a big flagship Lego model declare "Smart Device required but not included" right on the box in bright yellow friendly letters as if this requirement were a marketing feature, sets the wrong tone. 

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1 hour ago, ShaydDeGrai said:

Bluetooth, on the other hand, hasn't worked properly for me in a decade.  It's sort of like that secluded vacation spot where you used to have the beach nearly all to yourself and then it gets a great writeup in national media about what an unknown gem it is and the next time you go back, the beach is so crowded you can't even see the water let alone spread out a blanket.  My bluetooth stuff malfunctions/drops connections on a regular basis.  I got a bit frustrated dealing with my wife's new ear buds so I borrowed a sniffer from work and at peak it detected over 300 active bluetooth devices within a 100m radius (only about a dozen or so were mine - the rest was just backscatter from a sea of mice, keyboards, speakers, fitness trackers, remotes, game controllers, toys and other such belonging to my neighbors.  If you live in a densely settled area where everyone's alarm clock needs to talk to their coffee maker to tell it when to start brewing, Bluetooth signals become the electronic equivalent of dust bunnies under the bed.

Normal bluetooth, especially with lego products (mindstorms) has been very unrelieable, yes. But for me BLE works well with the hubs. You can do much more with a 2 way communication.

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1 minute ago, Tcm0 said:

(... snip ...) You can do much more with a 2 way communication.

Very true, and I don't begrudge them for having such an option for things like building robots.  I think where the new PU system falls flat however (aside from TLG's questionable software record in general) is that they spent so much time and effort in making the hard/fringe cases possible, they forgot to make the common cases simple and straight-forward.  One of the basic design tenets we used to beat students over the head with was "Don't paint yourself into a corner, but never make the average user pay for features they'll never use."   It seems with the PU roll-out they jumped straight into the specialty Boost/Mindstorms sort of use cases and are amortizing the R&D expense by retrofitting it into a full PF replacement in more mainstream models from the top down.  Much of what people (historically) have used PF for can be accomplished with a simple on/off battery box or trivial half-dulplex remote where simplicity and battery life are far more important than two-way communication, connectivity with smart devices or even programability in the first place.  I assume we'll eventually get a "dumb" battery box, but I'm skeptical we'll ever get a non-Bluetooth, non-App, simple half-duplex control system like we have with PF and that's a shame because there's is value in simplicity (remember - from a UI standpoint, Google was built around a text box and a couple of buttons and look where that got them).

If I were still teaching a robots class, I'd be all over the new hubs and software,  but in general, when I think about how I personally use PF today, PU is like using a CNC machine when all you really need is a hand drill.

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@ShaydDeGrai I agree with you. I think PU could be really cool with the right application.  But for running a train around a simple loop of track, the capability is way over-kill. I am looking forward to experimenting with its advanced features but without an application its difficult to conjure a use for it. 

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