I got this for my almost four year old son who loves trains and transportation in general. He has a wooden Chuggington set but not the die cast version so this was our first.
Out of the box it was easy to set up. A few minutes of putting pieces together and we were ready to go. At first glance, I thought "Well, this isn't going to last long." To me, it seemed like a very limited toy; there was only so much you can do with it. However my son's eyes lit up and he's been playing with it for a week now and hasn't gotten tired of it. I think the part that really tickles him is making the cones fly off when the train rushes by. We also discovered that you can make the turntable spin if you turn it a certain way. It's not reliable but when it works, Wilson zooms down with a whoosh, spins the sign, the cones fly off, then lands on the turn table which spins around crazily. He loves it!
I figured when he gets tired of it, we can put the track into the different configurations but so far, he hasn't gotten bored. He plays with it everyday and for extended periods so I'm impressed. We've gotten more play than I thought we would so definite thumbs up here.
Edit 10/27/2012: After playing a couple weeks, we finally decided to take the track apart and try the other configurations. Bad move. The other two configurations were poorly designed with the train falling off or not building up enough speed. We tried to design our own configuration but the downhill segments only turn one direction which severely limited what you could do. Had to take off a star for that.
My best friend's son is a brilliant 3 year old boy who loves trains. The minute he saw the box he was literally slack-jawed and almost shaking with excitement. As he watched (and tried to help) this giant train track being constructed, he could barely wait.
The original layout works the best and is the easiest to set up. Train track is sturdy and not prone to tipping or breaking. There are lots of sounds and lights to add interest, and the AA batteries are included in the package.
Everett is into speed, and this thing is fast! So fast that cones fly off the tracks and the turntable spins the train around. All he wanted to do was set that up over and over again.
I think this a toy that he can grow into, and as he learns to put things together and can create different tracks it will be even more fun.
We bought the original Chuggington Die Cast set right after it was introduced. That was the one with the tab like track that was very difficult to put together, even for me. Much less the children. They never played with the old set because it was so hard to do.
I'm really happy about the new style of track. This one is sort of hexagon shaped and it goes together much easier. The ends have circles on the sides, which match up to the circles on the trestles, making the track sturdier. The trestles also snap together. Because of that, my 2 year old had a little trouble putting it together, but the 6 year old didn't. He saw me put it together once and was very soon making his own layouts and moving parts like he had been playing with it for a while. Neither of us had trouble connecting the parts. I did notice (thank you Tomy!) that the parts are labeled on the bottom with the same letters that the instructions show. That's a cool touch.
This initial set is a nice size. I like that it is expandable, thanks to the roundhouse style turntable. The first time we sent Wilson down I didn't realize that he would trigger the turntable to spin! He kinda flew off! You have to set the turntable to the correct side of it for it to trigger, I think. There are 3 places for additional track to be connected off the turntable, so this can easily become a much larger set, once more is released (hint hint Tomy...).
The sounds from the Storm Maker are a little loud, so we covered the speaker with a piece of scotch tape and it's much better. It was funny to see my 2 year old jump when it made a sound a few seconds after we were playing with it! (Like a "hey don't forget to play with me" chime or something.) For that reason, make sure you turn the Storm Maker off when you're done playing!
The description says it has "exciting lights" and I have not found those at all. I see nothing that lights up, unless I'm just really missing it. It does not say in the description that there is a rolling stock car that comes with Wilson, but there is.
There is also an included adapter to connect this new style of track to the old. That will be handy for making larger sets since we do have a bit of the old track! I really hope that there will be adapters for sale when track packs come out so we can make a loop connecting the whole set.
Just a tip for set up...the instructions say to put the bumper part at the top (back of the Storm Maker) but we found that if you use the track indicated for "track to floor" in that space, it's much easier to load the train into the top for launching. A few squished fingers discovered this since we were trying to put Wilson in from the side and the 2 year old wanted to pull the lever before we were ready!
I liked that it had the batteries included as well. It was ready to go, out of the box, as soon as we could get it set up!
I have uploaded a picture so you can see a pretty good representation of how big the set is when finished.
My 4.5 year old saw the commercials and thought this was a cool set. While he has some other chuggington trains, we haven't invested in yet another track system. Therefore this is our only "Chuggington" track.
It was easy to put together and the tracks are very sturdy. The pieces are labelled and match the instructions. It's a bit hard for kids to snap the riser supports together, so they'll need some adult help with that. The batteries in my set for the sound were completely dead, but the sounds work fine once replaced.
The set works well, although the setup leaves fairly limited options on its own. Just running the trains down the tower gets old after a while. While there's alternate layouts, you can't take full advantage of the roundabout with just the pieces from this set. It's also hard to make a looping track as all the curves and ramps go the same direction.
It's not a bad set and is fun, but I think it would be better as an add-on rather than a child's main track.
CHUGGINGTON DIE CAST STORM MAKER comes in a huge box with a plastic window. Through the window you can see a train engine and a coal car. The box also has another window, where you can stick your finger and push a plastic button. When you push the button, you hear various sounds: electric transformer sound, flying saucer sound, raining sound, thunder, and lion roar. The engine and car have rubber bumpers that serve a couplers. The couplers are ball-and-cup couplers.
Please note that the product name is fraudulant. This product is not "die cast." Apparently, the goal of the manufacturer was to confuse customers into thinking that this product was like the metal die cast Thomas the Tank Engine products (this is a separate line than the wooden Thomas the Tank Engine products). Wikipedia provides separate definitions for "die cast," in general, and "die cast," in the context of toys. I have reproduced these definitions below. The name of this product is fraudulant. The CHUGGINGTON engines are plastic, and not metal.
"Die casting is a metal casting process that is characterized by forcing molten metal under high pressure into a mould cavity. The mold cavity is created using two hardened tool steel dies which have been machined into shape and work similarly to an injection mold during the process. Most die castings are made from non-ferrous metals, specifically zinc, copper, aluminium, magnesium, lead, pewter and tin based alloys. Depending on the type of metal being cast, a hot- or cold-chamber machine is used."
"The term die-cast toy here refers to any toy or collectible model produced by using the die casting method. The toys are made of metal, with plastic, rubber or glass details. Wholly plastic toys are made by a similar process of injection moulding, but the two are rarely confused. The metal used is either a lead alloy (in the first toys), or more commonly Zamak (or Mazak in the UK), an alloy of zinc with small quantities of aluminium and copper."
Anyway, inside the box of this fraudulant product, we also find about a dozen sturdy gray-colored plastic girders for building an elevated train track. There are also a dozen curved purple-colored tracks. In addition, there is a rotating roundhouse platform that is colored yellow, and the platform has a red gate that flips up and down. Upon opening up the box, one discovers that the sound-inducing button is part of a colorful penthouse that sits on top of a roller coaster. The colorful penthouse is red, yellow, blue, and turquoise. A poster in the box discloses that there are some 21 different engines, each with a different name. For example, there is an antique engined named OLD PUFFER PETE. There is a utility engined named CALLEY. There is a jet-propelled futuristic engine named ACTION CHUGGER. There is a shunting engine called DUNBAR. There are also some typical engines use for passenger trains, and these engines include SPEEDY McALLISTER, CHATSWORTH, and WILSON.
Obviously, this product was inspired by the highly successful Thomas the Tank Engine array of products. In my limited observation, it is inevitable that one or both parents will be purchasing several hundred pounds of plastic toys for their child, during the early years until the age of about eight. The CHUGGINGTON STORM MAKER is a better-than-average toy, in that it is colorful and sturdy, and because it has an array of intriguing components. However, this product does not have the heirloom quality that is found in the Thomas the Tank Engine toys, because of the following. The Thomas trains are actually made of wood (not plastic), the Thomas tracks (also wood) are grooved in order to produce a mechanical rumbling sound, and because the Thomas products, as designed, make no attempt at dazzling the consumer with glitzy details or with overwhelming color.
Please note that this CHUGGINGTON product has engines that are much smaller than the engines of a different CHUGGINGTON product (CHUGGINGTON WOODEN RAILWAY), and thus the consumer should not expect these two products to be compatible with each other.