Lego's latest super-expensive set seemingly came out of nowhere: the Disney Train and Station was announced earlier this month, and was made available to VIPs to buy last week. Everyone else can get their hands on it in September – but with a £300 price tag, is it worth scrambling for? Let's see, shall we?
Before I get into detail about what the set itself is like to build and look at, however, we need to discuss the elephant in the room: that price. For a 2,925 piece set, you'd be forgiven for thinking £299.99 is extortionate. And yes, it is a lot of money. It's the same price as the Disney Castle, which has an extra 1,000 pieces to it. And it's the same price as the Taj Mahal, which has twice as many pieces. So what exactly are you paying for?
Well, you're technically getting two models in one here: the train, and the station – both substantial builds in their own right. The Lego City Passenger Train, the motorised train that's currently available, is £120. Number of pieces? Just 677. The Disney train, in comparison, is much more intricate, with a decorative locomotive pulling a tender and two sizeable passenger cars. The Passenger Train isn't as big nor is it as intricately designed. The motors included in the Disney Train can be bought separately, and the two necessary bits cost £58 alone.
Then there's the station, which even without a train running around it, is a fantastic looking building. It packs in a lot of detail, from the impressive clock tower to the intricate decoration running around the edge of the roof. I'm not exactly sure how many bricks are in each part of the build, but there's likely more bricks in the station than the train, so let's assume around 1,800. That puts it close to being on par with a Creator Expert 'modular' build, which tend to be priced around £140-£160.
Sure, there's also the fact that we're probably paying a bit of "Disney tax" here, as we do with the majority of Lego's licensed stuff. But you are getting your money's worth with everything that's included in the set. I guess it's just up to you if you think it's personally worth that much of your hard-earned cash.
Seeing as the Disney Train and Station is split over four instruction books, it's an ideal model to build with someone else. One book accounts for the station while three make up the train – one for the locomotive, one for the tender and the passenger carriage, and a third for the "parlour car": the second passenger carriage that's basically a little tea room. It's cute. But we'll get to that.
Despite this being a "12+" set rather than an Expert set, the build itself isn't really any less intricate. Each instruction page may place slightly less bricks on the whole, but there are still plenty of really fiddly bits that younger builders will likely struggle with – especially in the locomotive section of the train. Being as intricate as it is, there are lots of small pieces to go together in order to get the pivot of the train and the wheels working as they should. To say it's not so big, it's probably the most time-consuming part of the entire building process – but it's worth it, considering how nice it looks once it's put together.
The station building has a few tedious bits to get through – not least the 30-odd pairs of "handcuffs" that make up the intricate decoration that runs around the edge of the roof. It works to great effect, though, even if it does get a little fiddly to build. The windows of the upper levels of the station are great, and use bricks in a very clever way in order to create the sloping roof above each of them. It's always nice to see innovative ways of combining pieces that you've never really come across before.
However, the downside to the Disney Train and Station is the fact that it uses so many goddamn stickers. Three sticker sheets in total, covering everything from the sides of the train carriages to the signage and decoration of the station. While I don't so much take offence at the set's £300 price tag, I do think that sets this expensive should utilise more printed bricks. You're paying a premium price for a premium project, but poorly placed stickers can turn an expensive-looking set into a child's cheap plaything. Several of them are really small, too – a couple on the train are the size of a single brick – which makes them extra fiddly to place well.
All stickers, with the same amount on the other side of the carriage, too.
It's frustrating, because there are a couple of nice printed bricks in the set. Luckily, the clock on the station's tower is printed, as are a couple of pieces inside the station: another clock, and a teeny tiny replica of the Lego Disney Castle Box. It's a fun touch, but it's one that doesn't really add much to the build, so why not include a more important printed brick instead - such as the sign on the station?
More stickers - apart form the clock, for whatever reason.
It's a nice printed brick, but wholly unnecessary.
It's hard to know exactly who the Lego Disney Train and Station is for. On the one hand, it's a motorised toy train, with an open-backed station ideal for a child's playset. On the other hand, it's £300. I'm not a parent myself but I'd wager few are willing to chuck down £300 on one toy their kids will probably get bored of playing with in a week or two. My parents certainly wouldn't have when I was a young 'un!
I have to assume, then, that the majority of people purchasing the Disney Train and Station are going to be adult collectors, like myself, Disney enthusiasts or train enthusiasts. I suppose if you've been to Disneyland and seen the real-life station and train you're likely to have some kind of nostalgic feels towards it, somewhat clouding your judgement as to whether this thing is worth dropping a week's wages on.
I haven't seen the real-life station, so I have no sentimental feeling towards the set – but as a display piece, there's no denying it's stunning. It's kind of a shame the back of the station is open like a playset - it somewhat cheapens it; had this been an 'Expert' set truly aimed at adult collectors it'd have likely been a complete building, much like the modular sets. But if you're putting this on a shelf, just looking at the station from the front, it doesn't really matter. It packs in a hell of a lot of detail and, providing you've not messed up the stickers, it's a very impressive-looking building.
The interior is a little disappointing, however. Exposed studded floors (rather than smooth tiles laid down that we see in a lot of Expert sets) emphasis the fact that this is, indeed, a playset rather than a display piece. There's a few nice details on the inside, such as the ticket desk and the ornate red curtains complete with stickered pelmets, but to me the bare studs just make the whole thing look unfinished.
It is, however, nice to see so many of the 'brick effect' pieces being used to create the outer walls for the station. They really do help to bring a building to life, in my opinion. Together with the edging added to the corners of the building and the pillars and detailing added around the windows, it makes for a stunning building.
Please enjoy my ever-so-slightly wonky stickerwork.
And then we have the train. In terms of its design, the train resembles the Winter Holiday Train that released a few years ago. This was sold without a motor, however - although instructions were included to add one in. As such, there's an almost Christmassy vibe to the Disney Train, which is bigger and more detailed than the similar-looking Winter Holiday Train.
Once it's built and you've powered up the motor by sticking 6 AAA batteries in it (not included, by the way), you can download the 'Powered Up' app on your smartphone and connect the two together in order to control the train. There's a bunch of different speed settings – it does go up quite fast and if your track is on a smooth surface, making the train go full pelt will send the track hurtling across your floor/table/wherever it is. Around 50 per cent speed seems to be a nice setting to enjoy the train going around.
The different carriages are a nice touch. The passenger trolley with its blue and white stripes is eye catching, but the ornately-decorated parlour car is perhaps my favourite (despite all its stickers). The side of the carriage lifts away, revealing the fancy chairs and tea set inside.
The set comes with five minifigures: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Chip, and Dale. Like all Disney minifigs, they come with oversized moulded heads, but they're all very pleasant to look at. They're all unique, too, which is a great touch.
We've seen a number of Mickey and Minnie minifigs before – in the Disney Minifigure series, in the Disney Castle, and most recently in the Lego Ideas Steamboat Willie set. But here, Micky is dressed in a train driver's outfit – denim overalls and a red neckerchief. Minnie is similar to how she appears in the Disney Castle, dressed in a red polkadot dress, but there are some key differences. This time, her skirt is made of material rather than being moulded, and the top half of her outfit is solid red, rather than dotted. Chip and Dale have appeared in the Disney series minifig bags, but here they are dressed as train attendants. And it's the first time we've seen Goofy in minifig form, which is always nice. No doubt he's now moulded we'll see him pop up elsewhere, though.
There's no denying that the Lego Disney Train and Station is impressive – but it's not perfect. Its price tag makes it a hard sell for a lot of people, and the extreme amount of stickers cheapen what should otherwise be a premium build. But if you can stump up £300, you are getting your money's worth in terms of what's included in the set. Whether you're using it as a playset or a display piece, there's enough here to suit both needs. If you've already got a few Lego trains set up, the Disney Train adds a splash of colour and character to a railway network. And the station is by far the most ornate Lego train station we've seen so far, and will add a fantastic model to any display.
Again, I think the target audience for this set is a little confusing: its theme is going to appeal to kids, but its price tag certainly puts it in the avid collectors zone. That said, my almost-three-year-old nephew adored watching the train go round – but it's not one I'd let kids play with unsupervised. Build it, enjoy it, then put it proudly on display – ideally behind protective glass.
The Lego Disney Train and Station is available now for Lego VIP members and will be available on 1st September for everyone else.