The Bottom Line
- Kids love the familiar Thomas the Tank Engine characters.
- It's nice to have a ready-made track assembly.
- Roundabout comes with two must-have "male to male" track adapters, though they are plastic.
- Solid layouts can be played with on the floor and easily moved.
- Portions of the set are plastic so it loses some of the charm of the wooden sets.
- Another version of Thomas trains could be confusing to shoppers.
- Cargo turnstile doesn't work with Thomas Wooden Railway trains.
- Chunkier trains are designed for toddlers to grip.
- Tracks are compatible with Thomas Wooden Railway trains.
- Props like trees and buildings fit into a base so they don't fall over.
- Solid layouts don't come apart and can be played with on the floor.
Guide Review - Thomas the Tank Engine Early Engineers
Thomas Wooden Railway Early Engineers Series is a new line of Thomas the Tank Engine toys for toddlers. Now, I should be up front and tell you that I have two male preschoolers in my house, so Thomas the Tank Engine is practically a member of the family. I've become (much to my friends' dismay) very talented at designing and building elaborate train layouts on our train table and my kids will play with Thomas for hours at a time.
The Early Engineers Series is designed for the smallest toddlers (18 months and up) to get an early start. The props in the Roundabout Station Set I reviewed include a circular track, a station, a tree, a gate and a turnstile for cargo. The track is fixed in a circle and the other toys all fit into holes in the base. This keeps them from falling over and makes it extremely easy to set up. The sets link together easily and kids can play with them on the floor.
The Early Engineers trains are fatter and chunkier than the traditional ones, with larger wheels to help them stay on the tracks. The manufacturer says the bigger size is for better gripping for the littlest toddlers, but I've never seen a little one have trouble with the Thomas Wooden Railway cars and engines. They don't have small pieces and if you ever wonder about 'gripability,' try prying one out of an 18-month-old's clammy little hand! Currently nine cars are available in the Early Engineers style.
One complaint I have with the Thomas train toys is that there are several different series, some with plastic tracks and others with motors, that aren't compatible. This is probably because the original Thomas content has been licensed to several toy companies, so they don't all work together. This means that Aunt Jenny can give your child a darling train that doesn't fit the tracks in the playroom. She's very thoughtful, but now my kid is sleeping with Horatio the Horse Trailer and I can't exchange it.
In my experience, 2-2 1/2-year-olds can play with the Thomas Wooden Railway sets independently, so this set (geared to 18-month-olds) can add up to a year to the Thomas obsession. Six months to a year later, though, this functionality is no longer needed.
The new Early Engineers Series does work with our other Thomas the Tank Engine sets. The tracks fit together nicely and all the trains run on the tracks. The only problem I had was that the turnstile-like cargo accessory derailed a train of mixed cars.
One huge bonus is the two male-to-male connectors included in the Roundabout set. If you're a rookie track builder, these little gizmos are golden. I just wish they were made of wood. The blue plastic looks cheesy.