New IR Train Set Reviewed

LEGO is coming out with a new line of battery-powered, infrared (IR) remote controlled trains this year, and Larry Pieniazek has written a review. There’s a long discussion thread on LUGNET about it here (use this link to see the full text of all replies on one page).

UPDATE: The other new set in the IR trains line, a cargo train, has been reviewed by Steve Barile. The LUGNET thread is here (full text).

Like a lot of people who have heard about these new sets, I have mixed feelings. I’m really concerned about the move away from powered track, and worried about losing the existing train system (which LEGO continues to sell for the moment as the “Hobby Train” line, but may discontinue next year if sales aren’t good – see Save 9V Trains for details). But this may be what LEGO needs to do in order to sell more trains to kids at a more reasonable price point than the current system. And I’m excited by the way the new motors have wheels that are removable, connected by Technic axles instead of permanently fixed to the power brick.

As for the BayLTC train shows, the loss of powered track would be a blow. Though we do collectively have a pretty good-sized collection of powered track, the prospect of losing our source is not comforting. And of course, one of the nice things about doing LEGO train layouts is that we can tell people where they can get the product. If they discontinue the powered rail, we won’t be able to do that. And we can’t really switch to the new system: for one thing, it “times out” if it is left running for very long (I haven’t seen a report of exactly how long) so we’d have to keep using the remotes to keep them running. And for another, the reports are that the new motors are not very strong. Our current layouts often feature very long trains pulled by several motors at once, but apparently the new system has trouble with only three cars. However, I suppose the remote control units could be useful in the yard for switching – using powered rail, it’s awkward to ensure that only one yard track has power if there are other locomotives parked there.

I think the best scenario is for LEGO to continue making and selling both lines of trains. I urge everyone to continue buying the old 9V system to send a message to LEGO that they shouldn’t discontinue it. And try the new system – it could be fun too.[tags]lego,trains,ir,9v[/tags]