Monday, 3 September 2012

Blue Mountain Mystery Screening Summary

Well, three days ago I went to London with the family (I can't drive so they had to take me) to see  Blue Mountain Mystery with some friends from YouTube including TRI3, DieselFan50, ThomasFan8 and CH01.  The hotel was nice, though quite plain.  Then again, when you go to a Travelodge you don't expect luxury really :P. 

On the Saturday we all (me and the family) set off to Westfield Stratford City, home of the Vue where we'd be seeing the special.   We set off at 8:20am, which was good as we soon got lost (I live around 3 hours away from London so it's hard to find our way around, especially since I rarely go there XD).

Eventually though, we got there, but were told we couldn't park IN the shopping centre as they were during the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics.  After a bit of negotiating with a kind security guard, we pulled up in a layby and I was allowed to get out and head to the cinema.  With the help of other guards (and about three elevators XD), I managed to get to the second floor, where the cinema was just in time.

After another elevator ride, I booked my ticket and was taken, by the manager and with DF50 with me, to ANOTHER elevator to a "special" floor which turned out to be the VIP seats (I'd only paid for a normal seat at the front row with the rest of the group :P).  The seat was great.  I would've loved to have been closer to the group, but I could see all the screen so I didn't complain much.

25 minutes of adverts later and the film started.  An hour later, it was all over, and I thought it was awesome!  I won't say much though, so that I don't spoil Thursday's review.  After going back down the elevator, I met up with everyone else, and it took a while to decide that we would go and have lunch at KFC (which tasted like rubber to be honest :P).

Soon after, 8 members of the group took the tube to Leicester Square, while I left for a taxi.  Because things were a bit rushed, DF50 and TRI joined me in the taxi to Charing Cross.  Sadly though, when we got to the Vue in Leicester Square for a goody bag, they'd all gone (or so the Vue staff said...).  After a few hours trying to get one, we gave it up and went to Hamley's (after scanning through HMV).

It was warm, stuffy and very uncomfortable in there.  To make matters worse, myself and TRI had to wait ages because some lazy buggers couldn't be bothered to even look for the stairs, let alone climb 'em.  Finally though, we got to the 4th floor and regrouped with everyone.

On the 4th floor there was a HUGE range of Hornby stock, including Thomas stuff.  There wasn't much I wanted from there, except for these two:

Taken from my hotel room on Saturday night
Yep, Spencer's coaches!  Sure, I could've got them cheaper online (I paid £20 for each coach), but the memories that come with them mean more than money.  After I bought these, we headed out of the shop and pretty much went our own ways: I caught a taxi and headed back to the hotel (I didn't really want my dad to get lost in London again so I thought to be driven by someone who knows where they're going :P).  The next day, I headed home.

I can honestly say, despite most of the day fighting Vue for goody bags, that Saturday was the best day of my life, to know I'd finally found some friends that wanted to spend time with me and were concerned about my safety.  Not even my REAL friends do that...  Thanks to everyone who went for such a terrific day, especially DF50 and TRI3 for being the most helpful and seeing me off in the taxi to the hotel.  It really meant a lot to me, and I really hope we can all do it again next year!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hornby's Spencer (Limited Production)

Well, I did it.  After months of anticipation and excitement I've FINALLY managed to get my hands on a Hornby Spencer!  And here is my review.

First Thoughts
In 2008, Hornby first released Spencer (as well as products to tie in with The Great Discovery).  I didn't really think much of it back then as, like most fans, I was so absorbed with the quality of Bachmann's models.  Two years later, he was discontinued, and again I wasn't too bothered as I'd set my sights on Bachmann's version.

Then, in 2011, I saw one video that changed my mindset completely:
With Simierski's Hornby vs Bachmann review my eyes were opened, and I saw that the Bachmann version was actually quite poor in quality (but extremely accurate to the TV series model), while Hornby's was absolutely stunning, despite the black wheels.  Simon posted a link in the video for fans to ask Hornby to bring it back.  Myself, and others, spoke out and they listened.

A few days in to 2012, Hornby announced which models they would release this year.  But for their Thomas and Friends range, things were actually quite dull.  There were three new truck packs, a set with no real "wow" factor to it and Spencer's coaches.  There were only two engines: both re-releases, with only 1,000 being produced.  One was Stepney (which I won't be getting as I already have him from when he was first released).  I was extemely excited for Spencer - and his coaches - and I couldn't wait to get them.  The coaches I'll be getting soon, and Spencer I got on Saturday (August 11th).

What You Get
My own Spencer!

The model comes in the usual blue Thomas and Friends packaging with a yellow border.  The franchise's logo is in the top corner while next to it is Hornby's logo.  Underneath, there's a yellow "sign" with the word "Locomotive" on it.  Again, I think the model's name should be on that yellow strip, but because of Spencer's bold nameplate it's not much of a problem.  The only real difference is on the right side.  Placed over the packaging is a special piece of blue card, with the same CG Thomas image on the usual Hornby packaging.  Above it are the words "Limited Production, 1000".  While this is a good idea, as it shows that the model is more special, I do think the "Limited Production" could be a bit larger, with the age rating on another part of the packaging.  There's a lot of room for it.  This piece of card DOES come off by removing the piece of sticky tape, but I'd rather keep it there.

The box opens with little flaps at each end of the box.  Once out, the model comes in a robust polystyrene tray and plastic inserts.  It also comes with a set of instructions so that the modeller can keep the model well maintained.

The Model
Spencer shining in the sun

Like Murdoch, when Spencer is out of the box, you can see the stunning amount of detail on this model.  The silvery grey livery is crisply applied.  The buffers are brilliant and, like Murdoch, front and rear buffers are sprung.

The face on the model is fantastic, as good as Murdoch's and better than Bachmann's, despite the lack of a moving eye mechanism, and despite the fact it sticks out a bit at the top to make the model seem like it's looking ahead rather than looking up to the sky.  There's also a vacuum (brake) pipe between the buffers.  Strangely, however, there's no front coupling, a first for the Hornby Thomas and Friends range.  And since there's no dummy coupling (like the Bachmann models have) on the model, there's no way for Spencer to pull trains backwards.  But since many fans usually have tender engines travelling forwards, and the fact that James' coupling made him look odd, I don't really mind this much.  And considering other A4 Pacifics in Hornby's ranges have no front coupling either it's not really surprising either.

The valve gear is stunning, as good as Murdoch's and a lot better than Bachmann's.  It also puts Percy's, Bill's and Ben's valve gears to shame.  The fabulous nameplates also put Murdoch's to shame.  And this is from a model that's FOUR YEARS OLD (despite it being brought back this year).  Which begs the question: if they could put this much effort into a nameplate in 2007/08, why couldn't they have done it in 2010/11 for Murdoch?

Like the one released previously, the 2012 re-release uses the double chimney (funnel) A4 rather than the single.  This doesn't bother me at all, as it just adds to the detail in my opinion.  The top of the boiler and the firebox look great as well.  One disappointment is the handrail is black, rather than silver.  It sticks out against the silvery grey of the boiler, but is camouflaged against the black smokebox.

The cab is absolutely brilliant.  Say what you want about Hornby's models, but you CANNOT deny that the detailing in their cabs (whether the models be goood or bad) has always been top notch (except Bill and Ben, who didn't really have one), while the Bachmann counterparts HAVE no cabs as such, just blocks of plain disappointment (even Donald and Douglas' cabs are non-existent).  The tender coupling also seems a lot sturdier than Bachmann's if you ask me.

The major drawback that fans have with this model has is the black wheels rather than grey.  I, however, don't mind the wheels.  Every real A4 Pacific, other than Mallard from what I can recall, have black wheels and they are perfectly fine.  What's so wrong with Thomas' A4 having the same trait has his siblings?

The tender is also very detailed, the coal especially.  It almost looks real, it's that good.  The black lining is applied perfectly, as is the silvery grey livery, although this does not extend to the top of the tender, which is all black.  Also painted black is the handrail and the wheels.  A pity, but I wasn't really put off by these issues.  Other fans might, though.

 The front of the tender has fantastic detail as well.  Brake handles are present, as is a ladder for the driver/fireman to reach the water tank at the rear.

The rear is great too, but again handrails are painted black, as is the corridor compartment which is also silvery grey on screen.  But again, I don't think it looks too bad. 

Overall, this model is a stunner, and I really do think any Spencer fans, or any fans of the Hornby Thomas and Friends range will be disappointed if they don't get this model.  And with only 1,000 made, and many sold already, you may need to get in quick.

Sadly, as I have no layout, I can't do any speed or strength tests.  But since this model is pretty much the same as the one from 2008, I should imagine the results should be pretty similar to those seen in Simierski's review.

The recommended retail price of this model is £99.99 (127.15, $156.81)*.  Like Murdoch, this seems like a hefty price to pay, and I would agree... because it is.  But considering the fact that, in the Thomas and Friends range, this engine is the same price...

Doesn't seem too bad now, does it? :P.  Not to mention the fact that, when the 2008 version was discontinued, it was selling for anything up to £300, £100 seems quite reasonable.  Not to mention that if you shop around, you could get it for as less as £79.99 (101.71, $125.45).  With all those factors, AND the fact that Spencer is a limited production release, I'd say Spencer is a steal!

Should You Buy One?
Without a doubt, yes!  It's a lot better looking than the Bachmann version, and it's the second best model of the two ranges (in my opinion, second only to Murdoch).  It's the same price as Edward, but a million times better and for a Hornby model, it's extremely good value for money.  The only thing I'd advise is if you CAN afford, and you DO want to buy him, do so NOW.  There are only 1,000 available, and no one knows when they'll all be gone.

And while, I'm sure, there are other Hornby A4s available that are cheaper with the same amount of quality, they are a lot easier to buy, which I think gives Spencer even more appeal.

MODEL: 9.5/10
PRICE: 7/10 (see the "R.R.P." section as to why I think this is brilliant value)

* = Prices correct as of writing of the blog post

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hornby's Murdoch

I have had Murdoch for a couple of weeks, and for those wondering why I took so long in writing this review, I have a life, get over it :).  Anyway, here it is!

First Thoughts
Christmas 2010.  I was given a Thomas Passenger and Goods set and I went to the pub with the family for Christmas lunch.  Other than that, though, Hornby announced the models they would be producing for the Thomas & Friends range.  Among them was a new Breakdown Crane, a Works Unit Van (which I reviewed here), Dart and Murdoch.

Picture from
Here is the original picture that was shown by Hornby.  As you can see, it's superbly detailed.  The model looked pretty much spot on to its TV series counterpart, with a few little extra bits of detail, to make it look like a real engine.  The only minor quibble being the black ladder at the rear of the tender.

It was on my 2011 Christmas list, but sadly it was released too late for my father to buy it.  I then put it on my 22nd birthday list, but he couldn't afford it (he got me Dart, though, which I may review later).  I thought I'd have to wait uuntil Christmas to get it.  That was until two weeks ago, when Model Railways Direct sold him for the stunning price of £54.95 (plus £3.99 P&P), and I found it hard to refuse, so I got him myself.

What You Get
Photo by eHattons

The model comes in the usual blue Thomas and Friends packaging with a yellow border.  A CG Thomas image is in the bottom corner, while the franchise's logo is in the oppisite corner at the top.  Next to it is Hornby's logo and, underneath, a yellow "sign" with the word "Locomotive" on it.  As I said in my review of the Works Unit Van, it would make a lot more sense to put the name of the loco in that sign rather than simply what it is.  Although, since Murdoch's name is seen through the plastic window, it's not disastrous.  Also on the box is a black "DCC Ready" sticker, the first Thomas & Friends model to have that honour.

The box opens with little flaps at each end of the box.  Once out, the model comes in a robust polystyrene tray and plastic inserts.  It also comes with two sets of instructions; one tells the modeller how to oil the engine's motor, and the other tells of how to fit the DCC component.  The DCC component also comes with the model, so there's no reason to worry about extra cost.

The Model

As soon as the model is released from the box, you can tell it has a quality feel.  From top tp bottom, the detail on the model is impeccable.  It hasn't really changed much from the promotional image by Hornby, although it seems a little less glossy (not that that's a bad thing, his TV portrayal isn't that glossy either).  The face is brilliant, a perfect representation of the character, and it's not a CGI style face (for those who prefer the model faces).  The only qualm is that his nameplate looks... odd.  Gone is the gold border and writing, and in its place, a yellow border and, the most disappointing, black writing that seems to camouflage into the smoke deflector.

However, one positive is that his center driving wheel is flangeless, which will allow it to corner easier.  Another little extra is that the model has metallic, sprung buffers!  It is also  one of the few Thomas and Friends tender engines that are loco driven, a trait that Spencer shares I believe.

Photo by eHattons

The rear of the model is a thing of beauty too.  The tender is fantastically detailed.  The coal looks real and the detailing around the tender's wheels is excellent.  The model features a ladder (which is orange rather than black), which is strange as I don't recall the TV portrayal having one.  Missing, though, is the green and red lining at the rear of the tender.  However, I don't feel that this detracts from the model's overall quality that much.  The rear buffers, like the front ones, are metal and sprung  The cab, like other Thomas and Friends tender engines, is very detailed, with little seats at each side.

Overall, this feels like a quality model, and I think it's the best model of the lot aesthetically.  I know Bachmann fanboys are gonna go ape, so I shall explain:
Bachmann have always been known for perfect representations of television series characters.  They do a fantastic job rendering each one, and over 10 years they have become better and better.  But it's... boring, to be frank.  They're far too predictable.  If you want to see a Bachmann model, all you have to do is imagine a TV series character's model scaled down to HO size.  Hornby, though, is very different.  They basically use existing models that look like a TV/Railway Series counterpart.  They are absolutely unpredictable.  They could be terrible (Edward, Emily), average (Dart, James) or absolutely fantastic (Henry, Spencer and Murdoch).  They are unpredictable, and that's what makes them great.

Sadly, since I have no layout set out, I can't test the model's speed or strength.  You may have to wait for someone like Simierski to do theirs.

The recommended retail price of this model is £98.75 (126.14, $154.90)*.  That may seem like a lot (probably because it is), but consider this.  Edward, a considerably poor render by Hornby of the character, is £99.99 (127.73, $156.83)*.  James, a rather average looking model, is £101.99 (130.26, $159.98)*.  And Gordon?  He has an R.R.P of, wait for it, £117.99 (150.70, $185.08)*.  All three of these models are inferior in quality than Murdoch, yet cost more (a lot more in Gordon's case)!

Should You Buy One?
It's personal preference, really.  I would, but I'd shop around and see the best deal you can get him for.  Sadly, the Model Railways Direct offer is no longer available as they have sold out of the model.  To be honest though, even if you get him straight from Hornby for the full RRP, it'll be a lot better value than Gordon, James and Edward.  BUT, and this is a big but, if you want a BR 9F "Evening Star" (Murdoch's basis), you may be better off getting the RailRoad version.  It's the same quality as Murdoch, and is a lot cheaper (£74.99, 95.77, $117.64 RRP)*.  Which begs the question, when you buy Murdoch, what are you paying for?

The answer?  Simple: The brand.  The Thomas & Friends brand is one of the most well known brands ever produced, and that £14 (17.88, $21.96)* extra is simply because big brands cost big money.

MODEL: 9.5/10
PRICE: 5/10 (good value for money compared to other Thomas and Friends tender engines, not very good when compared to the RailRoad version of the BR 9F "Evening Star")

* = Prices correct as of writing of the blog post

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Four Railway Series eBooks

In 1943, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry created stories for his sick child to amuse him.  Two years later, these stories were published and released to the British public.  Nowadays his characters are a runaway success, but the original creations have, really, been left in the dust... until now!

In 2007, after a 10 year hiatus - and a failed restyling by new publishers Egmont - the Railway Series returned in its classic, small book glory.  To add to that, they released a special "complete collection" book for Christopher Awdry's works, as well as a brand new book, Thomas and Victoria.  Four years later, Thomas and his Friends was released to celebrate, what would've been, the Rev. W. Awdry's centenery.

However, while this was a great thing, I really didn't think it went far enough as, every time I searched for a Railway Series book, I rarely found any, even in book stores.  And that continues to be the case.  However, TV series tie-ins fly off the shelves and can be easily found.  The only real place you can find the Railway Series is online.  And while it's good, it's not really good enough.

A few weeks ago, the first four Railway Series books were released on Apple's iTunes.  But I didn't find this out in newspapers or on TV adverts.  No.  Again, it came down to the internet to discover the information.  I found all four (eventually), then discovered at the end of the book an advert for the other Railway Series books...  Really?!  That's it?!

How are you meant to sell something that you put online yet don't even advertise?!

And THAT is the problem with releasing these eBooks, and it's eerily similar to the problem that the printed books have: they're very difficult to find.  Only Thomas the Tank Engine is in the Children's Charts (outside the Top 50 on last check), and only if you search through EVERY children's eBook can you find them.

Even using the Search tool won't always work.  Searching for "Thomas the Tank Engine" will only bring up books two and four, while you'd have to put in the EXACT names of the other two books to get them.  ONLY by searching for the author's name ("Rev. W. Awdry") or "Hit Entertainment" will you get all four books up.  And while, yes, I applaud the advert at the end of each book, it really doesn't go far enough.  These adverts should be on other websites, book stores, even on the homepage of iTunes if necessary!

But Egmont and HiT aren't doing this, so the message of these books has to be spread by the mature fans like us.  We have to spread the word of these books as much as possible.  Buy them, and get them up the charts.  Rate them, and get parents of Thomas fans interested in buying them for their Kindles and mobile Apple products (iPhones, iPads, etc.).  Heck, even spread the word between friends who have these devices and get them (or their kids) interested in the ORIGINAL Thomas books.

The basic message of this blog post is thus: spread the word of these Railway Series eBooks, because God knows these big corporate businesses won't...

UK Prices:
£1.37 (Kindle)
£1.99 (iBook)

US Prices:
$2.15 (Kindle)
$2.10 (Thomas the Tank Engine, Kindle)
I don't know US iBook prices.  If any US fans DO know please feel free to post them as a comment.



Sadly, Apple won't allow links to their eBooks, but search for the Rev. W. Awdry or HiT Entertainment and you'll find them with no problem.

Friday, 18 May 2012


There has been a lot of speculation over the last few days about the future of the Great Western engine.  This was all over the new range of Trackmaster toys based on "Sodor Blackout", a future episode or special possibly focusing on a power outage on Sodor (fan speculation, not fact).  So far there have been two characters announced to be made for tie-in toys: Toby and Duck.

While some fans are still extremely sceptical over his return, I am definitely thinking positively, and I DO think the Pannier Tank Engine will return under Andrew Brenner's tenure.  Some will probably read this statement and think "WHAT?!"  Well, here are my two cents as to why I think he'll return.

And we start with the Engine Depot.  When the Thomas and Friends website was overhauled in 2010, Duck was nowhere in sight.  However, a few weeks ago, Duck, as well as Donald and Douglas, returned to the Depot.  Yes, OK, the promo image they've used is from Series 12, but they MAY have done this to try and conceal the return until he's seen on television again.  Some may say this was fan pressure to reinstate his page, but I think they brought the page back because of the new production team.

Throughout Sharon Miller's tenure, she never wrote an episode where Duck was featured.  Before anyone says Series 12, she didn't write the episodes that Duck was in.  Anna Starkey (Best Friends), Paul Larson (Excellent Emily and Saved You!) and Wayne Jackman (Gordon Takes a Shortcut) sharing that honour.  Now that she, and the rest, are out of the picture, Duck's page can be seen sitting proudly between Douglas and Duke.  Coincidence?  I'm not too sure.

Now, we move on to Bachmann's incarnation of the Great Western engine.  Bachmann have really been on an incredible roll with their Thomas licence, expanding on the HO range in a huge way with (to name a few) Edward, Mavis, Bill, Ben, Donald, Douglas, Diesel and of course Duck this year.  I originally thought that a fan petition was the root cause of this sudden decision by the folks at Bachmann.  I do still think that the petition may have had a big influence, but doesn't it seem strange that only now Sharon Miller's gone Duck's being created by Bachmann?  Possibly, maybe I'm just overthinking it.

Then we come back to the Sodor Blackout situation.  While they don't mention it specifically, they HAVE said the range is based on either an episode, special or other media products like a book or a DVD.  This sounds extremely promising.  What also sounds promising is the fact that YouTuber SteamTeam, who is an avid collector of Thomas magazines, said that when Andrew Brenner wrote stories for the magazines in the early 1990's Duck was in many of them, which leads me to believe that he mmay have a fondness for the character that Sharon Miller seemingly lacked.  Which is unusual, as she'd happily bring in stupid characters like Bash, Dash, Ferdinand, Sidney, Norman, Belle, Captain while bringing in the death trap known as Misty Island.

Interestingly, SIF has pointed out recently that only Miller has written stories that include the Logging Locos and their home island, while only one other writer featured Charlie.  So this begs another question: with the new production team, could they be shunted to the scrapyards?  I have no idea, but I have my fingers crossed.

The Sodor Blackout range has already sprung a huge surprise, along with a large range of questions.  The fact is no one can definitively answer any questions as of yet, but as the time draws nearer to the premiere airings of Series 17 with the new production team in charge the answers will be extremely unteresting.

I personally DO think Duck's return is imminent, there's a huge amount of evidence that suggests this.  However, while it would be fantastic to see him again, I wouldn't want him to be rushed back to appease the fanbase in case his personality gets tampered with.  But no matter what happens, it'll be interesting to see how Andrew Brenner can do.  While he does have experience with Thomas and Friends, writing for the magazines when they were in the early stages and writing for a television series that's 28 years old is completely different.  But I think that he can handle the pressure, judging by what he's written for other TV shows, and I do sincerely believe that Thomas' future hasn't looked this bright for years, whether Duck returns or not.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Series 16: Don't Bother Victor

I don't usually do seperate blog posts for specific episodes of Thomas and Friends.  But this one has really plagued my thoughts for so long I can't ignore them anymore.  As we all know, this episode features the return of the Narrow Gauge engines, and the first time they're seen in full CGI.  But that's pretty much it...

The episode itself is a re-write of The Green Controller from Series 10, as well as Sir Handel in Charge from Series 11... yet it's been voted the 2nd most popular Series 16 episode by fans in two separate polls.  Why?

Simple.  It's the same reason fans like Saved You! and Gordon Takes a Short Cut: the episodes aren't exactly written very well, with the lack of railway knowledge on show perfectly, yet fans like them because old characters returned.  In Gordon Takes a Short Cut Duck, Oliver and Toad appeared, while the pannier tank appeared with Donald and Douglas in Saved You!.

However, I'm not too bothered about the above episodes as they were both quite entertaining and, most of all, they were original.  Don't Bother Victor was never designed to be original.  It was clear even from the description that was provided three weeks before it aired that it was going to be unoriginal!

The whole situation though makes me, above everything else, sad.  The Railway Series had good, entertaining stories throughout its 42 volumes.  Kids could follow the story through really well and fans judged their opinions on the story they read.  Yet now, all they judge opinions on is what they see on screen.  That's fine, but that's around 30% of what makes a good television series.  In Thomas' case, there are three other factors to consider: voices, music and, most importantly, the story.  And it's the story that fans are completely forgetting.

Yes, it was nice to see the narrow gauge engines again.  Yes, it was nice to see Victor work away from the Steamworks rather than be told that he'd gone and, yes, the narrow gauge engines looked stunning.  But with the story so contrived, repetitive and downright boring as it was, I simply could not enjoy their return, and I can't understand its popularity as an episode.

I know fans have the right to their own opinions, but I think they should really take the rose tinted spectacles off now and remember that Thomas only became famous because of its fantastic storytelling.  Without that key component, I fear that Thomas will never be successful as a television show ever again, and will only be successful as a brand to make money from...

If you did like Don't Bother Victor's story though, please do say why in the box below.  It will be very interesting to read any and all responses.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

New CGI Change

I promise that my next blog post will be the review of Gordon the Big Engine (if anyone asks when that will be I swear to God I will not be responsible for what I say or do), but this is such important news so I cannot really wait to do this.

For those who don't know, HiT Entertainment have announced that Canadian animation studios Arc Productions will be taking over from Nitrogen Studios to animate Thomas and Friends, starting from Series 17 (read this for further information).  Some, as usual, have criticised HiT for the change, as most had become fond of Nitrogen's animation, despite their disappointingly short tenure.  Me?  I'm open minded, but I also have VERY mixed emotions.

I'm very angry, first and foremost.  Because of what's been read of Greg Tiernan on SIF, you can CLEARLY tell that he is passionate for the sseries, and an extremely kind-hearted, generous man.  He was the perfect person to lead Thomas to the success it deserves.  But he was never really given that chance, due to the poor writing that the series has acquired.  He, and his team, are the people I feel sorry for the most.  80 episodes (100 if you count the CGI elements in Series 12) and 4 specials and they're all just tossed aside without so much as a "thank you".  One theory is that it was stated that Nitrogen would be doing 80 episodes and 4 specials when the CGI switch was announced in 2007/08.  This is true, but even so, the fact there may not have been even an attempt to re-sign Nitrogen is absolutely disgusting to me.

I'm also concerned.  Unlike Greg, who's told of his passion for the TV series and the brand, we have no idea who the new director is - apart from his name - and what he has in store for the series.  We also have no idea whether he knows anything about railways or not, or whether he'll be willing to do the research that is, in my opinion, vital for a show like Thomas and Friends.  For all we know, he could be the Sharon Miller of directors (and God help us if that's the case...)

I'm also quite confused.  It's been reported that Nitrogen may send their render files to Arc.  What's the poinr in that?  It would be just as easy to discuss a new contract with Nitrogen.  If you're going to switch animation companies, we should see what they're able to do themselves rather than use what's already been made.

Overall though, I am quite neutral.  I'll miss Nitrogen's animation, and I wish them all the success in the future, but I do think that this new studio should be given a chance.  When Nitrogen were first announced to create the series taking over the model animation at Shepperton Studios, there was a huge uproar.  But in 4 short years, they've managed to win over the majority of the fanbase and are now sad to see them go!  Who's to say the same thing won't happen in 2016?  We'll have to find what they do.  But good luck Arc, you're going to need it...

Friday, 13 January 2012

2012 Hornby Thomas Range

Before you ask yes, I've discovered the 2012 Thomas range.  Then again, like the 2011 range it's pretty hard not to discover it due to the mass of uploads on YouTube (seriously, guys, one upload is enough, more than three is overkill).  So here are my thoughts on the range, starting with the least talked about first.

Open Wagon Three Pack

On the face of it, this three-pack seems to be based on the old three pack, with the brake van from the 2000's replacing the one from the 1980's.  That was a nice little change as I think this brake van looks a lot better.  The open wagon has also been replaced: by S. C. Ruffey.  This really puts me off this set to be honest.  Not because I think it looks bad - it's probably the best truck they've made for the Thomas range and a hell of a lot better than Bachmann's - it's because I already have him, and I don't really want duplicates of the same character from the same range.  The Sodor Scrap Co. truck is the only surviving truck from the old set.

Would I buy it?
If S. C. Ruffey stays in it, no.  It was a good idea to re-release an old set, but I really think that if the brake van was the only change it would be a lot more appealing to me, and probably those who have a Hornby S. C. Ruffey and don't want to pay for a set to get another one just to get the scrap truck and van.

Tanker Three Pack

This is a brand new three-pack by Hornby, and I think it's a thing of beauty.  In the set you get a Sodor Fuel tanker, a Milk Tanker and a weathered Oil Tanker.  They all look really detailed, despite them looking taller and thinner than their TV counterparts.  But that doesn't really bother me, as this three pack has a jewel in its crown: the designs of the tankers are exactly the same as when they were first released seperately.  And with Bachmann being constantly criticised by fans for changing the designs of their oil tanker, and mail van, to match the CGI counterparts,  this set may lure them to buy maybe their first ever Hornby tankers.

On a side note, I have a feeling that this year, Bachmann may do the same with their milk and fuel tankers as they have with the oil one, so that may push fans to buy this set even more.

Would I buy it?
Definately, maybe three or four if they're the right price.  I really like the Hornby tankers, and if they don't do what Bachmann have done, I think other fans would be interested too.

Closed Van Three Pack

Another brand new truck three-pack.  In it you get the cattle wagon and the red and grey vans.  It is also a very nice little set.  The cattle wagon makes things look a bit strange as it's shorter and longer than the other two vans.  To be honest, I think this would've been the perfect set to re-introduce the old van from the 80's which never got re-released.  It would've matched up size-wise (I know, I often use the old vans in trains with the red and grey ones) and it would've finished this set off beautifully.  But the cattle wagon still looks pretty good and I'm still looking forward to its release.

Would I buy it?
Yeah, definately, maybe three or four (like the tanker three-pack) depending on prices.  The cattle wagon doesn'tt put me off it as such, but I still think that the 80's van would've been a better choice.

Thomas and the Breakdown Train Set

Whether this is accidental, coincidental or intentional, this set is seemingly based on the Railway Series story - and episode - of the same name.  I think this could be classed as a "Greatest Moments" set, and if that's the case, it's a heck of a lot better than all of Trackmaster's "Greatest Moments" sets combined.  Despite this, I'm not really sold on this set to be perfectly honest.  In it, you get Thomas, the Breakdown Crane that was released in December and - rather bizarrely - a blue truck.  The crane is fine, it looks good with all the hazard stripes and when I get the money I'll be getting two of them.

But I REALLY think they should've included the Works Unit coach.  Yes, I was heavily critical in my review of it, but it DOES have the same livery as the crane and it really would've finished the train off nicely.  My other issue is with Thomas.  Not the model itself, I love it and it'll always be one of my favourite Hornby models.  But in a set like this, I think they should've released a special version of him.  That's why I really like Percy's Mail set and The Great Discovery set: they both have unique selling points.  The mail set included a brand new, BR-styled mail van with a Sodor livery, while Thomas and the rolling stock were weathered in the Great Discovery set - not to mention the fact that Thomas had a surprised, almost tired out expression on his face.   Even ModelZone in the UK released a special, unweathered stand-alone Thomas with the same surprised face as the one in the Great Discovery set.  But here, there's nothing.  Quite disappointing in my view.

Would I buy it?
Definately not.  The only thing in this set that I actually want is the crane, and by the time it's released I'll probably have bought it.  If this set had something unique in it, I'd be more tempted.  However, if you're looking for a first ever Hornby set for your kids, this might be the one for you.


This is the first of two re-released engines this year (I think we all know the second :P, but I'll get onto him later).  It doesn't really look any different than the one they released in 2005, which is a bit of a shame as I feel the water filler caps on the wheel arches (I think that's what they are.  If you know feel free to correct me) shouldn't be there.  If they weren't he'd be perfect, but I don't think they detract from his looks that much, if at all.  The only thing different this time is that only 1,000 will be released.  I don't think many fans will be happy about that, but I think it's a smart move on Hornby's part.  If all the stock is sold, they may think that it's a really popular model and release more.  If there are some left, they may think it was a good idea to discontinue him and just pull the remaining stock from shelves.

Would I buy him?
No, I already have him.  But I would recommend him to other Hornby Thomas fans who don't have him as he is a fantastic runner and superbly detailed.

Spencer's Coaches

I've decided to do these together, but I must stress they will be sold seperately.

Since 2008, the only brand that had made a HO/OO scale model of Spencer's coaches was Bachmann... until now!  Hornby have seen Bachmann's coach and raised them a brake coach (if you don't know about poker you won't get that reference).  The detailing from the roof to the wheels is absolutely sublime.  But I think these coaches have the same problem as Bachmann's coach does: the base designs are very lazy - they're Gordon and James' coaches in Spencer's coaches livery.  However, this doesn't bother me as much with these coaches as the Bachmann coach did, as I've always preferred Hornby's: they're the ideal height and length, and the detailing is stunning.  Being honest, I was tempted to get Bachmann's since it was the only one on the market.  But with these joining the fray, I'm so glad I didn't give into those temptations.

Would I buy them?
They're already on my Christmas list (I know, seems WAY too soon, but by adding them now my dad has more time to get them.  He's quite forgetful you see :P), so whether I get them or not I don't know.  I'll definately make a blog post around this time next year updating you on what - if anything - I get (before you say it, I'm still the kind of guy who loves family Christmases, and if I do get these, I won't be running them until a few days after).  If I don't get them for Christmas, I'll definately be buying them.


2008 Spencer, taken by eHattons

In 2008, Hornby released, at the time, their best ever model in Spencer.  But I didn't realise HOW brilliant it was until it was discontinued and Simierski posted his review between Hornby's and Bachmann's streamlined silver engine.  Since that review, fans have been sending their messages to Hornby to bring him back.  And, thankfully, they listened and this year, he's back!

The re-release of this model proves that positive people power DOES work.  The people wanted Bachmann to make Donald and Douglas, they did.  Fans wanted Spencer back, now they have.  Fans have also wanted a Bachmann Duck.  Time will tell if the people's voice will be heard again...

However, there are two differences between the old Spencer and the new one.  Chief among which: the new one will be DCC ready!  Yep, Spencer will be the second model - after Murdoch - to be DCC ready.  The second is that only 1,000 will be made.  I think this is smart on Hornby's part (see Stepney as to why).

Being honest, I hope there'll be a third difference: the wheels.  I hope they re-paint his wheels grey like the rest of his body.  I don't really think the black ones detract from the sheer quality of the 2008 version, but it would make it a bit more TV accurate.  Simierski also pointed out that they used a double chimney A4 as a basis rather than a single.  Like him, that doesn't bother me, but if they changed the wheel colour, he'd definately be my all time favourite HO/OO model, leapfrogging Murdoch.

Will I buy him?
He's on my Christmas list too.  But if I don't get him then, and he's still being sold. I would save up for however long it takes to get him.  THAT is how much I want this model.  And I would be willing to pay that little bit extra (although anything over £100 - like he's been going for on eBay - is farcical :P) for the sheer quality of the model than settling with the cheaper, crappier Bachmann alternative that I've been doing since I started being interested in model railways in 06.

Overall Opinion
I'm pleasantly surprised that Hornby have announced more Thomas models.  Yes, there aren't any new engines, but with Hornby making models for their other ranges, not to mention the merchandise for the (yawn) London Olympics and making models for their new licence Olly the Little White Van (it's like Chuggington with cars), I wasn't really expecting any.  But the ones they're releasing look quite promising, but I'm especially looking forward to Spencer and his coaches.

Here's a little message to Mattel.  I know you're really wanting to expand the wooden railway range in your own image when Learning Curve's license runs out, but PLEASE renew Hornby's!  Despite the constant bashing by Bachmann obsessives, many people love Hornby's Thomas range, and it would be an absolute travesty if their models were taken away from us.

So, those are my thoughts on Hornby's 2012 range.  Bachmann will be announcing their range in their catalogue at the New York Toyfair next month.  When their announced I'll make another post like this one.  Hopefully Bachmann will release pictures of their new models.  If not, then hey ho :P.