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The Polar Express: All Aboard for the North Pole!


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As a child, The Polar Express was one of my favorite movies to watch. The film, based off the children's book of the same name by author Chris Van Allsburg, revolves around a young boy, who's been having doubts about the existence of Santa, boarding a magical steam train to the North Pole. Through his journey, the boy is able to learn to believe again, finally able to hear those sleigh bells ring. The film means a lot to me personally, as I grew up watching it on repeat. Now, this is definitely not the first time I've tried to bring my favorite fictional train to life in LEGO Ideas form. However, the 2 recent projects that hit 10k have ultimately failed, so I felt it was finally time to revisit my take, and so, without further ado, I present to you my take, on the Polar Express.

This version of The Polar Express set was meant to balance a few notable aspects. I wanted it to appeal to a wide range of demographics, from those looking just to buy a LEGO train set for their kids to build, to the hardcore collectors looking for a train to display. As evident by the model I've made, my version of the Polar is definitely not the most detailed LEGO train ever made. Instead, this version is more akin to the sets found in the LEGO City line in terms of the level of detail, but built to 8-studs wide to match the scale many AFOL's use. Now, digging into the train itself, the train is made up of 4 main components:
  • The 2-8-4 Berkshire Steam Locomotive
  • Tender (With Powered Up Components)
  • Passenger Car
  • Observation Car
The choice to make the train only 2 cars long was an intentional choice, again to keep the cost of production down, but the train does have a few tricks up its sleeve. To begin with, The train is indeed fitted with the Powered Up system, mostly stored in the tender, with one exception. A set of PUP lights (Component No. 88005) are strung through the cab to the front of the engine, allowing it to illuminate the line ahead as it makes it's imaginary journey to the North Pole. Despite the locomotive's somewhat bare-bones appearance, it's overall design matches the locomotive seen in the film quite well, and even includes a modestly detailed back-head interior for added realism.

The coaches were modeled as closely as possible to the film, in which I used several references to nail the look of the coaches. The observation car in particular was arguably the most difficult to pull off, in no small part due to it's round observation platform, but the resulting appearance was well worth it. One notable feature is the Disappearing Hobo and his camp. Using removable, interchangeable panels on the top of the roof, you can choose to make the Hobo "appear" or "disappear". Either way, he's perfectly happy to offer you a cup of Joe to help keep your warm on those cold, winter nights.

I also decided to include a display stand, which features a plaque similar in vein to the ones seen in both the Crocodile Locomotive and Hogwarts Express set, detailing information about the train to any potential onlooker. It is better than listening to that one kid tell you it's a "Baldwin 2-8-4 S-3 Class Berkshire type steam locomotive." Luckily, this train isn't locked to being a display piece only, as it fits on standard LEGO track, meaning this model is perfect for either display, or play.

Finally, the set comes with a measly 6 minifigures. Ultimately, I wanted to limit the amount of minifigures to only the vital characters to the Polar Express story, which are the 4 main kids, and the 2 main adult characters. (barring Santa & his elves.) Each minifigure comes with an accessory, tying into their character:
  • Hero Boy with the Silver Bell
  • Hero Girl with the Ticket
  • Know-it-All with the Hot Chocolate Mug
  • Billy with his present
  • The Conductor With His Lantern
  • The Hobo and a Mug of Joe.
I realize the Know-it-all's a bit of a stretch, but he did comment "You know, Montezuma, the King of the Aztecs, drank 50 quarts of hot chocolate every day." Plus, I had to have at least one Hot Cocoa mug, so it all works out.

So, in summary, the set comes with all of this:
  • Locomotive & Tender with PUP
  • Passenger Car & Observation Car
  • Buildable Display Stand for the Train
  • 6 Minifigures
Ultimately, it was my goal with this version of the Polar Express to appeal to as wide of a demographic as possible, and I think my efforts have succeeded. So, are you coming? Where, you might ask? Why to the North Pole of course! This is the Polar Express!

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