Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thomas the Wooden, Take-Along or Trackmaster Train

Captain Adventure's birthday party is tomorrow.

Today, I went to get him a present. Because I am very into thinking ahead and like that.



I wanted to get him a train thing. At first I thought GeoTrax, but as I started shopping I realized that there is basically only one set of GeoTrax currently available anywhere, and it was kind of lame. "Here, sweetheart, you can make a circle the size of a rather large grapefruit! And run this train around and around it! Wheeee!"

He loves Thomas the Train, so naturally I started looking at the VAST numbers of Thomas the Train stuff on the shelf. Hmm, we've got the Cranky the Hoisty-Thingee, and the helicopter dude, and there's the red guy and the green guy and of course Thomas...and the round-house THIS track set go with...?...erm...

There were THREE different sets on the shelf. One was the "wooden" set. It (and its accessories) do not go with any other set. Just the Wooden set. Hmm.

THEN, there was the Trackmaster, a plastic track set. My eye was drawn to that one because it had one of those larger sets that basically gave the kid enough pieces to actually build something. Sweet.

...and sixty bucks. OK, yeah, uh, no. What did we have for, like, $20-ish. Up to $30. $40 at the absolute max and it had better be a real train that I can take to work, people. He is the apple of my eye and all, but he's also a destructive little @*^@& with his toys. I'm not spending $60 so I can step on the abandoned pieces all over the Den, thank-you-very-much.

Oooooh, look, here's another big-ish set! Oh wait. No, it's not that big, it's another one of those grapefruit-sized round things with a BIG roundhouse. $30. Hmm. Welllll, I might see my way clear maybe because it's got a lot of pieces and maybe if we just got this extra set of track for $9 we might be able to make someth-...hang on, why are THESE tracks gray and THOSE tracks black? Are they the same? The connectors don't look the same...

No, it wasn't the same, at all! This roundhouse thing was a take-along set. The extra tracks were for the Trackmaster. Humph. Well, what the @*^&@ is the take-along, then?! What's its groovy deal, why do we need it in our lives?

Sell it to me, Thomas the Train...

So the main selling point of the take-along series is that all the pieces conveniently fit into whatever larger thing is the "theme" of the set - the "airport" sets tracks and figures all go inside the airport building for storage, that kind of thing.

Nice...if you have a kid who will DO that. But Captain Adventure does not feel his creativity should be confined to any form of {pfft!} storage, so the pieces will be scattered all over the Den forthwith and the storage container broken into many small pieces to see what it looks like in fractal-form.

At this point, realizing that there were THREE (3) different flavors of Thomas the Train tracks and that none of three played nicely with any other set...I had a bit of a Moment. It was a weighty question, one that demanded that I give it absolute and solemn attention:

Which track do we want to be married to for the rest of all time?

THIS set has more pieces; THAT set theoretically could be stored neatly. I like the feel of the wood tracks, but who cares about me, I'm just the one who will spend hours and hours on the floor saying, "No, honey, look, you can make a bridge! See? No, hey, Captain, quit hitting your sister with that - I need it for the hookup to the roundhouse!"

These plastic ones are beefier, but these have more individual sets. But the more individual sets are also smaller in size - the trains are tiny. Whoa, yeah...those suckers are gonna hurrrrrrt when I stomp on them barefoot at 3:00 in the morning when he wakes up crying for no damned reason and needs a cuddle and I don't want to flip on a light because that would be intelligent that might fully wake him up. Which, considering that he is screaming like bamboo is being driven under his toenails, is kind of a moot point but nevertheless, this is why I go in there in the dark, even though I know that his bedroom is wall-to-wall carpeted with pointy toys.

OK, so...we're back to the wood set, or the Trackmaster. Both have nice big sets, both have expansion sets of track available...

And then...I saw it.

The Deciding Factor. The one true and clear advantage one of these two sets had over the other.

It was on the biggest, baddest set of them all. That's right. The one that actually had enough in it to make a COOL train track, a train track cool enough even for my little mister - he may be delayed in speech and language, and can be endlessly amused by the simplest of electronics (like, say, the birthday card he got from my mother-in-law, which blares forth with the theme song from Jo-Jo's Circus whenever opened...yeah, he loves that thing, has played with it for HOURS AT A TIME for TWO DAYS STRAIGHT....heh heh, yeah...remind me to thank her for that...), but when it comes to building sets and puzzles, he figures them out in nothing flat, and if he can't do many, many things with them...{yawn}. Hmm, let's see...I wonder how far this would bounce, if I caught the back of my sister's head at precisely a 45-degree angle...?

The advantage was subtle. I almost missed it. But, although it seemed that the store was determined to ensure it went keen and experienced eye saw it!

There...beneath the sticker proclaiming that this set, A $125 VALUE!!! NOW ONLY $89.95!...a tiny red sticker that said, in wee black letters: Clearance. $32.48.


Happy birthday, sweetie...and thank Dog you're too young to notice that Mommy forgot to peel that Clearance. $32.48 sticker off of there before we wrapped it...(I hope...)

(Although...$32.48? C'mon, really? Does that not scream that the clerk handling the clearance stickers was so sleep-deprived - possibly due to an almost-four-year-old child having nightmares every night for three or four or fifteen nights, s/he's kinda losing count at this point - that s/he could no longer see the buttons on the tag-printer-thingee and just pushed random buttons and this is what spit out?)


Lydee said...

oh yeah, thomas is expensive. But the wooden tracks are my favorite. We inherited the table and wooden tracks from my little brother, and the round house and heaven knows what else. they are very durable.

happy trails cap't adventure!

Leoal said...

I think you made a good choice, the wooden trains and the track will hold up best and is versatile. The plastic Take along track looks breakable, and they go with heavy die cast trains. The trains are ok, but the tracks look flimsy. And the trackmaster has the plastic trains that will break in 2 seconds flat.

I will tell you my secret. The dollar store has wooden trains and tracks that fit with the Thomas set. They arent as sturdy as the brand name but for 1/30th the price, they make a great supplement. We got a few wooden sets, and a few Thomas named engines, and I added some extra dollar store track and some dollar store freight cars and coaches, and he doesn't even care.

I just wish he would pick the stupid things up.

Jen said...

Awesome deal! And the wood really is a better choice for sturdiness.

Threeundertwo said...

The wood tracks are great, because besides hitting siblings with them, they can take them out to the sandbox and leave them to mildew.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Captain Adventure! Enjoy that train set, buddy!

Anonymous said...

We've had the wooden set for Y-E-A-R-S, and they hold up very well. ('They' being all the name-brand and generic versions we've gotten over time.) The best thing is, for all the Thomas brand products, if they - for any reason - need to be replaced, they did it for free. Didn't even want us to send back the Thomas with chipped paint, or the Cranky with the broken string, just shipped us a new one. That, my friend, was customer service. (I hope that policy hasn't changed!)

Christi said...

We don't have any Thomas (tm) wooden track, but the one Thomas (tm) engine El Burrito has works just fine with the much-cheaper but not-so-fancy Ikea wooden train set. Well, except that Thomas is too tall to fit under the Ikea bridge when I set up a fancy loop-the-loop on the track.

I'll have to check out the dollar store tracks, since there's no Ikea around here.

Anonymous said...

I have enough wooden Thomas track to put from one end of my living room to the dining room, both sons played with this for hours. And I added to it for birthday's and Christmas. I will not part with this or the wooden childcraft blocks, since someday I will have grandchildren, and I anticipate many hours of happy playtime again!

Anonymous said...

Ah, trains. You'll be happy to know that all the wooden train tracks out there (at least the ones I've found) fit together... so don't be shy about supplementing with wooden track from Target. The more building choices he gets, the happier he'll be! Also, specialty toy and train shops often sell special pieces for cheap (read: $1 for a "Y" piece that splits the track or brings it back together.) A lot of bang for the buck.

Hope he has a happy birthday!

Yarnhog said...

So wait. Are you telling me you don't already shop for kids' presents by looking for the clearance stickers? 'Cause that's pretty much my only criterion for choosing kid gifts!

Anonymous said...

We started with the IKEA set. It was cheap but BORING! There is very limited track and there were only 3? cars that were plain in color and no detail. Plus Thomas doesn't fit which just ticked my little guy off.

Thanks for all the advice regarding plastic or wooden, I was just as confused at the store as you. It is gonna be wooden for us!

bamboo said...

Yeah,like wooden tracks,but wooden flooring is my interested in.