Tag Archives: history

LEGO Trains are Put to the Test (1984)

Background Information on the Article: The following article originally appeared in the March 1984 issue of LEGO Review, the English title of the LEGO Group’s house organ (employee magazine). The article, titled “On the track,” provides an analysis of a review on LEGO trains that appeared in the November 1983 issue of the  Stiftung Warentest. Stiftung Warentest is dedicated to objective reporting on consumer goods and serves a similar function as Consumer Reports in the U.S.

On the Track… (By Preben Peterson):

TEST: In the November 1983 issue of their magazine ‘test,’ the German consumers council ‘Stiftung Warentest’ took a close look at toys, as a sort of preview to the on-coming Christmas shopping.

Among the products tested were various LEGO products: our train programme was evaluated against others, even bigger and well-known brands.

We have tested ‘test’…

INTRODUCTION: In Germany, and just about all central European countries, model trains are a subject which occupies a lot of children and adults in their leisure time.

For many of them the game is to acquire or construct precise models of existing or historic, characteristic or famous trains, stations, landscapes, etc.

WATCH THE FORMAT: This test did not concentrate on that side of model train sports, but on model trains as toys. Here one begins, soberly, by pointing out that although it is not an unimportant part of play to build and rebuild, some of the excitement is lost if one, owing to size is forced to build and dismantle the construction at the end of every day’s play. Or if the dimensions in relation to the available space are such that there is little room for variations, details and the finer points of the game. Here the LEGO train scored its first point, since, all in all, it was described as very handy.

For instance, the LEGO locomotive in the train in question measures only 153 mm and weighs 367 g. While a similar version of the otherwise so popular brand Märklin with its 335 mm and 1850 g is described as a somewhat ‘overgrown’ item, especially for smaller children.

IDENTICAL…?: Our track width – that is the distance between the rails – is a little outside the standard which a number of the other trains use. Three of the five trains tested, namely Lehman, Märklin and Playmobil use standard ‘G’ (45 mm) which corresponds to a 1:22.5 ratio. The fourth train, Faller, uses the standard ‘O’ (32 mm), which corresponds to a 1:45 ratio. As many of you already know, we use a track width of 38 mm. This adherence to the non-standard did not give rise to criticism. On the other hand one wonders, naturally, why the components from the three ‘standardised’ trains are not compatible…

PRICE: The magazine pointed out that price was not without importance when the decision of which brand of train was to be made.

Here again, our products were praised – perhaps to the surprise of some people. For instance, if one buys a LEGO train set comprising a steam engine, some carriages and goods wagons and a modest, little beginners’ set of rails, one is in business for 70 DM (about 25 US $). That is only a couple of dollars more than one would pay for a Faller engine – alone. And that is the cheapest of the four competing engines whose prices topped at nearly 80 dollars. Add to this carriages costing between 5 and nearly 25 dollars – each.

And, the magazine reminds us, who will remain satisfied with a mini railway with one engine and two carriages forever? Hinting to the cost of expanding the set…


PLUS AND MINUS: After this a ‘dive’ and then more praise to those of our colleagues who have worked with the trains and their ‘accessories.’ It is rather difficult to connect power to our rails, they complained. However, our constructors’ and users’ guides got through unscathed when very sharp, critical words were passed about nearly all the others.

MOST IMPORTANT: Finally, and absolutely of greatest importance the toys’ play potential are evaluated. A test-panel (I think that’s what they call it) of children between 6 and 14 years old was asked to play with the trains – under the appropriately watchful eyes of experienced analysts. Here too, the trains and their accessories were exposed to special trials and tests which we also know from our product tests here in the company (- but which, to judge by the results, could lead us to believe are not known, or perhaps not used in all the other companies).

Not surprisingly, it turned out that our train performed extremely well during the long-term tests. The speed matched amply that offered by the others, and on the matter of pulling power our train, as the only one of the five, was characterised ‘very large.’ Some of the others could not cope with load i the form of cargo on the wagons and gradients in the terrain/landscape which one was tempted to give them.

Our rails, points, signals, carriages and driving capacity received praise, while one could have hoped for a somewhat more popular passage about sidings (Is this noticed during play? we are tempted to ask. Ed.).

And the LEGO train was the easiest to work with – that is, to get on the tracks, shunt, etc.

ALL IN ALL: The conclusion is:

“The LEGO train is constructed upon the same principles as the other boxes and models from the same company and the elements can thus be combined freely. Construction of the engine and carriages feed children’s creativity. Once in a while things fall apart during play but that doesn’t disturb or annoy. This train is particularly good fun to play with, thanks to among other things, its powerful pulling capacity and speed.”

Upon this background, the LEGO train got the evaluation ‘very good,’ together with Playmobil’s train, while the others were placed lower.

“Upon the basis of their wide range toys in general, the two companies probably have greater experience to build upon,” concludes the report.

And that’s not untrue – neither is it at all bad…

*NOTE: First two illustrations come from the March 1984 issue of LEGO Review. All other illustrations come from various examples of LEGO train advertising for the year of 1983.

From Rails to Rocket Fuel (1971)

This week’s piece of LEGO train advertising history was published in France in 1971. This is probably my favorite example of LEGO train advertising. The stylized drawings and explosion of color make this a feast for the eyes.

There is also some creative storytelling going on here. If you look closely, you will notice a Darwinian depiction of trains. The 4.5V train moves into the world of 12V, is transformed into a monorail, a boat and a supersonic jetliner. All of these illustrations lead your eyes to the final focal point, which is a space-bound rocket. From trains to spaceships, “LEGO is a new toy every day.”

P.S.: Be sure to take a second look at that monorail. You might find that it bears greater resemblance to more recent fan designs than LEGO’s official monorail system of the 1980s & 1990s.