I originally reported that this model (exclusive to Books-A-Million and subsidiaries, such as 2nd and Charles) was a colored version of the classic silver Hogwarts Express with the addition of a display base. I am glad to admit that I was wrong. While this may be based on the classic model, it’s actually been revised and improved in several ways. Some new details have been added, some small changes for aesthetics, and a few changes to improve the build experience. Which results in this model being much superior to the classic silver one, in my opinion. I might even call it the definitive version, if I were to use a gaming term.
And if it isn’t obvious, the colors are a beautiful addition on their own right. The contrast and brightness of the colors are wonderful, and there are even places where the tabs have been colored differently than the rest of the part. Specifically because when the tabs are secured, they will be visible on the surface of a part with that color. A nice addition that I rather appreciate. The only down-side to the coloring is that some of the text on the model is a little hard to read, as the colors seem to bleed together just a little. Not a big deal for broad details, but the thinness of the lines in text make it a little hard to read. Or I’m just getting old(er). Could be either, to be honest. Also, in case this isn’t obvious from the pictures below, the train is not secured to the track, so it can be displayed with and without the base.
From what I can tell when comparing this new model to the old, they appear to be almost exactly the same size (not including the display base on the new model). I decided to take a few shots to directly compare some of the more notable changes/improvements in the new version. The first difference I notices was the smoke stack, which has become much more dimensional. In a similar fashion, the front of the boiler and a cap-like structure on the coal car have been given more depth / layering. Other changes can be found in the wheel construction (changing from fold-over-flaps to separate cylinder rings) and the reduction of anchor tabs for the handrails along the side of the boiler. In addition, some details have been added to various places around the model, such as a trim around the top of the coal car, along with some crank bars/handles at the front of the coal car. And some very thin (and delicate) elements along the bottoms of parts on both the engine and the coal car. There’s also another big difference, but I’ll get into that one later, during the build review. Anyways, these comparison photos will also serve as the detail photos for the new model, cause who needs to see them all twice (except for one, because it just rounded out the set above quite well).
I struggle, with this model, to figure out where to place it on a difficulty scale. It’s not nearly as challenging and complex as the ICONX Star Destroyer or Y-Wing, but it’ s definitely a time-consuming build. But it’s not easy, either. I’d say it’s slightly more challenging than the classic silver model, and around the same challenge level as the Red Dead Redemption train. So I guess it’s about what you’d expect from a train. There are broad strokes that are fairly easy and straight forward, but they are also paired with details that are exacting and fragile. It’s quite an enjoyable build.
However, as is usual, I do have a few bits of advice and/or warnings to share with you that I learned from my build experience. Thankfully it’s not as complicated as some of the other builds I’ve done recently, so there’s not enough to warrant walking through the entire build with you. I’ll try to keep my comments in order with the build instructions.
The first bit I’m going to tell you about is either advice or admission, depending on how you want to take it. And, actually, I’m going to sneak in another similar note as well. Make sure you look at the picture of the finished model before forming or attaching the boiler cylinder. I almost rolled the main body along the wrong direction… the black stripe does not go the length of the cylinder, but is at one end of the cylinder. Also, when attaching this cylinder to the rest of the model (later on) make sure to not be a goober like me; don’t attach the cylinder backwards… the black end goes towards the front. Surprisingly, that’s not the admission, though. My admission is to using some glue within the first few steps of this model. Specifically, I used some 5-second fix to firmly secure the smoke stack, bell, and the strips next to the bell. These parts don’t need glue, but given their attachment to a curved surface, they tend to be a little wobbly, so I used the glue to reduce that as much as possible. Due to my own perfectionism.
This next bit of advice comes from me, as well as from /u/Gilidry over on reddit, who first warned me to watch out for this. The instructions for assembling the cab / driver compartment indicate folding part 12 (the front and side walls) along the vertical lines immediately after attaching the window panels (11). This makes it a tight bit of access to attach the following parts, 13 and 14, as well as attaching this segment to part 9. It’s much easier if you start the folds on part 12 just a little bit (like 15 degrees or so) and then proceed to attach parts 11, 13, and 14. Finally, attach this to part 9, and close up the sides a little bit, however I advise you to not fold it all-the way to the prescribed 90 degrees: you’ll be wrapping these sides over the tabs on the base of the engine car.
To that end, I also suggest that you form the roof (part 17), but set it aside to attach it after the cab has been attached to the base. I’ll also have to admit that, at this point, I also applied some glue to the tabs on the handrails (parts 15 and 16) along the boiler/furnace, on the inside of course. This rail is delicate, and easy to loosen/mangle while handling the model during the rest of the build.
The next thing to take note of, and something that /u/Gilidry and other builders have already noticed, is that the instructions are somewhat confusing on the matters of Engraved vs. Not-Engraved on several of the parts. Most obviously on the wheels, where it indicates that the rings (parts 29 and 61) should have the engraved side on the outside, which is not the case. The smooth side should be out. I think in some of these cases, it’s a similar confusion to the case with the Y-Wing, where the indicators are determined by which side faces “up” in the parts sheet before clipping, rather than which side has more engraved markings (if any at all). Additionally, there are a few other parts that seem to indicate the Engraved side, but are actually referring to the painted side, such as parts 48, 78, 101 and 102.
So, here’s a little glimpse into my process… I often try to write up my review as soon as possible after finishing the build. But I still forget things. Like this little detail that I completely forgot until I came back and was taking photos of the model. So here I am, adding a little warning (or maybe comment of frustration at the size of my fingers). One of the smallest or finest details they’ve added to this train are these tiny little doohickeys (not a technical term) that stick out of the bottom of the whizzmabobs (also not a technical term) near the lower front of the engine car. In part terms, the doohickeys are parts 51 and 53, while the whizzmabobs are parts 50 and 52. There are some super-thin strips sticking out at the bottom, and with my sausage fingers, I had a heck of a time lining up and seating the completed assemblies without mangling those strips too much. I ended up using something this (can’t remember what) to press down in the gap between two of those strips to get the assemblies fully seated. It was fun. But they look cool in the end (after I straightened them back out, that is)!
And now, I finally get to share with you the other big difference between the two classic-sized Hogwarts Express models. It has to do with parts 66 and 67. And this was confusing for me, after finishing the build. Because I began to doubt myself. These little parts appear to be guide wheels of some sort, and they are attached to the base of the coal car in different ways between the two models. I call them guide wheels now, because after much research, I finally found some pictures that led me to believe that they should be attached the way the instructions show in this model, and that the arrangement in the classic-silver model is actually in the wrong. And during that research, I came to think of them as guide wheels. Originally, I had thought that the new version was in the wrong. I am very glad that I don’t have to disassemble it to correct a mistake.
Unfortunately, I do have to note that the instructions appear to have a mistake in another section, though. And that’s with the little domed/capped cylinder on the top of the coal car, parts 76, 77, and 78. According to the instructions, the tabs on the domed cap (part 76) insert through the innermost slots of part 77, and the tabs on the cylindrical ring are to be inserted through the outermost slots of part 77. I actually tried to assemble it this way. And I was able to get the tabs in the domed cap through the inner slots, but it was hard, and I bend the edges down more than I was expecting I would need to. However, it was when I went to attach the ring that I realized that the instructions must be wrong… because to get those tabs out to the outer slots, the ring would become elliptical, rather than cylindrical, and that wouldn’t line up with the engraving/slots in the top of the coal car. So I disassembled it, and attached the cylinder to the inner slots first, and then the cap to the outer slots next. And it looked much better and lined up perfectly with the etching and slots in the base. I’ve reached out to Fascinations to report my struggles here (and elsewhere) so I’ll hopefully hear back about whether I was right here or not.
Right after that, ironically, is what I think is a small omission in the instructions. There’s another, smaller, pipe that sticks up out of the coal car, and I think part of the top “flap” of it is supposed to be folded in a little, to match the angled cuts into the top edge of the ring that forms the cylinder of the pipe. Hopefully that (or the graphic below) makes sense.
The base/tracks are fairly easy to put together, just a lot of lather-rinse-repeat with the railroad ties, but nothing too difficult. Do make sure that you put the rails on in the correct orientation (with the little “spikes” in the base facing out. I got that backwards on the first pair, and it didn’t leave room for the second pair’s “anchors” to fit in between the railroad ties. Had to take it apart and fix it. I do want to note that I like how they use the rails to secure the two halves of the tracks together a bit more firmly, though.
And the final note I want to give you on this build is another sort of generic note. I would suggest looking ahead as you go through the build, and checking if you can go ahead and twist some of the tabs, even though they initially appear to be exterior tabs. Sometimes you add on “skirt” like panels around the base that will hide them in the end. And in some cases (such as the clipped circle sections above the large wheels on the engine car) benefit from twisted tabs as the tabs are parallel and folding can be difficult. Also with the hand-cranks on the front of the coal car, you can twist those without worrying about the appearance, the tabs are barely noticeable.
And with that, we come to the part where I tell you how long it took to build this beautiful steam engine, which clocked in at around 8 hours of build time (not including clipping and knolling out the parts). And, as always, you can see the silent build videos in the playlist embedded below (each one roughly 2 hours). Unfortunately, I failed to start the fourth video until after I’d been building for a little bit, so it’s missing some stuff, but the base is not really that challenging to start, so no big loss there.