Wow. I’ve had this model for some time now, sent to me by Fascinations to review, and just now got to it. And it’s gorgeous, and big, and shiny. I regret waiting so long to build it, but at the time I got it, I had also just gotten the Books-A-Million Hogwarts Express exclusive. I didn’t want to double-down on a near identical model and keep things more diverse and mixed. And then just kept finding other models to build.
It’s absolutely stunning what Metal Earth delivers when they make these larger models. Of course, they’ve also started creating uber-detailed smaller models, but that adds a lot of difficulty to the build. On this one, you get some of the fine details and gorgeous results without the challenge of microscopic parts. I hope this isn’t the last ICONX / Premium Series train that they do. Then again, I still need to get the Wild West trains and build those, too. Too many models, not enough time, right?
On of my favorite details in this build is the piping pop-out piece on the inside of the engineers compartment, or whatever it’s called. Actually, there’s a lot of attention, seemingly, to piping in various places of this build, including on the “nose” of the train, and it’s that kind of detailing that I really like. They didn’t have to do it, but it adds a real sense of depth to the model, especially when it’s in a little hidden away place. Another thing that was great about this build was the size of it makes it so much easier to read the HOGWARTS EXPRESS branding on the sides/front and the engine number and all. And it looks gorgeous.
This model was not as difficult as I was expecting it to be. It wasn’t super-easy, mind you, but a lot of it was pretty straight forward and uncomplicated. The very end where you combine two of the larger pieces is almost a nightmare, much like many of the car models, but I have a suggestion that might make it easier on you, but I’ll save that for later. The model starts out fairly easy, thankfully, as you build the undercarriage for the two sets of smaller wheels in the front. I will suggest, however, that you pre-fold the long edges a bit before attaching parts 2 and 3. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll probably recognize this advice, and are tired of it, but it makes it a lot easier to complete the fold if you “break it in” a little.
Moving on to building those front 3 wheels, I was confused momentarily by the shading on part 14 in the assembly diagram. Normally that dark gray implies that it’s the back of the part, but it’s not in this case. There is an Engraved callout pointing to that side, which in this case means the “painted” side. Though, the most dead-giveaway part is that the brake pad section, that protrudes into the spokes section, can only be on the “left side” when the pain is facing out. I guess the point is to have the spokes visible through the outer layer of the wheel to be painted appropriately.
When you start to assemble the undercarriage that holds the three sets of large wheels, the instructions indicate folding the edges of part 20 completely befoer attaching parts 21. I might suggest that you actually fold it partially (perhaps 30 degrees?), attach parts 21, and then complete the fold before attaching part 22. The tabs for three of the parts 21 you attach end up really close to the fold, and it makes it hard to secure them well. However, part 22 requires the fold to be completed to 90 degrees to be attached properly. Oh, and I’ll mention that I pre-emptively decided to apply glue to the tabs after securing parts 21, cause they were not stable or straight after I initially secured them.
In step 8, you start by forming the platform on which the boiler tank sits, with a couple of small curves at the front and back. If like me, you couldn’t tell quite what size of curve was needed, and the initial angle, from the small diagram in the instructions, you can look ahead (way ahead) to parts 106 and 108 for reference / guidance. Part of which will show that the initial angles on part 29 are 90 degree folds down. I strongly advise you to establish that 90 fold first, and then apply the curves.
From there, you get to attach a lot of bits and bobs in an almost random seeming order. A lot more bits and bobs than the smaller versions of the Hogwarts Express. Anyways, back to the random feeling order… I suggest that you switch some of it up a little. Specifically parts 40 and 41. Part 41 is shorter than part 40, but sits right next to it, which makes it rather hard to hold in place while you are securing it. I know, because I did it in the order that the instructions suggest, and it was not fun. Just be careful when attaching 41 that you leave room for 40 to slide in next to it.
Then, in a seemingly random twist, you build a steam pipe in the middle of building out the platform for the boiler tank. It’s probably done this way to optimize the use of space in the instructions, so it’s not actually random, but it feels that way. Anyways, when you work on this, it has one of those cylinder caps with the flaps all around that fold down (part 46), and I wanted to suggest a technique I’ve taken to using when forming these. After folding all the flaps down, I will stick the “cap” on the end of an appropriately sized cylinder, and roll it back and forth, as if I was shaping a regular ring-style cylinder. This seems to curve out the flaps pretty well and gives it a more natural look. Oh, and this technique can be used later, on the second steam pipe with part 61.
Moving on you come to the piston (?) assemblies. These things sit below the platform and are what drive the wheels, at least, I think that’s what they do. Anyways, I knew going in to this that I was not going to enjoy it, from my other builds of the smaller versions. However, it turned out to be a little easier than the smaller models, possible just because it’s bigger. And possibly because I had some experience with forming this shape. I approached it by forming the curve at the bottom, then folding the piston arms out, and then finally folding the sides in. Attaching the little valves (or whatever) that hang off the bottom was definitely easier, given there was more space to reach in there with the pliers. I didn’t even end up using any glue this time, though I probably should have, just to be safe. Because attaching these parts to the platform is made so complicated by their presence. There’s nowhere good to hold onto it and brace it in place while securing the tabs, cause you’re doing everything you can to not bend up the tiny little things!
The boiler tank was next in the process, and was much easier than I expected. The two sections of it are nicely secured together, and I actually forgot to leave the bottom open until the end, but was still able to get everything attached. The most challenging parts to attach were parts 65. These are hard to get in place because the tabs angle inwards, towards each other, and so the slots are too far apart to let them slide into place. So, I pulled out my usual approach for things like this… I bent/rotated the tabs away from each other laterally. As in, the whole part is still flat and level, but I twist the tab to the side, establishing a better angle to get those tabs aligned with those slots. Hopefully this picture helps you make sense of that.
And now we come to my true nemesis of this build. And no, it’s not joining the two halves together. That was frustrating, for sure, but it didn’t give me as much trouble as these next two assembles. Not because they are hard to assemble, of course. But because they are hard not to mangle once attached. Now, I do really appreciate the addition of the second piece to stabilize these (compared to the smaller kits), but I got turned around and attached one of them on the wrong side. And then, when I switched it back around, one of the tabs broke off. And I mangled it a bit in pulling it back apart. But none of that compared to the mangling it suffered as I continued to handle the model after attaching them. I tried to glue the tabs in place after attaching, but the front tabs didn’t take the glue very well. And so they are rather loose and wobbly on my model, but not too bad in the end.
Hey, guess what I’m about to suggest? Pre-folding an edge! I know, I’m beating a dead horse. But it really helps, I’m telling you! Especially with these sides of the engineers / conductor’s cabin. There are some narrow strips next to these edges, and lots of stuff attached, and a really cool part representing all the pipes and tubes. So, yeah. Just pre-fold that edge a little, break it in, and it will be much easier to finish the fold later on.
I have two tips left to share, one small, one large. First, it you want to make your life easier when joining the boiler / cabin section to the platform / undercarriage section, I would suggest not attaching the two unique assembles in step 25. Instead, go ahead and build them, but attach them after you get the boiler in place. I had so much trouble getting the tabs aligned to the slots in this step because I just didn’t have the ability to get anything down in there to move them around. There was one, and only one, point of access, and it was not a good angle. I did eventually get it to go in, but I think it would have been much easier if I left those two assemblies off until I’d done that first. The other bit of advice is that the instructions look weird when attaching the crossbar (part 113) to the front of the rails on the boiler section. the arrows indicate attaching from the front, but apparently passing it right through part 101 in the process? It’s supposed to end up behind part 101, so just bear that in mind.
And that’s it for this model. All told, the build took me a little over 8 hours, which was much shorter than I was expecting. As usual, the playlist is embedded below, for your silent viewing displeasure (seriously, this is just for reference in case you are having trouble with a certain part or want to see me screw something up that I’ve documented screwing up).