When it comes to wooden train sets, all the main brands are looking for how they can offer something different that captures the imaginations of children. One of two new lines from Bigjigs in 2015 – The Dino Range – certainly does that. Having put the Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set through its paces though, I’ve concluded this is a mid-range wooden railway set to genuinely consider whether your child is a dinosaur fan or not.
This review will look at the 49-piece Dinosaur Train Set but there are five other accessories available within the range. The range sees railways and dinosaurs collide in a volcano-covered prehistoric landscape.
I have to be honest upfront: before unpacking the train set, I’m finding it hard to suspend reality. Dinosaurs did not ride around on trains over volcanoes waving their tiny T-Rex hands at each other. But Bigjigs hasn’t launched this range for a thirty-something father. It has launched it to try and appeal to boys (predominantly I would expect) who love trains, love dinosaurs, love playing make-believe. As far as I can see, this is the most fantastical train set on the market.
Unpacking Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set
Unpacking the box, the usual Bigjigs care has been taken over packing. For example, each of the wooden pieces is wrapped in individual pieces of paper.
Bigjigs is one of the best wooden train set suppliers when it comes to accessories and scenery. Even just a quick scan on Amazon shows this. In this set, this is through a number of beautifully made trees, six large and three small wooden dinosaurs, a pool of lava and a volcano that becomes a bridge and tunnel. The volcano is brilliantly decorated, with a dinosaur’s tail arching over the tunnel exit, the inside of the volcano painted orange for lava and a flow of lava from top to bottom where the pool of lava can be positioned.
Building the railway track
Building the train track based on the instructions is easy and within the grasp of a five- or six-year old. There is only one thing that tripped me up and that was one of the five curves is tighter than the others – easy to spot when you know it’s there though.
This review continues below. The Bigjigs Dino Range is just one of the sets in the Wooden Train Set Guide
Looking at the train, the engine that looks like a dinosaur is great. However, the baby dinosaurs wriggle about on the carriages (well, baby dinos are unlikely to sit down like good children, are they?) a bit, and there are three babies and only two carriages (see what happens to the third in the YouTube video).
Getting under way
Pushing the train around the track, the ride is smooth and the bridge sturdy thanks to the grips inside the bridge supports. As mentioned, the track curves over the volcano, then drops down a double height bridge. It then turns to a set of points where the train can head back up to the top of the volcano or take another route that goes behind the volcano and comes back through from the far side. The way the volcano is built, it is easy for a toddler to push the train through the tunnel. The only snag was that curves straight after the double height bridge caused the train to derail. Given that most children would have other wooden track already, this is easily solved.
What the kids think
Two kids – Zachary, 6.5, and Jacob, 2.5 – were unleashed on the Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set to see what they thought. You can see for yourself at the end of the YouTube video their initial reaction (it really is a must watch) but they were absolutely fine with it being a dinosaur train set. Once an extra train – the high speed Shinkansen (from Brio, cough) no less – was added, the boys played well with it together, making the most of two routes on the track. They had loads of fun with the double-height bridge.
“It’s brilliant. I like that there are two tracks and junctions so me and Jacob don’t crash. I love the volcano because you can go really fast down it. I also like the pillars as they hold the bridge up really well. It’s really clever for the train to go through the volcano. And I think it’s a really good dinosaur train and carriages as they are really good colours.”Zachary, 6
Over the course of the next week or so, they continued to play with the set and extended it with their own track to avoid derailment. I was impressed that the volcano and bridge arrangement didn’t need any sorting out despite a toddler knocking it about. The baby dinosaurs got plenty of rides but the rest of them and the trees became overlooked. That’s not that surprising though as my boys are so focussed on the trains and tracks.
The set then got an even better workout when it came on holiday with us to see the boys’ cousins. Once again the volcano stood up well to robust play of many more hands playing with it. We extended the tracks at the bottoms of the bridges and the boys loved rolling the trains down them.
More in the Bigjigs Dino Range
I’ve not seen any of the rest of the Bigjigs Dino Range myself. Judging by photos and online reviews where available, I think the Bronto Riser looks like a great twist on a simple bridge. While the Dino Crane looks amazing, there would only be one thing – the dinosaur eggs in a carriage that come with it – that we’d be able to lift. That is unless you have similar carriages in your collection already or bought the additional Dinosaur Train which has the same engine but different carriages to the one in the Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set. The T-Rex Tunnel and especially the Ribcage Tunnel would be nice to haves for most kids: the exception being those who love dinosaurs as much as they love trains.
In summary: Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set
Overall the Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set and its companion pieces are an extremely fun extension of normal railway play. For those kids that love dinosaurs and have particularly creative minds this railway set is a must have. Comparing the Dinosaur Train Set (which costs £44.99) with other mid-range sets from Bigjigs, I also think it is worthwhile considering over the other more traditional ones. The Town & Country Train Set is a little more expensive and has a more simple bridge. The same is true of the Rural Rail and Road Set, which also has less track and more roadway.
Ultimately when I look at what the kids go to again and again once trains and train sets get bundled into one box it is the parts that turn a simple track into an interesting one. The volcano from the Bigjigs Dinosaur Train Set stands out as doing that here, making this a great set without putting yourself into the top tier (£80-110).
Bigjigs provided me with the Dinosaur Train Set for free to review. All opinions are my own or those of the kids. Certain links above take you to Amazon.co.uk should you wish to buy one of the products. I earn a small commission without any cost to you for my work if you use these links – which will be used to take two train-loving boys to Japan.
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Thanks for reading. You may also like to read the Wooden Train Set Guide