This set was the hardest to get. Apparently everyone loves trains. I'm good with trains. Anything that can kill you should rightfully be respected. Very few things can do it with awe though. Kill and respect, that is. The Emerald Express (not to be confused with the Emerald Night) is a small train that evokes its confusing namesake if it were about 100 years older. The first thing that caught my eye was the dark green. This is the first set to offer us dark green 2x2 round bricks and one of only a few to offer us the 2x2 round plate in the same color. But I think that's just icing on the cake.
The reason this set is so hard to get is because everyone seems to want three copies. How else can you build the train that they insinuate with the packaging diagram? You can't! So I bought three and I built three. For as much as I appreciate trains though, I was a little disappointed.
For starters, the main locomotive has something about it that isn't quite right. It struck me that it looks as if Monster Garage got a hold of it. The cab is a bit low. And by a bit I mean a lot. This is like the low rider of trains. Or maybe an idea of what a low rider monster truck might look like. Other than that it's rather evocative of the classic era of the rails. Cow catcher, smokestack, and some sort of piston looking things up front. The extra parts get you some sort of track side signal.
The second train you get to build is some sort of vaguely steampunkish rocket train. I say steampunkish only because the Victorian vibe is still there. This looks sort of like what Jules Verne may have written about were he a train head. It's a touch silly but still sort of okay looking. It certainly looks fast, even while standing still. It can probably achieve 88mph if you need it to. With the extra parts I put together some sort of larger track side signal.
The third car is some sort of carriage that looks like a stage coach sans horsies. But it rides on rails. Like some sort of early trolley. It takes advantage of very few of the pieces and overall has an air of "We had to have three things, sorry" to it. If you have an imagination then it can certainly look the part but personally I wish something in the 8-long category could have been effected a little better. there were several leftover parts that just wanted to help give it an upgrade. Instead I used them to build some sort of Civil war era mobile field cannon thingy. Trust me, you don't want to be standing near the wheels end when that thing goes off.
So then I thought to myself, if models two and three offer so much disappointment, couldn't I do better? Maybe. I noted that while there were three pieces to be built, there were really three connections. Since all the trains have 3 sets of wheels, I could probably squeeze out another car and get 4 total pieces of rolling stock. Would the remainder of the pieces let me do that though? I left the original locomotive alone. I did boost the cab by a brick in height so it looked more proportional to itself. And as you know, any self respecting locomotive needs a tender behind it. So the tiny wheels made that happen as well as the proliferation of 1x1 black round plates. It's a coal tender.
At first I thought I'd like to have a passenger coach and a caboose. But that dream was quickly dashed and I had to combine the two ideas into one. With what little was left I tried to figure out what to do for the fourth car. It ended up as a flatbed carrying something that resembles either a calliope or a nuclear missile, Victorian style. I'm still undecided.
In the end I'm pleased. I only left 8 pieces out of the entire train. Since each set comes with 3 extras I'm mathematically ahead by one piece. So I got that going for me.
A single set is $5 and includes 56 pieces plus those three extras. This lands somewhere in the 8c per piece price range. It also comes with wheels (and no tires) and a wide assortment of functional pieces. It's a little bit of a mess to me and probably a borderline joke if you're into real 9V and RC trains. But as a desk model the main build is reasonable. I'd love to see what sort of improvements you've come up with. Give us a link in the comments below.
If you'd like some more substantial trains, click the image links below: