The trains start rolling
Two years later the LEGO Group introduces the LEGO wheel, which has a huge impact on the LEGO System in Play. Introduction of this new component brings motion to LEGO play plus the ability to launch a movable brick-built train. As a result, the first plastic train made of LEGO bricks is introduced in 1964. Prior to the introduction of the wheel, brick-built trains, with wheels of bricks, appear only on boxes as an inspiration for what can be built with LEGO bricks, not as specific building sets.
A major LEGO train landmark is reached in 1966 when the first battery powered train land on the shelves. A 4.5-volt battery powers the train, which now also runs on rails. The early rails are blue, resulting in the trains from this period often being referred to as the blue trains.
In 1968, the LEGO Group introduces new technology with the Electronic train, a groundbreaking development. The train is controlled acoustically. In the marketing material the product is introduced as: “The train that drives when the whistle goes – LEGO battery train with integral electronic unit, drives when you blow a special whistle. Stops when you blow again, reverses when you blow a third time.”
A 12-volt electric system supplements the 4.5-volt battery in 1969. Electric rails placed between the train rails supply the power. The electric rails connect to a transformer. The product portfolio now boasts of everything from an old-fashioned push-along train to a fully electric 12-volt motorized locomotive. In a leaflet from 1969 the LEGO Group explains the idea behind the various models:
“A train for every age group – Children love to play with a LEGO train because they build it themselves. It begins with a push-along train. As the child grows, the battery motor can power the train – making it a wonderful toy for the older child. The battery motor can be changed to a 12-volt motor – and a transformer added. The same train follows the child up through the years, expanding its functions to suit the child’s age and wishes – and nothing is thrown away.”
These lines illustrate the power of the LEGO System in Play.
Train product line
Trains outside the train product line
Over the years the LEGO Group has produced many trains which are not part of the original LEGO Trains product line, including but not limited to the following.
Pre-schoolers have been able to play with trains starting with the first LEGO DUPLO® push-along train in 1977. In 1983, the first DUPLO rail-mounted train follows, and by 1993, the DUPLO train could chug along under battery power.
The LEGO Creator line brings in small trains such as set no. 4837 launched in 2008, and in 2013, with the birth of the LEGO Creator Expert line, the train with the highest number of elements to date is introduced: set no. 10233, Horizon Express with its 1,352 parts.
The Horizon Express is not the first train for skilled builders. In 1976, set no. 396 is launched as part of the Expert model range (also known as Hobby sets in some countries). It enables builders to create a realistic model of the Thatcher Perkins locomotive from 1863.
In 2009, the LEGO Group invites a group of AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) to Billund, Denmark, to discuss the design of a new train model with LEGO designers. The result is another classic locomotive: set no. 10194, Emerald Night.
A product named Hobby Trains is released in 2007 as a LEGO Factory set. The LEGO Factory website gives fans a chance to make their own creations using 3D software. Some of the sets are chosen to become official LEGO sets – for example, the Hobby Trains set. The set features a Swiss Crocodile locomotive as its main model, but it is possible to get instructions for a whopping 29 additional models that could be created with the elements that came with the box.