Earlier this year saw the release of the first wave of sets in the Hidden Side theme. A theme working on combining the best of LEGO brick based play with an Augmented Reality based game, Hidden Side seems to have hit close to the right balance with great set design, as well as an appealing underlying story.
When I first saw the sets at a Melbourne Toy Show preview in March this year, there were some new elements that caught my eye, in one set in particular: new train bearings and wheels. The thoughts of those present immediately turned to whether or not this was going to be a new feature across LEGO trains. Now that they have also appeared in the recently released Disney Train, it now appears that this is the case. Today I would like to look at the new Train bearings, a new rail element as well as a look at the Hidden Side set 70424: Ghost Train Express.
But lets start with the wheel bearings:
The previous wheel bearings were introduced back in the 9V Train era – regarded by many as the halcyon days of LEGO Train sets. With a 3×4 bearing, with wheels are placed over the ends of a steel axle and clicked into place in the base of the bearing brick. Two of these plates could be held bound together used a 2×6 plate above, running the length of the assembly, while underneath a 2×4 plate can run across to bind them together. The outer side of the wheels is a pointed cone, which then runs agains the outer walls of the bearing brick. The bearing brick is also made of a high impact polymer, that is not ABS, which contributes to it not having as strong clutch as ABS, the plastic used in the majority of LEGO elements today.
The new systems a similar profiled bearing brick, but instead the wheels ‘click into place’. A 2×6 plate can run across the top and bottom of the units if they are placed side by side. Also, the lack of a hole in the middle of the plate means that the binding is quite a bit firmer. The bearing brick is made of ABS.
These attachment points on the wheel axles are slightly smaller than the standard 3.2mm bar connection. These new wheels are made of high density polyethylene (derived, as all current polyethylene elements are, from sustainable plant based sources).
However, there is concern amongst train users that the plastic on plastic bearing is likely to experience more friction, drag and wear than the old metal on plastic bearing. Certainly, when giving the wheels a test run along the straight, as well as curved track, there was no doubt that the older design experiences less friction, and runs a little further. Using the flexible track, with a zig zag curve, the results were a little less cut and dry for me.
Recently, a video was released by the LEGO group, setting out to compare the old and new wheels, and demonstrate the rationale for the new elements.
The new wheels, without a continuous axle, introduces differential rates of rotation on curves.
At the end of 200 hours of continuous testing, LEGO claims that better performance was seen with the new wheel design – perhaps expect your train to run a little longer between fresh batteries using the new wheels
The new bearing element/Wheelbase provides better clutch power in construction than the old, and I certainly found that a couple of the new wheel base elements side by side, bound together by a couple of plates, would hold together with twisting forces much better than the older elements.
The new wheels are thought to be easier for children to assemble. I certainly had trouble with wheels falling of the axle before placing it into the wheel base with the old design. The new one was less problematic.
The new wheel base/ wheel combination is cheaper to produce. Ultimately, this might be the main driving force. which is great if it means that we see sets become cheaper, or with more bricks per buck. Perhaps we will just see the price stay the same.
Time will tell. You can choose to believe the spin or not. Sometimes things we ‘know to be true’ are not borne out by the evidence. Sometimes, trials can be designed to set up for a given outcome. Where there is a track with lots of curves, chances are that the wheels that allow differential rates of turn are going to undergo fewer shearing forces, but does that offset the friction experienced buy using polyethylene on ABS? I think after another year or two we will have some real world answers, but even then articles of faith will be hard to let go.
I ran a couple of tests: there is no doubt, that using a gravity powered, standing start, the old elements demonstrated less friction running along a straight track, or an alternatin left/right curved rail. However, when running over the flexible track, the actual difference was significantly less, especially when the curve was reversed every few segments.
The other new train element seen in this set is a ‘rail ramp’. I sometime find trains to be difficult to line up as alone the track, along their length. The short train used in this set was readily mounted on the track by running it up this wedge shaped track, and onto the main line.
Now, what about the build itself?
The Hidden Side sets that I have looked at all have really strong design, play features and a great collection of mini figures. In this set, we have a small railway station, six minifigures, four straight tracks, the ‘re-railing’ track and a train. Like other Hidden Side sets, the box is dominated by the artwork, suggesting that the set is designed to go with the Hidden Side App (which it is…). Unfortunately, by putting so much emphasis on the App, there is perhaps not enough detail put into demonstrating the quality of the build on the from of the box.
Even the stickers that come with this set are useful: we have a white sheet, with stickers for computer equipment, high voltage electricity, as well as the railway station and train – giving them both a weather beaten look; and a transparent sheet: covered in broken windows, goo and windscreen wiper sweeps for the front of the train.
We get six minifigures with this set: Our main protagonists: Professor JB; Parker and Jack, as well as two station staff (male and female) as well as Paul (an every day commuter), Ms Santos ( a railway staff member) and Chuck – another member of the railway staff. There are two addition head as well as a beard and hairpiece in Spring Yellowish Green to use when the Railway staff are affected by Gloom. The details in the printing of all of these figures is terrific, and I love the way that the kids’ clothes are depicted.
The Engine occupies most of the build: starting at the base, installing the new wheel bases on rotating bogies, and moving on to the cabin. There are a couple of interesting play features, transforming the engine into an evil machine, consumed by gloom. with the flick of a switch on top of the locomotive’s body, wings spring out. they can be retracted just as quickly. A dial beside the train’s ‘bonnet’ lifts it up to reveal the teeth of the possessed loco. While the most disappointing aspect of the loco for me is the fact that Spring Yellowish Green does not fluoresce under UV light, I was impressed to see that dark red does fluoresce – appearing as a brighter shade of red.
This is followed by a small Lab car, without twisting bogies. It features a containment chamber, as well as several stickers panels. This is also where the dial, used with the App to detect and clear zoom is located, with four different coloured tiles: Vibrant coral, light azure; yellow and black.
These are all followed up by a small dark red caboose. I am a little disappointed that the barrier at the end of this carriage presents the door from opening. Of course, I can always remove it if I wish. Of course, any WHS concerns Brough about by removing the end barrier are magnified significantly by the presence of a large rotating gun located on the roof of the car.
The locomotive and carriages are connected using a ball and socket joint, although there is a set of magnets at the back of the train. I find it a little odd that a non standard joint is used, rather than the normal magnets, to join the cars together.
Finally, we see the Railway station. It looks simple enough, with a small kiosk, some seats, and a recycling bin. But, as the gloom settles in, the station appears to come to life. There is plenty of scope to decorate the inside of the building, and this would give the builder a chance to put their own stamp on the model.
I have used the Hidden side App a few times, and found after a while, that the game didn’t appear to me immensely. Somewhere in the last 10 years, I went from wanting to play fast action games, to being interested in a more casual experience. Or it might just be that I am not very good at capturing the enemies and deglooming them. Up to that point, it is actually quite enjoyable.
Overall, I am impressed with this set. It is the third Hidden Side set that I have built – I have also put together the 70418 JB’s Ghost Lab, as well as the 70419 Wrecked Shrimp Boat. Both of these a great sets, with a variety of minifigures and accessories, as well as terrific play features. The use of trans neon elements for the possessed mini figure’s heads is great, especially with a little UV light. It is easy enough to add an extra carriage to the train, attaching by the magnet at the back, to be able to carry the battery pack, and power the train along.
The set has 696 elements, includes 6 minifigures and costs $79.99 USD; $129.99AUD. I enjoyed the set, and think that making the set powered could be quite a lot of fun. Personally, I give it 4 out of 5 arbitrary praise units
I would like to thank the AFOL Engagement team from the LEGO Group, for providing this set for review purposes.
What do you think of the Hidden Side sets? Great new middle American aesthetic? Disappointing because of the app involvement? Exciting because of the App involvement? Why not leave your comments below, and follow the Rambling Brick for more updates, news and musings.
Until next time,