I’ve finally got it! After far too long I’ve got my hands on a wooden version of the most famous steam engine ever made, the Flying Scotsman.
The Scotsman is arguably the world’s most famous steam locomotive. The speed and distance records it broke still hold. And, even today its distinctive shape still pulls crowds when it’s allowed out to show its younger electric brothers and sisters how trains should look and run.
No train set is complete without the grand old lady but while I have her on my model railways I’ve never had the opportunity to get the Bigjigs version for my wooden track.
I corrected this omission on Saturday. I was visiting the delightful miniature railway in Eastleigh and while browsing the gift shop spotted her on the shelf.
There was no way I was leaving the shop without her!
Play time testing
It’s a train, how can it not be fun for a train-mad-toddler?
Actually, from experience watching my own children, nephews, and the sons and daughters of friends playing with my ever-increasing wooden railways, quite a lot.
Some wooden trains have physical failings that mean children find it difficult to grasp or place correctly the tracks, others lack the visual appeal and just get discarded, never to be played with.
When I first got the Scotsman I was worried about the smaller front wheels. How would these fit into the groove of the track? Looking at the engine before use it was obvious that due to their smaller diameter, they rested higher up than the main driving wheels and this would surely result in the loco tipping up.
Thankfully, no such problems occurred. In a very reasonable compromise, Bigjigs also moved the smaller front wheels inwards under the body so they can rest on the central raised plinth of the wooden track. In so doing they remove the need for them to sit in the track groove but also partially overcome the tilt problem.
The chunky form is also easy for small hands to grasp and push along and its lifelike design allows older toddlers to feel they are playing with a more grown-up toy. Once it was discovered the other more basic trains were quickly abandoned.
Overall, it scores very highly in the playability stakes.
Detailing & finishing
As a bit of a train fanatic, this Bigjigs version really appealed to me.
Although the back four wheels visible on the real loco are absent it’s still clearly the Flying Scotsman. A fact reinforced by the nameplate over the central wheels. Other detailing, such as the painted handrails, LNER branding on the tender and detailing on the smoke box, and the numbering (naturally 4472) on the cab, only reinforce the legitimacy and integrity of the model.
Obviously, there are practical design limitations that a wooden construction for young children necessitates, the missing rear four wheels being the most obvious example, but overall I feel Bigjigs have made the right compromises.
The mounting for the rear coupling magnet moves horizontally and vertically and this can lead to tender tilting. And the front wheels reseting slightly above the track aggregates this situation. While this doesn’t stop play it’s a bit distracting.
Overall, this train belongs on every wooden railway. It’s a fun train to play with authentic marking and form adding to the excitement as children imagine it racing around their imaginary railways. It also provides a great learning opportunity and conversation starter on history if wanted. The Bigjigs Flying Scotsman now joins Thomas, the Mighty Red Action engine and others in my best wooden trains post as must-haves for your son or daughter’s wooden train set.
If you want to get your son or daughter a few extra trains for their wooden railway, you might like the Best (and cheapest way) to add extra trains to a kids wooden train set.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.