Monday 2 May 2011

Favourite Sets #5 : Emerald Night

When I was a boy, LEGO trains were a simple affair, barely resembling 'real' trains at all other than for the fact that they (usually) came with flanged wheels and ran on rails. Not that I cared - my first LEGO train was Set 171 Train Set without Motor and I adored it, particularly when my parents subsequently bought me the accessories that I needed to motorise it. It's probably worth mentioning that my childhood was during a simpler age when the ability to propel a LEGO train around a circle of blue railway track using a battery-driven motor still carried with it a genuine 'wow' factor.....

My first LEGO train......
I emerged from my almost-obligatory LEGO Dark Ages a few years ago, and it quickly became clear that things had moved forward on the train front in terms of realism. Set 7989 Cargo Train Deluxe and Set 7897 Passenger Train were available at retail at that time. Both these sets made a better fist of looking like 'real' trains, and the Cargo Train in particular came with some interesting rolling stock, trackside vehicles and extra track including a set of points. Also, both came with motors and could be remote-controlled to move forwards or backwards at various speeds, in stark contast to the system of my youth when you had to flick a switch on the battery box to get the train moving and then run after the thing and flick the switch again to make it stop..... All that having been said, neither the Cargo Train nor Passenger Train had enough to entice me back into the train fold at that time. For me they lacked that all-important 'wow' factor, so my re-introduction to LEGO trains was further delayed even as I immersed myself in the delights of the LEGO Modular Buildings, Star Wars sets and other goodies.

All that changed in early 2009 when I stumbled across some early publicity shots and a video of Set 10194 Emerald Night. I initially couldn't quite believe that this beautiful steam train was even made from LEGO, such was its aesthetic beauty. I wanted it so badly that I made a special trip to my nearest LEGO brand store (which by UK standards really isn't that near.....) on the day of launch to get one.

Beautiful !
Usually I build sets, enjoy them for a few weeks or months, and then disassemble them and return them to their boxes. I've had Emerald Night built and on display in my house since the day I bought it, however. The only other sets I've kept and cherished in that way are my Modular Buildings. In my eyes Emerald Night is absolutely beautiful - perfect. Admittedly I'm no train-spotter, but to me it looks like a 'real' train, and it manages to do so without a bucketload of brand-new custom-designed parts made specifically for the set. There are a couple, certainly - the large train wheels were made specifically for this set, for instance - but by and large this set consists of 'real' LEGO pieces magically combined into a work of genius. I just love it - I love the overall design, the colour scheme, the splendid coach that comes with the set, even the grumpy-looking train driver with his red necktie. And not only that, but it can be motorised with minimal effect on the aesthetics, it runs well, and it even has a couple of lights at the front which are cleverly integrated into the design. Gorgeous !

Mr. Grumpy the Train Driver

Even the Passengers and Conductor love Emerald Night.....

My love-affair with Emerald Night is largely a harmonious one, but there are a couple of bittersweet elements to it. Firstly, I remain frustrated that the LEGO company don't sell standalone coaches for Emerald Night. Watching this magnificent locomotive pulling just one coach looks a bit pathetic to be honest. The only ways round this are either to buy multiple copies of the set and try to sell the spare locomotives to make it financially viable, or to source the parts needed to build additional coaches from the likes of Bricklink or LEGO's own Pick A Brick service. The problem is that some of the parts such as the tan window frames and light blue-gray curved coach roof pieces are quite rare and hence extremely expensive in the numbers required. I've personally already spent a fortune trying to aquire the parts for an additional 5 coaches, and some of those parts are still on order.....

The other main problem is the effect that my discovery of Emerald Night has had on me, and more specifically my bank balance. My newly rekindled love-affair with LEGO trains encouraged me to explore LEGO's back catalogue of retired trains, and in this way I've discovered a number of other superb trains and accessories from the past which have cost me a small fortune to source. These include Set 10020 Santa Fe Super Chief plus its unique coaches, which I eulogised about in a previous blog posting, and Set 10133 Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) to name just a couple. Then there's the fact that I've been inspired to plan and construct a sizeable layout for my LEGO trains which will require substantial space and cash for the 10,000+ pieces that it will take to build. After all, my Emerald Night plus 6 coaches (once completed) will need somewhere fitting to run.....

Mine, all mine !
So buy Emerald Night at your peril. It's beautiful, but it can take you down a slippery slope from which you may never return.....


  1. Anonymous6/1/12


  2. Yep - there's a PF motor in my Emerald Night as well as 2 LEDs. The instruction booklet for the Emerald Night set actually contains instructions on how to motorise the train and link up the LEDs. It's pretty straightforward, although you'll need to buy the motor, remote sensor etc. separately as they're not included with the set.

  3. Anonymous31/1/12

    Was the LED cable long enough or did you need to get an extension cable?

  4. It was a while ago now, but my recollection is that the LED cable was long enough.

  5. I am a big train fan, so I appreciate whenever people write about trains. It has always been a dream to have a really nice Lego train. I didn't have the money to buy the Maersk set before it disappeared forever.
    Reading your post makes me think I had better snap this up before it disappears.
    Question: Do Lego sets ever come back on the market after being discontinued--I am thinking of the train.

    1. Emerald Night is long discontinued, I'm afraid - the above blog entry was posted well over 2 years ago now. Worse still, aftermarket prices for the set are very high, as befits its classic status....

      LEGO has reissued one train that I know about - the Metroliner, maybe 10 years back - but I doubt very much they'll do so again; word within the fan community is that the reissued sets sold very poorly.