One of my early memories surrounding play, burned on my brain with all the joy and delight that a preschooler can experience, was playing with the massive BRIO train setup at our local toy store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
My mom is and was of the quality-over-quantity school of toys, making sure we had high-quality toys, usually made of wood, that were wholesome and durable. But even with that philosophy, BRIO trains were out of the budget. So my only fun with them was when we’d visit the toy store.
When we would visit, I didn’t want to peruse the entire store, picking out anything new. I just liked to play with the trains. Because we didn’t have anything like them at home.
There was a ferry as part of the massive setup. I remember moving the BRIO train around on the tracks, but making sure to always take the route that would include the ferry. Because that was half the fun for me. Pushing the train onto the ferry, pushing the ferry across the body of water, and pushing the train off the ferry on the other side. The ferry had an automatic mehcnaism that opened up the gate on the docked side so the train could go on or off. I think that was a big part of my fascination with it.
As a Parent
When I had my own kids, we occasionally went to toy or book stores that had BRIO train setups for little kids. I was always transported back to my childhood, and those brief visits to the toy store. My kids also enjoyed the sets, but I don’t recall any ferries. Probably because they were harder to keep track of, not being glued down like the rest of the set (I’m pretty sure the set I played with as a kid was not glued down).
My kids also got to play with off-brand wooden train sets in various places, but we could never afford an actual BRIO set ourselves, partly because I was afraid it would be a slippery slope with me wanting to buy every possible accessory (just researching the available sets for this post has proven that to me, in case there was any doubt). So we didn’t go there.
Fast forward to today, and the 65th Anniversary Set that BRIO has put out.
BRIO Classic 65th Anniversary Train Set
If you’ve ever wanted an easy entry into the BRIO Train Universe, this new set celebrating the 65th anniversary of BRIO trains is a good one. It’s got all of the basic parts (but only the basic parts), including enough track for a semi-complex oval, an engine and three cars, and two trees. It all comes self-contained in a box small enough to easily fit on a shelf or bookcase or under the bed, so this would be a great gift for grandparents who just want some quality toys at their house for visiting grandkids.
Your First Build
The box includes instructions for building the basic track, so it’s easy to get started right out of the box without having to design a complicated setup. Note that the track pieces are two-sided, so you can flip them over to create even more options.
Tip: There is some give in the connections between track pieces, but don’t strain the angles too much or else the train won’t move smoothly along the track.
The base setup forces you to make the train go counter clockwise if you want to be able to go over the bridge, but then once you’ve gone over the bridge one time, you’re going clockwise and can’t access the bridge going forward. This might drive a young train engineer to create a better design.
The whole included train fits in the included siding, though, to allow for any other trains you may have to go around the track.
Quality of Pieces
Almost everything is made of wood, and the finish is a bit rougher than I expected, so check the pieces over for any splinters before handing the set over to your child. The wheels are plastic, and less substantial than I remember BRIO train wheels being, but they do the job.
When I first started playing with the set, the train cars didn’t stay on the track very well, either when pulling the train along or allowing it to go down the hill on its own once across the bridge. But the ride got a lot smoother with fewer derailments the more I played with it. The track depth seems appropriate and everything fits together well. Also, the train cars stay together well with magnets.
The BRIO Train Universe
It would be very easy to get very enthusiastic about the BRIO Train Universe, though: The box also includes a booklet with tons of other available BRIO sets and accessories so that you can drool over them. The ferry included. I hope I can hold off getting any accessories until I have actual grandbabies. Except maybe the ferry.
The BRIO 65th Anniversary Train Set is $89.99 and includes 32 pieces, including train, track, and trees (the 3 Ts). It would be a lovely gift for a new parent, a bored child, a grandparent, or just yourself, to live out your own childhood dreams.
Some fun add-ons include: extra track, the Grand Roundhouse, a Battery-Operated Steaming Train, a Double Suspension Bridge, a Bell Wagon, Mechanical Switches, a Streamline Train, and, of course, a Ferry Ship. Browse the BRIO collection yourself to see what appeals to you. There are even starter sets as low as about $25, for those on a budget.
Note: I received a sample for review purposes.