A lot of little kids are enjoying the wooden trains. Who can blame them? Trains are just awesome. Still, though, when parents are trying to figure out how to indulge their child’s train love, they often find themselves wondering some big questions. Chuggington or Thomas?
While my friend Jo likes to tell me that I’m a big geek for the massive Train Track Tuesday layouts, I insist that I don’t actually play with the trains. I just build them so that my kids can enjoy them. Although I do sit down to encourage that my kids play and use some imagination…. Okay, fine, I play trains with my kids from time to time.
All Wooden Train Brands Play Nicely Together
It doesn’t matter if you’re buying some spare pieces from the bulk bin at the local toy store or if they are Chuggington, Thomas, Brio, Melissa & Doug, or whatever else. They all interconnect. That means you (or your children) can put together a more varied world.
Yes, It’s Expensive
Sure, you can frequently find smaller complete sets used for $100. However, when you go to the local toy store to buy a wooden railway roundhouse, you’ll find that they are well over $75. (And over $100 in Canada.) If you bargain hunt, buy extra track pieces from the bulk bin instead of going name brand, and look for sales, it will only cost an arm instead of an arm and a leg.
All Brands Aren’t Equal
Sure, the track all plays nicely together, and some of the “off brands” do have awesome accessories. Bridges and tunnels in particular can be awesome from the not so big name brands. I love the Melissa & Doug Skyline Bridge. But the “off brand” engines are a bit of a disappointment. Don’t go cheap on the engines and cars, because they are just far less interesting. The engines are often flat and boring; the cars are often flimsy. Stick with Thomas or Chuggington engines and cars.
Which is better? Thomas or Chuggington?
Neither. Both. If you’re looking at the television series, I’ve got nothing. We’ve never seen Chuggington shows and watch the odd Thomas on Netflix. While I’m particularly fond of Sir Topham Hatt/The Fat Controller, I don’t notice the trains seeming to have distinct personalities in the newer episodes. But with the toys?
Norton likes the Thomas trains best of all. They are all older style engines, and let’s just face it, those are way cooler. They’re cute and aesthetically pleasing. Skarloey is his favorite.
However, for Eudora’s little hands, the chunkier, less detailed in shape Chuggington engines have a distinct advantage. They’re the more modern, block shaped engine rather than the old fashioned “steamies,” so they’re easier for smaller hands to hold and maneuver. That block shape means that there are no chimneys for Eudora to put in her mouth. They are also just a smidgen taller, so there’s the occasional thing that won’t work together. (For example, Chuggington engines don’t fit so well under the Thomas the Train Stop & Go Station… but the Thomas the Train Early Engineers engines don’t fit so well, either. I’ve yet to run into any other clear cut cases where the two products don’t play well together.)
If you’re out to do a full-blown themed room, you’ll do better with Thomas. There are more readily available companion merchandise pieces like beds, bedding, and even a little toddler sized living room suite.
What Do I Suggest?
Mix and match. Mix and match as much as possible and remember your child’s tastes. Sure, both Chuggington and Thomas have roundhouses. But the Chuggington Double Decker Roundhouse with its nifty little elevating platform and options to separate may be more interesting to a young child than the single layered Deluxe Roundhouse or Tidmouth Sheds. However, the Thomas And Friends Wooden Railway – Quarry Mine Tunnel and the Chuggington Wooden Railway Rocky Ridge Mine Tunnel are practically indistinguishable. And the Thomas the Train Deluxe Over the Track Signal is way more awesome than the Chuggington equivalent.
I suggest that you go for the coolest option that’s within your budget. Since they are frequently the exact same price, it’s a bit easier.
Do you have a wooden railway enthusiast in your home? How do you choose between Thomas and Chuggington?