Revealed today, LEGO is returning to Disneyland with a brand new set, 71044 Disney Train and Station. LEGO’s history with Disney goes back a long way, but few sets have focused on Disney itself rather than its franchises. Of course the first was the gigantic 71040 Disney Castle from 2016. Now the Disney Train and Castle takes us once again to the magical kingdom with one of Walt’s most beloved attractions. Based on the C. K. Holliday steam locomotive on the Disneyland Railroad in the original California park, the train is motorized with LEGO Powered Up! components. Including the train, track, and station, the set has 2,925 pieces and 5 exclusive minifgures, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale, and Goofy. It will retail for USA $329.99 | CAN $379.99 | UK £299.99 and will be available starting August 21 for LEGO VIP members, with general availability on Sept. 1.
The box and contents
Even after years of doing reviews, it’s still fun to crack into a new set and dump out all the pieces. There’s lots to dig through here, though digging is exactly what you’ll be doing. Despite the set having about half the parts sequestered into a plain white inner box, the only logic as to which parts are in which section is that the instructions are intentionally packaged inside the inner box, forcing you to dump everything to get started. All told, there are 18 numbered bags (with no duplicate numbers), plus three unnumbered bags of parts, the instructions manual in a bag with the stickers, and four loose bundles of track. You’ll definitely want to organize them before starting. Sorting issues aside, there’s a lot to keep you interested.
You’ll get your fill of manuals, too. Rather than having a single, massive tome for a manual like the Disney Castle, the instructions here are broken into four smaller booklets to build the engine and tender, Gondola passenger car, Presidential Parlour Car, and station respectively, with the last one naturally being substantially larger. The first manual includes a brief bit of behind the scenes information about both the real train and the set, but it’s significantly shorter than what you’d find in many other adult-targeted sets.
The three sticker sheets are packaged with the instructions, keeping them unwrinkled. The majority of the stickers are for the parlour car and the station’s interior decorations.
Apart from Goofy’s head, there are no totally new elements in the set, though there are a few new prints and new colors for existing elements, such as many of the medium nougat elements that make up the station’s roof. The set does include a nice selection of track, with enough to make a large oval.
The build starts off, naturally, at the front of the train with the C. K. Holliday locomotive. A classic steam engine in the grandest way, the engine is brightly colored and eye-catching. The build is quite clever to achieve the cylindrical boiler and vents. The engine body is constructed first, then placed on the wheel carriages.
This is hardly the first time that LEGO has produced a steam locomotive, but it is a particularly fine example. The last one we reviewed here was the 10254 Winter Holiday Train, which feels cramped and small comparatively. This Holliday train looks amazing and is filled nifty bits, like red train wheels for the vent tops and minifigure spanners for the cowcatcher struts. Comparing it to the real version, though, one significant shortcoming becomes apparent. The real train is beautifully decked out with gleaming, polished brass, and the LEGO model represents that with a mishmash of pearl gold, drum lacquer gold, dark tan, stickers, or just ignoring the color altogether. None of the solutions come remotely close to capturing the brilliance of real brass the way that LEGO chrome gold elements would have. However, LEGO has been phasing out chromed elements, likely due to expense and manufacturing complexity, and is now down to a single chrome element still in production (the ring). It’s truly a shame, since this is a model that would have mightily benefited from a touch of mirror-polish.
You may have noticed something a bit more subtle missing from the engine, too: the power. Like many previous LEGO engines, the locomotive isn’t actually powered, with that job instead falling to the tender car. The tender is little more than a thin shell over the battery box and motor, though it looks nice. Both are the newer Powered Up components, 88011 Train Motor and 88009 Hub. The hub pairs to your phone via Bluetooth when the button on top is pressed. The hub is easily removable to replace the batteries.
The Gondola passenger car is up next, and while it’s a fairly simple car, the blue and white striped design makes it very parts intensive. The car starts with a long 6×24 train chassis, with doorframes holding up the roof. A row of brackets along each side hold the striped side panels.
The roof has two middle sections which are hinged for easy access to the minifigure passengers. The seats face only one direction, so you’ll be able to seat about six minifigures at a time in the car.
The final car looks lovely decked out in its bold stripes. It would have been easy for the designer to opt for stickers for parts of the pattern, but the completely brick-built design is much better. The access area with steps is on the front side only.
The remaining car is the Presidential Parlour Car, specifically #106, the Lilly Belle, named after Walt Disney’s wife. The posh car begins with the same base as the gondola car, though it feels shorter due to the open platforms on each end. The lush seats feature great designs, with the round-backed chair using a minifigure shield. The small table is adorned with a tea set and vase.
Like the gondola car, the Lilly Belle is spared no parts with an intricate design of dark red grille bricks and red windows make up its walls. Stickers make the filigree work on the exterior as well as the signage.
Rather than the roof coming off for interior access as with most LEGO trains, here the left side is removable. While the real Lilly Belle can hold 14 passengers, the chunky dimensions of LEGO bricks limit that to just three seated passengers. There’s no way to capture all the intricate details of the high-class passenger coach in a LEGO footprint this small, but this is a solid effort and it looks fantastic.
Finally, then we’re ready to move to the other half of the set, which is the station. Up to this point, we’ve used only seven of the set’s 18 numbered bags. The station begins with a series of large light grey plates, connected on the bottom with a lattice of 2-wide plates. The station’s footprint is 40 studs wide and 20 deep including the front platform.
The walls of the station employ dark red 1×2 masonry profile bricks, to the tune of 152 of them in the set. The building is a bit tedious, layering up row after row, interspersed with light grey headlight bricks on every corner for the stone quoins.
With the bottom story finished, the layering is mixed up a bit to allow for the second floor to be placed, which is all tan. At this stage the build also calls for all the lower floor details to be constructed.
The second floor has only a little more brickwork on the tower end, with the rest of the second story using tan and medium nougat.
Finally, the entire roofline is covered with decorative fence made of black handcuffs and skeleton legs. There’s no denying the finished effect looks great, but creating the 32 sets needed was nothing if not tedious. The building is then topped with the two Disney flags. It is especially unfortunate that these are stickered elements, since placing large stickers on a prominently visible piece like this is sure to be an exercise in frustration for many builders.
The finished model
71044 Disney Train and Station is the rare LEGO train set that actually feels like the complete experience in one box. With the inclusion of track, a full train, and a station, you can make a fully-fledged setup using just this set. But let’s take a closer look at the details.
As I already mentioned, apart from the lack of chrome, the locomotive looks amazing, capturing the spirit of a time gone by. The real C. K. Holliday is based on the Central Pacific 173 steam locomotive from 1864, and was one of the two original engines running on the Disney Railroad when it opened in 1955. On the LEGO model, the connecting rods on the driver wheels are purely cosmetic, but they do pump up and down as the train moves.
In the cab there’s room for just one minifigure, which of course is the engineer Mickey. The cab’s roof is hinged to allow easy access, but there’s not much detail inside. The side of the cab reads Disney Railroad, rather than the engine’s name as on the real one.
There’s not much in the way of details on the gondola car, though that’s not a fault, since the car’s simplicity works well and it looks the part. Though interestingly, despite the abundance of stickers everywhere else, LEGO has opted to forego the Disneyland R.R. lettering along the car’s red base, despite having tiles lined up perfectly for it.
I already covered the interior of the parlour car, but the end of the train looks great, even without a proper caboose. There’s a sticker for the mounted Disney red taillight.
The train is controlled via the Powered Up smartphone app, which is available for both Android and iOS. There’s no alternative way to control the train included with the set, so a smartphone or tablet is a requirement. For those not already familiar with the app, it’s a multi-purpose app that supports Powered Up components in a variety of sets, including 76112 App-Controlled Batmobile and two other LEGO trains available currently, 60197 Passenger Train and 60198 Cargo Train. When opening the app, you select the set you have and then use the button on the physical hub to pair it to your device via Bluetooth.
The app interfaces with all three train sets in exactly the same way; in fact, you can pair any of the train sets to the app as any other train. However, unlike the other trains, selecting the Disney Train gives you a further menu to select your setting, winter or summer. Whichever you choose, you’ll be presented with an illustrated Disneyland and on-screen buttons for the various commands to control the train or play whistle or crossing sounds (all the sounds come from your device, not the train).
Speeding up or slowing down the train is accompanied by appropriate chugga-chugga or wheel grinding sounds. Press the music button, and you’ll be greeted by an unmistakably Disney-sounding tune in either summer or winter form. The music seems a silly, inconsequential thing, but I have to admit it adds a lot to making this feel like a magical experience.
The app’s excellent brings to mind a different sort of concern, though. The LEGO brand has been built on longevity. Find your dad’s LEGO bricks in the attic, and you can integrate them immediately with a set you bought new yesterday. Even LEGO’s motorized functions have a remarkable amount of durability — I have motors and lights that are older than I am that still work. But this set doesn’t include an alternate way to control the train; you must pair it to a smartphone. I don’t know what tech is going to look like down the road, but I do know that software from 10 years ago — let alone 20 or 30 — is already difficult if not impossible to run. LEGO does sell a standalone Powered Up controller ensuring you’ll always be able to make the train move back and forth, long after the app stops being updated. But I fear the gorgeous atmosphere and sounds that the app creates, which complete this LEGO set’s experience, won’t be easily accessible in a few years.
The set includes enough track for a single oval about 4 feet in diameter lengthwise, though it will be easy to expand using track from other sets.
Now let’s take a look at the station, which is based on the Main Street, USA Station in Disneyland, and does a remarkable job of capturing that iconic building’s architecture.
The building has an open back allowing full access to the interior rooms, each fitted with details.
Starting at the top of the clock tower, there’s a familiar sight. That’s right, there’s a miniature version of 71040 Disney Castle included, with both the box and built set represented. The set’s box is one of the few uniquely printed elements in the set, rather than being a sticker.
Below that, the other two rooms in the clock tower hold miniature train sets. Walt Disney was famously a train enthusiast (the Disneyland Railroad was a pet project of Walt’s in the already indulgent Disneyland plans).
The trains are marvelous little designs of a few of the locomotives that have run on the Disneyland Railroad. They’re each displayed on wooden stands.
The rest of the second floor has a fancy hallway with plush curtains and rugs, and a special lounge with a chair in a similar style to the one aboard the Lilly Belle.
The bottom floor has a ticket station loaded with memorabilia and easter eggs. See if you can spot everything, from designer Marcos Bessa’s birthday to a map of the Sante Fe railroad.
The Disney Train and Station includes five minifigures, all of which are new designs for this set. Four of the characters have appeared in previous sets with different designs, but Goofy appears in LEGO form for the very first time.
Let’s start off with the most familiar characters, Mickey and Minnie. They’ve each appeared in minifigure form four times previously. Mickey is all new in his engineer’s outfit with blue overalls and a red kerchief. The arms are double-injection molded, while the black shoes are printed on. Minnie, however, is nearly identical to the version that appeared in the Disney Castle. The print is wholly unique (except for the bowtie), but it’s a very similar outfit.
This version of Minnie uses a cloth element for the polka-dotted skirt instead of the plastic element, and it doesn’t work very well. With Minnie’s arms up, the skirt stands out straight like a flat disk, and with her arms down, it just looks like it’s caught in the wind, Marilyn Monroe style.
Chip and Dale have only appeared once before with the Disney Collectible Minifigures Series 2 from earlier this year. Smartly dressed in conductor uniforms, Chip’s got a dark blue coat while Dale’s lost his jacket and wears just the dark blue vest with white sleeves. Both figures have unprinted medium-height legs in dark blue, which is a new color for them. Meanwhile, Goofy adds one more to the lineup of classic Disney characters, making his first appearance as a tramp with a baggy orange shirt and vest and patched trousers.
Unlike the minifigure versions of many other Disney characters with cartoonish hats, Goofy’s lime green hat is molded into the head element. All three characters have printing on the back, albeit very subtle in Chip’s case.
Conclusion & recommendation
There’s no question that this set is sure to hook hardcore Disney fans. The Disneyland Railroad is an iconic part of the magic kingdom experience, and was near and dear to Walt’s heart. It’s difficult to fit that kind of experience into a box, but this set has perhaps come as close as it’s possible to get. Even though I don’t consider myself a Disneyphile, I found myself a bit nostalgic for the park and wishing I’d ridden the train last time I was there. Even the hard of heart will find that with the app piping in train whistles and sweeping Disney-style tunes, the atmosphere feels a bit more magical than you’re used to experiencing with a LEGO set.
For those with no interest in Disney at all, the set still offers a great build with a gorgeously detailed train. Apart from the gondola car, the train isn’t particularly “Disney,” since it’s based on a real locomotive and cars from the golden age of rail. Likewise, the station is a lovely bit of classic American architecture with some fun techniques. With a few modifications, it would look right at home in a lineup of LEGO Modular-style buildings. With 2,925 pieces for $329.99, the price is reasonable once you factor in that it includes expensive elements like the motor and hub, plus a good portion of track.
And how does the set look with its big brother, the Disney Castle? Excellent, of course. I suspect that this will spawn at least a few fans to begin designing even more Disney attractions, taking the first steps to a full minifigure-scale Disneyland. And LEGO itself just may have more in mind for The Happiest Place on Earth.
71044 Disney Train and Station will be available from the LEGO Shop Online for USA $329.99 | CAN $379.99 | UK £299.99 beginning Aug 21 for LEGO VIP members, with general availability Sept. 1. It will also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.