I first saw this train in April of 2005 when I was asked for feedback on it before it was released. It was originally targeted for release for the 2005 Holiday Season but production scheduled prevented it from being released in time so LEGO decided to push it out a year. For the most part, the train which has been released is virtually identical to the prototype I was asked to comment on. About the only thing which is different is the funnel on the locomotive and the presents in the open freight car. The prototype had a teddy bear and two bicycles instead of the trike – I prefer the bikes and the teddy bear would have been nice as they are hard to find. Unfortunately I can’t post the images of the prototype.
I am glad LEGO has finally released a holiday themed train, they should have done this years ago! I would also like to see LEGO sell individual cars to add on to the Holiday Train and hopefully the LEGO Factory will facilitate that.
When images of this set first appears a couple months ago there was a rumor that it was a limited run of 50 or so that were intended as some sort of gift from or to LEGO executives. This was of course not true but my NDA prevented me from posting anything but none the less, it resulted in some rediculous eBay activity with several of these sets selling for close to $500!
Images of this set are starting to come out now, here are links to several galleries: