9v vs RC – which to buy?

Any questions or feedback recieved through the ILTCO web site ends up in my mailbox. When I receive them I either answer them if I can or forward them on the appropriate person. Yesterday I found the following question in my Inbox:

Dear Sirs,

Which Lego sets are better to buy for a Lego loving kid who currently has no Lego train set.

RC or 9 volt?

The Lego.com people say to get the RC since 9 volt is going away.

Thank you,

[Name Withheld]

The following is a paraphrased version of my response to this question.

What the LEGO.com people is sort of true, sort of not. LEGO is indeed focusing their internal design and marketing on the new RC trains. They have also stated that 9v trains components will be available through LEGO Factory. How long the 9v trains components continue to be available is unknown. There will be a new 9v train set available in the spring but it will be sold via the LEGO Factory as opposed to a traditional set. I would expect the LEGO Train items you will find in the catalog to be mostly RC train sets as the existing 9v sets come to the end of their production life. The 10173 Holiday Train which LEGO has just released is a 9v train although it doesn’t come with a motor, track, or speed regulartor. It can be purchased along with a motor and rail kit for about $175.

There is some information in this LUGNET thread regarding the future of 9v trains from BrickFest this past August.

This question is hard for me to answer as I personally am a fan of the 9v system but I am also highly invested in it. I have 4 children myself all of whom play with LEGO quite a bit. We have also had our share of battery operated toys. There are pros and cons to the 9v and RC systems but for me, the biggest question is around power. The 9v electric system requires a child to plug the unit in the wall. I would have no problem allowing my 11, 9, or 7 year old to do that but every parent is different as are children. One 9 year old is not the same as another.

  • Do you expect your child to build a train collection? If so, the 9v may be a better choice as pulling a long train is reportedly difficult with the RC motor.
  • Do you expect your child to have a layout set up for an extended period of time? If not, the ease of snapping together the RC track and getting a train running may appeal to you.
  • Do you want to run more than one train at a time? This is easy to do with RC (assuming you have 2 RC trains), harder with 9v.
  • Battery powered toys require batteries. Do you expect to run the train for long periods of time? If not, the RC train is probably just fine. If you want it to run for hours around the Christmas tree during the holiday season, replacing the batteries (even rechargables) every few hours will get old quickly. On the flip side, the RC train definitely provides the child (or adult) much more feeling of control. The LEGO 9v speed controller is pretty simple – you plug it in and you have a speed dial. The direction it points and how far dictates how fast the train moves and in what direction.

There is a Review of one of the RC trains on the ILTCO web site. LUGNET is also a good place to solicit an opinion on this subject.

I hope this information is helpful.

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8 Responses to 9v vs RC – which to buy?

  1. Beth says:

    Regarding the new 9v train for spring 2010. You say it will probably be available through the factory. What is the site for purchasing through the factory?

  2. Mike Walsh says:

    The latest I have heard is the 2010 Trains will be available later in 2010, probably in the Fall. As to where to buy them – certainly LEGO Shop at Home will sell them and they may also be carried by other retailers. Around me, Toys-R-Us stocked Trains this past holiday season.

  3. Robin says:

    My son has the older 9v trains, tracks, motors, regulator, etc. Are any parts of it compatible with the RC trains currently available? If he got the Emerald Night, could he put the 9v motor on it and run it on the 9v track or do we need to buy a whole new RC set?

  4. Mike Walsh says:

    You can run all of the new RC trains in the older 9v track without any issues. The same is not true with respect to running 9v trains on the new RC track, that won’t work without some effort. The newer track is the same form factor as the original 9v track but doesn’t have the electric rails. The “gauge”, the span of the wheel sets, is identical and all of the non-powered cars (freight, passenger, etc.) are the same. The design of the coupling has changed but it functions the same as the older element.

    As for modifying the Emerald Night with a 9v motor, the answer is yes but it involves some work. On this blog I have a design posted (be sure to read the comments too) which adds a 9v motor to the Tender and it works ok, but not great. There are several other designs floating around, I recommend searching EuroBricks forum, there was a very active thread for a while on 9v modifications for the Emerald Night.

    It is also possible to purchase just the Power Functions motor components from LEGO Shop at Home to power the Emerald Night or another train. Whether it is better to buy the components or a new RC train set to get them, will depend on any sales you can find (check TRU, the one near me has trains) and whether you want the parts in the new train sets.

  5. Phil says:

    My new RC train 7939’s remote control transmitter/receiver pair hums as the train runs. Is this normal?

    This is my first RC train. My 9V trains are nice and quiet.

    Thanks, Phil.

  6. Mike Walsh says:

    I wish I could help you but I don’t know the answer to your question as I don’t have an RC trains myself. Seems odd though and something I think I would have heard of.

  7. Akemi Thompson says:

    My younger brother has a Lego City RC Train Set # 7897. I want to buy him the Lego 9v Train Set 10183 “Hobby Train” but he is still young so sticking with RC power is best. I wanted to know if he could just put the RC motor into the 9v Train and run it on his RC track? Thanks for your help!

  8. Mike Walsh says:

    The 7897 has a special wagon plate that has the IR receiver in it so you’ll have to adapt it to the models in the 10183 Hobby Train. Some will be easy, others may not be possible at all. Hope this helps.

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