by Wesley James
I have parts and pieces of my first train set. It included an HO-scale GP18 and a few freight cars, brass track that got dirty and oxidized easily; underweighted freight cars using truck-mounted horn-hook-style couplers, it was a recipe for disappointment. There are so many advantages to the sets offered today versus this now-vintage example I described, and these contemporary releases are much more user friendly. We are going to look at what I call a contemporary classic starter set produced by Walthers. The basics included over the years are all here: oval of track, locomotive and caboose with a few freight cars, etc. Walthers’ Trainline “WiFlyer Express” is a set that brings a hassle-free train operation together with modern technology. As the box proclaims, this release is Easy & Fun.
Featuring HO-scale equipment, Walthers’ Trainline WiFlyer Express is a ready-to-run starter set for those new to the hobby. Suggested for ages 14 and older, I chose my oldest son Ryan (14 years old) to help with the review. Ryan started unboxing and then putting the oval of track together. Walthers’ Power-Lock Track sections are comprised of nickel silver rails mounted to molded brown plastic ties imbedded in gray plastic roadbed. You receive 16 track pieces in this release: four straight sections and a dozen 18-inch radius curve pieces (one curve serves as rerailer section with electrical connections for the power supply).
The Power-Lock Track’s design presents protruding points on one side and an open notch on the other side of the end of the track pieces.The track sections go together by sliding the ends together in a side-to-side method, unlike traditional and other track systems that go together by connecting end to end. Ryan put the pieces together easily but needed my stronger grip to disassemble some of them. Walthers’ instructions suggest that the oval of track can be left together and hung on a wall to store away. Also included inside the packaging are setup and operation instructions, informational brochures on additional set add-ons, and train layout wiring and design.
The packaging can be reused to store the set away when not in use. The set comes with a Walthers Trainline model of Electro-Motive Division’s GP15-1 diesel locomotive decorated for Canadian Pacific (CP). The assembled GP15-1 comes equipped with a Digital Command Control (DCC) decoder for control and sound output. The model really stands out in its bright red livery. A matching caboose brings up the rear of the three-car train with all equipment using Walthers ProtoMax knuckle couplers (mounted to the carbodies); trucks include metal wheel sets. Walthers offers two additional road names (BNSF and CSX) for its WiFlyer Express sets.
ABOVE: This set’s freight cars include a 50-foot insulated Conrail boxcar, 53-foot Norfolk Southern gondola, and 40-foot two-bay Union Pacific open coal hopper. These cars, and the set’s caboose, come equipped with smooth-rolling metal wheels and body-mounted metal Proto MAX knuckle couplers. All models include proper weight for good tracking characteristics.
The blue-colored, square Wi-Fi Train Controller has separate connections for the track power supply (labeled “TO TRACK”) and another port for accessories (marked “16V DC”). Once the Wi-Fi Train Controller is connected to the rails and plugged into a standard wall outlet it is time to get your wireless device synced to the system. Ryan used his cell phone to make connection with the Wi-Fi Train Controller pack. There is no need to have a home internet connection available as your phone or other smart device makes a direct connection to this system.
You will see the Wi-Fi address listed as “Walthers-WiFi-000000,” on your device. I listed zeros in that address; in actuality these last digits are a combination of numerals (0-9) and will be specific to your system. Once you choose the “Walthers-WiFi,” it will prompt you for a Wi-Fi password, which you’ll find provided in the instruction booklet. You will type the address for the controller into the URL box at the top of your screen, also provided in the instructions. The locomotive controller app will load to your device. The controller will have a locomotive number or address box where you can enter the DCC address for the locomotive; this set’s Canadian Pacific GP15-1 featured road number 1450. Below the address box are touch prompts for Sound, Light, Bell, and Horn… this is how you operate these features of your locomotive. The speed control is a simple slide button on the screen which acts as the throttle with a reverse/forward button beneath the speed control.
ABOVE: This view of Walthers’ Trainline GP15-1 shows the shell removed, which is easily accomplished by removing the couplers and their pockets from both ends of the unit. The lower edge of the pilot can be removed to help facilitate the coupler removal. The drive includes DCC decoder for digital operation and sound output. In addition to its sound functions, this locomotive comes with directional lighting. The mechanism includes two brass flywheels for smooth starts and stops. Walthers includes its Getting Started Guide, along with complete setup and operating instructions with its WiFlyer Express train set release.
Ryan used the app to turn on the diesel prime mover sound and then started the GP15-1 in forward movement. The bell and horn functions worked great, as did control of headlight output. He did a few laps on the oval of track in both forward and reverse without any derailments. On the app’s Settings menu, we were able to adjust the sound volume from 100 down to 75, which made it more pleasing to our ears. We next tried the system with another DCC-equipped locomotive from our collection. By typing in this model’s previously assigned DCC address into the app, we had the same control over it as the set’s CP diesel locomotive. Consisting locomotives is not an option, but you could change the address of each loco one at a time to the same number and they would act as one. Running two separate locomotives was possible by switching between them and changing the address each time in the app.
WiFlyer Express train set
with DCC and sound
931-1251, MSRP: $299.98
Wm. K. Walthers, Inc.