The Orient Express (LEGO #21344) – Review

Article may contain affiliate links.

A promise of adventure

The LEGO Orient Express Train has a history far beyond the real-world, legendary train featured in Detective Poirot‘s case files. For over a century, the line connected Paris to Istanbul and became synonymous with luxury, intrigue, espionage, and excess.

The Orient Express LEGO set itself started as a LEGO Ideas set with a beautiful, unique green locomotive that was reminiscent of the images you see online and the movies that have been released with the name of the line.

If the build had come out as originally designed, the train would have been about the size of the Crocodile Locomotive—sadly, without the flexibility needed for the train to use the standard LEGO-width tracks. It should have come as no surprise that the train design was changed to a more traditional locomotive (which we learned in the leak back in October of 2022, before the train was officially released).

Tamed and Refined

The LEGO Orient Express Train, released in December 2023, is in a beautiful blue color with gold accents, which were originally only featured in the single carriage of the Ideas submission. The number of carriages doubled to two, now having a dining car with a bathroom and a sleeping car in addition to the locomotive and tender.

We love the unified colors and liveries of the current train line that carries the name. It is a more coherent, more up-scale train, and the included minifigs show as much.

That said, the LEGO Group has explained that the train is too heavy to be motorized, and they spent many hours trying to make it work but couldn’t (more on this below—tl;dr: it isn’t). This gives us the ability to display the train on the provided makeshift tracks and push the train through our LEGO cities, which was something many people asked from last year’s Hogwarts Express CE, which was a few studs too wide to fit on regular train tracks.

If we did not know about the history of the train, we would still consider the locomotive to be a bit on the boring side, with most of the satisfaction of the build coming through the detailed carriages. The train comes together as a good-looking, long train that would be great in most LEGO cities, as it’s capable of pretty tight turns. The design is timeless and looks like it belongs wherever it is. The only real complaint would be the inability to motorize it… out of the box.

Build notes and surprises

There are 23 numbered bags, 14 of which are carriages. There are eight minifigs, including a conductor, two attendants, a server, a videographer, two passengers, and reporter Pippin Reed from LEGO Adventurers fame making her return. The set also features brick-built buffers for the carriages and a really nice set of couplers with extra details instead of the classic coupler and magnets system featured in most other trains that fit in traditional tracks. This could also contribute to the “too heavy” problem that prevented the set from being motorized.

The new coupling rods are useful and add to the realism of the locomotive. We look forward to them being used in further sets or maybe retrofitting these onto older sets.

This set is compatible with the “Build Together” option on the LEGO Builder app. This was a very welcome surprise when we were sitting down to build and were able to give the younger builders a taste of a bigger set. More and more sets have this feature enabled in the instructions, and we believe it is a good thing.

Missed Connections

We found the build’s details to be engaging and the design to be exquisite. The changes made at the request of the current Orient Express operators make the set overall better, in our opinion, and the only reason we found a reason to complain about the locomotive was because of our knowledge of the existence of the original version with its unique green engine.

At $299, this set is also on the outer limits of where it should be price-wise. Train lovers will likely enjoy the details, but it’s quite expensive and a little large to fit easily into most LEGO cities; you’d be better served with the Express Passenger Train, which also features two carriages (albeit not as intricate and detailed) for 40% less money. If you’re lucky enough to already own 2009’s Emerald Night (LEGO #10194), featuring a large green engine which was also very easy to motorize, the Orient Express train will fall flat.

Running out of Steam

The elephant in the room is twofold: not only is the train not motorized, it doesn’t include instructions for you to add your own Powered Up functions, either. LEGO Group expresses that they did months of testing, and the train was just too heavy. **RacingBrick** does an excellent job of running through the possible reasons why LEGO decided against motorization of 21344 Orient Express. There are already multiple motorization solutions on Rebrickable, with people having reliable outcomes. If you have the PoweredUp functions at home, motorizing the tender is trivial, and the solution that RacingBrick ends up with looks like the most sensible one, with the engine pulling the tender and both carriages using a medium-sized motor.

End of the Line

To put it plainly, LEGO 21344 Orient Express is overpriced at $299. You get two large, very detailed carriages that will look good if you are looking for a display model, but will likely be too large to be practical in a LEGO city train-station. You also get an underwhelming engine that doesn’t do justice to how detailed the carriages are. The set doesn’t bring instructions for motorization, but that modification can be done with some ease following any of the instructions that have been appearing online in the days since the set’s release.

The LEGO Orint Express is well-balanced on the tracks, and can be played with very easily when you push it down the track. This is a big improvement over the “display only” Hogwarts Express CE, and is a good scale for trains going forward.

If you are looking for a LEGO set to display, this looks very good on a shelf and it is much more imposing than the Crocodile Locomotive.

If you are looking for LEGO sets that fit into your city, and you’ve already established a mostly urban setting, this might not be it. It is so large that it really should be admired in a longer track or a countryside setting, like its full-size counterpart, forever heading to the most exotic destinations in non-sensical luxury.

This website contains affiliate links.
See our full editorial guidelines & disclosures.

Copyright © 2024 Con•Ver•Gente.
All rights reserved.