Why are there so few train Transformers?

Discussion in 'Transformers Toy Discussion' started by TFsound1, May 6, 2020.

  1. TFsound1

    TFsound1 Well-Known Member

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    I notice that there have always been very few train Transformers over the decades. The only ones I can name are Astrotrain, the extremely rare Japanese exclusive trainbots, Team Bullet train, and the Micromaster Railbots. I haven't heard of any after those. You can find more Transformers who are boats, helicopters, or construction vehicles. Why have trains always been super unpopular among the Transformers toys?
     
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  2. AutobotAvalanche

    AutobotAvalanche Number One in Boogieland Moderator

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    Lack of mobility I'd wager. Cars and planes and tanks can go anywhere. Even with a boat it's easy to pretend a specific surface is water. For a kid a train is more boring because you have to keep it on the tracks imagination-wise. Unless of course trains are the focus and they come with tracks. Then all bets are off and they're as cool as the cars and trucks. But that usually isn't the case.

    They also don't lend themselves to very interesting-looking robots. Across the board most trains are just tubes on wheels.
     
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  3. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    It's mostly because trains aren't popular in North America. The romance of the cross-country railroads and all that shit is all but dead, and all you have is ugly-ass cargo haulers criss-crossing the boonies where they're mostly out of sight. Nobody has any exposure to them anymore.
     
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  4. RodimusRex

    RodimusRex Well-Known Member

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    I think Americans have very little enthusiasm for trains in general unless it's Old West/early 20th century steam engines.

    Most of the country doesn't have regular access to clean, attractive, modern trains except on vacation and they're kind of stigmatized as a low income thing, whether Amtrak or NY Subways.

    California is the only place in America I can think of I've been where you have a clean, affordable, comfortable, modern train I've rode that is neither dirty nor touristy but something I could see being part of my daily commute in a fairly pleasant version of life.

    Anywhere else in the U.S. I've been, trains were an uncomfortable necessity or campy tourist attractions. Or freight delivery, sometimes, some places.

    They aren't seen as sporty, scary, sexy, friendly, heroic, powerful, or menacing. Except to people who I've known to be on certain psychological spectrums (say, trainspotters or antique collectors), a modern train transformer would probably be cast by a typical American to be played by Danny DeVito or Wallace Shawn and would be 100% civilian and played as low status, for laughs.
     
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  5. Excikaiser

    Excikaiser Well-Known Member

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    No so sure. for me they're on par with trains...
     
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  6. TFsound1

    TFsound1 Well-Known Member

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    Astrotrain was still a very popular character in the show and was on the cartoon for two seasons. There have been a number of Astrotrain toys over the years. That includes two Astrotrain toys that were released last year. In the cartoon it was common for Astrotrain to not use rails in train mode. I don't recall any time where the Trainbots used rails in the Headmasters cartoon.

    If a person can pretend that a surface has water, then they can also pretend that it has rails on it. I was a small kid when I had G2 Seaspray and I don't know if I ever put him in water. I would argue that the Team Bullet Train are very well designed. The train modes, robot modes, transformation, combined mode, etc. are all very well designed. Railracer is one of my favorite combiners, and he was the first combiner I owned as an adult collector.
     
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  7. Chareos

    Chareos Needs New Omnibots

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    I don't feel like modern trains have the character that steam trains had. Was super excited that 3P dipped their toes into Hearts of Steel, but very disappointed they didn't continue
     
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  8. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    That sort of proves the point that the theme doesn't sell.
     
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  9. AutobotAvalanche

    AutobotAvalanche Number One in Boogieland Moderator

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    You can absolutely pretend there are rails, I'm just saying it requires more consistency than a car or plane. If you're doing it "right" you have to have the train move in straight lines all the time. Less fun. I think Astrotrain gets a pass because as what people have said above, he's the more romantic steam engine typically and the absurdity/cool factor of a character that is a spaceship and a train at the same time. And he's a 1985 character. Were he to have come out in 1988 or so he would be mostly forgotten.

    That said I would love to see more train characters, I just can see why there aren't many.
    I was obsessed with trains growing up, all kinds. Had all kinds of factbooks and the like. Here in Central California there are some historic areas with old trains/railyards. Used to have a gigantic stack of brochures and pamphlets about trains I'd collected wherever we went. My parents took me on AmTrak a few times to visit family when a car probably would have been faster, lol. It's a shame that that romantic idea is mostly dead as you said because it does have a very strong hold in American history.
     
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  10. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. Even for the train enthusiasts out there, most of the interest remains in the older-style steam engines of the early 20th century. There's nothing attractive about the modern engines.

    Japan is one of the few countries that maintains any level of enthusiasm, and that's because they're still a large part of daily life there. The trains and Shinkansen connect all the rural areas and suburbs to the main city hubs, and the rail agencies promote the shit out of the trains.

    Even in Europe, where some territories enjoy similar service, I don't think there's that level of enthusiasm of them because all the major lines run through big trenches, where they're mostly out of sight.
     
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  11. Cyberbot8460

    Cyberbot8460 The Weeb Transformers Fan.

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    Trains just aren't as popular here as they are in Japan. That's why the trainbots have never been in any US Media, and why Astrotrain uses his shuttle mode more.
     
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  12. TFsound1

    TFsound1 Well-Known Member

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    Are they? I have always lived in areas where trains were a walkable distance away from me. I have freight trains and an Amtrak passenger train that go near my house every day. It's true that trains aren't as popular as they were 70 years ago, but they do seem to be having a come back (at least where I live). 6 years ago there were no passenger trains. Then by the end of 2014 they had Amtrak and had two trains running a day. Now there are six passenger trains running a day.
     
  13. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    It's possible they'll make a comeback in the future, especially as municipalities push for high-speed rail as an eco-friendly long-distance alternative to air travel. As things stand now, though, trains have this stigma as a sad old man hobby. When's the last time you saw an honest-to-god train set in a toy store, for example? I mean, one that isn't a wooden block version for little kids, at least. Or Lego. Only place you can find replica-style trains at anymore is dedicated model shops, and those are dying out too.
     
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  14. fujishig

    fujishig Well-Known Member

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    Right, I can't think of many boats unless you count the space ships that kind of look like boats.

    I do think there are kids that play with trains when they're young: when my kids were younger TRU had a whole section full of Thomas Train and Chuggington, but definitely not to the level of, say, Hot Wheels or airplanes.
     
  15. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    Y'know, I wouldn't be surprised if Thomas weren't also part of the problem. Sometimes when kids get older, they have this way of rejecting the things they used to like, so they can say they've grown up. So they put aside the trains because Thomas was a "baby toy", and they don't look back.

    Boats are purely a practicality problem. They tried to include at least one in each of the Unicron Trilogy entries (Tidal Wave, Mirage, and Thunderblast. Plus a number of Minicons. And Energon Sharkticon was a submarine of sorts), and then there were Depth Charge and Seaspray in the Revenge of the Fallen toyline. But they just run into the "Aquaman" problem, that was also made fun of in The Simpsons with the "Knightboat" bit, in that boats have such limited playability because their functionality is so well-defined in our brains. Even if you're playing imaginitively, it's hard to escape "boat goes on water". And now that we're sort of in an 80's "G1 only" loop, there's only so many times they can remake Seaspray...
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2020
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  16. ThrustJan

    ThrustJan Well-Known Member

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    Very good point on USA and Japan comparison,and it explains why the G1 train combiner never arrived to North America.
     
  17. Toadimus Prime

    Toadimus Prime A smile better suits a hero

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    Trains just don't seem to be popular outside of Japan. They even managed to release an Optimus Prime that turns into a train (EX Prime), which was completely ignored in the rest of the world!

    It surprises me just as much that we've never seem farm vehicles as Transformers. Kids love those thngs. Those and buses. I guess they're just not cool alt modes though .
     
  18. mx-01 archon

    mx-01 archon Well-Known Member

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    In fairness, the entire Transformers GO! line was ignored outside of Japan. For good reason.
     
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  19. Mister D

    Mister D Bloosh Compatible TFW2005 Supporter

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    We're not in the 1800s?
     
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  20. Ikkstakk

    Ikkstakk Well-Known Member

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    In 45 years, I've never been on a train except when we took a vacation in Chicago.
     
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