… you’re at the cusp, kids. You’re at the edge between childhood and everything that comes after. You’re in transition.”
-R.J. Palacio, Author
For as long as trains have existed there have been toys of them. Even today their legacy lives on in these classic toys. Train toys have proven themselves to be timeless, and will continue to do so for generations to come. 
Wooden toy trains specifically are very popular with boys and girls from ages three to eight, but by age ten most children will have stopped playing with them.
By contrast, model railroading has become a past time relegated to a small community of adult hobbyists with the time, dexterity and resources to devote to this costly hobby. This makes model railroading very inaccessible to most children, especially if they come from low income families. 
This project is an attempt to create a new line of train toys that meets the large gap that exists between these two extremes. This isn’t a model train line, and it isn’t a traditional wooden train set. It lies somewhere in the middle.
This is Train Zet.

research and benchmarking.
Before delving into concept development, I conducted research in the following areas to prove there is both a need and desire for this product:
Market Research
Feedback from Experts
Benchmarking 
Interviews and User Feedback
I started by consulting databases such as Mintel, a Market Research firm. The data here comes from their “Traditional Toys and Games” report from May, 2020.
According to studies from by Mintel, Educational toys, Building sets and Toy Vehicles are top-selling toy categories.
The toy industry at large has had an upswing since the beginning of the pandemic. Building sets make up one of the top five best selling toy categories, increasing by 16.4 percent and 2.67 Billion Dollars in sales from 2019 to 2020.
Building sets were equally popular among 
girls and boys
Gender Neutrality was one of the top reasons parents considered when purchasing toys for their children. Overall this comes from a place of value and practicality, because a gender neutral toy is more likely to be played with by more than one child

While Mintel categorizes toy trains as building and play sets, they can also be considered as vehicle toys. Therefore, toy trains could be considered as two of the five top-selling toy categories on the market.
Wooden toy trains are equally as popular among children ages three to eight regardless of gender, making them a gender neutral toy. This is despite the trend that vehicle toys and train toys beyond this age range are marketed almost exclusively to boys. 

With the toy industry expanding since the pandemic, there is high demand for toys - especially gender neutral building sets.
problem statement.
To meet the play needs of children entering middle childhood (ages nine to eleven), I created a toy train line that is more challenging than wooden train sets, but not as complicated or costly as model railroading. 
User Profile.
The target market for 
Train Zet is made up of:
Children ages nine to eleven.
Likes to play with building sets and vehicle toys. 
Likes to problem solve.
Enjoyed playing with wooden toy trains, but is starting to lose interest. 
Concept Development.
I started to focus on two objectives at this stage; what I wanted the trains to do, and what I wanted them to look like. 
I looked into multiple play patterns that could be applied to these toys and researched railways across the globe to find the aesthetic I wanted for my final project. I wanted Train Zet to feel modern, so I looked at diesel and electric trains as visual inspiration. It was here I decided I wanted to focus on recreating a modern design rather than a steam locomotive. This is meant to promote sustainability in the product line at large.
final models.
Wooden train sets lose popularity with middle age children because of their simplicity. They do not pose a challenge past a certain age. More than anything they read as toys for little children, which is not the kind of toy you want to play with as you’re nearing adolescence. Here, I propose a new method of connecting track, which allows for users to connect pieces together with an additional manufactured part. 
These tracks not only look like rails, but they are more challenging to put together than standard wooden track. This isn’t to the point that it becomes frustrating, rather it raises the level of difficulty to connect track based on the average dexterity of a child between the ages of nine to eleven.
To make this set cost effective, I made two extra track pieces. These are two adapters that will allow users to take their Train Zet track and combine it with track from any wooden train set on the market. This allows users to make use of wooden track they may already own.
These pieces also promote sustainability in that it encourages users to make use of track they already own. Since this is a transitionary product, it seemed fitting to create a piece that literally acts as a connection with older track. 
FINAL PRODUCT.
Progression from right to left showing the development of Train Zet track pieces.
Progression from right to left showing the development of Train Zet track pieces.
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