Best Train Sets Buyer's Guide
Now that we covered the best train sets currently offered on the market, it is time to review all of the essential qualities you should consider when choosing a train set.
Whether you are only looking for an electric train set for sale online or the most affordable store where you could buy electric train sets it’s all a matter of knowing what you’re looking for and how to search for it.
The only thing left to do is choose one that best fits the below criteria.
The history of train sets
The inventor of toy trains was Joshua Lionel Cowen. He invented his first toy train at the mere age of seven when he connected a motor to a model of a railroad flatcar. One invention led to another, and he finally founded the Lionel Corporation.
This company was the first to deal with toy train production in America, and Lionel trains continue to be a hit even today.
The second toy train manufacturer that entered the market was Bachmann Industries, which started producing toy trains in 1968.
Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, today it is a Chinese owned company, based in Hong Kong. Bachmann’s brand is the largest seller of model trains in the world.
Finally, another manufacturer worth mentioning is MTH Electric Trains. Formerly known as Mike’s Train House, this company is working with Lionel under the Lionel Corporation banner on producing toy trains of all sizes, styles, and designs.
Things to consider before buying a train set
Now that we have introduced you to the history of toy trains and the best model train manufacturers, the below list covers all that you should put into perspective before purchasing a train set.
If you plan on enriching your train set, the size is an important aspect to consider, since additional tracks or accessories need to fit your existing set. Train sets can be found in four different scales.
N scale (1:160 Scale; 3.25″ long, 0.75″ wide, 1.00″ high)
HO scale (1:87.1 Scale; 5.75″ long, 1.50″ wide, 2.00″ high)
O scale (1:48 Scale; 10.50″ long, 2.50″ wide, 3.75″ high)
G scale (1:22.5 to 1:29 scale; 17.25″ long, 4.50″ wide, 6.50″ high)
N scale train sets are usually considered electric train sets for adults and might be too complicated for children. Instead, they are more appropriate for experienced hobbyists, as they allow for more realistic layouts.
HO is the most popular scale, so if you opt for this size train set, it will be fairly easy to find tracks and other accessories to your set. If you are looking for train sets for toddlers, an HO scale train set might still come too small for them to maneuver the trains.
Conversely, an O scale train set could be perfect for younger children mainly because of its size. It is big enough for them to operate it.
A G scale train set is the biggest and easiest to maneuver as it very rarely derails. Because of their size and durability, G scale trains are usually set up outdoors (in gardens, for example).
Complete train sets often include a power supply. Transformers that come in the train set are usually only strong enough to supply power for the locomotive and a few attached cars.
If you are planning on enriching your collection you might want to consider investing in a stronger transformer.
DC power – this system is the conventional way of powering most starter train sets.
DCC power – with this power supply, you can control multiple locomotives anywhere on the layout.
AC power – Bachmann, Lionel, and MTH trains operate on AC power. This power supply provides a different power frequency and cannot be combined with DC or DCC trains, tracks, or accessories.
Firstly, tracks differ in terms of size, i.e., they all come in different scales. The second characteristic you should consider is the shape of the tracks.
Usually, starter packs include several straights and curved track sections, as well as some switches or turn points.
The number of curved sections will be important if you are planning to assemble a specific shape with the tracks. Also, you can separately purchase flex tracks and make any shape that you want.
Accessories are the way to make your train set more fun and realistic. The best model train brands usually include some accessories in the train sets they produce.
If you want to customize your train set, you can find different types of accessories on the market.
Characters (train conductors, police officers, passengers)
Cars (locomotives, flatcars, boxcars, passenger cars, caboose)
Tracks (curved, straight, switches)
Scenery (mountains, hills, houses, trees, stations)
Train sets differ when it comes to the device used to control the train. They either have a controller that is directly connected to the power supply and has to be fixed next to the set.
Or, a train set might include a remote, which means you can control its functions from any place in your house or garden. Usually, the controller connected to the power supply can only be used to turn the train on or off and control the speed.
If there is a remote provided, it could also control some locomotive features like sound, steam, and direction.
Train sets can greatly vary in price, as they can be different in sizes, include a different number of accessories or track lengths, and be more or less detailed or themed.
Usually, themed train sets are more expensive and include more accessories and features (famous characters and sound effects of famous lines). Also, if the train set was designed for a model railway hobbyist as a collector’s item, it will more likely fall on the expensive side.
Which is the best train set for you?
As you can see, not only there are a lot of aspects to put into perspective when looking for train sets, but there are also many options to choose from.
To help you narrow down the selection, we provided you with an extensive list of some of the best train sets on the market.
Whether you are looking for the best train sets for toddlers or a great starter set to introduce you to the world of model railroading, one of the train sets from the above list will certainly make for a perfect gift or a wonderful addition to your everyday life!