The most complete train set on the market. The manufacturer has thought of every detail, including synchronized smoke bellowing with the engine's puff.
On the more expensive end. Whistle has only one tone.
A new model by a top name in train sets. Features an attractive holiday theme with lots of attention to detail. Components are well-made, and the track pieces are easy to put together. Looks great around the Christmas tree.
Batteries don't last long. Some owners found the "train" sounds it makes to be annoying.
EZ track is a nice feature for such a mid-priced train set. The locomotive is incredibly realistic.
Some users complain of problems with the wiring, so it's worth knowing that is a possibility.
Set offers over 130 colorful wooden pieces including train components and a track that can be built in four different configurations. Stimulates the imagination. Comes with kid-friendly instructions.
Some pieces don't fit together securely, and some of the wheels on the train pieces are wobbly. Not mechanical, but this may not matter to all youngsters.
Even if you're not an aficionado, there's just something magical about a train set. It can be rather mesmerizing watching that little engine race round and round through miniature mountains and the countryside to get back to its tiny home town. But are you aware of the different features that could make a specific train set the ideal choice for you?
If you want something realistic looking, get a model train set in a scale you have room for – HO is the smallest while G is the largest. Electric trains are typically preferred over battery powered, especially if they will be running for long periods of time. You also want a track that is easy to set up, yet won't loosen and come apart as the train races past.
The following article contains more information on train sets. For a full education on the topic, keep reading. If you are ready to purchase a set, you can't go wrong with one of the highly rated options we’ve chosen.
The first thing you should know as you embark on your shopping journey is that two types of trains exist: model trains and toy trains. There is a bit of overlap between the two, but the design and function of each is unique. Here are some standout characteristics of model and toy trains.
Both model and toy trains are designed for fun, but the type of fun is different. To get an idea whether a train set is designed for collection or play, take a look at the manufacturer’s prescribed age range. For example, you'll find some themed train sets that are suitable for children age eight and up. You'll find some toy-like train sets that should only be used by kids age 14 and up due to certain features, such as "real smoke" and delicate detailing.
Some model trains include tiny breakable parts that could pose a choking hazard for younger kids.
At the front of every train is the engine. Just like real life, this is where the train gets its energy. Some engines run on battery power; others must be plugged into the wall.
Battery-operated engines have a small compartment underneath where you load the batteries. To turn them on and off, you must manipulate a switch on the engine.
Electrically powered engines run on an electric current in the track itself. The current is harmless and only activates when the metal of the engine’s wheels touches the metal of the rails. You activate them from a transformer box with a switch that plugs into a wall socket or with a remote control.
A remote-controlled train operates using the same principles as an RC car. You can control the speed of the train going both forward and backward. You also have the ability to blow the whistle and make other sound effects.
A train just isn’t a train without a full complement of cars trailing behind it. Each set comes with at least two specific types of cars, and it’s possible to purchase additional cars beyond what’s in the box. Here’s a brief list of car types you’ll encounter in the world of trains.
A box car with a ventilated top is designed to carry livestock.
Once upon a time, most train sets were made of metal in order to accurately exude the look of a real train. Nowadays, plastic is the preferred material. It’s cheaper to manufacture, and it makes the trains lighter and the parts easier to replace. However, you can still find some trains that are made at least partially of die-cast metal.
The most common track designs are a circle or an oval. This simplicity allows you to easily set up the train straight out of the box.
Tracks are generally plastic, but the rails are made from one of four materials: brass, steel, zinc-coated steel, and nickel silver. Brass conducts electricity the best and is the most common.
Each track connects to the next using a T-slot formation. One piece will have two rods that stick out and fit into the T-shaped slots of the next piece. When track pieces are connected, the metal track aligns perfectly so the train runs smoothly without falling off or bumping into an off-center rail.
Quadhoppers and gondolas come in various designs, but only a gondola has movable parts that can be placed in or around the car. A quadhopper, much like a coal car, has a plastic mold of “decorative” coal that’s cemented inside the car itself.
Earlier we mentioned Thomas & Friends, the beloved TV show about Thomas the train and his buddies. Indeed, this TV show (as well as the books that preceded it) have inspired many folks to get into train play and train collecting.
Who could forget the lush scenery and stations that Thomas and his friends would visit? Much like that beloved story, you can add accessories and other components to your train set to create a lush environment.
Below is a list of common items you could purchase to enhance your train set:
Track pieces generally snap together and hold themselves firmly in place, but they’re also designed to pull apart easily.
The world of model trains has a lot of its own terminology. These words describe what different parts are and how they function. The list of terms is expansive, but here are some of the most common.
You can purchase additional tracks to expand your collection. The more tracks you own, the more different paths your train can take.
If your train set runs on battery power, check them before play to make sure they're still working. Train sets that sit on a shelf for an extended period may lose battery power.
Many train sets have some liquid smoke loaded, but they may not come with a refill bottle. You have to buy it separately once the smoke runs out.
Each train set falls under a specific design lettering which primarily defines its size but is also used to classify the purpose of the set. These three happen to be the ones most frequently used by manufacturers.
Die-hard train collectors tend to pay attention to fine details. It’s one thing to say your model looks kind of like the Union Pacific engine; it’s another to say your model looks precisely like the Union Pacific.
If you’re interested in trains with realistic details, there are some areas you should check to make sure what you’re purchasing looks, sounds, and acts like the genuine article. For example, you might want to pay close attention to the following.
It’s possible to glue track pieces together. However, without solvent, you wouldn’t be able to reconfigure the tracks later.
Most train sets are fairly easy to set up straight out of the box. Here’s a summary of the general guidelines offered by most manufacturers.
Price is one of the hardest things to gauge when it comes to a train set because companies put different values on different aspects.
However, we can apply a general segmentation of the pricing into 2 sections — around $75 and around $100.
You'll find some great choices for kids in this price range, including character sets and trains that emit "real" smoke and/or run with the help of a remote control.
You'll find more detail-oriented train sets in this price range. You're also more likely to find train sets from highly respected manufacturers here. Keep in mind that it may be easier to buy additional pieces and accessories down the line if your original train set hails from a well-known maker.
Q. How can I change the shape of my track?
A. The easy answer is to experiment and get creative. But if you don’t quite know where to start, there are dozens of online guides that can show you different shapes to make with what you have.
Q. My train set has plastic rods. What are these?
A. These accessories are called track clips. They’re an optional addition that helps ensure the tracks don’t slip apart after frequent use.
Q. Can I mix and match train sets?
A. Only if they’re from the same company. Train manufacturers don’t generally allow you to mix and match brands. Your particular model probably wouldn’t work with a different brand.
Q. How can I get mountains and other massive pieces of scenery?
A. You can either purchase pre-made models from a hobby store or research online DIY guides that will show you how to make them.
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