Updated September 11, 2019 by Sheila O'Neill

The 8 Best Riding Trains

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This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Instead of getting a model that can only be watched or controlled from a distance, think bigger and place your child right in the middle of the railroad action with one of these super-sized riding trains. They include interactive features designed to develop early motor skills, and some even come with several feet of track that can be placed on either hard floors or carpeting for fun in any room. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best riding train on Amazon.

8. National 6V Talking

7. Step2 Up & Down Coaster

6. Kiddieland Minnie

5. Morgan Cycle Santa Fe

4. Rollplay Steam

3. Power Wheels Thomas & Friends

2. VTech Sit-to-Stand

1. Peg Perego Santa Fe

How To Encourage A Child's Love Of Trains

A riding train can provide a child with countless hours of enjoyment.

A riding train can provide a child with countless hours of enjoyment. This is especially true if a parent finds little ways to make that riding train more fun. This could mean high-fiving a toddler each time his or her train circles the tracks, or it could mean buying him or her an engineer's hat along with a pinstriped pair of pajamas to match.

As a child begins to outgrow the toddler stage, you can encourage his or her interest in locomotives by way of coloring books, online videos, and, of course, Thomas the Train. Assuming the riding train you own doesn't need to be on a track, your child can start to take it for supervised rides around the block or to the park, and you can even take it along on vacations.

If you own a model train set, you can use it to teach your child about the mechanisms of a railway or a caboose. As the child begins to develop, it may be worth planning a trip to an actual train museum, a historic train station, or a local switch yard (assuming that you can get in).

Under ideal circumstances, there's no substitute for the real thing, which is why you may want to book a passage with your child along one of numerous regional rail lines. Boarding a coach will provide your child with an opportunity to see some wide-open country and you may be able to request a brief tour inside the locomotive's power car before it's all done.

Several Safety Tips For Owning A Riding Train

As a parent, you want your child to enjoy all of the benefits a riding train has to offer. That being the case, it's best to review a number of safety measures before your child climbs on board. Obviously, you never want your child to operate a riding train while barefoot, nor do you want your child to operate a train with untied sneakers or open-toe shoes (as any one of these scenarios can result in an injury). In addition, you want to caution your child against placing any fingers or other appendages near the riding train's wheels (or gears), regardless of whether the train itself happens to be in motion.

If your child's train includes any detachable pieces, you'll want to maintain close supervision to ensure he doesn't try to put the pieces into his mouth. In addition, make sure the train's path is clear of other household items - including toys or pets - as any obstruction could lead to damage, injuries, or worse.

Take heed of whether the train's instruction manual mentions any type of weight capacity or other restrictions, and be mindful not to let your child try to cram multiple passengers onto a one-person caboose. If the train comes with its own set of tracks, it's best to store those tracks in a place where they cannot be stepped on or trampled whenever the train isn't in use.

How The Train Became A Toy

The idea of railed transport - that is, conveying people or goods in wheeled vehicles along a guided track - dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. The earliest rail routes were known as wagonways, and were outfitted with raised wooden beams, any pair of which enabled cargo to be wheeled above loose terrain. Innovations in railed transport eventually led to the mining cart, the two-man rail cart, and several other means of delivering freight across vast distances.

Thomas broke big in the United Kingdom before being re-branded as Thomas the Train and then storming the United States and beyond.

The first modern railways were designed during the 17th century. These railways differed from the wagonways in that they used a flange or a projecting rim to attach every vehicle's wheels onto a track. As the first iron rail systems began to emerge, they signaled the possibility for cheaper production, a public transportation system, and perhaps even a continental rail line.

During the 1800s, artisans took to capitalizing on the public's fascination with trains by constructing tiny scale models of box cars, locomotives, and coaches. These models were intricate, but immovable, and were designed to be sold as collector's items. That trend began to change, however, after a German doll house manufacturer went into production on a line of rolling model trains that were meant to cater as much to children as they were to adults.

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, items made from tin and metal became less expensive to produce, allowing for low-cost model train sets to be built. The arrival of electric toy trains provided enthusiasts with an opportunity to design their own miniature railways, complete with lighting, scale-model buildings, plastic mountains, and more. Electric toy cabooses provided the additional capability to have an engine car whistle, blow smoke, and choo-choo.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, miniature trains were designed according to three basic categories: pull toys or wind-ups (for children), model trains (for adolescents), and elaborate collector sets (for adults). Children's train sales dropped off significantly after the 1960s, only to rebound during the Clinton era. This was mostly due to a fictional blue caboose named Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas broke big in the United Kingdom before being re-branded as Thomas the Train and then storming the United States and beyond.

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Sheila O'Neill
Last updated on September 11, 2019 by Sheila O'Neill

Sheila is a writer and editor living in sunny Southern California. She studied writing and film at State University of New York at Purchase, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree. After graduating, she worked as an assistant video editor at a small film company, then spent a few years doing freelance work, both as a writer and a video editor. During that time, she wrote screenplays and articles, and edited everything from short films to infomercials. An ardent lover of the English language, she can often be found listening to podcasts about etymology and correcting her friends’ grammar.


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