The 10 Best Train Sets

Updated November 30, 2017 by Chase Brush

10 Best Train Sets
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. There is a very good reason why train sets have been a staple in the toy boxes of children around the world for generations. They are fascinating to play with, inspire imaginative games and tend to keep young minds occupied for years before they move on to toys for older kids. Check out our selection to find the perfect gift for your youngster. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best train set on Amazon.

10. Pennsylvania Flyer Ready To Play

The Berkshire-style steam locomotive on the Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Ready To Play boasts literal bells and whistles among its litany of realistic train sounds. Tolerance in the track assembly is pretty low, however, which may result in small gaps.
  • fixed-knuckle couplers
  • removable gondola crates
  • limited remote range
Brand Lionel
Model 711808
Weight 8.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Mota Classic Toy Train

Whether or not your kids recognize this Mota Classic Toy Train from a popular television show, they'll love its working lights, its distinctive bell sounds, and its "real" smoke, which is actually just a mist it produces using a bit of mineral water.
  • meets all consumer safety specs
  • some parts break easily
  • four aa batteries not included
Brand MOTA
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Lego Duplo My First Train Set

What could be more fun than a product that combines two of the most popular toys, Legos and trains? The Lego Duplo My First Train Set constitutes the best of both worlds, and with bright colors and chunky, oversized pieces is great for especially young children.
  • compatible with other lego sets
  • very easy to build and use
  • not for more mature kids
Brand LEGO
Model 6069962
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Lionel Trains Mickey Mouse Disney

The four-car Lionel Trains Mickey Mouse Disney freight set sports bright colors and attractive designs, meaning it looks great whether it's chugging along on its track or sitting still on a shelf or desk. The doors of the boxcar can slide open and closed.
  • remote control included
  • 16 sections of track
  • low-quality junctions
Brand Lionel
Model 711773
Weight 11 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway

The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway is a classic toy, one that kids of all ages will love to play with and that parents and grandparents just might enjoy, too. There are four different ways to configure the track using all the included parts.
  • 100 track sections
  • 30 different accessories
  • support blocks don't stay in place
Brand Melissa & Doug
Model 701
Weight 16.6 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Bachmann Trains Thoroughbred

With a vintage Norfolk Southern locomotive and three handsome cars, the Bachmann Trains Thoroughbred can serve as a starter set or addition to a collection. It's ready-to-run right out of the box, making it a perfect gift choice for kids or for impatient adults.
  • illustrated instruction manual
  • realistic rumble sound
  • no whistle or steam
Brand Bachmann Trains
Model 691
Weight 4.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. WolVol Big Train Tracks

This battery-operated WolVol Big Train Tracks features a real, working traffic light. Put the blocker down and it will change to red and stop the train, which chugs around the track under its own power, charming younger kids and amazing toddlers and infants.
  • quick and easy setup
  • good price for its quality
  • for young audiences only
Brand WolVol
Model pending
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Lionel Polar Express Remote

The Lionel Polar Express Remote lets you relive the magic of the beloved book and movie, right down to the commemorative bell included in every box. The train plays several audio clips sampled from the film, and the set makes a fabulous winter holiday gift.
  • puffing smoke action
  • four figurines included
  • a little expensive
Brand Lionel
Model 630218
Weight 16.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. KidKraft Waterfall Mountain

The KidKraft Waterfall Mountain rail and table encourages young imaginations to run wild and will keep your youngsters entertained for hours. It has a silk-screened landscaped play board with rich colors and graphics at every turn.
  • plastic bins under unit for storage
  • includes 120 pieces
  • molded edges prevent chipping
Brand KidKraft
Model 17850
Weight 54.5 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Bachmann Rail Chief Ready To Run

The Bachmann Rail Chief Ready To Run complete O-scale electric kit is for the serious hobbyist. It is high quality and highly detailed, with flourishes such as the realistic BNSF design of the locomotive and caboose. The roadbed track is made of real steel, too.
  • operating headlight
  • 47 by 38-inch oval run
  • great starter set
Brand Bachmann Trains
Model 706
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Choo-Choo Choosing A Great Train Set

Miniature train sets (much like their full-sized, real world counterparts) have an almost universal appeal. The right train set can amuse an adult modeling and engineering enthusiast for hours on end just as a toy train set can envelop a child in a whole afternoon of engaged, imaginative play. Whether you appreciate a train set that is designed to resemble a scaled down version of a real locomotive and cars in every minute detail, or if you just want to find a great, wholesome activity your kids can enjoy when it's cold or rainy outside, you can surely find the right set to match your needs and budget.

And regardless of whether you are an appreciator of fine model trains or you're in the market for a kid's toy train set, budget is a good place to start your research. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars on a top-of-the-line adult train set, or you can get a fine, realistic looking set for closer to fifty dollars. As for toy trains, you can get a huge play set complete with tracks, a table, and accessories for well over a hundred dollars, or you can acquire a more basic but still enjoyable toy for around around thirty.

One of the more common uses for an adult's train set is as a decoration that circles the Christmas tree. If you are looking for a train that will serve in this purpose, make sure you first measure the approximate circumference of your tree stand and tree skirt. Then, compare that size to the perimeter of the track that your set can create. If you are considering a train set that uses a common track gauge (often called track scale as well), then acquiring additional track should be easy, but confirm that before you commit to a set. It's also important you confirm that any trains and tracks you already own are of the same gauge/scale of a new train, if you hope to merge the sets.

When buying a children's toy train set, make sure you know where the child will play with the trains (if possible) and take his or her age, coordination, and temperament into consideration. Some sets come complete with their own table and can be easily enjoyed on any surface; others can prove frustrating to use on carpets or uneven floors, or simply when used by younger hands with poor fine motor skills. For the toddler or pre-school aged child, train set with tracks that firmly click together and stay in place is a good choice. For slightly older children, or if playtime often involves an adult on hand to facilitate construction and "repairs," then almost any train set will serve a child fine.

Note that several children's brands of toy train use the same wooden track size. You can use trains and tracks from the celebrated companies Brio and Melissa & Doug interchangeably, so don't worry if your kids already have a few pieces from one company when considering another brand.

Ideal Accessories For Your Train Set

Perhaps the best accessory you can get for a train set is simply additional sections of track. The more track you have, the larger and more elaborate routes you can craft for your trains. Once you have lots of track, you need a place to create your rail yard and to lay out the rails for the train's journey. A tried and true option is a single sheet of plywood supported on a pair (or set of four) solid sawhorses.

To create an instant and easy replaceable feel of either a rural or urban setting, cover the plywood in either a green or a gray sheet. (Or use a white sheet for the appearance of snow.) Natural rocks can create the feel and appearance of mountains and hills, and artificial geological and flora features are available in abundance from hobby shops or online retailers. Another natural accessory widely available in many parts of the country is moss, which tends to stay green long after it is plucked from the ground and placed near your trains. Also look for railroad crossing signs and signals that often feature actual working lights.

For the children's set, or for the playful adult modeling enthusiast, building block sets such as those offered by LEGO can make the ideal accompaniment to your trains. Not only are there many pre-fabricated LEGO sets that look great with trains (such as their City Builder series or their Wild West themed sets), but you can also use LEGO bricks, Lincoln Logs, or a host of other building toys to create your own structures from scratch.

The History Of The Model Train

Many diehard train set enthusiasts will take umbrage with the term "toy trains," instead insisting that these items should be referred to as "model trains" exclusively. And indeed there is an argument to be made there when discussing the finest, most detailed train sets available. For when well designed and built, a miniature train set is almost indistinguishable from a full sized train, save for the fact that it is at a 1:76.2 size ration, to name one common scale example.

As the first working locomotive driven train was not invented until the year 1804, and as a practical train was not in service until 1812, it will of course come as no surprise that model train sets have existed for less than two centuries. It only took two decades following the first use of trains and railroads for craftsman to begin creating model trains, though.

German toymakers began producing simple toy trains in the 1830s. These first little trains were usually made out of solid brass or tin that was melted and poured into molds. Wooden wheels were sometimes attached and many models had simple moving parts, though at the time model tracks had yet to be developed.

One popular early toy train was the Birmingham Dribbler, a toy train with a tiny functioning boiler that was heated by a small onboard burner and that could actually roll forward under its own power.

The first electric train was released in 1897 and soon these ever more elaborate sets were sprawled out across living rooms floors and in garaged all around America and around the world.

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Last updated on November 30, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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