10 Best Train Sets | May 2017

10 Best Train Sets | May 2017
Best Mid-Range
★★★★
Best High-End
★★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★
We spent 36 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. There is a very good reason why these 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 get bored and move onto toys designed for older kids. Check out our selection to find the perfect gift for your youngster. Skip to the best train set on Amazon.
10
Given the undeniable marriage between a good train set and the Christmas season, the Pretex Christmas places Santa Claus himself visibly in the conductor's seat. The set also plays Jingle Bells as it makes its way around the track.
  • flashing red headlight
  • realistic engine sounds
  • song plays incessantly
Brand Prextex
Model pending
Weight 5 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
9
The Berkshire-style steam locomotive on the Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer 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 7-11140
Weight 11.7 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0
8
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.
  • large track easy for kids to set up
  • meets all consumer safety specis
  • four aa batteries not included
Brand MOTA
Model CLASSICTRAIN
Weight 4.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
7
The Bachmann Williams Santa Fe Flyer complete O-scale electric train set is for the serious hobbyist. It is high quality and highly detailed, with flourishes such as the distinctive war bonnet design of the locomotive. The sections easily snap together.
  • working horn and bell
  • 60 by 40-inch oval run
  • pins hold tracks poorly
Brand Bachmann Trains
Model 00321
Weight 27.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
6
The four car Lionel Trains Crayola G-Gauge 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 711548
Weight 10.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
5
The Bachmann Trains Thoroughbred "Ready-to-Run HO Scale" train set comes with a locomotive and three handsome train cars. It's ready-to-run right out of the box, making it a great choice as a gift for kids or for impatient adults.
  • illustrated instruction manual
  • pleasing rumble sound
  • wheels fall off easily
Brand Bachmann Trains
Model 691
Weight 4.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
4
The Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden railway set 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 sections.
  • 100 track sections included
  • 30 different accessories
  • support blocks don't stay in place
Brand Melissa & Doug
Model 701
Weight 16.5 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
3
The KidKraft Waterfall Mountain train set and table lets the young imagination 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
  • 120-piece play set
  • molded edges prevent chipping
Brand KidKraft
Model 17850
Weight 54.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
2
This battery operated WolVol Big Train Tracks Set 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
  • not suitable for older children
Brand WolVol
Model pending
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0
1
The Lionel Polar Express Remote train set 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
  • ready to run out of the box
Brand Lionel
Model 6-30218
Weight 16.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

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 May 23 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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