Toy train sets continue to remain a popular choice for fun and imaginative play, even against technology, television and video games. While there is always something new coming out, trains seem to stay strong. There’s a lot of reasons why. Kids love playing with them and parents can enjoy the fact that playing with trains has a lot of positive educational influences as well.
There are a number of kinds of trains to choose from. Understanding the complexities of toy train sets and the options that are involved, will go a long way when seeking the perfect one for the child in your life.
Trains for Recreational Play
Train sets that are designed for recreational play are not usually set to any specific scale. They are instead, replications of what one would think of when they think of a locomotive. Most sets will include an engine car and then a number of additional cars that interconnect through an interlock or by magnets. They are popular for children under the age of 8 and are designed to be more durable for long-term wear and tear. Popular brands for children train sets are Fisher-Price, Brio and KidKraft.
Modeling Train Sets
Perhaps some of the coolest and most realistic options on the market are model train sets. These come in a variety of construction types, but usually are made out of metal. Each model train is based on a scale that is based on the original train that it is based off of. Scaling of model trains can vary from Z Scale, which is 1/220th of the normal train size, to G Scale, which are large and usually placed in rail gardens, parks or yards.
Some of the more popular sizes for indoor model trains are:
- G scale: G scale come from the German word “Grob” meaning big, and big it is at 1:22.5 scale, considered the largest size for indoor use.
- 1 Gauge: Originally the most popular size in the united states, but lost some of this due to the embargoes on foreign products in world war 1. Comes in at 1:32 scale.
- 0 Scale: Its name comes from the fact it’s smaller then size 1 gauge trains. Popular in the UK by fine-scale model making due to its availability and inexpensive pieces. comes in either 1:48 or 1:43.5 scale
- S Scale: One of the oldest model railroad scales, it is modeled at 1:64 scale. Not to be confused with the S size toy trains, a large-scale type of toy train.
- H0 Scale: Considered the most popular size of model train available. It’s H0 name comes from “Half Nought”, due to it being half as big as a 0 Scale model. Also known as OO scale in Europe, it comes in at 1:87.1 scale.
- TT Scale: TT scale which stands for Table Top, comes in at 1:120 scale which equates to 1 inch equaling 10 feet. Not as popular as other sizes in the United States, but it is very popular in Germany and Russia as well as players of tabletop war gaming.
- N Scale: One of smallest popular sizes of model trains, N Scale comes in at either 1:160 or 1:148 scale. created to be one half the size of H0 scale.
These trains can get confused, usually by well-meaning gift givers. However, it should be noted that model trains are not technically toy trains. While they can be used for fun, they are sometimes not suitable for young children as a means of recreational play. They also often have age requirements, which are important to note. Popular model train companies include Bachmann, Lego, Precision Craft Models, and MTH Electric Trains.
Get familiar with toy trains for kids…
There are many different kinds that you can choose from. First, let’s find out
Wooden trains are some of the most popular of the toy train sets. In these sets, everything is made from wood. With these kinds of sets, you can get a variety of detail and durability all in one set. The tracks will interlock within each other for this kind of set. With precision craftsmanship available today, the track is usually a pretty solid fit. It will also work with most other train sets that run on wooden railway tracks.
Plastic train sets consist of a plastic track and cars. They are both durable and easy to clean, so they tend to be popular for young children and daycare centers or schools where many hands can be on the same train set. Plastic sets can fit well together but you won’t get the smooth ride on these rails like you would with a wood or combination set.
With both and plastic, some would consider this to be the best of both worlds. The plastic portion is usually the cars or additions for around the track and the track itself is made of wood. The plastic is brightly colored and durable, while being easy to clean. The wood has longevity for parts and is easier to connect together than plastic tracks. Brio are the trains that come to mind for this variety, and one of the most popular brands.
Metal is most often seen in model trains. Because of safety reasons and cost, it is not the common choice for small children. However, because trains are metal, metal toy trains often are the most accurate replicas of larger train varieties.
Generally, with wooden train toys, like most things in life, ultimately you will get what you pay for. If price is a concern, you want to make sure that you are making the most out of your purchase. To make the most of any model or wooden train set purchase you will want to look for quality and compatibility. Hard wood, plastic and metal are generally going to be your options for a moderate price that will still provide a quality piece. Other things that can affect the price are collectability and rarity.
Sets Versus Tables
Train sets are an excellent way to purchase cars and parts for your tracks. Model and toy trains both provide sets with a range of options to choose from. Ideally, for recreational play train sets, you want to look for something that is compatible with other brands. This can ensure that no matter whether someone buys other trains to join in on the fun later, they can still run on the kit tracks. Additionally, sets are designed to be placed on a table, the floor or other flat surface. They do not have landscape or a layout that come with them.
Train tables offer the ability to both store train sets and play on them. The same rules of compatibility apply to train tables. If the child in your life is starting from scratch or doesn’t have a designated area to play with their toy, a train table is an ideal choice. Aim to purchase one that will suit interests for the child for a long time. Often childish cuter tables are darling for toddlers but will lose the interest of older children. Classic tables with mountain or water themes, Thomas the Train, and cityscapes are all popular choices kids of all ages.
Trains for Girls
Perhaps it shouldn’t have to be said, but girls can like trains too. Manufacturers are finally starting to realize this and in the last few years there have been a number of quality and attractive trains for girls that have been marketed. We would like to point out that pink trains are also not just for girls… Hey, boys can like pink too? Right? The reason to note this though is that when you are faced with a little girl who is wanting a train but is also a stereotypical girl with a fondness for Disney Princesses, then chances are that she is going to be who wants a pink train. Bigjigs Rail makes an adorable Fairy Town Train Set. The Imaginarium Enchanted Castle Train Set is also an excellent choice.