|Written by Paul D. Race for and
The following chart rates the relative usefullness of these classes of trains for various applications.
Updates for 2020: - Model train manufacturing is cyclic. Every spring, major manufacturers bring prototypes to national and international toy shows. There they take orders from the major wholesalers and add some percentage to sell through other channels. So the trains that hit the market in September were ordered months ago, which us is one reason there are so many Lionel sets available, for example.
Distributors might not be so optimistic next year, but in the meantime, if your family gong to be spending more time at home than usual, what's wrong with having products that have real play value?
We now return you to our regularly-scheduled programming. :-)
But starting in 1976 a new kind of model town emerged - the collectible ceramic and resin holiday villages made by Hawthorne Village, Lemax, Department 56, and many other suppliers. It wasn't long before people who were collecting holiday village pieces began getting their Lionel trains out of the attic to service the little ceramic communities. And the trains looked pretty good with the towns.
Still, most of the holiday villages looked very old fashioned compared to the trains, so the Bachmann company introduced some On30 trains that were especially designed to go with the villages. By the mid-1990s, the "trains-and-towns" evolution came full circle, when Hawthorne Village(r) began making special collectible On30 trains to go with their collectible village pieces.
About Our Buyer's Guides
When choosing from the many products and suppliers available, we attempt to recommend products that:
We also provide you with more than just "a train in a box." Our buyers guides provide links to beginner-friendly articles that help you make the best decisions at each stage of your involvement in the hobby. In fact this whole site got started because readers who found our Primer articles invaluable kept contacting us to say they were having trouble finding some product we discussed. If you already have a train set and wonder where to go from there, the Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer articles should give you the information you need. If they don't answer your question, contact me and I'll help you if I can. (In fact, that's how most of our articles get started.)
Note about Suppliers: While we try to help you get the products you want by recommending suppliers with a good record of customer service, all transactions between you and the supplier you chose to provide your trains or other purchases are governed by the published policies on the supplier's web site. So please print off any order confirmation screens and save copies of invoices, etc., so you can contact the appropriate supplier should any problems occur. (They almost never do, but you want to be on the safe side.)
This page includes Lionel's most popular train sets, with everything you need to get started, including an oval of new-and-improved track. Lionel(tm) trains have a worldwide reputation for being fun and reliable. They will also look nice with O Scale Accessories OR collectible village structures, if you have room for a track circle (about 40" minimum).
For more details about Lionel O-gauge trains, please click on the picture above.
This page includes many On30 trains and collectible villages that you can use year-round. If you're interested in setting up a permanent railroad anywhere in your home, this will give you links to products that will help you get started. It includes all of the On30 train sets that Bachmann is making today (except for the trains with Christmas paint jobs). as well as several collectible Hawthorne Village(r) train collections you may find attractive.
For maximum charm! Order now for maximum enjoyment! Hawthorne Village(tm) features a collection of "On30" trains that are designed specifically to look good with Holiday Village sets, such as those by Dept. 56, Hawthorne Village, etc. They are also large enough to look good around your Christmas tree. For your convenience, they run on HO track, so they will fit just about anywhere.
The Hawthorne Village trains use reliable mechanisms and other parts from Bachmann On30 trains, so they run like "champs," and service will always be available. But the Hawthorne Village designers add artwork and other detailing that make these trains much more attractive and collectable. In spite of the fact that they are limited-edition, subscription trains, they are also an excellent value (and our best sellers in each season since we began featuring them in 2004). So it's never too early to consider signing up for the one you like while it is still available.
Holiday Trains aren't just for Christmas Anymore!This page features collectible trains and village pieces for St. Patrick's day, 4th of July, Halloween, and other special times of the year.
The O-Scale Accessories page includes many inexpensive details such as bridges, fencing, and stations, that will bring life to any display or O-Scale railroad. For details on these accessories, click on the image to the left.
This page from our
For people without enough room to put a circle of track around their Christmas villages, Bachmann has even supplied a streetcar with a reverse mechanism so your trolley can travel back and forth along a mantle or piano top.
To learn more about Bachmann's On30 holiday trains and accessories, please click on the picture above.
From our Big Christmas Trains(tm) buyer's guide comes a collection of Lionel trains that are created especially for Christmas, led by the original Lionel Polar Express(r) set, which is a tremendous value and offers new products every year. All sets include an oval of track and a Lionel power supply to run your trains. They will also look nice with your Christmas village structures, if you have room for a track circle (about 40" minimum).
For more details about Lionel O-gauge Christmas offerings, please click on the picture above.
Note about Availability and Pricing: Although I try to keep an eye on things and to recommend products that are reasonably available, the model train market does fluctuate, and any product on this page may change price or become unavailable without prior notice. If you "click through" to see details on a product, and nothing happens at all, or you are routed to a supplier's home page, please let me know and I will remove the product from the online catalog until I can find a replacement or another supplier. For more detailed information about why products seem to come and go and why I have stopped listing prices for most products, please see my article "About Pricing and Availability."
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