|Written by Paul D. Race for and
People have been setting up trains and towns together for over a century. Since display villages, such as those by Hawthorne Village® and Dept. 56® became popular, a whole new kind of train has been invented to go with those towns - On30.
Why "O"? - Although collectible village structures vary widely in scale, they tend to average out about 1/48 the size of the real thing. This scale is used by many model trains. If it helps, think of "O" as almost twice as big as HO (which originally meant "half-O," in case you wondered).
Why "n"? - The "n" in On30 means that these trains are models of "narrow-gauge" trains - trains that ran on rails that were closer together than the rails on "standard gauge" railroads. In the "real world," most North American mainline trains ran on rails that were 56.5" apart. So any train that ran on narrower tracks was called narrow gauge. This included mining and logging railroads, some streetcar lines, and several railroads like the Denver & Rio Grande that went places where running standard gauge trains would have cost too much.
Why "30"? - The "30" means that the trains are models of real-world trains that ran on rails that were only 30" apart. Bachmann chose this rail width because it is very close to HO track. Some On30 trains have also been painted for railroads (like Denver and Rio Grand Western) that really ran on 36" track. Technically those models should run on rails that are a tenth of an inch further apart, but no one has really complained yet.
Most On30 trains available today have been made by Bachmann, one of the world's largest model train manfacturers. Bachmann offers excellent service, including limited lifetime warrantees on its products. Bachmann also makes the basic framework that is used to build the Hawthorne Village® collectible trains, such as the Thomas Kinkade trains. Because Bachmann is a model train manufacturer, they make more than train sets - they make many individual locomotives, cars, and other products that you can buy to add to your railroad.
This page provides links to pages that list many Bachmann On30 products that are equally useful for model railroads or display villages. If you wish to look at On30 trains in Christmas colors, please visit the On30 Christmas Trains page.
Update for 2015 - The hobby train industry is still recovering from the recession. A number of companies went out of business. Bachmann managed to hang on, but they stopped ordering new trains for a time. Now a few years later, most of the old stock is off of the shelves, and the On30 market (which was always small) hasn't recovered enough to justify sinking a lot more money into it right away. As of this writing, only ONE On30 train set is widely available. If you're looking for your first train, something to go around the tree or a town, your best bet right now might be Lionel, or Hawthorne Village, who still has a supply of Bachmann built On30 train sets in fancy paint jobs (Thomas Kinkade, Coca Cola, Rudolph, etc.). If you're looking for "serious" On30 train fun, we have listed the pieces we could find from trustworthy vendors. But many of these are "onesies and twosies," leftovers from earlier runs, so if you see something you like don't wait too long.
That said, Bachmann has shipped a few individual pieces, and sometimes these get by us, so if you click on an Amazon link, be sure to scroll down to the "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed" section to see if something new has "sneaked in" while we weren't looking.
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 certain products, please see my article "About Pricing and Availability."
Note about Suppliers: While we try to help you get the trains and other 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 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.)
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