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Written by Paul D. Race for and

    Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns<sup><small>TM</small></sup>' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much moreBig Trains getting bigger - that is the hobby is! This "Buyers' Guide" is dedicated to people who are getting into "Big Trains," including:

    • O Gauge Trains - These are the traditional Lionel trains that run on 3-rail track and which dominated the toy and model train market for the first fifty-five years of the last century. They probably ran around more Christmas trees than all other brands put together. They are the biggest trains that most people can practically use for permanent railroads or Christmas villages indoors.

    • Garden Trains. These are even bigger, and mostly used outside. These are also called G Gauge, G Scale, Large Scale, and Gauge One. Some folks also call all of them "LGB" because that's the biggest brand. Incidentally, they look great around a Christmas Tree, but most folks don't have room for these indoors. Links to this page will actually take you to our Garden Train Store site.

    • On30 trains are nearly the same size as O gauge trains, but they run on HO track. This scale had been around for decades, but was seldom used until Dept 56 commissioned Bachmann to make a train set that looked good with their villages. Nowadays most of these are available directly from Bachmann, but a few are being made in collector's versions for Bradford Exchange's Hawthorne Village colletion.

    • S Gauge trains were pioneered by American Flyer in the mid-1900s. American Flyer trains were more realistic than Lionel in several ways, but they were eventually eclipsed by smaller scales like HO and N (which we don't list here, because they're not "big" by model train standards). Today, the molds are owned by Lionel. They occasionally introduce new products or reintroduce old ones, always in small batches. Often the prices show that they are chiefly targeted to collectors. AF trains look great around a Christmas tree or on a train table. They also look good with Christmas Village structures, since most of them are close to S scale, but the track takes up a lot of room, so they won't fit on, say, your dining room table.

    The following chart rates the relative usefullness of these classes of trains for various applications.

    Train Scale or Gauge
    Christmas Tree
    Christmas Villages
    Christmas Display Railroad
    Indoor Model Railroad
    Outdoor (Garden) Railroad
    Average Availability
    O Gauge/ O27
    *****
    ****
    *****
    *****
    **
    *****
    Garden Trains/ Large Scale/G Gauge/ LGB
    *****
    **
    ***
    *****
    *****
    *****
    On30 Trains
    **
    *****
    **
    *****
    *
    ***
    S Gauge/ American Flyer
    *****
    ****
    ****
    *****
    *
    **

    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. :-)

    Bachmann/Plasticville's Suburban Station - Click for a larger image. Lionel's Mystic Station - Click for a larger image.About the Towns

    Buildings and accessories to go with O gauge trains have been made for over a century, made by Lionel and by many other manufacturers.

    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. Hawthorne Village Train Station Collectible Structure. Click for details 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:

    • Are reliable and well-made,
    • Are available from reliable suppliers with a good record of customer service, and
    • Have received good customer feedback.
    • If possible, we also try to recommend products that are available from multiple suppliers, to give you a better chance of getting the train you want, although this isn't always possible.

    Garden Railroading Primer Articles 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.)


OO-Gauge Trains for Indoor Railroads

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.


On30 Display TrainsOn30 Model Trains Trains for Indoor Railroads and Display Villages

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.

On30 Collectible Trains

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.


Collectible Trains for All Holidays and Seasons

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.

Books, Videos, and Magazines of interest to Big Indoor Train operators.

Big Indoor Trains Books, Videos, and Magazines

This page provides links to materials that will help you improve your collectible village and big indoor train setups.


O Scale Accessories page

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.


On30 Christmas Model Trains

This page from our Big Christmas Trains(tm) buyer's guide features Victorian-era trains and streetcars that look like they belong with most holiday village sets.

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.


OO-Gauge (Lionel) Christmas Trains

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."

Note: Family Garden Trains(tm), Garden Train Store(tm), Big Christmas Trains(tm), BIG Indoor Trains(tm), and BIG Train Store(tm) are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications(tm) (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
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Click to see trains that commemorate your team!

Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains.
Click to see new and vintage-style Lionel trains

Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
- Trains and Hobbies -
Return to Family Garden Trains Home page
Return to Big Indoor Trains Home page
Garden Railroading Primer Articles: All about getting a Garden Railroad up and running well Big Indoor Trains Primer Articles: All about setting up and displaying indoor display trains and towns. Garden Train Store: Index to train, track, and other products for Garden RailroadingBig Christmas Trains: Directory of Large Scale and O Scale trains with holiday themes
On30 and O Gauge trains to go with indoor display villages and railroads
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics: Bring your railroad to life with street signs, business signs, and railroad signs Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. Acoustic-based, traditional, singer-songwriter, and folk music with a Western focus. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.