Christmas Train Set recommendation and questions

Hello, newbie here,

My wife and I have a son and this year will be his 2nd xmas (he's 1 and a half right now).

I grew up roman catholic, and my wife jewish, but we no longer practice. however, we love the traditions and the holidays despite any religious affiliation. to each their own.

i grew up with my dad having a platform under a tree. a large piece of wood with 4 feet at each corner so it raised up off the ground a little. he would tack track down and he had an electric set but the individual train sections (engine, caboose, etc.) were heavy in your hand. they weren't HUGE and they weren't TINY. i'm not sure what scale they were but i'd say the engine was about 8 inches long or thereabouts.

anyway, he still has it but it doesnt work. and no longer has the track either. he was going to give it to us to pass down to our son, but i'm thinking of getting something new.


i'm not sure what kind of set to get. i don't want a tiny one. i plan to get the usual 6-7' xmas tree with a typical girth of about oh... 4' i guess.

i'm thinking of getting this train set (not necessarily from this company):

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it's cute, it's holiday themed, moving parts, etc. It's G scale, so how big is that?

Or should I go for a "traditional" train set that's not holiday themed?

decisions, decision...

Finally, is there a place recommended to buy train sets from? Is lionel still respected?

Thanks a lot for any answers ya'll can provide.

Reply to
Amateur Cook
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The overly cute decorations could get really tiresome after a while, unless you really love that Village 58 (or whatever it's called) stuff. Less objectionable, and a little cheaper as well, is Lionel's Polar Express G-gauge set. More expensive (twice as much) would be one of the Bachmann G Scale sets - the White Pass & Yukon looks best to me, not at all cutesy, but it's still an early era steam engine and old-fashioned passenger cars, and could be the centerpiece of a quite good under the tree layout.

Reply to
Steve Caple

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G scale originally was 1:22.5 ratio, and runs on 45mm or 1.75" gauge track, which is really gauge #1. That makes it a bit bigger than O gauge/scale. These days G scale seems to be incorrectly applied to anything bigger than O scale.

A guy I worked with gave me a Lionel set a couple of years ago to get rid of it. My opinion is that it's pretty junky and not very realistic. I think I've seen better sets at a lower price for sale at a grocery store at Christmas time.

The answer to that depends on what you want. If you just want a family Christmas tradition, and won't see a train for another 50 weeks, consider a Christmas train set. If you're looking for a way into year round model railroading, then look at more traditional train sets. You can run a traditional set under the tree, then let it take over your life and run it at other times, too.

I think most here would recommend going to a local hobby shop. You may pay a little more there, but you can get questions answered, and you can get more stuff later. You may even get a better set for less. You could also take your father's old train in and see if that can make it work and find out what kind of track it uses. If you don't have a local shop you can hunt the web for places that specialize more on trains and have a wider selection.

Reply to

I don't particularly care for the over-the-top Christmas themed trains with elves working calliopes and such.

I use my Lionel Polar Express set under the tree. It's not overtly Christmas themed - it's a black Berkshire locomotive with a tender that says Polar Express, and blue passenger cars. The set comes with figures of characters from the movie, and there is an add-on set of other characters.

You can read the story or watch the DVD of the movie for context. Having a story behind the train can make it more interesting for a kid.

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I have the O gauge set. G gauge is huge - too gaudy for under a tree in my opinion. The cheaper G scale sets also look very cheap. Lionel does make a G scale Polar Express set which is very cheap (and battery operated):
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Neither is designed to be a toy for kids your son's age. My son is turning three in December and still likes to throw toys, so he needs close supervision around the trains.

Wholesale trains has some of the best prices around (all year round). But once you know what you want you can do a search of the model number and see if someone's got a special going.

Reply to

On 10/15/2008 7:08 AM Amateur Cook spake thus:

Sounds as if you need some basic information about model trains, not necessarily aesthetic advice about what kind of trains to buy.

G scale is pretty big: my guess is that you'd be happy either with O scale (Lionel, etc.) or HO (the most popular scale, with a ton of stuff available, including inexpensive train sets). N scale is probably too small for what you have in mind.

The best advice so far is to go to a LHS (local hobby store) *if* you're lucky enough to have one near you. Lots of them have gone out of business recently, and more are closing. But if you get a chance to see what they have up close in person, I think you'll have a pretty good idea of what you actually want. Plus the people there should be able to help you choose.

Reply to
David Nebenzahl

: i'm not sure what kind of set to get. i don't want a tiny one. i plan : to get the usual 6-7' xmas tree with a typical girth of about oh...

4' : i guess. : : i'm thinking of getting this train set (not necessarily from this : company):
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: it's cute, it's holiday themed, moving parts, etc. It's G scale, so : how big is that? : : Or should I go for a "traditional" train set that's not holiday : themed? :

The set you reference is nominally 'G--gauge', a battery powered toy, comes with plastic track that breaks easily if stepped on and can be hard to find additional pieces for (although it will run on the metal 'G' track that's available), and most Service Centers will not touch them with a 10ft pole as (at least the last time I checked) there are no parts available for repairs if it breaks.

If he doesn't already have one, a Thomas or Brio wooden train set for the young'en to get "hands on" with would be a good idea. The possibility of young hands trying to push an electric loco along is why I would recommend one of the Lionel starter sets with the 4-4-2 steam loco for a Christmas tree layout if you really want one.

Something like the 'North Pole Central' set if you want a Christmas theme, or the 'Pennsy Flyer' for a year round set. They are spur gear drive, so if the loco is pushed along the track with power off all that happens is the motor free-wheels as the drivers rotate. With locos like the Berkshire in the 'Polar Express' there is a worm gear drive. So, at best, if it's pushed along the track the drivers slide along the track without rotating and the traction tire gets messed up. At worst, something breaks.


Reply to

I agree with Bill Kaiser. Just remember that small children cannot operate any scale smaller than O27. Your child will be too young for at least another year anyway. It is difficult to damage a Lionel or an MTH under the tree and they are large enough that the child can get it back on the track without frustration. John

Reply to

For comparison, it sounds like your dad had HO guage trains.

The G guage which has been mentioned in this thread is about four times longer, higher and wider than what you grew up with, or about sixty times larger in overall size and weight.

Reply to
Mark Mathu

Yeah, after talking with the wife last night, she didn't like the over- the-top holiday train set and would prefer a classic set.

I do have a hobby shop near me, not sure if they sell train sets, but i'll find out. Good idea. Never thought about that.

HO sounds like the way to go. Especially if that's the scale of my father's set - and maybe I can get it repaired.

And finally, I just might have found a new hobby year round as well. But one step at a time and that's deciding on the set and track at least for xmas and will take it from there.

Reply to
Amateur Cook

So I spoke to my father today and this is what I've learned about the train set we had growing up.

He says the train cars are large. I don't think they are G though, from what I hear around here and what I remember growing up. Though I could be wrong. I just remember well made cars that were heavy in my hand but not absurdly large.

They are Lionel.

I didn't ask when he bought them, but again, we had them in the mid-70's.

The transformer is blown and can't be fixed. But I think this doesn't matter, as when I buy a new set, or track, transformer comes with it, correct? In other words, this isn't a train car related issue, right? He says once the transformer is fixed just put the trains on the track and the electric makes them run (I knew this).

I'll be picking them up next weekend when our family goes to visit the folks. Hopefully I or hobby shop can determine scale and go from there.

Reply to
The Amateur

Where is home? Maybe we can suggest a place or two where you can go look at some sets at a hobby shop nearby.


Reply to
Dan Merkel

"Dan Merkel" wrote in news:DUJJk.2723$

Kalmbach has a site called Hobby Retailer where they list most of the hobby shops. Unfortunately, there's no distinction made between product lines so you have to guess or call if someone has trains and not RC cars. (Hint: Usually the ones that mention something about railroads in the name are railroad, while the ones that mention RC cars are RC cars.)

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It's always best to call first and confirm the shop address. They're not always right. (One shop owner got his business mail delivered at home, and his family had to redirect me to the actual location of the shop.)


Reply to

They only list hobby shops that pay to advertise in their mags.

Reply to
Chuck Kimbrough

Lionel has made HO (1/87th of full size, on two rail track with rails 16.5 mm apart), O-27 (about 1/64th to 1/56th of full size, on 3-rail track with the outer rails 1 1/4" apart), O (usually 1/48th of full size, and also on 1

1/4"gauge 3-rail track), and G (between 1/32th and 1/24th of full size, on 1 3/4" gauge 2 rail track). Your childhood train is probably O-27 (the 27 refers to the tighter 27" diameter of the curved track, which limits the lengths of the train locos and cars that can operate on that track).

Not necessarily. Lionel's lowest price sets in about that era came with direct current motors, just like the DC motors used in HO, scale 2-rail O gauge, and G gauge trains. Classic Lionel from the original Lionel Corp. of New York (i.e. trains made before 1970) all ran on about 16 volt max alternating current, as did all of the better quality offerings of the subsequent producers of Lionel trains.

One feature of Lionel trains is their careful use of unique catalog numbers on their equipment. When you pick up your trains, you might post the number on the side of your locomotive to this group, and some of the Lionel collectors here may be able to tell you more about your train. Have fun! Geezer

Reply to

Chuck Kimbrough wrote in news:o7PJk.222$


I haven't seen ads from many of the listed shops. Maybe they list hobby shops that get stuff from them too. As it stands, they're a pretty good starting point for looking for hobby shops. The yellow pages are usually the best, but if you don't have access to them you gotta start somewhere.


Reply to

You misunderstand. Those listings *are* ads, and the hobby shop pays a fee to be included in the listings.

Yes. Because hobby shops that don't carry any trains would be unlikely to advertise in a model railroad magazine.

em you gotta start somewhere.

He did. He started *here*, which wasn't a bad idea either.


Reply to

OK, I'm back from visiting the folks and have the train set.

2 things - boy, is it old and huge! The cars are big, the engine itself is very heavy, and most of it seems diecast, and about a foot long! you can hold it in 2 hands that's for sure.

There is also like a 2 to 3 foot long metal contraption which my dad says would load logs onto one of the cars but he no longer has the logs.

there is also a crane type of car. in the front is a metal thing you turn but you can see the 2 metal spokes that it coincides with are broken so the crane doesn't lift or whatever it's supposed to do. not sure if this is the log car or not.

it's a lionel set. there is a red caboose. lots of original track. giant plastic water tower. a coal car. and i think 1 or 2 more cars which i didnt bother pulling ott.

the engine even has a hole on the top front - i believe you would pour water in here for it to seem? i strangely recall.

i think i'll take some pics to show yas. there is also 2 hobbie shops near me - 1 that deals directly with trains only which i will be looking into.

it's an electric set. inside the rear of the engine i can see copper wiring wrapped around something.

i'm excited. i hope it works or can get it repaired if not, definitely display quality.

very old, definitely not a cheap plastic set.

Reply to
The Amateur

Sounds more like a hole for smoke fluid to me... I've never heard of using water.


Reply to
Dan Merkel

No water! Severe damage could result.

Reply to
video guy -


I also recommend the Polar Express, but the O gauge one instead. It's a little pricey. Lionel usually is. You'll have to help your 2 year old with it anyway.

How about a Duplo "Thomas" set, or some Brio trains?

My 2 year old son actually runs my HO trains, though he obviously doesn't put them on the track. But he did figure out that "turn knob =3D go".

Cordially yours: Gerard Pawlowski President, a plywood world with dime store trees.

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