I have son #2 who is very interested in model trains, HO scale and frankly I like that stuff as well. I have been somewhat frustrated that the model trains that I bought are basically low quality, such as have shoddy couplers, and shoddy everything else. I have been replacing some junky couplers with Kadee couplers that I bought on ebay.
Anyway, t this point I basically have some money to burn and would like to buy something quality, made better than what I have encountered. Would anyone recommend a brand name that I can look at. Ergo, right now I am looking to buy a HO freight train.
It is a little bit eary to really do a lot in the way of trains for him. In about 2 years, he'll be able to handle the better quality stuff but that is just a fough guess. You're doing the right thing by putting Kadee couplers on what he's got now, one of the bad things that the NMRA did was to promulgate the X2F coupler design (that is that horn hook thingie that is on a lot of the cheaper equipment) and while it is decent for a train around the Christmas tree, they just don't work well on a real layout. Manual dexterity is a big problem at 3 years of age and will be probably the biggest limit to what he's going to do. There's a lot of manufacturers of equipment out there from Athearn (fairly cheap cars and locos) to really expensive steam locomotives (all of the brass imports from Japan and Korea) available. Better yet, instead of getting ready to run (RTR) stuff is to explore the kits that are out there when he gets nimble enough to do them. A simple plastic kit will let you know when he's going to be able to work on more complex stuff.
He is three, I set everything up for him. I just cannot stand the really cheaply made stuff that clearly was meant to be displayed and not used (as in, really cheap Christmas presents that you alluded to). He does not abuse trains, as such. I like trains myself.
If Son #2 likes the wooden Thomas trains, then IMO you should get those for him. At three years old, he can set up his own track arrangements and make the trains go to his heart's content. That was the age my grandchildren started doing things for themselves, and these wooden toys were just right for them. Who knows, you might find out that setting up those wooden trains _with_ him is more fun that setting them up _for_ him. For both of you. ;-) This does not preclude your setting up an electric trains set also, see below for a suggestion on how to do it.
As for electric trains, yes, avoid those cheap Christmas specials. Brands I recommend (HO scale) are TrainLine (by Walthers), Bachmann Thomas the Tank Engine (and their Spectrum sets), and Atlas Trainman. All the basic sets will fit on a 42"x48" piece of plywood. Paint the plywood to represent green "grass", grey "streets", etc, fasten down the track, and you can store it on its edge until it's time to play trains. Then set up buildings and bridges and such (you can make them out of cereal box cardboard, decorate them with magic markers, etc. Or use Lego
- you can never have too much Lego! - or his wooden blocks, or etc and so on and so forth.)
Be aware, however, that these HO sets are not intended to be assembled and disassembled repeatedly. If you want that kind of train set, go for O gauge - pricier, but also much sturdier. Lionel is still available, as are other brands. Or even G gauge, even bigger (you'll need 5ft x 5ft as a minimum space), but very sturdy, and despite their size easier for small people to handle. My grandchildren loved our G gauge Thomas, mostly because they could take the roofs off Annie and Clarabelle, and give their other toys a ride. ;-)
I _strongly_ second the suggestion that you visit a real hobby shop. If you can find a model railroad club in your vicinity, visit them too. Buy an issue or two of Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman, to get a sense of what's out there, and what this hobby has to offer. Check out Kalmbach Books for good information for beginners.
Check back in here with more specific questions when you have a better sense of available options, and your and your son's wishes.
My son (I'm much, much younger than Wolf!) liked running trains on my HO layout, but really wanted to use his own imagination in setting up tracks and trains.
The wooden train sets (Brio, etc) are FANTASTIC for this! He can design and build track layouts and run trains based on his own ideas. It lets him take the lead, even when you do join him in play (and by all means, do!)
While young children are often careful with delicate trains - and my son was - they feel TERRIBLE when something breaks, evne if it's not their fault or it was expected and forgiven. This could turn them off completely.
Let them have their own durable, flexible, > Ignoramus13160 wrote:
If it is not too late to chime in. I would suggest Athearn Blue Box four axle locos and Blue Box cars. The loco's are solid and dependable runners. When I was working in the hobby business, and a customer came in and asked the question you did, that was the advice I gave him. I also told the customer that I would re-assemble the loco for just the cost of any parts they had to buy. They are that good. Athearn cars are very easy to assemble and are relatively inexpensive to replace.
Go with Atlas track components and start with an atlas track plan book. Stay away from the Bachmann EZ track with the black base. Those rails are steel and will rust.