About Toy Trains
By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
Railroading remains an important collecting field to people of
all ages, largely because of the ‘days-gone-by’ romance associated
with the rail travel and the prominence of toy trains.
The first toy trains were cast iron and tin; wind-up motors added
movement. The golden age of toy trains was 1920 to 1955, when
electric-powered units and high-quality rolling stock were available
and names such as Ives, American Flyer, and Lionel were household
words. The advent of plastic in the late 1950s resulted in
considerably lower quality.
Toy trains are designated by a model scale or gauge. The most
popular are HO, N, O, and standard. Narrow gauge was a response to
the modern capacity to miniaturize. Today train layouts in gardens
are all the rage and those usually feature larger scale trains.
A lot of expert advice is available to assist you in purchasing
the “right” toy for a child or yourself. Many adults collect toy
trains. It can be overwhelming to study all of these opinions. You
can buy a book on Toy Trains, or look to the internet for
information, but here are a few things to consider before making a
- Save Time and Money – Buy a Starter Set. Starter Sets have
everything included and are easy to assemble in minutes. Starter
Sets are less expensive than buying the components separately.
- The Age of Your Child. Children of all ages enjoy trains.
Even if they are too young to operate the train on their own,
children can start by watching, then learn to push a button and
blow a whistle – and grow with their train from there.
- Buy the Right Size (Scale). O gauge and O-27 gauge are
essentially the same size and were developed over the last 100
years to be small enough for little hands, but big enough to
keep the trains on track. For children, the smaller scales, like
HO, can be too delicate and difficult to set up on the track.
And the larger scales take a lot of room to store. O gauge is
ideal for small spaces. Even an advanced layout is often no
bigger than a household door.
- Get the Most for Your Money. Size and cost usually go hand
in hand. The scale provides a happy medium – small enough to be
affordable and practical in terms of space, but large enough to
easily put on the track and stay there. You want a train that
you can enjoy year after year.
- Buy a Set That is Rugged. Trains must be rugged and tough
enough for the rough handling a youngster is sure to dish out –
but also carefully designed not to be too heavy or sharp.
- Buy a System Your Child will Grow Into. Different
railroaders like different accessories. Get compatible parts so
you can keep using what you have as your layout grows.
- Buy a Set that is Professionally Tested. The secret to
maximum fun combined with maximum development, so children
exercise their imagination, develop their motor skills, and
enjoy the mastery of controlling the train.
- Buy Trains that Sound and Act Like the Real Thing. Kids love
sounds – and they know lifelike sounds when they hear them.
Smoke, illuminated headlights, and live-action crossing gates
are just a few of the fascinating features of toy trains.
- Buy from a manufacturer with a sales and service center near
you. And don’t forget to run a train around the Christmas tree
or place one on the mantle during the holidays.