How To Buy An Electric Train Set? I Have The Answer

Not All Trains are Made Equally

One woman’s experience typifies the problem of finding the right electric train set for toddlers.  A woman went to a large toy outlet in search of trains for her boys, ages 5 and 6.  She had always loved here grandfather’s set, but it had been passed down to her brother.  Her hope was to find one like it.  What she selected was a large set that had two trains.  It was priced reasonably and seemed to be perfect for her boys.

Imagine her dismay when the boys had rendered it inoperable in just four days!

These weren’t particularly destructive children.  They were typical of their age.   When their mother wrote, she was rather indignant about the whole episode.  After all, the grandfather’s set had endured generations of young hands.  Why couldn’t the new set do the same?

I asked her key questions.  (Never ask if the train is O or HO or ‘Lionel’ – many get them confused.  You’d be surprised how many thing HO and Lionel are one and the same!)  I asked her how long the straight track was, and what the distance was between the rails.  Then I inquired about the box and brand.  Since that had been discarded, it was simple to have her look at the cars.  A description of the cars was a help, too.

The problem was obvious: she had bought the wrong type train for children ages 4 and 6.  it was not her fault.  The people working in large toy outlets know very little of anything on the shelves, never mind trains.  The box art and price doubtlessly caught her attention.  Nonetheless, she did not know and had no reliable source to inform her.

All trains are not made to the same standard of durability.  “Quality” is a matter of those for whom a train is intended.  For a scale modeler, quality involves delicate details.  A parent buying for a child wants durability and the ability to withstand hard use.  What makes for a better product for the scale modeler probably makes a very poor product for children.

Ah, but how would you know that?  Unless you are involved in the hobby or have a reliable source of information, it all looks like six of one thing and half a dozen of the other.  That’s why I am here and this article is posted for you: to aid you in selecting the best train for your child.


Electric Trains: Parents Make The Difference

The fact that you’ve found this page likely means that you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle looking for information about toy trains for a special child in your life. Well, they are a lucky child to have someone like you. Lots of people would just go to a toy store and grab the first thing, or the cheapest thing, that they see. I also hear people say things like their three-year-old got a train set because daddy wanted one. What daddy wants may not be the best choice for a child. You care enough to do some research, that makes all the difference. It will help make the trains that you buy for them more special. And there’s a lot your pre-teen can learn from their trains.

Families and Trains

I am always amazed at how easily trains can become a family hobby.  Maybe my awareness is cuter since my own family heartily discouraged hobbies.  (Trains had been set up very few times for the holidays, but that was it.)  Since then, I have had the pleasure of helping many others with trains and other hobbies.  What always strikes me is just how much trains can become a family hobby.  The process varies.  Sometimes the father’s old trains come out one holiday, the children show a real interest, and the trains end up a permanent thing.  Always, the father gets involved, and it becomes a family hobby.  The other case is when the children are bought a train set, and the father opts to “help them” set it up.  Next thing you know, the man of the house is leading a foray to the hobby shop, and that train set turns into a miniature railroad. He will claim it’s “for the kids,” but how much is for the “big kid” of the house?  Whether the children continue the hobby or move on to other things, the lasting result is that the family is brought closer together.

It isn’t just the boys.  You would be amazed how many little girls are enjoying trains.  (In fact, at least 50% of garden railroaders are wives.)  The mothers often find themselves involved, too. Even if they don’t run trains, they often spend time with the scenery.  Usually, the mother has more input than that.

And here’s something to think about: when major train makers produce sets, they purposely include colorful cars.  The reason is to attract mothers since the moms are usually the ones buying trains as gifts.

The train hobby is unique in its ability to span generations, get parents and children working together, and becoming a true family activity.


==>Cheack My Review on Electric Trains Set<==

Electric Train Dos and Don’ts

This part on electric trains set is rather lengthy. You may not want to read it all in one sitting. But before spending any money on electric trains for your child it is best if you read my dos and don’ts for kids trains.


Don’t Buy “Traditional” or “Best Selling” Just “Because”

Lionel O scale trains are an American tradition. HO scale trains are the best selling model railroad trains in the world. Neither of these is good reasons to select HO or O scale for your child. A child’s interest is maintained when they can lay their track out a lot of different ways. Smaller trains will allow them to explore more options in a smaller available space. Always remember, space is your primary concern when buying trains.

Don’t Limit Your Child to an Oval Track

When I was a kid, my parents thought that an oval of track was all I needed to run my electric train. This led to a loss of interest in my first model train set. I know that I’m not the only person who had this experience. If you limit your child to the oval of track that came with his or her train set, you limit their horizons. Growth is about expanding your horizons.

Don’t Buy Track Without a Plan

When you buy more track, you should know one or more specific layouts that your child can make with the additional pieces. You shouldn’t necessarily make them follow the track plans, let them explore their own options and see what they can come up with. But if they get stuck, you’ll look really smart if you can make the pieces fit into an interesting working layout.

Do Not Build Your Chid a Landscaped Layout

The minute you glue track down and start adding landscape, you’ve taken away the child’s option of trying different layouts. This doesn’t promote experimentation and learning. When your child gets to be around eight years old, you can get them into a club or organization where they can learn to landscape by building a module. Before that, a few buildings and a molded plastic mountain/tunnel that they can move around should be fine.


Do Share in Electric Train Activities with Your Child

Electric trains are designed to use SELV power systems for safety. But they are sophisticated toys. A parent can help their child through the more complex issues, just as my articles for parents are intended to help you through them.

Do Read About and Understand Model Train Scales

“Scale” is the size of a model train in relation to the real-life train that it is a model of. Model trains come in various scales. The smaller the scale, the more railroad your child can fit in their available space.

Do Buy Your Child More Track

When your child asks for additional track for their train set, you need to buy them some. It doesn’t have to be expensive. The high-priced items in model railroad track are the turnouts, and you shouldn’t be giving them to a younger child anyway. You don’t have to buy it all at once; a few new track pieces now and then will make their train set always new.

Do Let Your Child Set Up Their Own Track

For most children, setting up the track is as much fun as running the train… maybe even more fun. Many parents, particularly fathers, buy a train set for a child because they want one. This isn’t fair to the child. If you want a train set, get your own and leave theirs to them. I read somewhere that Lionel marketed “Father and Son” train sets back in the early 60s; O scale for Fathers and HO for Sons. Not a bad idea in my opinion.

Do Remember The Educational Aspectsgraduation1

Sit down with your child as they build run their trains and give them tasks to perform. The older they are, the more complex the tasks you can give them. Complex tasks for older children involving orchestrating the movements of two or more trains will require that you invest in DCC. This is a worthwhile investment.


What Advice You Should Listen To

Experienced model railroaders talk to you about the reliability of one brand of train versus another, pay attention. You want to buy quality products that will last.

What Advice You Should Ignore

An experienced model railroader may tell you that track without an integrated roadbed is better. Maybe for them, but not for your child. Yes, their track looks more realistic. But it’s harder to put together and take apart.

You might also hear that you should never use a curve with a radius of 18 inches. Experienced modelers want their layout to look realistic. Your child simply wants to put their track together in layouts that are interesting to them. And unless you live in a mansion, you want to be sure they do it in the smallest space possible. So when buying model train track, you want the smallest radii curves your child’s trains will run on, regardless of what an adult model railroader thinks you should want.

==>Cheack My Review on Electric Trains Set<==