Model railroad trains first became popular when department store owners incorporated them into their Christmas window displays in the 1920s, and they've been a fixture of childhood and beyond ever since. Today model railroading is an extremely popular hobby, with both collectors and modelers who focus on every imaginable aspect of railroad history and operations.
Vintage model train collectors and hobbyists tend to specialize by scale or gauge (O scale, HO scale, N scale, Z scale, G scale), by type (brass, tinplate, steam, etc.), or by manufacturer (Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, Märklin). Until the National Model Railroad Association was formed in 1935, there were no standard gauges and a train from one manufacturer wouldn’t necessarily run on a track from another. The NMRA developed the standardized gauge system that is still in place today.
O scale model trains, built to a 1:43, 1:45, or 1:48 scale reached a height of popularity before World War II. True O scale trains ran on a two-rail track and were built to scale. Companies like Lionel and American Flyer made O gauge trains, but these ran on a three-rail track and are not as collectible as O scale.
HO scale model trains were introduced in the 1930s and became popular in the 1950s. HO, short for "Half O," is scaled to a 1:87 size and has the widest available range of rolling stock and accessories of all model railroad scales. Most HO scale trains run on a two rail track.
N scale is built to a 1:160 scale, much smaller than O and HO. First introduced in the 1960s, N scale model railroads are in demand because they don't require a lot of space to set up a layout. An even smaller scale, Z scale (built at a scale of 1:220), was first introduced in Germany in 1972 and became common in the U.S. shortly after.
G scale trains are the largest model trains and can be used for either indoor or outdoor (aka 'garden') model railroads. G scale trains, built at a scale of 1:22.5, are the largest electrically-powered model trains...
The earliest model trains were mostly made of tinplate. Tin trains, which were cheap and efficient, were produced until shortly after World War II, when other materials took the lead. After WWII, soldiers returned to the U.S. with brass model trains from Japan, sparking an interest in brass railroad sets. Although still made today, the most collectible brass model trains are those produced in Japan up through the 1970s.
Until the 1950s, steam locomotive models were more popular than diesel, and they continue to be desirable among collectors today. Steam model trains are categorized by wheel configuration and railroad name.
Some people tend to collect more by the railroad than the manufacturer, even creating railroad layouts that are historically accurate. Some of the most popular railroads to collect and recreate are the Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central, Chicago and North Western, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, and Great Northern.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Airfix Model Railways
Postwar Lionel Trains Library
Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
Clubs & Associations
- Train Collectors Association
- National Model Railroad Association
- Lionel Collectors Club of America
- Toy Train Operating Society
- National Association of S Gaugers, Inc.
- Train Collectors Society (U.K.)
- Lionel Operating Train Society
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Model Trains
Source: Google News
New steam loco at Keighley model train trackKeighley News, September 21st
MODEL engineers ran a new steam locomotive for the first time during their latest open day at the Marley railway track. Keighley and District Model Engineering Society's session attracted dozens of people visiting nearby Keighley Show. A Polly 2 loco, ...Read more
24th Annual Wiregrass Model Railroad ShowWTVY, Dothan, September 21st
Sunday was the last day of the 24th Annual Model Train Show in Dothan, vendors from all over showed off their favorite model trains. This family event had everything from electric trains to all different kinds of accessories. Creative modules were on...Read more
All aboard!Chron.com, September 21st
20, in Rosenberg. The event included live entertainment, train-themed crafts, a bounce house, model train layouts, guided tours and an appearance by a Santa Fe F7 Warbonnet locomotive complete with three fully restored vintage passenger cars...Read more
24th annual Wiregrass Model Railroad Show and SaleDothan Eagle, September 19th
The 24th annual Wiregrass Model Railroad Show and Sale is being held in Dothan this weekend. The show will be Saturday, Sept 20, and Sunday, Sept 21, at the main exhibit building at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds. Show hours are 9 A.M. to 5 ...Read more
Owner Plans to Rebuild Model Railroad BusinessTWC News, September 18th
EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The owner of a model railroad store that burned down said he is on track to rebuild "Despatch Junction." Stan Slade said he has received zoning approval from the East Rochester planning board to rebuild his business on ...Read more
Wilson's model train layout brings out historic erasPrinceton Union Eagle, September 17th
Ralph Wilson holds a remote control as he stands in the middle of his massive model train layout. He builds and buys features for the landscape along the model railroad tracks, using various sources. He bought the swinging hot air balloon ride mobile ...Read more
Hagerstown Model RR Museum Model Train SaleFrederick News Post (subscription), September 13th
This event is part of the fund raising activities of the Hagerstown Model Railroad Museum which is in the process of restoring the historic Norfolk and Western Antietam Station located in Sharpsburg, MD. Sorry, this is a sale only. There are no layouts...Read more
Gardeners add artificial turf, model railroad to yardKansas.com, September 12th
The additions are recent — the model railroad going in last year, and the new fake grass just a few weeks ago. The Wynnes had a hard time keeping grass alive in the backyard, so decided to go artificial. They so far love the new lawn, even though “it...Read more