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
Lone Star Hi-Railers to hold first train fest model train show, swapFort Worth Star Telegram, March 2nd
The Lone Star Hi-Railers model railroad club will hold its first Train Fest Model Train Show and Swap Meet on Saturday. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Grapevine Founder's Building, located across from the Cotton Belt Depot at 701 S...Read more
Model railroad to mark anniversarySaukValley.com, February 27th
The HO-scale model railroad will be featured from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 7 and 8 at 1055 W. Beach St. The club house is the large, tan building behind the Canadian National Yard office on Fever River Place. Admission is $4 for adults, $1 for children...Read more
Evansville Train Show a Chance to See and Purchase Model Train Sets, PiecesTristatehomepage.com, February 26th
Evansville Train Show & Swap Meet Saturday, February 28 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. St. Paul's UCC 2227 West Michigan Street Admission $3, children 12 and under accompanied by an adult are free. Call 812-426-2989 or visit evansvilletrainshow.com...Read more
4-H Club preparing for big model train showSnohomish County Tribune, February 24th
While the club contributes to many events over the year, its big event is running the annual model train show put on by United Northwest Model Railroad Club. Now in its 24th year, the event will feature more than 100 vendors and 25 layouts. It will...Read more
Model train show and swap meet is scheduledJoplin Independent, February 23rd
The Ozarks Model Railroad Association's 37th Annual Model Train Show and Swap Meet, will be going for a new attendance record when the doors open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Mar. 14, 2015, at Remington's, 1655 W. Republic Rd, Springfield...Read more
Model train displays highlight 'World's Greatest Hobby Tour' in Louisville ...WDRB, February 14th
"I have a workshop in my home," model train builder Dave Queener said. "I do model pilot work for a German toy train company and then they let me come exhibit the models so I get to meet the public. World's Greatest Hobby Show is a treat." The show ...Read more
Model train enthusiasts open depot to new generation of train loversHeritage Newspapers, February 5th
Bill Moorehouse is among 40 people who are members of the Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club. His story is like many in his club: An intense passion for all things railroad and a set at home. As he got older, other loves came into his lie and he put the...Read more
End of the line coming for model railroad club's home?Lancaster Eagle Gazette, February 4th
LANCASTER – The Hocking Valley Model Railroad Club may be reaching the end of the line at its home behind the Clarence E. Miller building on Granville Pike. The Fairfield County commissioners are trying to decide what to do with the building after the ...Read more