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
Bitcoin community donates £16400 to model train enthusiast wrongly identified ...Telegraph.co.uk, March 10th
The 64-year-old model train enthusiast living near Los Angeles was named as the reclusive creator of digital currency Bitcoin by Newsweek magazine last week, but denied any connection following a dramatic car chase. Bitcoin was initially proposed and ...Read more
Annual model train show takes over Kern County fairgroundsKERO-TV 23, March 8th
The Golden Empire Historical and Modeling Society of Bakersfield is hosting its annual Model Train Show this weekend at the Kern County fairgrounds. Families are welcomed to join the fun and experience over a hundred different vendors ready to help you ...Read more
Model train show comes to Greenwich March 9Greenwich Post, March 8th
Model train hobbyists take note, on Sunday, March 9, the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center is holding the Southern Connecticut Model Train Show. With more than 100 tables of model trains, locomotives, rolling stock, track, artwork, and scenery supplies...Read more
Model-train club, one of nation's oldest, chugs onPhilly.com, March 7th
Model railroading remains a popular hobby nationwide - at least among a generation that grew up in the mid-20th century, gazing at model trains in store windows and learning about real railroad lines. The National Model Railroad Association has more...Read more
Church plans model train expoSuffolk News-Herald, March 7th
“When I came to Wilroy Baptist Church about a year ago, I thought it might be a good way to introduce our church to our neighbors,” said Langer, a member of the local division of the National Model Railroad Association. The expo will run from 10 a.m...Read more
Model train show postponed due to weatherBurlington Times News, March 7th
The model train show and sale in Mebane scheduled for today is postponed until Saturday March 15, said organizer Kenneth Wilkinson. The time and location will be the same, Wilkinson said, just a week later. The show will be at 209 W. Jackson St...Read more
The Southern Connecticut Model Train Show chugs into GreenwichCt Post, March 4th
Expert modelers will be on hand to teach fledgling hobbyists how to assemble model train kits, construct buildings, create realistic-looking trees and more. A large HO train layout built by Connecticut's own Valley HO Trak Model Railroad Club will wind...Read more
Model train event: Silicon meets steamSan Jose Mercury News, March 1st
SANTA CLARA -- This is the supermodel of a train hobbyist's midnight dreams: curvaceous, creative and run by a digital command center, with microprocessors, modulated bipolar voltage and a sound card emitting a high, lonesome sound. "It's better than a ...Read more