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
ELKADER: Model train show to help fund depot replicaDubuque Telegraph Herald, August 19th
Elkader's second model railroad train show will raise money to help build a railroad depot replica. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at Johnson's Reception Hall in Elkader. More than 50 tables of vendors will be on hand...Read more
Model railroad clinics scheduledDayton Daily News, August 18th
The Greene County Ohio Historical Society's Railroad Display Committee will be offering free monthly model railroad clinics on the second Saturday of each month from September through January. The two-hour clinics begin at 10 a.m. Sept. 13. They will ...Read more
Model railroad museum in financial peril, may move from PottersvilleDenPubs, August 18th
Visitors at the Railroads on Parade model train museum in Pottersville gaze at several of the detailed cityscapes created by Clarke and Barbara Dunham, world renowned set designers. The Dunhams are looking for a new financial backer or a new location, ...Read more
Model train exhibit at Seminole libraryTampa Bay Newspapers, August 11th
SEMINOLE – Model trains, Thomas the Tank Engine, and more will be on exhibit at the Seminole Community Library at St. Petersburg College, 9200 113th St. N. Exhibit hours will be Friday, Aug. 15, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m...Read more
Look Around Lubbock: Model Railroad AssociationMYfoxLUBBOCK.COM, August 11th
The Lubbock Model Railroad Association will have model trains on display at the Mahon Library and Groves Library all week through Saturday. BJ d'Orsay, an engineer with the association, said putting the trains on the track is the easiest part... it is...Read more
Model train enthusiasts flock to fairgrounds for expoTBO.com, August 10th
TAMPA — It took Ralph Gregory and other members of the West Pasco Model Railroad Association about three hours to build the elaborate track they displayed at the Florida State Fairgrounds this weekend. Regulars at “The Great Train Show,” Gregory and ...Read more
Model train show pulls into AlbemarleThe Daily Progress, August 3rd
Visitors of the Virginia Train Collector's Model Train Show on Saturday got a chance to see working toy trains in action at the Holiday Inn Monticello in Albemarle County. Related YouTube Video. 2014 Virginia Train Collector's Model Train Show at the...Read more
Roundhouse Gang model railroad club holds swap meet at Santa Fe DepotSan Bernardino Sun, July 27th
Roundhouse Gang model railroad club holds swap meet at Santa Fe Depot. A Metrolink train leaves the Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino on Saturday during a model railroad swap meet held by the Roundhouse Gang model railroad club. photos by Jennifer ...Read more