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
- Lionel Operating Train Society
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Model Trains
Source: Google News
Mahwah Museum Hosting Holiday Model Railroad ExhibitPatch.com, November 30th
Mahwah Museum Hosting Holiday Model Railroad Exhibit. The Mahwah Museum will host a special holiday train display this month. The Donald Cooper Model Railroad will be open Fridays and on the weekends until Dec. 18. More from Mahwah Patch...Read more
Model train show caters to inner mechanics, artistsHuntington Herald Dispatch, November 29th
Anthony Davis/The Herald-Dispatch Nicholas Marakovits, from the Appalachian Model Railroad Society, operates several model trains as the final day of the 58th Annual Model Railroad Show takes place on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at the Big Sandy ...Read more
Quincy model railroad displays draw young and oldHerald-Mail Media, November 29th
Clif Rau's title in the Quincy Village Model Railroad Club is president, but he's happy to be referred to as “head toot.” On Sunday, the “head toot” oversaw a holiday open house that drew hundreds of people to the Quincy Village retirement community...Read more
Model railroad on track for holidaysFremont News Messenger, November 29th
Richards, a Clyde resident, was one of hundreds of people who turned out over the weekend to see the Hayes Center's annual holiday model train display. The center has hosted the exhibit — which features nine trains riding through tunnels and around...Read more
Greater Cincinnati's model train displays will take you on a nostalgic ride ...WCPO, November 29th
19-20, the enthusiastic volunteers who make up the Cincinnati Northern Model Railroad Club will set up their 10-by-17-foot modular layout that has won awards at local and national model train shows. Using miniature HO-scale trains, they have created an ...Read more
Hudson Model Railroad Club hosts open houseWilkes Barre Times-Leader, November 28th
The Hudson Model Railroad Club definitely appears to be on the right track. Saturday afternoon marked the inaugural day of its annual Winter Open House season. The club opened its doors to the public, allowing the community to see more than 2,000 ...Read more
Model train show opens in Crown PointChicago Tribune, November 27th
Four model train clubs and about 75 vendors will fill the Industrial Arts Building at the Lake County Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday for the second annual Thanksgiving Train Show. The show brings together vendors and exhibitors from Indiana, Illinois, ...Read more
Weekend Events: RVA On Ice, Model Railroad Show, GardenFest of Lightswtvr.com, November 27th
Friday – Sunday 38th Annual Model Railroad Show at the Science Museum of Virginia. Featuring all the bells and whistles, guests will enjoy unique and traditional model train displays from across the state. Prance with Clydesdales, see a blacksmith in...Read more