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
Model railroad club holds Albany train showThe Albany Herald, January 24th
The model train show began on Saturday and will continue today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $6, with children under 12 in the company of an adult admitted free. For more information on The Flint River Model Railroad Club of Albany, call Godwin at ...Read more
'All aboard' for library's model train programNewsbug.info, January 23rd
There will also be workshops at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. that last for approximately 30 minutes, showing how to put together railroad tracks and set up a model railroad,” Wilma said. For more details see the Friday, Jan. 23, print edition or e-edition...Read more
The Great Train Show, a model railroad wonderland, is returning to PortlandOregonLive.com, January 22nd
Model train sets date back to the Victorian era in England, but have managed to stay resilient over the years, always finding new generations to keep the hobby on track. But as hobby stores continue to shutter across the country, there are fewer places...Read more
Model train show returns for two-day run in Albany | VIDEOThe Albany Herald, January 20th
The hours for the Flint River Model Railroad Club of Albany's 23rd annual Model Train Show & Sale are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 2009 Gillionville Road. Tickets are the show are $6, with children ...Read more
Model Railroad Show & Sale Draws Thousands to Stevens PointWSAW, January 18th
Antiques, books, and the obvious, model railroads and just about anything train-related you can imagine, is found at the Model Railroad Show & Sale in Stevens Point. It draws enthusiasts of all ages, but one group in particular gets some special attention...Read more
In Anaheim, a platform for model train devoteesOCRegister, January 11th
ANAHEIM – The Great Train Expo rolled into the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend, when nearly 10,000 model train enthusiasts and curious visitors gathered to see miniature trains and railroads from different eras. Serious train hobbyists...Read more
Last stop nears for North Buffalo model train shop but owner's passion carries onBuffalo News, January 5th
After decades as a haven for model train enthusiasts, the full-service North Buffalo business, located at 277 Hinman Ave., will close its doors once its dwindling shelves of rail cars, track, parts and scenery kits are gone. The business sold its last...Read more
Choo Choo to dismantle historic model train, among biggest in USChattanooga Times Free Press, December 30th
Brosnan is secretary of the Chattanooga Area Model Railroad Club. He and about 20 others spend their Tuesdays adjusting rails, placing tiny Chattanoogans and tinkering with the pint-sized Incline Railway on the layout. And they are about to get busier...Read more