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
Lego fan snakes intricate track out of his house and films model train's journeyDaily Mail, April 28th
A Lego fan has created his own scenic railway route by laying down an impressive track formation. The man spent hours creating the extensive layout, which snakes around his house and travels through a specialised route along bridges and under fences in ...Read more
Fiddlers Grove Train Museum starts Model Train ClubLebanon Democrat, April 27th
The Fiddlers Grove Model Train Museum plans to start a model train railroad club to further the knowledge of the hobby and to enhance the use of the model railroad museum at Fiddlers Grove. This will be an all-scale model railroad club. Currently, the ...Read more
Iron Spike Model Train Museum Opens SaturdayThe Missourian, April 27th
Thanks for visiting The Missourian. You are entitled to view 20 free articles every 30 days. Currently, you have (%remaining%) free articles remaining, (%remaining_reg%) before being asked to register, and (%remaining_sub%) before being asked to ...Read more
Model train tours to make stops in Ligonier, Latrobe, GreensburgTribune-Review, April 25th
Tickets for the model railroad home tour are limited to 300 and are by advance sale only. The cost is $15 for adults, $5 for those younger than 16. Checks payable to LVRRA may be sent, with phone number, email address and return mailing address, ...Read more
All Saints in Etna plans to sell pieces of former model train displayTribune-Review, April 25th
All Saints in Etna plans to sell pieces of former model train display. <div style='float:right;width:100%;' align. By Karen Kadilak | Monday, April 25, 2016, 4:18 p.m.. If you go. Event: Model train liquidation sale, with more than 500 items. Where...Read more
Spring model train show attracts hobbyistsWZZM13.com, April 24th
Spring model train show attracts hobbyists. The show was held aboard the USS LST 393 in Muskegon. Staff , WZZM 6:33 PM. EST April 24, 2016. The USS LST 393, the floating veterans museum in Muskegon, was home to the Muskegon Railroad Historical ...Read more
Wilmington Railroad Museum holds model train eventWECT-TV6, April 24th
Six model railroad clubs from across the state came together to show off their work. Clinics and demos were held to show visitors how to build the tiny towns and trains. The event, organized by the Wilmington Railroad Museum, took more than a year and...Read more
Trainfest on track for biggest model railroad show everJacksonville Daily News, April 22nd
WILMINGTON | Model trains are by definition small, but when you bring together six of the region's model train clubs and 15 operating model trains in a 12,700-square-foot setting, you have something big. Add clinics, model train vendors, exhibits, food ...Read more