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.
Interviews & Articles
We’ve been operating Dan’s Train Depot, which is the parent company of BrassTrains.com, for about 11 years now. We bought out a ve… [more]
The NMRA library’s original purpose was to focus on model railroading, but over time we’ve also received donations that have helpe… [more]
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Airfix Model Railways
Postwar Lionel Trains Library
Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
Clubs & Associations: Model Trains
- 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: Model Trains
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Recent News: Model Trains
Source: Google News
Model Train Show an annual tradition for 24 years 0Midland Free Press, May 23rd
GISELE WINTON SARVIS The Free Press. Thursday, May 23, 2013 12:18:15 EDT PM. This Midland District Railroad Club layout will be on display at Saturday and Sunday's 24th annual Model Train Show at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre...Read more
Clarksburg Model RailroadExponent-telegram, May 16th
Clarksburg Model Railroad. Thursday, May 16th starting at 6:30 PM. Details. Club monthly meeting, 6:30 p.m., new clubhouse in Friedlander Center, 4th and Main streets, Clarksburg. New members welcome. Gene Larosa, (304) 842-3677. cost...Read more
Frank Hornby: Meccano and model train creator celebrated in Google DoodleIrish Independent, May 15th
Frank Hornby: Meccano and model train creator celebrated in Google Doodle. Comments. Email; Print; Font Size. Frank Hornby's 150th birthday. 15 May 2013. THE creator of Meccano and Hornby model railways has been celebrated in a Google Doodle to...Read more
Connellsville next May can declare 'All aboard' when model-railroad train ...Tribune-Review, May 10th
On May 10, 1869, crowds gathered at Promontory Point, Utah, to watch a gold spike be hammered into a steel track, completing America's first transcontinental railroad. The 2,000-mile railroad project began 150 years ago — in 1863 — in Omaha, Neb...Read more
Spirit Railroad Express model train museum opens in MarionTriCities.com, May 10th
The train is just one of many that make up the Spirit Railroad Express model train museum in Marion. Set up under Copenhaver said she agrees, and hopes to get more in the community interested in expanding and showcasing the model train collection...Read more
RD Moses T&P Model Railroad anniversaryKETK, May 7th
Jefferson's Cypress Bayou Model Train Club operates and maintains the model railroad layout for the Jefferson Historical Society and Museum. Since its opening day May, over 2,000 visitors of al ages have enjoyed this model railroad exhibit which is...Read more
Model train show rolls through Brown CountyGreen Bay Press Gazette, April 28th
Roger Hildebrandt, president of the Waupaca Area Model Railroad Club, said serious hobbyists looking for deals tended to visit Saturday, and families with a general interest came on Sunday. Trains have become more computerized over the years, he said...Read more
Model train clubs being railroaded at Union StationDenver Post, April 26th
It sounded great in 2011 when officials with the Union Station Alliance said they wanted to keep the large and elaborate model railroad displays in the basement of the building that have lit up the eyes of children of all ages for nearly 80 years. "We...Read more