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 group announces golden...Leominster Champion, March 26th
The Nashua Valley Railroad Association is announcing its “golden anniversary” and 50th annual RailFair 2015 model train show and open house for Sunday, March 29. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shirley Middle School, 1 Hospital Road, and the ...Read more
Model railroad, airplane clubs to raise money again for cancer researchWBTW - Myrtle Beach and Florence SC, March 26th
MYRTLE BEACH (WBTW) - Just like a movie sequel, the "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" breast cancer fundraiser is back this year at Myrtle Beach Mall. Organizers with Grand Strand Model Railroaders, Let's Go Racing, and the Southeastern Model Flyers ...Read more
T-C Line: Colorado Model Railroad Museum worth the tripLongmont Times-Call, March 25th
"Visit Longmont" magazine is really beautiful and well done. There are a few things they missed, one of which is the Colorado Model Railroad Museum in Greeley. This is under the "Day Tripping" section. It's amazing, and it's just fabulous for young...Read more
Model Train Comes To Life At New Morning Pointe Of ChattanoogaThe Chattanoogan, March 25th
More and more model train enthusiasts are making their mark on Morning Pointe Senior Living communities. For the second time in as many years, a model railroad is coming to life in the courtyard of a Morning Pointe. This time it's in Chattanooga at the...Read more
Model Railroad Draws People to Garden Showwhotv.com, March 22nd
DES MOINES, Iowa- A big draw for the Iowa Flower, Lawn and Garden Show is a garden surrounded by model railroad tracks. The Central Iowa Garden Railroad Society gets an invite every year to bring their model rail setup into the Varied Industries ...Read more
Legislative coffee, model train show this weekendThe Garden City Telegram, March 18th
On Saturday and Sunday, the Boot Hill Model Railroad Club is hosting the Garden City Train Show at the Finney County Extension Building at the county fairgrounds. Model trains from around the state and beyond will be on display, along with model train ...Read more
Annual Railfest at Lakeland Community College attracts model train enthusiastsNews-Herald.com, March 15th
Sponsored by the National Model Railroad Association Mid Central Region Division 5, the two-day event featured more than 100 vendors and 400 tables in six rooms including a few gymnasiums. Ten operating layouts, running the gamut from N scale, HO ...Read more
Mebane hosts model train showBurlington Times News, March 14th
Elks' business, Buck's Trains Unlimited and Buck's Ballast, sells model railroad ballast made from rock quarried in North Carolina, which is pulverized, washed and screened to scale sizes to represent ballast used on real railroads. Ballast is gravel...Read more