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 association open house this afternoonAberdeenNews.com, April 19th
The James Valley Model Railroad Association will hold its April open house from 1 to 4 p.m. today. Admission is free. Four operating layouts will be featured this month, along with the 5-foot-long replica of a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy steam...Read more
Woman injured when model train overturnsWCVB Boston, April 18th
Woman injured when model train overturns at EcoTarium. Children on train uninjured, officials say. Published 4:28 PM EDT Apr 18, 2014. Tweet · NEXT STORY. Body of child found 'consistent' with description of missing boy. Text Size: ASmall Text; AMedium ...Read more
Pasadena Model Railroad Club Spring 2014 Open HouseAlhambra Source, April 18th
A model train show for all ages. The club operates the Sierra Pacific Lines one of the largest HO scale-operating model railroads in the world covering almost 5,000 square feet. Trains from all eras are operated, steam, diesel, modern freight, old...Read more
Model railroad show set for SaturdayNewHampshire.com, April 16th
NORTH HAVERHILL — The eighth annual Spring Model Railroad Show hosted by the Ammonoosuc Valley Railway Association will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Haverhill Cooperative Middle School on Morrill Drive. Vendors will be ...Read more
BART Unveils Its 'Fleet of Future' Model TrainPatch.com, April 16th
BART is unveiling its "Fleet of the Future" model train on Wednesday as part of the agency's fourth-annual Blue Sky Festival in San Francisco. The unveiling will take place at 11 a.m. during the festival at Justin Herman Plaza, where the public will be...Read more
Model train shop doubles size of Westminster storeOCRegister, April 13th
Business. Model train shop doubles size of Westminster store. A brick-and-mortar operation of that size is an oddity in an industry in which most have retreated to online storefronts, a co-owner says. Tweet ...Read more
28th Annual Model Train Show In Bucyrus Stays On TrackNorth Central Ohio, April 13th
The Bucyrus Model Railroad association held their 28th annual model train show over the weekend. David Moore, President of the Bucyrus Model Railroad Association, described things that can find at the show for anyone who hasn't attended it: "There's ...Read more
Enrico part of model train home tourTribune-Review, April 10th
Enrico, who is a member of the National Model Railroad Association, said he enjoys opening his home for local conventions and tours. “You build it and you always want people to see it,” Enrico said. “It is good to let other people enjoy it also. I did...Read more