Beginners 12 train sets for the holidays

12 train sets for the holidays

By Cody Grivno | November 26, 2023

A look at sets from N through large scales

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from Trains.com brands. Sign-up for email today!

If you’ve read Model Railroader magazine for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the hobby journey for many of our authors started with a train set. For baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, the set was often produced by Lionel or American Flyer. Fast forward a generation or two, and those sets were more likely HO or N scale. With gift-giving season just around the corner, it’s a great time to look at 12 train sets for the holidays.

Why are train sets such a great way to get people into the hobby? You get everything you need in one box. A locomotive? Check. Freight or passenger cars? Yep. Track, a power supply, and controller? You bet! Depending on the set, you can set up the track on a sheet of plywood, Ping-Pong table, or on the floor.

Though direct current is still commonly used in train sets, some use Digital Command Control, batteries, or even Bluetooth to control the locomotive. The type of control is usually listed on the packaging. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer or ask the hobby shop owner.

Train sets are available from a variety of sources. Some companies, such as Bachmann Trains, have a robust lineup of sets covering multiple scales and eras. Other manufacturers focus their efforts on sets in one or two scales. The list presented here is just a small sampling of what’s available today.

N scale

Color photo of N scale train set box.
Bachmann’s N scale Durango & Silverton set includes an 0-6-0 steam locomotive and three old-time passenger cars. Bachmann Trains photo

Name: Durango & Silverton

Product number: 24020

Price: $263

Manufacturer

Bachmann Trains

1400 E. Erie Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19124

bachmanntrains.com

Features

  • 0-6-0 steam locomotive and tender
  • Old-time combine
  • Two old-time coaches
  • 24” x 34” oval of E-Z Track (11 pieces of curved track, four pieces of straight track, and one curved plug-in terminal rerailer)
  • Power pack and speed controller
Color image of train set box with image of silver cab unit and lightweight passenger cars.
Kato’s N scale Silver Streak Zephyr set captures the glory days of streamlined passenger travel on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. The set includes an oval of Unitrack, the company’s proven all-in-one track system with molded roadbed. Kato USA Inc. photo

Name: Silver Streak Zephyr Starter Set

Product number: 106-0041

Price: $350

Manufacturer

Kato USA Inc.

100 Remington Rd.

Schaumburg, IL 60173

katousa.com

Features

  • Electro-Motive Division E5A diesel locomotive
  • Five Budd-built lightweight passenger cars
  • Bookcase packaging with room for two additional locomotives
  • Oval of track (12-3/8” radius)
  • Grade crossing/rerailer track
  • Storage drawer for locomotives/accessories
  • Kato power pack

HO scale

Color photo showing contents of battery-powered kids train set.
Here are the contents of the Atlas Trainkids Amtrak Acela passenger set. Though the models aren’t to a specific scale, the battery-powered train is designed to run on HO scale track. Bill Zuback photo

Name: Trainkids Passenger Train Set

Product number: 15000000

Price: $109.95

Manufacturer

Atlas Model Railroad Co.

378 Florence Ave.

Hillside, NJ 07205

shop.atlasrr.com

Features

  • Amtrak Acela powered locomotive with First Class battery car
  • Cafe car, Business Class car, and unpowered locomotive
  • 38” x 56” oval of track with plastic rails (12 curved pieces, four straight sections)
  • Remote-control operated headlight, horn, bell, and “welcome aboard” announcement
  • Requires four AA batteries for train and two AAA batteries for remote control, not included

Read a review of the Atlas Trainkids Passenger Train Set on Trains.com.

Color photo of HO scale train set box with painted box art and display windows for models.
The Bachmann Daylight Special includes a streamlined Southern Pacific 4-8-4 in the eye-catching orange-and-red Daylight paint scheme. The E-Z Track features steel alloy rails. Bachmann Trains photo

Name: Daylight Special

Product number: 00776

Price: $549

Manufacturer

Bachmann Trains

1400 E. Erie Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19124

bachmanntrains.com

Features

  • Southern Pacific class GS-4 4-8-4 with smoke and operating headlight
  • 72-foot smooth-side baggage car
  • 85-foot smooth-side coach with illuminated interior
  • 85-foot smooth-side observation car with illuminated interior
  • 45” x 81” oval of E-Z Track (16 pieces of 22” radius curved track, seven pieces of straight track, and one plug-in rerailer)
  • Power pack and speed controller
Color photo showing components of HO scale train set based on German prototype.
This Märklin HO scale set is based on a German Federal RR branch line train. The Class 24 steam locomotive includes Wagner smoke deflectors. Märklin Inc. photo

Name: Branch Line Passenger Starter Set

Product number: 29243

Price: $460

Manufacturer

Märklin Inc.

1406 Creek Trail Dr.

Jefferson City, MO 65109

marklin.com

Features

  • Class 24 steam locomotive with tender and factory-installed mfx digital decoder with sound and light functions
  • Three passenger cars
  • 30” x 73” oval of Märklin C track
  • Track connector box
  • 120V/36VA switched mode power pack
  • Märklin Mobile Station
Color photo of streamlined European-style passenger train.
PIKO America offers its HO scale ICE 3 set decorated for Amtrak. A separate sale coach and Custom Class coach with pantograph are also available. PIKO America photo

Name: Amtrak ICE 3 Starter Set

Product number: 57197

Price: $219.99

Manufacturer

PIKO America LLC

4610 Alvarado Canyon Rd., Ste. 5

San Diego, CA 92120

piko-america.com

Features

  • Amtrak ICE 3 with two end units and two cars
  • 12 pieces of 55412 curved roadbed track R2
  • Five pieces of 55401 roadbed straight track
  • One each 55406 straight track for connection clip, 55270 connection clip, and 55447 socket for connection clip
  • Speed controller
  • Power supply
Color photo of HO scale train on circle of track with power pack, box, and booklets visible.
Wm. K. Walthers Inc. offers its HO scale Flyer Express Fast-Freight set decorated for Canadian Pacific, BNSF Ry., and CSX. All three sets feature a Conrail boxcar and Norfolk Southern gondola. Wm. K. Walthers Inc. photo

Name: WalthersTrainline Flyer Express Fast-Freight

Product numbers: 931-1210 (BNSF), 931-1211 (Canadian Pacific), and 931-1212 (CSX)

Price: $199.98

Manufacturer

Wm. K. Walthers Inc.

5601 W. Florist Ave.

Milwaukee, WI 53218

walthers.com

Features

  • Electro-Motive Division GP15-1 diesel locomotive
  • Matching wide-cupola caboose
  • Norfolk Southern 53-foot gondola
  • Conrail 50-foot insulated boxcar
  • Power pack and speed/direction controller
  • 31” x 54” oval of Power-Loc track
  • Walthers Getting Started Guide for new modelers

S scale

Color photo of S gauge train set with steam locomotive, two freight cars, and caboose.
The Pennsylvania RR Docksider FlyerChief Set is produced by Lionel LLC. The locomotive can be run with a conventional AC transformer or the FlyerChief wireless remote or app with AC or DC power. Lionel LLC photo

Name: Pennsylvania RR Docksider FlyerChief Set

Product number: 2217030

Price: $349.99

Manufacturer

Lionel LLC

6301 Performance Dr.

Concord, NC 28027

lionel.com

Features

  • 0-6-0 Dockside switcher with RailSounds RC sound system and user-selected operational mode (conventional AC transformer or FlyerChief wireless remote or app with AC or DC power).
  • Boxcar with positionable door and coal hopper with removable load
  • Caboose with illuminated interior
  • Track (12 FasTrack R20 curves, one 10” FasTrack straight section, and one 10” FasTrack FlyerChief terminal track)
  • Wall pack power supply
  • FlyerChief remote for locomotive (speed, direction, whistle, bell, and announcements). Requires three AAA batteries, not included
  • Locomotive and rolling stock do not have provisions for scale couplers or wheels

O scale

Color photo of On30 train set box.
The East Broad Top was the subject of a recent special issue and DVD from Trains magazine. This Bachmann On30 set could serve as the starting point for an EBT layout. Bachmann Trains photo

Name: East Broad Top – Freight (On30)

Product number: 25025

Price: $489

Manufacturer

Bachmann Trains

1400 E. Erie Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19124

bachmanntrains.com

Features

  • 2-6-0 locomotive with tender
  • Tank car
  • Two-bay steel hopper
  • Caboose
  • 38” x 56” oval of E-Z Track
  • Power pack and speed controller

Large scale

Color photo of large scale steam locomotive, stockcar, and caboose on track.
A steam locomotive with a smoke unit and sound effects and a stockcar with animated cattle are just some of the highlights of the Bachmann Trains large scale Cowcatcher set. The bobber caboose features separate, factory-applied handrails and grab irons. Bachmann Trains photo

Name: Cowcatcher

Product number: 90040

Price: $675

Manufacturer

Bachmann Trains

1400 E. Erie Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19124

bachmanntrains.com

Features

  • Baldwin 4-6-0 steam locomotive and tender with smoke unit and speed-synchronized chuff sound (sound system requires 9V battery for operation, not included)
  • Stockcar with animated cattle
  • Bobber caboose
  • 4’-3” x 5’-4” oval of track
  • Power pack and speed controller
Color photo of locomotive, cars, and accessories with large scale train set.
LGB’s large scale Christmas Train Starter Set has everything you need to get trains running under the tree this holiday season. The engineer in the 0-4-0T looks familiar. Märklin Inc. photo

Name: Christmas Train Starter Set

Product number: 72308

Price: $410

Manufacturer

Märklin Inc.

1406 Creek Trail Dr.

Jefferson City, MO 65109

lgb.com

Features

  • Tank locomotive with smoke unit, headlight, and ball-bearing-mounted Bühler motor
  • Two passenger cars
  • 48” circle of track
  • 120V power supply
  • Locomotive controller
  • Smoke fluid
  • Santa figure
  • Starter set can be expanded with annual LGB Christmas cars
Photo of box included with train set.
The components of the PIKO America Building Blocks R/C Starter Set can be neatly stored in this 15” x 23” box. It features a handle on top for easy transport. Cody Grivno photo

Name: Building Block Battery R/C Starter Set

Product number: 37155

Price: $529.99

Manufacturer

PIKO America LLC

4610 Alvarado Canyon Rd., Ste. 5

San Diego, CA 92120

piko-america.com

Features

  • 1:24-proporition General Electric 25-ton diesel locomotive (requires six AAA batteries, not included)
  • Two flatcars with building block studs on deck (compatible with LEGO, DUPLO, and other popular brands of plastic building blocks)
  • 12 pieces of R1 track (makes 51” diameter circle)
  • Track clips
  • R/C pocket remote for switcher
  • Uncoupling wand

Read a review of the PIKO America Building Block Battery R/C Starter Set on Trains.com.

One thought on “12 train sets for the holidays

  1. You missed USA trains large scale train sets
    http://www.usatrains.com/usatrainsets.html which come with a better power pack and brass track and the owner can consider putting the track outside. Bachmann’s track will rust in the rain in a month. The 10th anniversary 4-6-0 will last for years, not so with the train set engines.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

You must login to submit a comment