News & Reviews News A Valentine’s Day gift guide for the contemporary model railroader

A Valentine’s Day gift guide for the contemporary model railroader

By Bryson Sleppy | February 9, 2024

Flowers and chocolates are great but these models are the ticket!

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Valentine’s Day gift guide

With Valentine’s Day coming up, you may be at a loss when it comes to buying a gift for that special someone. Chocolates and flowers are blasé. Dinner and a movie? Sure, but that only lasts a few hours. A mixtape? Come on, it’s 2024, making a Spotify playlist takes seconds. What you need is a sincere, lasting gesture to show your affections. Something the both of you can enjoy together perhaps.

Besides a diamond, what lasts forever? As long as you take care of it, model trains can last a lifetime. While many regard model trains to be Christmas or birthday gifts, I think they’re the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your significant other. This is an occasion where you can really tell them how you feel about the relationship based, of course, on what model you choose to gift them.

Let’s take a look at my choices for the Valentine’s Day gift guide 2024:

Bowser HO scale Alco C415

Valentine’s Day: Alco C415
The announcement of Bowser’s C415 is so new that we had to supply our own prototype photo of the locomotive! Before being purchased by Dieselmotive Co. (BUGX), No. 701 was the “must-see” locomotive in Burlington Junction’s fleet. Steve Smedley

Are you in a new, budding relationship? Do you want to show this person just how special they are to you? Nothing says so like an Alco C415! The announcement of this unique locomotive from Bowser is so new that we had to supply our own photo of the prototype locomotive.

Pre-orders are due on April 5th and the model has an expected delivery date of April 2025. So, hopefully you plan on being with them for the long-term. Call this a sound investment in the future of your relationship.

Rapido Trains HO scale Electro-Motive Division FT

Valentine’s Day: Electro-Motive Division FT

I bet you’ll agree, the smooth curves and attractive Warbonnet scheme of the Santa Fe FT diesel locomotive are iconic. It’s classier than a dozen red roses. This locomotive has a depth of sophistication beyond even the finest box of chocolates. It is a symbol that is simplistic in its beauty, yet represents a world of romance. Think of the famous Super Chief! 

Luckily for you, Rapido Trains recently announced its HO scale version of this diesel locomotive. However, just like the Alco C415, the Rapido EMD FT is available for pre-order, so this locomotive is ideal for those committed to the future of their relationship.

Rapido Trains N scale General Motors Diesel Division FP9

Valentine’s Day: General Motors Diesel Division FP9

Okay, I hear you. “But Bryson, paint doesn’t pull freight.” That may be so. If your Valentine has the air of simplistic sophistication consider a minimalist, classically painted locomotive. What I’m recommending is no blazing Warbonnet, but rather a solid expression of affection. Consider the Rapido N scale GMD FP9. There’s no pre-order for this model. However it was released in 2021, so you may be able to find this model at a local hobby store. That special someone will surely appreciate the effort you put forth to find this “rare” locomotive just for them. If you’re hesitant about this romantic motive-power possibility, check out Cody and Eric’s review of the model on Video, as well as Cody’s review in the February 2022 issue of MR.

Broadway Limited Imports N scale Electro-Motive Division SD40-2

Valentine’s Day: Electro-Motive Division SD40-2

Are you shopping for a middle-of-the-road modeler? Maybe they don’t model a specific region or era. Or, it could be that your relationship has not advanced to the point where you feel comfortable asking what they model. I’ve never heard a modeler say “no” to an SD40-2! And this run of beautiful models from Broadway Limited includes road names for every era and region: Norfolk Southern and CSX, Santa Fe Yellowbonnet, Canadian Pacific, Kansas City Southern, and even Wisconsin & Southern.

Plus with the advent of Broadway Limited’s Stealth line, they can choose to put their favorite decoder in the model if you gift the Stealth version. Now I may be biased because it’s my favorite locomotive, but I still believe that you can always win someone’s heart with an SD40-2.

Bachmann Trains HO scale Siemens Charger

Valentine’s Day: Siemens Charger

Modern speed and efficiency. With a sleek, aerodynamic cab and lights all over, the Siemens Charger is the passenger locomotive of the modern era. Speeding passengers throughout the United States and Canada, it’s hard to travel the current Amtrak or VIA system without seeing a Charger. Presenting a Charger on Valentine’s Day may provoke dream-filled conversations about future trips to be had on board the most romantic of conveyances: A train. If you’re buying for a modern passenger modeler, Cupid’s arrow is pointing straight at the Charger.

Luckily Bachmann Trains has released three flavors of Chargers: Amtrak’s regional SC-44, Amtrak’s long distance ALC-42, and VIA Rail Canada’s SCV-42. All of these models come with the prototypical sound and lights associated with the locomotive, and they’re sure to put on a show. Better yet, take your significant other on a train trip behind a Charger and surprise them with a Charger of their own when you arrive at your destination!

To read more about the models, check out the SC-44 review in the April 2021 issue of MR and the ALC-42 review in the May 2022 issue. Editor Eric White shows off the sound, lights, and running of the locomotive in this video.

Kato USA Electro-Motive Division N scale SD70ACeValentine’s Day: Electro-Motive Division SD70ACe

Katy is red. Conrail is blue. I love heritage units. How about you?

Is there someone who’s just the star of your life? If their name is Katy, that’s even better … but I digress. In recent years railroads have been painting modern units in special paint schemes to honor their railroad lineage. While this specific locomotive is painted for the intensely red and incredibly attractive Missouri-Kansas-Texas scheme, perfect for Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of beautifully painted models of SD70ACe and ES44AC locomotives currently being produced by Kato USA. Find a special one that speaks to your special relationship.

The Big Boy 4-8-8-4 steam locomotive

Valentine’s Day: Big Boy

Do you want to give your significant other the pinnacle of model train locomotives? The one that states emphatically, “this relationship is the real deal.” The Big Boy is like the ultimate steak and lobster dinner but lasts forever (however, don’t try to eat the Big Boy). This is the Cadillac of model train locomotives that everyone should strive to buy for their significant other. The biggest, baddest, the spare-no-expense locomotive — aside from the 1:1 version, obviously. It is a true classic. Period.

The best part? It’s available in virtually every scale. Kato and Broadway Limited both produce the model in N scale. Broadway Limited also makes the locomotive in HO scale along with Hornby Hobbies.

Now if you want to go big ­— this option is best for those most committed — buy them an O scale Big Boy. Lionel’s Vision Line Big Boy is available from dealers everywhere.

Even if they’re not an O scale modeler, this is a locomotive that would look perfect on the mantle above a fireplace, or at the top of a display case. It’s a statement — a masterpiece! It’s the essence of romance!

To see more about the various Big Boy models available, check out the Classic Toy Trains review of Lionel’s model, and Cody’s review of Broadway Limited’s HO scale version.

For more on Big Boy, check out the Trains LIVE interview with Ed Dickens, UP steam chief, on

A special thank you to Trains Magazine Associate Editor Bob Lettenberger for his assistance with this list.

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