Choosing The Right Train Set

With a wide variety of train sets available in the market, it can become really difficult to choose from a range of options. Before buying a train set, you need to consider what it offers and whether it fulfills all the requirements or not. Here is a very brief guide for you on choosing the right train set,

Considering The Appropriate Scale and Gauge

Train sets are scaled-down replicas of actual trains. Scale refers to the size of the model train compared to a real train and gauge refers to the width between the two rails. The largest train sets often operate outdoors on garden railroads. These models are offered in a range of scales including 1:32, 1:22.5, and 1:20. All of these models operate on the Gauge 1 track, which measures 45 mm between the rails. The next largest scale is known as O scale. It features a proportion of 1:48. Track in O gauge measures 31.75 mm between the rails. This scale is used for both toy train sets and professional train models. Lionel’s O scale trains have been in production for almost 100 years. Slightly smaller than O scale is S scale which offers a proportion of 1:64. They run on rails which are 22.25 mm apart. These S scale models are as highly detailed as trains in other larger scales.

Overshadowing O scale models in popularity are models built to be approximately half their size. This scale is also commonly known as HO. They have a proportion of 1:87. HO train sets are small enough to allow a satisfyingly detailed layout in a compact space. This is the most famous scale, with more than two-thirds of the customer selecting this for their models. An even smaller scale available in the market is the N scale. It has a scale of 1:160 and provides a distance of only 9 mm between the rails. This scale works best when you do not have a lot of space. Z scale is the smallest train scale with a proportion of 1:220. In a Z scale, a real-life 50-foot locomotive measures only 146 mm.

There is not a single scale that fits all applications. That is why there is numerous option available in the first place. The scale you select for your model depends on how much space you have and the level of detail you want to achieve.

Selecting Power Packs

There are various power supplies and transformers for different train set applications. 8 Amp Accessory Transformers are used to operate lights, switch machines, and other accessories. These transformers provide a variable AC voltage which allows you to set the desired voltage level according to the accessory you want to power.

In order to power your trains and all the accessories along with it through a single device, you can opt for an 80 W, 4.5 Amp Transformer. This transformer is capable of providing 0 to 18 volts of variable AC voltage. Lionel also offers a 180 W Powerhouse for TMCC or LEGACY controlled layout. With 10 Amps of output current, Powerhouse provides adequate power for most train models. If you want additional power, you can use multiple power supplies as well.

Picking The Right Track Type

When you are buying a train set, it is important to choose the track type that best suits your needs. Roadbed tracks combine rails, ties, and ballast roadbed into a single track piece. Some roadbed tracks also feature hidden electrical contacts for added reliability. You can also have a conventional track that comes without a roadbed. Such tracks offer more choices for track planning. Many advanced model railroads are built using these conventional tracks. If you are looking for a higher level of flexibility, flex track is the best option. Flex tracks allow nearly unlimited possibilities for adding various curves because they have no fixed geometry. They can be bent however you like to create a combination of gentle and sharp curves.


There are plenty of model train sets for you to choose from. They vary in quality, detail, and price. To choose one that best suits your requirements, you have to consider all the above-mentioned aspects. The best way to ensure you are buying a high-quality set is to have it from a hobby shop that specializes in this field. When buying train sets, your selection should be based on the scale, gauge, quality of the track, track type, and power pack.

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