Best Electric Train Sets 2021

This post was updated in October of 2021 to include some of the best electric train sets that came out this year.

Electric train sets have been a passion project for millions of people all over the world for a very long time.

And it just so happens to be for a very good reason! That’s where this article comes in!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned veteran or a total novice, it’s always nice to good to at least look at some of the new trains that are out and get up to speed! (no pun intended)

That’s why we’re going to go over the best electric train sets that you should consider adding to your rotation this year!

Of course, there are tricky moments to deal with, but that’s what can make electric train sets unique; the fact that you create your own track and figure things out as you go along.

So whether you’re looking for your first HO scale beginner train or a unique O scale locomotive, take a look below!


If you’re in a hurry, or just want the best one of the lot, we recommend going with the Bachmann Trains Rail Chief Set. It’s a classic train that’s really well made, looks stunning, and can be used year-round!

Our Top Pick
Bachmann Trains - Rail Chief Ready To Run 130 Piece Electric Train Set
  • Complete Ready To Run 130 Piece Freight Train Set
  • Powered by a EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive with Operating Headlight
  • Includes; Open Quad Hopper Car, Gondola Car, Steel Reefer Car, Off-Set Cupola Caboose, Signal Bridge, Miniature Figures, Railroad Signs, Street Signs, and Telephone Poles
  • 47" x 38" Oval of Snap-Fit E-Z Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • HO Scale 1:87


Why own an Electric Train Set?

For starters, this is a great pastime!

It allows you to have fun at your own pace, and can also be incredibly relaxing!

There’s something incredibly satisfying about working your train track and layout, and then making your train layout better over time. This is a passion project and one that’ll let your pour a lot of hours into it if you want!

It does take a little bit to bring your dream project to life, but it’s always worth it!

Plus, the electric train sets and tracks can be as simple or as complex as you want.

Some can span your entire garage, working their way from wall to wall; others can be simpler and can even run on your coffee table.

The great thing is that you can buy all the stuff you want within your budget and then create the world you want around the track.

It’s fun, rewarding and it’s a wonderful activity for both kids and adults alike.


What to Look for When Buying an Electric Train set?

The first thing to focus on when you’re looking to buy the best electric train set for yourself is to identify the scale (or size) you need. There are N scale and HO scales, as well as O scale or G gauge trains. Scales and gauges won’t make too much difference to you if you’re a novice, but the letters will!

You need to make sure that you can find electric model trains and decorations that fit the scale you chose.

N and HO are on the smaller side and are table-worthy, while O and G definitely require more room and look better running around a Christmas tree or even outside!

Budgeting For your Model Train Set

The primary focus has to be on value and quality here, and the more you do that the longer you’re going to have a model train that will last you for years to come.

Some of these are made out of plastic, and higher-tier electric train sets are made from steel and even brass, and that’s really where they shine.

Despite the trains themselves, track quality is also very important, so make sure that you opt for the best track that you can buy. Often times a lot of the model train sets will come with tracks that will do the job just fine!

Metal rails are undoubtedly the best and will last the longest, as well as giving you the smoothest ride.

When you’re starting out especially, pick a budget and stick to it. A good beginner budget for a serious enthusiast would be somewhere between $200-$500.

And if you’re looking to add a couple of new locomotives to your layout, you can always do some hunting and find bundles like this Bachmann DCC-ready double back that will go a long way to saving you a few dollars!

Electric Train Set Power Supply and DCC Supply

Then you also have to think about the power supply you need to buy. This will tie in with the scale of the project; if the scale is very large then you need something a bit more powerful. To start with if it’s your first train, whatever comes with the box is normally fine. Stuff like DCC Train Control Kits is a problem for later on! 

Couplers and wheels are very important too, ideally, you want them to be out of metal to offer more durability. For the most part, they’ll just be whatever comes with your model train kit. Later on down the track, you can look to swap them out for something like Kato brand couplers, that are of great quality!

The idea is to avoid rushing as you try to find the right model. 

Now let’s take a look at some of the best electric train sets of 2021!


What is the Best Electric Train Set?


Our Top Pick
Bachmann Trains - Santa Fe Flyer Ready To Run Electric Train Set
  • Complete Ready To Run Freight Train Set
  • Powered by a EMD FT Diesel Locomotive with Operating Headlight
  • Includes; Open Quad Hopper Car, Gondola Car, and Off-Set Cupola Caboose
  • 36" Circle of Snap-Fit E-Z Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • HO Scale 1:87

The Bachmann Santa Fe Flyer Train Set is a favorite electric HO Scale train set and is personally one of my favorites!

HO is the perfect balance between something that’s big enough to still hold lots of detail, but still small enough that you can fit it on a 6×4 table and have tons of room to build!

The best part about this is that it’s ready to run out of the box, meaning it’s a great beginner set too!

The details are great and a nice feature is that you have a speed controller that helps enhance safety (which is a must if you want this for your child).

It’s super affordable too, which is great if you’re just dipping your toe in the water. It also comes with 36″ of train track, a power unit, and a couple of different train cars to get you started!


Our Top Pick
Lionel The Polar Express LionChief 2-8-4 Set with Bluetooth Capability
  • Set Includes: 2-8-4 locomotive and tender, Two coach cars, Observation car, Four articulated movie characters, Eight curved O36 FasTrack track sections, one 10” straight FasTrack Plug-Expand-Play power lock-on section, one FasTrack terminal section, and two 10” straight, FasTrack sections, Wall-pack power supply, LionChief remote for locomotive, The Polar Express bell.
  • Locomotive Features: Electric locomotive controlled by remote or LionChief Bluetooth, Official “All aboard The Polar Express” and “Tickets Please“ movie sound clips, On/Off switches for smoke and sound, RailSounds RC sound system with steam chuffing and engine background sounds, whistle, bell and user-activated announcements, Operating headlight, Puffing smoke unit, Operating coupler on rear of tender, Powerful maintenance-free motor, Two traction tires,
  • Die-cast metal locomotive body, Large pilot and headlight lens shield
  • Passenger Car Features: Interior lighting, Decorated drumhead on observation car, Rounded observation platform
  • LionChief Remote Features: Forward and reverse speed control knob, Three buttons for whistle sound, bell and special announcements, Requires three AAA alkaline batteries (not included)

The Lionel Polar Express Lionchief O Gauge Train is the ultimate model train that’s been lovingly crafted to represent the Polar Express train from the popular movie!

The train looks amazing, and anyone from movie enthusiasts to Christmas fanatics is going to get a kick out of this one. Hell, it’d look great even if you just wanted to create a winter-themed model train layout.

The train comes with a ton of really nifty features to help bring this set to life, including:

  • puffing smoke
  • operating headlight
  • Authentic sound clips from both the movie and normal train sounds!

The fact that the train is also made from die-cast metal as well is an easy way to tell that with good care, this train will last decades to come!


Our Top Pick
Bachmann Trains - Rail Chief Ready To Run 130 Piece Electric Train Set
  • Complete Ready To Run 130 Piece Freight Train Set
  • Powered by a EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive with Operating Headlight
  • Includes; Open Quad Hopper Car, Gondola Car, Steel Reefer Car, Off-Set Cupola Caboose, Signal Bridge, Miniature Figures, Railroad Signs, Street Signs, and Telephone Poles
  • 47" x 38" Oval of Snap-Fit E-Z Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • HO Scale 1:87

The Rail Chief Ready To Run Train Set comes packed with a full set of 130 pieces! Despite that daunting number, it’s actually pretty easy to get up and running!

It comes with a 47″x38″ oval of track, which is more than enough to get you up and running in no time.

The fact that it’s an HO scale locomotive is great and there are quite a lot of accessories added here aside from the train cars; telephone poles, street signs, railroad signs, and a signal bridge. If I’m being honest, the signs and poles could use some work, and they’re not the highest quality, but they’re definitely not the reason you’re buying this.

This electric train set is actually one I received as a gift and one I use fairly regularly on my own layout to this day!


Our Top Pick
Lionel Santa Fe Super Chief LionChief Set with Bluetooth Capability
  • A LOCOMOTIVE SHOWSTOPPER – Checkout the iconic Santa Fe Super Chief LionChief train set; This train is equipped with Bluetooth technology, letting you glide the rails via a mobile device; Great for kids, hobbyists and holiday decorating
  • SET INCLUDES – Santa Fe FT diesel locomotive; 2 coach cars and an Observation car; FasTrack include: 8 curved 036 tracks, two 10” straight tracks, terminal, 10” straight Plug-Expand-Play power lock section; 41.4W power supply; LionChief remote
  • TRAIN SET FEATURES – Train controlled by remote, or via Bluetooth; Horn, bell and diesel revving sounds; RailSounds RC sound system; 2 powerful, maintenance-free motors; Operating headlight; Illuminated cab, die-cast metal trucks, opening doors and more
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS – O Gauge compatible; minimum curve is 031; Set length is 52 1/2”; Bluetooth compatible
  • BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Requires three AAA batteries to operate the LionChief remote control; Batteries are not included with the purchase of train set

The O scale Lionel Santa Fe Super Chief Train is a really popular collector piece and that’s for a very good reason!

It’s a truly awesome-looking locomotive whose engine is nearly entirely metal and super weighty in the hand. It has two coach cars, a wonderful diesel engine, an observation car, and multiple track sections, and a 41.4-watt power supply; everything you need to get up and running in minutes!

The locomotive is Bluetooth enabled, so you can start or stop it via your phone. There are multiple remote features too that include lighting and sound as well as opening doors, interior illumination, etc.

It looks amazing and it certainly delivers the high-quality standard that you expect from Lionel products.


Our Top Pick
Kato USA Model Train Products N CB&Q Streak Zephyr UNITRACK Starter Set, Silver
  • Contains a 4'x3' (1337mm x 677mm) loop of Kato UNITRACK with a re-railing crossing, N scale
  • Includes a Kato 12V Power Pack that connects to the Kato UNITRACK loop with easy-to-use plugs for operating your trains
  • Contains a complete CB&Q Silver Streak Zephyr locomotive and car set with one locomotive and 5 individually lettered cars
  • The E5A is DCC friendly and all cars can be upgraded with optional interior lighting kits
  • Elegant slipcase covered box with easy to carry handle

This Kato Model Train Starter Set stands out for the fact that it’s an extraordinary locomotive, and is a more modern-looking model train.

The design is something distinct that will look great in all model train layouts, and the assembly process is not complicated at all! You can easily upgrade the cars with some interior lights that you can get from Kato!

We believe that this is one of the better n scale model trains on the market and you’ll want to check it out if you are a fan of high-quality train sets and also don’t have a lot of space!


Our Top Pick
Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer LionChief 0-8-0 Freight Set with Bluetooth Capability
  • A locomotive showstopper checkout the pennsylvania flyer lionchief 0-8-0 train set; this set is equ
  • Set includes 0-8-0 locomotive and tender, three-dome tank car, boxcar and caboose; fastrack include
  • Train set features train controlled by remote controller, or with a mobile device via bluetooth; on
  • Product specifications 40 x 60 oval track; o gauge compatible; minimum curve is 031; bluetooth comp
  • Battery requirements - requires three aaa batteries to operate the lionchief remote control; batteri

This super cool Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer LionChief model train should be a staple of any O gauge train layout. A classic silhouette based on the United States Railroad Associations 0-8-0 trains, this train looks at home on any layout. A classic western train station? Check. A snowy mountain? Check. A 20th-century train yard? Check.

coming with a nice coal tender, a three-dome tank car, a boxcar, and a caboose, it comes with everything you could want to really give it some length.

Coming in at a 4.8/5 with nearly 1000 reviews, if you’d thought about going O scale this year, this is definitely our recommendation!


What’s the best model train scales for kids and adults?

A lot of people suggest that the best scale for kids is the N scale or Ho scale model train.

The N scale is good for kids too, as it’s small and it fits a child’s hand really well, although you obviously want to be cautious of choking hazards, so maybe even moving into the HO section is something you could consider depending on the age of your kid.

It all comes down to identifying what makes it worth it for you and then adjusting and adapting as you go along for the best experience and results.

When it comes to adults, the O gauge or HO scale is the norm. They’re big enough that you can get a lot of detail in them, and these days they’re the most popular scale which means that there are the most components for layouts available too.


Are there any requirements for owning a model electric train Set?

  • You do need quite a lot of space when you go down this route.
  • It’s time-consuming to create a model train environment too, so time and space are definitely huge factors here.
  • On top of that, many electric train sets and accessories can be quite expensive. Sure, it won’t feel like a lot of money at first, but the more you expand the higher the costs will be.
  • Ideally, you want to start off with a simpler approach and then adapt and adjust as you go along, as it still delivers the value you expect without any hassle.
  • Other than that, passion is all you really need and you’ll make it work! 

What’s the Best Place To Buy Electric Train Sets?

That totally depends on what you’re after, or if you even know! Obviously, we’ve just given you a bunch of great trains that can all be purchased online.

For the most part, most model train manufacturers sell on Amazon these days, like Lionel, Athearn, Bachmann, etc.

The only other place we’d recommend trying is your local FLTS (friendly local train store!) to see what they have in stock. They don’t always have the largest selection, but if you have no clue where to start, being able to chat with someone is a good start.


Getting into the model train world is very exciting and a lot of fun. Thankfully this roundup of the best electric train sets will help you achieve that fast and easy without any hassle. We recommend you check them out and give them a try, as you’ll no doubt be impressed with the value and quality, especially if you haven’t had one in many years. The quality has gone up considerably!

Plus, it’s an affordable way to get into this hobby at your own pace!

Want to learn more about model trains? Have a look at our ultimate model train guide for some more information.

OR, if you’re looking to buy some extra cars to add to your set, look at our 6 best train cars post!

3 thoughts on “Best Electric Train Sets 2021”

  1. I set up a 1930 Lionel 262 engine with 800-series freight cars that I had in the 1950’s on Christmas for my 3 grandkids. Three trips around the train garden and they were back on their I-pads for the rest of the day.

    Reply
  2. Can anyone give me an idea of a Marx 41822 electric train set in a yellow box, worth? It reads ‘1 only #41822 electric tain set made in the USA by Louis Marx & Co Inc. Girard PA 16417’ Thanks!

    Reply

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