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!
Everyone is able to collect and enjoy model trains, and the best part is that you can easily create your own train set with the right gear, a bit of imagination and can-do-attitude.
Some sets can be massive room-spanning behemoths that take hundreds of man hours to set up and run properly, others can be little coffee table tracks that run right out of the box. This is always worth it because it’s fun, it’s different and with model train layouts, it can often be the journey rather than the destination.
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.
Why Should You own an Electric Train?
For starters, this is a great pastime!
It allows you to just enjoy your time and have fun as you go along. It delivers incredible results while also encouraging you to make the track, and your train layout better over time. This is a passion project and one where you can pour a lot of effort and hard work into it to bring your own cool ideas to life.
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 will span over multiple rooms, others will be simpler and function properly on a smaller table. Some of these are made out of plastic, and higher tier Electric Train Sets include stainless steel and more durable materials.
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?
The first thing to focus on when you buy Electric Train Sets is to identify the scale you need. There are N and HO scales, as well as O or G gauges. Scales and gauges won’t make too much difference to you, but the letters will! You need to make sure that you can find Electric Trains and decorations that fit the scale you chose.N and HO are on the smaller side, O and G definitely requires more room.
Budgeting For your Model Train Set
Which is why you need to scour the market as you try to figure out what approach works for you the most. The primary focus has to be on value and quality here, and the more you do that, the better it will be in the end.
Despite the trains themselves, track quality is also very important, so make sure that you opt for the best track that you can buy
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. You can get an electric model train for cheaper than that as shown below too, if you’re just curious about the hobby!
Electric Train Set Power Supply and DCC Unit
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 it comes within the box is normally fine. Stuff like DCC Train Control Kits is a problem for later on!
The idea is to avoid rushing as you try to find the right model.
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. When it comes to couplers, you want those that have a metal construction and which are very easy to operate.
Most importantly to you though, pricing is probably your biggest concern! A good Electric Train kit can and will cost you up to $400 or more and as you raise the quality and expand your set you will find more expensive options. Don’t let that deter you though, as you can get in to the hobby for a lot less than that too!
Here’s Our Top 10 Electric Train Picks!
1. Bachmann Santa Fe Flyer Electric Train
- 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 favourite HO Scale train set and that makes it great for kids. HO is the perfect balance between a perfect adult size and something that kids can still interact with. The best part about this is that it’s ready-to-run out of the box, meaning its a great beginner set too!
The details are great and the best part is that you have a speed controller that helps enhance safety (which is a must if you want this for your child).
It’s quite affordable and it brings in a very good set of features and ideas that you do not want to miss. The included cupola caboose, gondola car and open quad hopper car do tend to make the package come to life too!
2. Bachmann Trains Rail Chief Set
Best Model Train Set for Adults
- 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 is quite complicated and comes with a full set of 130 pieces. Despite that daunting number, it’s actually pretty easy to get up and running!
The fact that it’s an HO scale unit is great and there are quite a lot of accessories added here aside from the cars. You have miniatures, telephone poles, street signs, railroad signs, signal bridge and so on. Adding all of that helps enhance the experience and bring in more value and quality to the process, which is what you really want to have when building your own model train layout.
3. Thomas and Friends Electric Train Set
Best Electric Model Train for Kids
- Complete Ready To Run Train Set
- Powered by a Thomas the Tank Engine with Moving Eyes
- Includes; Annie and Clarabel Coaches with International-Style Hook and Loop Couplers
- 36" Circle of Snap-Fit E-Z Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
- HO Scale 1:87
As you can imagine the Thomas & Friends Thomas with Annie and Clarabel Train Set is suitable mostly for kids (or if you’re a nostalgic adult!)
It’s a very well built set and it comes with a set of passenger cars which are also really well done. The quality is very impressive for what it is and you will appreciate the astounding attention to detail and value that they are bringing in here. It’s almost a perfect replica of what you would see in the show.
4. Lionel Hogwarts Express Electric Train
- Set includes: 4-6-0 locomotive; 2 passenger coaches; combination car; 8 curved track sections; 1 lock-on section; 1 terminal section; 2 10" straight sections, power supply; remote control.
- Passenger cars have interior illumination
- Rail sounds - steam chuffing, background sounds, horn Whistle, bell and user activated announcements.
- On/off switches for smoke and sound
- Free Bluetooth app: Lionel.Com/Bluetooth
The Lionel Hogwarts Express Electric O Gauge Train is the ultimate edition model train that’s not only done by model train enthusiasts, but also Harry Potter fans. The train has been lovingly recrafted, and it’s reflected in the details.
The passenger cars even have interior illumination, you have a dedicated app to try out and another thing to note is that they added switches for smoke and sound too.
That goes to show just how detailed and visually impressive this product can really be. Definitely for fans of both Harry Potter, and also people that like well-crafted model trains.
5. Lionel Santa Fe Super Chief Train
- Set Includes: Santa Fe FT diesel locomotive, Two coach cars, Observation car, Eight curved O36 FasTrack track sections, one 10" straight FasTrack, Plug-Expand-Play power lock-on section, one...
- Locomotive Features: Electric locomotive controlled by LionChief remote or Bluetooth LionChief app, On/Off switch for sound, RailSounds RC sound system with diesel revving and background sounds,...
- Passenger Car Features: Die-cast metal trucks and operating couplers, Illuminated and detail interior, Flexible diaphragms between cars, Opening doors
- LionChief Remote Features: Forward and reverse speed control knob, Three buttons to activate horn, bell, and special announcements, Requires three AAA alkaline batteries (not included)
- Minimum Curve: O31 | Set Length: 52 1/2" | Recommended Age: 10 years +
Lionel’s Santa Fe Super Chief Train is a very popular collector piece and that’s for a very good reason.
It has two coach cars, a wonderful diesel locomotive, an observation car and multiple track sections to name a few The accessories they added here are very interesting and also quite useful too.
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.
6. Lionel Mickey Mouse Celebration Train Set
Best Themed Electric Model Train Set
- Limited Edition: Only 1928 made!
- Locomotive numbered
- Removable Mickey Ears
While this model is mostly created for kids, the Lionel Mickey Celebration Train Set stands out with its visuals and ease of use.
The added Mickey ears are fun and they definitely keep up with the theme, which is what you expect to have from a product of this calibre. The fact that it is in O scale as well means that it’s going to be a stunner running around a Christmas Tree if you’re feeling festive later in the year too!
This is a limited edition model as only 1928 were made!. Assembly is very simple and fans of Mickey Mouse will adore it!
7. Bachmann Trains North Pole Express Train Set
Best Holiday-themed Electric Model Train
- Complete Ready To Run Passenger Train Set
- Powered by a 2-6-2 Steam Era Locomotive with Operating Headlight, Smoke, and Tender
- Includes; Heavyweight Coach Car, and Heavyweight Observation Car
- 63" x 45" Oval of Snap-Fit E-Z Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
- HO Scale 1:87
This really seems like the North Pole Express and you have that powerful steam-era locomotive that sets the tone to offer something unique and different (despite being fully electric!). They even added the tender, smoke and operating headlight.
The unit comes with 2 cars and an oval track with a controller and power pack, and it’s great value for money!
The HO scale makes it great for kids an adults alike, and as a whole, it’s just an astounding investment if you like trains or if you want to share a good train set with your family
8. Kato USA Zephyr Starter Set
- 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 USA Model Train Starter Set stands out for the fact that it’s an extraordinary locomotive, and is a more modern looking unit.
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 as well.
The slipcase will add in quite a lot of value and you’ll find this works super well without any hassle.
We believe that this is one of the better models on the market and you’ll want to check it out if you are a fan of high-quality train sets.
9. Walthers Trainline Ready to Run Train
- Powered diesel locomotive with working headlight
- Speed and direction controller
- World's greatest hobby 60-minute DVD building your first railroad
- 1:87 HO SCALE MODEL
While this is not the most complex electric train set out there, that’s not neccesarily a bad thing, especially if you’re a beginner! You’ll love this model train because it looks great, it has amazing features and the quality is actually among some of the best on the market.
It also comes with a direction and speed controller, not to mention the locomotive itself is very powerful.
They also added a DVD which features an hour of tutorials regarding model train system building and model train layout design
10. LEGO Creator Holiday Train Set
- Kids and adults will have a blast building this LEGO Winter Holiday Christmas train building set. The included train track wraps a full circle around your Christmas tree, making it the perfect...
- The holiday LEGO train set includes a locomotive, caboose, 5 minifigures: a locomotive driver, ticket collector, grandmother, boy and a girl, plus festive green wreaths, decorative lights, and...
- Turn this LEGO train into a motorized train set with a Power Functions motor (not included), and watch as it rolls festively around the train track! LEGO Creator building toys are compatible with...
- LEGO Creator Expert kits challenge both kids and adults to explore their creativity through exciting and fun building experiences. Dive into the festive details of this iconic LEGO Christmas...
- The Holiday Christmas train in total measures over 4" high, 20" long and 2" wide. Curved rail track diameter measures over 27". 734 pieces. A great LEGO Christmas gift for boys and girls over the...
This might be a holiday-themed product, but it’s one that both kids and adults will like it quite a lot. And really, who doesn’t love some LEGO!
Obviously it takes a bit of time to create, but the journey is half the fun! You will find that it works great for smaller rooms too.
And it’s also great to see that they added some Minifigures in too. That helps spruce things up and bring in some amazing results, which is exactly what you need to think about when purchasing model train sets.
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 or TT scale. This is comparable to the push toy trains that kids can find out there. You can find quality TT trains and accessories without a problem.
The N scale is good for kids too, as it’s small and it fits a child’s hand really well, although you obviously wan’t to be cautious of choking hazards, so maybe even moving into the HO section is something you could consider for the right price point.
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 or HO scale are 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. So that means that there’s more scenery, miniatures and other components out there than anything else.
Are there any requirements for owning a model electric train?
- 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!
Getting into the model train world is very exciting and a lot of fun. Thankfully these electric train sets will help you achieve that fast and easy without any hassle. We recommend you check these out and give them a try, as you’ll no doubt be impressed with the value and quality brought to the table.
Plus, it’s an affordable way to get into this world at your own pace!
Want to learn more about model trains? Have a look at our ultimate model train guide for some more information.
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.