[2019 Review] – Best Model Train Sets for Beginners

[2019 Review] – Best Model Train Sets for Beginners

Love train sets, or have someone in your family that does? Electric train sets are the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one!

Train sets are an awesome hobby to help you relax after work, or even to help you socialize more in local clubs if that’s your thing.

The problem is, where do you start? There are hundreds of different models, sizes and brands out there, so it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes.

So this is our list of the top 5 best train sets for adults, beginner or advanced.


Bachmann Chief Ready-to-Run Electric Train

Bachmann Trains - Rail Chief Ready To Run 130 Piece Electric Train Set - HO Scale
  • 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 Bachmann Chief Ready-to-Run Electric Train is the standard in model trains. Bachmann is known for being one of the best model train manufacturer’s in the world, and this could be considered their best train set.

This set includes a number of different products to help you get started, or add flair to an existing set:

  • EMD GP40 diesel locomotive with operating headlight
  • An open quad hopper car
  • Gondola car
  • Steel reefer car
  • Off-centre caboose
  • 47″ x 38″ oval of snap-fit E-Z Track, including 12 pieces curved track, 1 piece straight track, and 1 plug-in terminal rerailer, signal bridge
  • 36 miniature people, 24 telephone poles, 48 railroad and street signs
  • Power pack and speed controller.

It’s the perfect set for someone looking to get started. Veteran modellers might not be as satisfied with some of the pieces as they’re primarily made of plastic, despite their high-quality look. Apart from that, the people themselves are a single pink colour. So it’s a good excuse to bust out some paint and have a go at adding some clothes to them!

Overall, this is our best pick for the price!


Bachmann Santa Fey Flyer Train

Bachmann Trains - Santa Fe Flyer Ready To Run Electric Train Set - HO Scale
  • 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

Another really nice Bachmnann set that is cheaper than it should be. The Santa Fey Flyer set comes with a variety of HO scale products that will interlink with other Bachmann or HO scale train kits. This set includes:

  • EMD FT diesel locomotive with operating headlight
  • Open quad hopper
  • Gondola
  • Off-centre caboose
  • Body-mounted E-Z Mate couplers
  • 36″ circle of snap-fit E-Z Track

This is a slightly less high-quality set than others, so it’s really aimed at teenagers or adults getting dipping their toes into model railroading. The best part about it, however, is because of this it comes Ready-to-Run. That means there’s nearly no set up and you can have a train heading around your track in 5 minutes or less.

This is a nice train set if you’ve already purchased the Bachmann Chief set or want to add another locomotive to your HO scale train track.


Lionel Polar Express Remote Train

Our choice for the best Christmas tree train themed set

Lionel The Polar Express Electric O Gauge Model Train Set w/ Remote and 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...
  • Passenger Car Features: Interior lighting, Decorated drumhead on observation car, Rounded observation platform
  • 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...
  • 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)
  • Minimum Curve: O31 | Set Length: 63 ⅜" | Recommended Age: 10 years +

The Polar Express Remote by Lionel trains is a classic train that any and all adults will find joy in. Especially when they show it off to younger to nieces, nephews or their own kids!

Modelled after the Polar Express train from the classic movie of the same name, it’s not an overly “ ” looking train, so it’ll still run nicely on a layout with a normal looking layout.

Lionel is renown for making high-quality trains, and this is no exception. This kit includes:

  • 2-8-4 Berkshire-style locomotive and tender
  • 2 coach cars and 1 observation car
  • Polar Express decorative bell
  • 4 Polar Express character figures
  • 8 curved O36 FasTrack sections, 1 straight track section, and 1 terminal wall pack section
  • LionChief Remote Control
  • Wall pack power supply

There are no real cons to this train set, although some people have noted that if left unattended, it might need to be unplugged/plugged back in at the wall to get it to start turning over again.

An awesome Lionel train that is perfect for any time of year, but is also one of the best christmas train sets around. 


Kato USA Union Pacific FEF-3

Kato USA Model Train Products 1260401 N Scale Union Pacific FEF-3 Steam Locomotive Train 844
  • N Scale
  • Special cross-braced shock absorbers equalize the pressure on the locomotive drivers to maximize traction
  • Illuminated headlight and locomotive number boards
  • DCC friendly design, allowing for easy drop-in installation of DCC. All detail parts installed and ready-to-run
  • 11" (282mm) minimum turning radius on ground level track, 15" (381mm) minimum turning radius on Viaduct track.

There’s something about a Kato train that just makes people gaze in wonder. They’re meticulously crafted, and in the USA Union Pacific FEF-3 Steam train it’s no exception. Kato is one of the biggest names in the industry, and have been making trains for years! This kit comes with the following:

  • Kato USA Union Pacific FEF-3 Steam Locomotive #844
  • Power Supply unit

This is a little more expensive than something like the Bachmann sets that come with the track as well, but you definitely get what you pay for with this locomotive. It’s going to be a train you run for years to come with very little problems or maintenance. Genuinely can’t come up with a single con for this locomotive.


Lionel Southern Pacific Rising Sun 0-8-0 Rising Chief train

Lionel Southern Pacific Rising Sun 0-8-0 Electric O Gauge, LionChief Bluetooth Train Set
  • Set Includes: 0-8-0 locomotive and tender, Flatcar with two removable piggy back trailers, Boxcar, Caboose, Eight curved O36 Fast rack track sections, 54W wall-pack power supply.
  • Locomotive Features: Electric locomotive controlled by remote or Bluetooth Lion Chief app, Operating headlight, On/Off switches for smoke and sound, Rail Sounds RC sound system.
  • Lion chief Remote Features: Forward and reverse speed control knob, Three buttons to activate whistle, bell, and special announcements, Requires three AAA alkaline batteries not included.
  • Toy
  • Lionel LLC

There’s a reason this Lionel train has nothing but 5-star reviews. The Lionel Southern Pacific Rising Sun 0-8-0 Rising Chief train is a complete Ready-to-Run model that is perfect if you want to really bring something special to your railroad. It comes complete with a number of different features that can also be controlled from your phone, including things like lights, smoke and sounds. This set includes:

  • 0-8-0 locomotive and tender
  • Flatcar with two removable piggyback trailers
  • Boxcar
  • Caboose
  • Eight curved O36 Fast rack track sections
  • 54W wall-pack power supply

When you’re finally ready to step up the quality of your model train layout and have been at it for a while, this is the set you should purchase. It adds a real professional look to any layout and will be something you run for a really long time to come.


What else to consider when buying a model train?

When considering buying a model train set, there are a few different things you should take into account. Firstly, what scale train do you want to run? This will determine what you can buy. If you’re already running an HO scale train set, there is no point buying an N scale train, because it won’t fit. (unless you want to start a new layout).
Alternatively, if this is your first purchase, work out what size scale you want to run. You can read more about the best beginner scales in this post.

Next, it’s mostly a matter of working out what kind of train you want to run. These 5 are our top picks, but there are hundreds of both good and bad trains out there to buy. So make sure you do some proper research on the best model brands before buying, so you end up with a quality train.


We hope that helped, and if you have a recommendation, please leave a comment below with your favourite train!

And if this is your first time reading about the best model trains, have a look at our Ultimate Model Train Guide to learn more about the hobby!

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