Top 10 Christmas Train Sets for Under The Tree [2020 Review ]

This post was updated in October of 2020 to include some great new Christmas train sets to help update your setup! 

We’re not really sure HOW Christmas Train Sets Under The Tree got started, but we’re all for it! As a kid, nothing really bet the magic of Christmas morning, opening presents and time with family, and having a model train set race around the tree that really helped add to that atmosphere!

From toy xmas trains that your toddlers can play with, through to collectible decorations from movies like The Polar Express we’ve tried to include a little bit of everything on this list.

There are a lot of different train models out there – Everything from big electric Christmas train sets for around the tree to little Christmas train sets ideal for a coffee table. 

If you’re in a hurry, or just want the best one of the lot, we recommend going with the Lionel Polar Express Train Set. It’s a classic Christmas train set that is well made, looks stunning, and can be used year-round if need be.

Lionel The Polar Express Battery-powered Model Train Set, Ready to Play with Remote
  • This year showcase the magic of Christmas with the iconic Polar Express train set.
  • Dimensions: 50" x 73.2" oval of Ready-to-Play track. 24 pieces of curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces. Fixed knuckle couplers.
  • Remote Control: Buttons allow train to go forward and reverse, sound the whistle, ring the bell, and play announcements
  • Batteries Required: Three AAA batteries for controller and six C cell batteries required for train (not included)
  • The set includes a working headlight and 3 train cars. Witness the children’s shadows as they sit in the passenger cars.

Here Iss our list of top train sets for under the Christmas tree!

Lionel Mickey Mouse Christmas Train Set

The Lionel Mickey Mouse Christmas Train Set is definitely the perfect Disney obsessed kid in your house. Lionel is an industry-standard model train manufacturer, so buying something from them will stand the test of time.

This set comes with:

  • 3 detailed Disney themed train cars
  • Mickey conducting the engine and Donald handing out presents
  • 50″ x 73.2″ oval of Ready-to-Play track – 24 pieces of curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces
  • Remote Control that allows for forward, reverse, sounding the whistle, ringing the bell, and operating the headlight.

This is a battery powered set which means that you won’t have any pesky cables running through your presents either which is nice. The fact that it’s such a large track also means you’ll have a huge interior circle to place presents in as well, to really make it feel like a proper Christmas train.

Lionel Mickey's Holiday to Remember Disney Christmas Train Set - O-Gauge
  • Mickey's Holiday to Remember Disney Christmas Train Set is the perfect train for under the tree
  • Mickey and Minnie figures circle the gondola when car is in motion
  • Set includes: 4-4-0 General-style locomotive with wood tender, boxcar, animated gondola, 54W power supply
  • Eight curved O36 FasTrack track sections, and two 10” straight FasTrack sections
  • Easy operating remote control, puffing smoke, chuffing sounds, die cast locomotive

Bachmann Industries Night Before Christmas Train Set

Bachmann’s Night Before Christmas Train Set is an iconic looking, pure Christmas locomotive. Bachmann has been making trains since 1833, so have more years of experience than you’ve been alive!

This is a G scale train,  so it’s a big Christmas train! The best part about that? It really stands out around the Christmas tree and makes it an eye-catching piece.

This set includes:

  • 4-6-0 steam locomotive
  • operating headlight
  • smoke and speed-synchronized sound
  • tender with coal load
  • gondola
  • bobber caboose
  • Santa figure
  • 5‘4” x 4‘3” oval of track (14 pieces)

If you’ve ever decided that you needed more green and red in your house at Christmas time, this is the kind of train that will delight adults and children alike. Some people have said they’ve had trouble with the tracks, but it’s more of a case of making sure you spend the time to correctly put it together.

Bachmann Trains - Night Before Christmas Ready To Run Electric Train Set - Large "G" Scale
  • Complete Ready To Run Holiday Train Set
  • Powered by a 4-6-0 Steam Era Locomotive with Operating Headlight, Smoke, Speed-Synchronized Sound , and Tender with Coal Load
  • Includes; Holiday Decorated Gondola Car, Merry Christmas Bobber Caboose, and Santa Figure
  • 5'4" x 4'3" Oval of Steel Alloy Track, Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • Large "G" Scale. Requires one 9V battery (sold separately)

Lionel Mickey Mouse Ready-To-Run Train Set

Another Mickey Mouse train set, this one is a high quality, super detailed train set that qualifies as a collector’s piece more than anything. So this one might not be super applicable if you have little toddlers that enjoy picking up and throwing things.

This gorgeous set includes:

  • Mickey and Minnie figures circle the gondola when the car is in motion
  • 4-4-0 General-style locomotive with wood tender
  • Boxcar
  • Animated gondola
  • Eight curved O36 FasTrack track sections, and two 10” straight FasTrack sections
  • Easy operating remote control, puffing smoke, chuffing sounds and lights

One of the best parts about this train is that it also runs on O scale. What does that mean? Well, an O scale is an industry standard size, so if you need more track or want to pick up other bits and pieces, you can make sure they’ll run on your current setup.

O scale is great too if you have a smaller house or apartment and still want a standout Christmas tree train set.

Lionel Disney Mickey Mouse Express Battery-powered Model Train Set Ready to Play w/ Remote
  • Set Includes: Battery-powered General-style locomotive driven by Mickey, Present filled tender with Donald Duck, Boxcar, Center-cupola caboose, 24 curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces, RC...
  • Locomotive Features: Highly detailed, sturdily constructed, General-style locomotive, Authentic train sounds, including bell and whistle, Working headlight, Requires six C cell batteries (not...
  • Freight Car Features: Fixed knuckle couplers, Opening doors on boxcar
  • Remote Control Features: Designed for easy use, Clearly marked buttons release Disney specific announcements, allow train to go forward and reverse, sound the whistle, and ring the bell, Requires...
  • Ready-to-Play | Set Length: 50" x 73" | Recommended Age: 4 years +

Lionel Polar Express Train Set

Now, this is a real collector’s piece for a true Christmas fan. The Lionel Polar Express train set is a perfect replica of the train seen in the Polar Express movie. This is the more expensive of a couple of Polar Express train sets that Lionel offer, and for good reason. This is the highest quality, pure die-cast metal, version, that also includes more sounds, lights and will really help to make you feel like you’re at the North Pole.

This set 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

This set also includes everything you’d want from a Polar Express train; bells, whistles, lights, smoke, audio like “All aboard the Polar Express” and “Tickets please!”, as well as silhouettes inside the passenger carriages.

Lionel The Polar Express Battery-powered Model Train Set, Ready to Play with Remote
  • This year showcase the magic of Christmas with the iconic Polar Express train set.
  • Dimensions: 50" x 73.2" oval of Ready-to-Play track. 24 pieces of curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces. Fixed knuckle couplers.
  • Remote Control: Buttons allow train to go forward and reverse, sound the whistle, ring the bell, and play announcements
  • Batteries Required: Three AAA batteries for controller and six C cell batteries required for train (not included)
  • The set includes a working headlight and 3 train cars. Witness the children’s shadows as they sit in the passenger cars.

LEGO Creator Expert Winter Train Set

Know what the best Christmas gift is? Lego. Hands down!

And better than Lego? Lego Train sets!

So what’s better than Lego? A Lego train set! This is the best Lego train on the market today and is going to entertain everyone in the family for hours on end. The best part about it being Lego also means that if you own other Lego pieces, you can easily customize it or create your own gifts to go on the back of the freight carts.

This super fun set includes:

  • 5 mini-figures; a locomotive driver, ticket collector, grandmother, boy, and a girl
  • Festive green wreaths, decorative lights, and buildable micro toys for mini-figures
  • The holiday train in total measures over 4” high, 20” long, and 2” wide. Curved rail track diameter measures over 27”
  • 734 pieces – For boys and girls over the age of 12 years old

Because it’s Lego the train diameter is a bit smaller than other traditional model trains, but at 27 inches, it will still be plenty big enough to go around your Christmas tree. The only problem with this train is: Do you open it before Christmas to have around your tree? Or do you wait and build it on the day!

LEGO Creator Expert Winter Holiday Train 10254 Christmas Train Set with Full Circle Train Track, Locomotive, and Spinning Christmas Tree Toy (734 Pieces) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
  • 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...

Thomas Kinkade Christmas Tree with Train

So, this is a little different than the other options in that it’s not just a train, its the whole Christmas tree as well!

Something like this Thomas Kinkade Christmas tree is great because it doesn’t take up an awful lot of room; only about 16 inches tall! So it’s perfect if you’re either in a small place, or you just don’t have the energy to put up a big Christmas tree and run track around the bottom, only to pull it all down again in a few weeks time.

This tree includes:

  • Over 2 dozen handcrafted figures
  • 12 brilliantly illuminated buildings
  • 4 levels of rotating movement
  • Powered by an AC adapter (included), or 3 “AA” batteries (not included)
  • Certificate of authenticity

The only con to this Bradford Exchange ornamental tree is, depending on your preference, also the size. For some people, its just not as exciting as having a floor to ceiling tree with all the presents underneath. If that’s not what you’re looking for, it’s a great little item that’s a must-own, even as a Christmas ornament.

The Bradford Exchange Thomas Kinkade Animated Tabletop Christmas Tree with Train: Wonderland Express
  • A magnificent Collectibles Market First inspired by the cherished artwork of the acclaimed Painter of Light™, available only from The Bradford Exchange, Hawthorne Village Division
  • Lights up with movement! This Thomas Kinkade animated tabletop Christmas tree boasts 4 levels of rotating movement (including Santa and his reindeer), 12 brilliantly illuminated buildings and...
  • Meticulously crafted and painted by hand, and lavished with a blanket of glitter-touched snow for holiday cheer
  • Watch as the animated Wonderland Express train "climbs" ever higher up this tabletop Christmas tree while Santa with his reindeer "fly" round and round!
  • For important information regarding sales tax you may owe directly to your state, please check our Storefront Page by clicking on the storefront link above, and then selecting the Policies Tab

Bachmann Industries Thomas The Tank Engine Train Set

Do you know what kids love more than trains? Thomas the tank engine trains! This Bachmann Industries Thomas Holiday Special Train Set is a really nice set to put around the Christmas tree to delight any child. A really nice feature of this train is despite it being a holiday item, it runs on HO scale. HO scale the most popular size for model trains, so this will work on a variety of different tracks and there are tons of different accessories and other models you can pair this with.

This model train set includes:

  • Thomas the Tank Engine with moving eyes
  • Three festive holiday freight cars
  • 56″ x 38″ oval of snap-fit E-Z Track

So everything you need to have a clean, festive layout running around your Christmas tree! Because Bachmann is a staple brand in the industry, their quality is usually pretty great and you’ll get multiple Christmas’s out of this before the need to upgrade or replace it.

Bachmann Industries Thomas The Tank Engine Locomotive with Analog Sound & Moving Eyes
  • Thomas Locomotive includes analog sound system including whistle, puffs, and steam exhaust upon stopping
  • Metal wheels
  • Performs best on 15" radius curves or greater
  • Runs on HO Scale Track
  • International style hook and loop couplers

Lionel A Christmas Story Train Set

Remember the movie A Christmas story? How could you not! If you’re looking to relive some of that wonder and amazement, or just want a nice-sized train for around the Christmas tree, this is a standout.

This Christmas Story Train Set includes:

  • a boxcar with opening doors, gondola with box load, reefer car with opening doors and illuminated caboose, and more
  • Train length is approximately 58”, a track layout is 40” x 60”
  • Transformer controlled forward, neutral, and reverse operation
  • Operating steam whistle with on/off switch in tender

Lionel is one of the older model train brands in the industry, and they’re pretty renowned for making high-quality stuff. Some people have said they had trouble getting the smoke to blow as much as they want, but that can be fixed by picking up some smoke-liquid from your local $2 store.

Still, a good choice if you want an inexpensive Christmas train set with smoke!

New Brights Holiday Express Train

New Brights Holiday Express train set is a big, bright, wonderfully crafted experience. This is one of the pricier items on this list, but you do get what you pay for.

This is definitely a big Christmas train set as It runs in G scale, which is the biggest industry-standard scale, so it’ll be hard to miss in your living room. Personally, also a really big fan of color scheme in this one!

This holiday express set includes:

  • Engine with Santa
  • Tender with Christmas tree
  • Candy Dancer Car
  • Santa’s Toy Shop Car
  • Multi-function controller with sound and volume control and 120V transformer
  • Sixteen pieces of track form an approximate track layout of 3′ x 5′

A couple of people have experienced problems after 4+ years of owning it. That’s really the only problem we could find doing research on this locomotive, so if you’re happy to spend the money to get at least 4 years minimum out of it, this is a sure bet.

New Bright Holiday Express Electric Train
  • Featuring train cars and accessories, this cheerful holiday train is master-crafted with all of the details you want
  • Includes: 4-piece G-Gauge train set, engine with Santa, tender with Christmas tree, Candy Dancer Car and Santa's Toy Shop Car
  • Also includes multi-function controller with sound and volume control, 120V transformer and a track power clip
  • Sixteen pieces of track form an approximate track layout of 3' x 5', each car measures 11" long
  • Made of durable, colorfully painted plastic

Lionel Electric Hallmark Keepsake Train

Another Lionel Electric Christmas Train Set to add to the list. For some reason, Lionel just happens to make the best damn Christmas trains on the market. This train runs on O gauge track, so is a perfectly acceptable size for any tree you have in your house. One of the better features about this train set is that it also comes with a remote control to run the smoke, lights, and bells – this means you won’t have to have your nieces and nephews holding the train itself and accidentally breaking it! 

This Hallmark Toymaker Train Set comes with:

  • Engine with Santa
  • Boxcar, Caboose and Gondolas
  • Good selection of track to make a 36” oval
  • Remote control, power supply unit. 

Overall, this is clearly one of the more expensive pieces in our top 10! So this piece would probably suit an older couple, or a family that isn’t at risk of accidentally breaking this piece and can appreciate it to the full extent!

Why do people put trains around Christmas trees?

There’s no real definitive answer to this question. Some people believe that around the start of the 1900s, when Lionel first began manufacturing toy trains, they were an incredibly popular gift. Because children were more well versed in trains than automobiles, assembling your new circular track around the tree on Christmas morning over the years has just become a staple in some households. 

Why are trains associated with Christmas? 

Putting trains around a Christmas tree is also associated with the sense of taking a train back to see family. When toy trains were becoming popular, the train was still the most common form of transportation. So imagine spending hours on a train to go home to see loved ones – eventually, that feeling translated into purchasing trains as gifts for loved ones as well. 

Combine that with pop culture such as Thomas and Friends, the Hogwarts Express or even the Polar Express, and trains are almost a more common love amongst children and families than ever! 

How to set up a Christmas train display

  1. Make sure to give your trains a thorough clean! After 12 months in storage, no matter how well you’ve stored them they’re going to be a little dirty. Make sure to check power supplies, wipe down the track, give the trains a light dust, and grease anything that needs to move smoothly. If your train produces smoke, don’t forget to refill the oil inside! 
  2. Make sure to keep your track simple! Despite how fun it is to keep putting track down after track, nothing beats a circle (or oval) model train track layout around a tree. 
  3. Fix your decorations in place! Nothing looks better than a little snow around the tree, or a little train station as well. But getting some fake snow or flour on the track can make the train stick or even derail. So consider placing a board down first, and gluing your fake snow down to avoid it moving. 
  4. Add that family touch! Think about what you can add to your model train layout that’s special to your family. Maybe its decorations around the track, or maybe even purchasing a flatbed for each family member and having them decorate it!

So there you have it, that’s our big list of the absolute best of the best Christmas Train Sets for under the Christmas Tree.

best christmas trains 2019

When you’re making your purchase, always make sure that the layout is going to fit your home or lounge-room first. If you’ve got a big area, maybe consider a G scale layout. Or, if you live in a tiny apartment, think about the Seasonal Vision train that attaches directly to the tree; needs zero floor space and looks great!

Have you used any other Christmas Train sets around the holiday period? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Interested in getting into the model train hobby? Have a read of our Ultimate Guide to Model Trains post, or dive into our Best Model Trains of 2020 post if you don’t want a Christmas themed train (or just need an amazing gift!)

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