Our Top Christmas Train Sets for Under The Tree in 2023!

This post was updated in late August of 2023 to include some great new Christmas train sets that have come out this year to include the most up-to-date information we can.

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 beats the magic of Christmas morning, opening presents and spending time with family, and having a model train set race around the tree that really helped add to the atmosphere of the holiday season!

From toy Xmas Trains that your toddlers can play with, to collectible model trains 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 model trains out there – Everything from big electric Christmas train sets for around the tree to a little Christmas train set ideal for a coffee table.

But what’s the best train for your Christmas tree?

Read on to find out! 

Best model train for kids!
Lionel Disney Mickey Mouse Express
Lionel The Christmas Express Electric Train
Best model train for price!
Prextex Christmas Steam Train Toy
Train Name
Train Name
Lionel Disney Mickey Mouse Express
Lionel The Christmas Express Electric Train
Prextex Christmas Steam Train Toy
O Scale
HO Scale
G Scale
Dimensions of Track
Dimensions of Track
48" oval
36" circle track
166" oval track
Big, durable train with an awesome theme. 4 piece train set with an easy to use remote make this a winner for kids
5 piece train set with great theme, built with high quality materials. Well built and will be around for a long time!
Great value for money if you want a big center-piece holiday themed train for your tree
Can be a little hard to keep on the tracks if not on a flat surface
Not great for younger kids because it's smaller and more delicate.
Skews pretty heavily into the 'toy' category rather than the 'model train' category

Why do people put trains Christmas Train Set 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! 

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

Lionel North Pole Central Ready-to-Play Freight Set
  • A CHRISTMAS SPIRIT SHOWSTOPPER – Showcase your Christmas spirit with The North Pole Central Ready-to-Play Freight set; Create a circle, rectangle or oval with this exclusive track system; Great for kids, hobbyists and holiday decorating
  • SET INCLUDES – Battery-powered general-style locomotive and tender; Gondola with crate load; Center-cupola caboose, 24 curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces and a Remote control
  • TRAIN SET FEATURES – Battery-powered locomotive with authentic train sounds and announcements, including bell and whistle; Working headlight; Fixed knuckle couplers, removable crate load in the gondola
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS – 50” x 73” Ready-to-Play track, including 24 curved and eight straight plastic track pieces
  • BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Requires six C cell batteries to operate train. Requires three AAA batteries to operate remote control

The Lionel North Pole Central model train set is your ticket to a magical holiday journey! Get ready to embark on a festive adventure that captures the spirit of the holiday season and brings the wonder of the North Pole right into your home and under your christmas tree!

This Christmas train set for your tree comes with:

  • Locomotive with Sound and Lights
  • Holiday Music and Sound Boxcar
  • A Festive Lighted Caboose
  • Easy-to-Assemble Track Pieces
  • Simple user-friendly remote control

Overall, there’s a reason it’s right up near the top of our list. A good quality model train from Lionel, the Christmas sounds can also be activated from the remote control used to run it, making it a winner with kids and family as it races around your loungeroom floor on christmas morning!

Bachmann Trains Night Before Christmas Electric Train Set
  • 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)

Bachmann’s Night Before Christmas Train Set for your tree 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 this holiday season, 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.

Lionel Disney Mickey Mouse Express Train Set
  • A FAMILY FAVORITE TRAIN SET –Join Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy to spread Christmas spirit in this present filled Disney train set; This makes a great gift for kids and train hobbyists; Makes for a great holiday decoration
  • SET INCLUDES – Battery-powered general-style locomotive driven by Mickey Mouse; Present-filled tender with Donald Duck; Boxcar; Center-cupola caboose; 24 curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces; User-friendly remote control
  • TRAIN FEATURES – Battery powered, high-detailed, general-style locomotive; Authentic trains sounds, including bell, whistle and Disney specific announcements; Working headlight
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS – 50” x 73” Ready-to-Play track; This set is not compatible with Lionel G Gauge or any other G Gauge track systems
  • BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Requires six C cell batteries to operate train; Requires three AAA batteries to operate remote control; Batteries are not included with purchase of 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 who enjoy picking up and throwing things.

This gorgeous set includes:

  • Mickey and Minnie figurines 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 an O scale. What does that mean? Well, an O scale is an industry-standard size, so if you need more tracks 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 The Polar Express Ready-to-Play Set
  • A CHRISTMAS SPIRIT SHOWSTOPPER – All aboard The Polar Express Ready-to-Play train set; This set comes with an exclusive track system allowing you to create a circle, rectangle or oval track; Great for kids, hobbyists and holiday decorating
  • SET INCLUDES – Battery-powered steam locomotive and tender; Passenger-coach; Observation car, 24 curved and 8 straight plastic track pieces; Remote control
  • TRAIN SET FEATURES – Battery-powered Berkshire-style locomotive; Authentic train sounds and announcements, including bell and whistle; Working headlight; Detailed passenger coach, fixed knuckle couplers; User-friendly remote control
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS – 50” x 73” Ready-to-Play track; This set is not compatible with Lionel G Gauge or any other G Gauge track systems
  • BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Requires six C cell batteries to operate train; Requires three AAA batteries to operate remote control; Batteries are not included with purchase of 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 offers, and for good reason. This is the highest quality, pure die-cast metal, version, that also includes more sounds, and 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.

LEGO Creator Expert Winter Holiday Train 10254
  • 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 under the tree train set for the holiday season
  • 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 buildable micro toys for minifigures
  • 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 all LEGO construction sets for creative building
  • 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 train set and build a train the whole family will enjoy
  • 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 age of 12 years old and adults of all ages.

Do you know what the best Christmas gift is? Lego. Hands down!

And better than Lego? Lego Train sets!

This Lego Creator Winter Holiday train 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
  • This holiday season 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 it around your tree? Or do you wait and build it on the day?!

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 over 2 dozen handcrafted figures
  • 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!

So, this is a little different from the other options in that it’s not just a train, it’s 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 of a model train, and the actual size of the model. For some people, it’s 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.

Lionel Disney Christmas LionChief 0-8-0 Model Train Set with Bluetooth
  • A FAMILY FAVORITE TRAIN SET– Celebrate the most festive time of the year with the Disney Christmas LionChief 0-8-0 train set.
  • INCLUDES – 0-8-0 steam locomotive, tender, Christmas themed boxcar, gondola and caboose; FasTrack includes: 8 curved 036 tracks, two 10” straight tracks, terminal, 10” straight Plug-Expand-Play power lock section; 41.4W power supply and a LionChief remote
  • TRAIN FEATURES – Controlled by remote, or via Bluetooth -  Switch for background, horn, bell, authentic Mickey Mouse announcements and steam chuffing sounds; RailSounds RC sound system; Puffing smoke, opening boxcars, removable trees and presents and more
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS – O Gauge compatible; minimum curve is 031 and Set length is 45”; Bluetooth compatible
  • BATTERY REQUIREMENTS - Requires three AAA batteries to operate the LionChief remote control

This Lionel Disney Christmas LionChief 0-8-0 model train set captures the joy and spirit of the holiday season, bringing smiles to both young and old.

The centerpiece of this set is the beautifully detailed locomotive, featuring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse dressed in their holiday best. Even if you’re not a Disney die-hard fan, this model train set featuring beautiful red, white, and green christmas decorations with that special Disney twist is a winner for kids and family-friendly events.

This train set comes with:

  • The Disney-themed 0-8-0 locomotive, tender, a themed boxcar, as well as a gondola and caboose
  • 8 Curved 036 track pieces and 2 straight 10″ pieces
  • power supply, terminal, power lock section
  • Easy to use LionChief remote control

So what’s the downfall of this train set? Well, not much. Pricing can be an issue for a model train set like this, but that’s because Lionel train sets, especially with licensed characters can be relatively expensive compared to other non-branded model train kits listed. That’s pretty much it, and that’s us actively looking for a negative. The train runs on O-gauge so you can expand the track if needed, is well detailed for the price, and we lovel Lionel because of it’s durability and longevity.

Bachmann Trains Merry Christmas Express Electric Train Set
  • Complete Ready To Run Holiday Freight Train Set
  • Powered by a USRA 0-6-0 Steam Era Locomotive with Tender
  • Includes; Holiday Box Car, Merry Christmas Hopper Car, and Bobber Caboose
  • 24" Circle of Nickel Silver E-Z Track , Power Pack and Speed Controller
  • N Scale 1: 160

This Bachmann Merry Christmas Express train really ticks a bunch of boxes; it’s a nice little size. it’s a really high-quality build, and it’s packed to the rim with a Christmas theme and cheer!

The only thing to be doubly sure of before purchasing this Christmas train is to make sure you’re aware that it’s N scale. So it might even be a better size for your table or as a small display than running in-between presents around the tree.

This little train set comes with:

  • A USRA 0-6-0 Steam Era christmas themed train
  • Holiday boxcar, Merry Christmas hopper car and a Bobber caboose
  • 24″ of circle track
  • A power pack and speed controller

Lionel The Christmas Express Electric Model Train Set
  • Set Includes: 2-8-4 Locomotive and tender, 2 Coaches, Observation car, Twelve 20" Radius MagneLock curves, Three 9" MagneLock straights, One 9" MagneLock terminal section, Wall pack power supply, LionChief remote for locomotive
  • Locomotive Features: Electric locomotive controlled by remote, LionChief App, DCC or DC transformer, Bluetooth equipped, Locomotive and tender pick-ups for smooth operation, RailSounds sound system with engine background and chuffing sounds, whistle and bell, Operating directional headlight, Operating directional tender light, Easily convertible to other DCC decoders, Sound ON/OFF switch, Traction tires, Powerful maintenance-free motor, Working knuckle couplers
  • Passenger Car Features: Flicker-free LED interior lighting, Working knuckle couplers, Truck mounted couplers with body-mount boxes, Window silhouettes
  • LionChief Remote Features: Forward and reverse speed control knob, Three buttons to whistle sound, bell, and special announcements

Some of the model trains in this article have bordered on toys for kids; not this train though. The Lionel Christmas Express is a bonafide model train of the highest quality that’ll be something you can pass on to your own kids one day.

A stunning 2-8-4 locomotive in Christmas livery, this has everything you could ever want, and you’ll be itching to put up your Christmas tree in early November just to run this model train.

This train set comes with:

  • A locomotive and tender
  • 2 Coaches and an observation car
  • Twelve 20″ curves, Three 9″ straights, One 9″ terminal section
  • Power supply and remote control

The nice thing about this Lionel Christmas train is that it has a bunch of cool features that you can control from the remote, or through an app on your phone!

Because it’s set up for DCC, it has a sound system with engine background and chuffing sounds, whistle, and bell, Operating directional headlight, and Operating directional tender light.

If you want something that’s going to stand the test of the busy holiday season, this is pretty high on our list!

Prextex Around The Christmas Tree Train Set
  • CLASSIC ELECTRIC STEAM TRAIN FOR CHRISTMAS TREE DECORATION: Get Christmas Season ready with a Santa Train Set for the best under the tree decorations. Smoke, lights, horn, steam engine, and train cars all operated by Santa Claus himself!
  • REALISTIC MUSICAL SOUNDS, LIGHTS, & SMOKE: Enjoy your Christmas Train with realistic Sounds of a Locomotive Horns and Enjoy Listening to the Famous ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ melody. Smoke and lights will bring life to your Christmas tree decorations!
  • SAFE, HIGH-QUALITY MATERIALS: Set includes 1 Head of a train-locomotive with Santa as the conductor, 1 Coal Tank, 1 Cargo Car, 1 Passenger Car. Easy snap on tracks creates over 424 cm of orbit circumference when snapped together: 12 Curve Tracks, 3 Straight Tracks, 1 Detachment Track
  • BEST CHRISTMAS TRAIN WITH KID-FRIENDLY DESIGN: North Pole Junction Christmas Train will make your kids feel like they're in a Christmas movie. Bring the joy to your family with a Christmas decoration that will become a family tradition.

This little Prextex Christmas Train set probably skews pretty heavily into the ‘toy’ category instead of the model train category, but it’s still a nice option, especially if you’ve got kids or grandkids who are going to be playing with it!

This fun little train set comes with:

  • 1 Santa conductor locomotive
  • 1 coal tank, 1 cargo car, and a passenger car
  • Over 400cm of track
  • Runs on a couple of AA batteries

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 dusting to remove dirt or 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, a circle (or oval) model train track layout around a tree is a classic for a reason. 
  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.

When you’re making your purchase, always make sure that the layout is going to fit your home or lounge room first. 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 season 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 post if you don’t want a Christmas-themed train (or just need an amazing gift!)

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