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Not long after we published the first article on Garden Railroading with Toy Trains, two common sources of toy trains - New Bright and Scientific Toys Ez-Tec - all but disappeared from the shelves of department stores that typically carry toy trains at Christmas.
When these trains largely displaced New Bright and Scientific Toys from the store shelves, I thought I should review them for our readers, just in case. The locomotive is roughly patterned after a Pere Marquette 2-8-4 Berkshire-style locomotive, the inspiration for the Polar Express movie locomotive.
Of course, being way undersized isn't necessarily bad, as long as customers are aware that they are buying a toy train.
One of the unnerving things, if you're used to model trains, is how lightweight the locomotive is, even with batteries installed. As is typical in toy trains, the coaches are even more "underscaled" than the rest of the train.
By the way, though it almost looks like the coaches are lit, the windows just contain stickers and a vinyl strip that does a nice job of imitating a lit coach seen at night. While I had both cabooses out, I thought I'd check to see how compatible the couplers were. Unlike the remote control on the original Bachmann Big Hauler, when the locomotive gets out of range (about 15 feet in my back yard), it stops and goes into "blow-down" mode. Back to the grand-children - with this train, you can set the train on the tracks and let them operate it without ever having to touch it - usually a good thing.
I took the freight set outside and put it on my upper loop, about 180' of fairly level track. One thing to note is that the "pilot" wheels (the first two), come off the track far more often than they should. The photo below should give you an idea of how this train looks next to popular garden train accessories. Alternatively, if the buildings and accessories sit away from the train a bit, they can look fine on the same railroad.
I subsequently put the train on a temporary loop that I usually use for Thomas during clinics and open houses.
The current (2009-2010) freight sets have some crates that go into the gondola (shown at the right). In addition, you can always make your own indoor buildings using our Building Product Ideas articles.
If you want to create some backgrounds in a hurry and you have a color printer, check out our Building Fronts page for indoor trains.
Here's something I didn't expect - based on experience with all kinds and brands of trains. If I wanted to use these more than once a week, though, I'd still consider coming up with a couple yards of fine bubble-wrap, and one of those clear 58-quart containers. But as I ran the freight train through its paces on two different outdoor railroads, getting a sense of what it could and couldn't do, I realized that, no matter how "toylike" it was compared to my model trains, it was still fun to run. In fact, when we have our open houses, one of the big attractions for children has always been having a train the kids could run.
If you're thinking about starting a garden railroad, and you're wondering whether these could be used in a pinch, to keep the kids interested while you're making the bigger choices, the answer is that they can, as long as you store them properly in a way that the kids can still access them easily, and keep spare alkaline batteries onhand.
If you have any comments, corrections, additions, or tips about these trains that you would like to share with our readers, please contact us, and we promise to get back to you.
Starting in about 2007, Lionel also marketed an old-timey battery set with a 4-4-0 locomotive that they call the "General" style (because that wheel arrangement vastly dominated the Civil War-era trains).
Lionel first started dabbling in battery-powered "G gauge" trains in the 1990s, by marketing a set that looked like it was made by Scientific Toys. Lionel has released several other versions of the 2-8-2 freight train reviewed above, including one marked for the Christmas Story movie and one marked for Hallmark(r). In addition, Lionel briefly marketed a couple battery-powered sets with 4-4-2 locomotives (not to be confused with the relatively nice track-powered 4-4-2 locomotive they made in the 1980s).

To me, each of these trains is worth owning if you can get it for half price after Christmas.
The key to effective toy storage is to keep things accessible so the kids will want to engage with them, but to also be able to hide them away later when you have company. Parents who are looking for long-lasting, durable railroad sets for their young train lovers may want to look into wooden toy trains and table sets.
While a train table is not required for most train tracks, it makes it easier to place the tracks and provides a dedicated space for playing with trains. Learning Curve's Thomas & Friends Wooden Grow-with-Me Play Table will thrill young Thomas the Tank Engine fans with its pictures of popular trains from the Island of Sodor. Step2's Deluxe Canyon Road Train and Track Table is ideal for parents who do not want to spend time setting up a train track, just to have a child tear it down. The 2-in-1 Activity Table with LEGO compatible board features storage under the double-sided play board and also comes with a train set and 200 LEGO-type blocks. The Honey Train Table is a basic table with rounded edges to make it safer for young children. The Wooden Waterfall Mountain Train Table and Set features a play board with a fun country scene for children to build a track around. Melissa and Doug's Multi-Activity Table is not designed to be used solely with trains, but its double-sided board makes a perfect surface for setting up a train track. Most starter train track sets will entertain your child for a little while, but eventually he will want to begin building bigger, more elaborate tracks. The Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Starter Sets come with enough pieces to make a small circular or oval track and a couple of trains. Figure 8 Set Expansion Pack comes with curved pieces to help make a figure-eight and other unique track designs.
Another popular train show, Chuggington, is the inspiration for a set of tracks and trains.
Melissa and Doug is known for creating high-quality, wooden kids toys and its train tracks are no exception. Imaginarium offers larger sets of train tracks and accessories for the same prices as some of the more popular brands.
Mountain Pass Railroad, with over 100 pieces, including a mountain with tunnel, multiple bridges, trains, signs, trees and other pieces of scenery. Deluxe Track Pack, featuring multiple sizes and styles of pieces to add to any track set, including a bridge and pieces to connect multiple rails.
IKEA's train tracks are simplistic, inexpensive and compatible with Thomas & Friends, Imaginarium and other standard train tracks.
Changing the table surface: Find out whether the table you're looking at has a play board attached or if you can change out the surface area if desired.
It ran fine except where the track was very uneven, and it derailed on one of the turnouts (switches) every time. It's worth noting that for most of Lionel train's "golden era" Lionel catalogs surrounded their trains with realistic scenery. It ran fairly smoothly, reflecting the fact that I always have to get this "railroad" quite smooth to run Thomas and James on it for hours without supervision. With these trains, I could afford to set up a railroad anywhere flat and give the kids even more opportunities for fun. That said, I know many readers will want one before Christmas, so I'm putting a few Amazon links below for your convenience. All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D.
These sturdy toys will stand up to a lot of wear and tear; as toys go, they're a great investment.
Along with a built-in track, the table comes with a lid that also doubles as a tabletop when the track is not in use.

It also comes with a 100-piece train set that includes a tunnel, a two-tier bridge and an airport. When choosing a train track to start your child with, look for a brand that offers multiple expansion packs and is compatible with other brands.
From there you have the option of purchasing multiple expansion packs and accessories to add to your child's track. The tracks have been designed to connect with most other popular train track sets, but the trains that are included with tracks are bigger than most wooden trains and may not work with features from other tracks.
Its simple sets, such as the Farm Animal Train Set, feature eight pieces to make a circular track, a train engine and two connecting cars. The tracks are compatible with Thomas & Friends, Brio and other standard wooden train tracks. Whether you are just starting out with trains or want to expand your track, you may want to try the LILLABO series of tracks and vehicles.
Maybe you want to stick to one particular type of train; if that's the case, you may have to only buy trains, tracks and a table from one brand. Some play boards are two-sided, allowing you to turn them over and enjoy another view whenever you want.
Wooden toy trains and table sets are perfect as preschool-age toys and elementary school-age toys.
Our site is undergoing annual maintenance this month, which may cause certain pages to load slowly. The Mega Trains™ line includes the Diesel, Steam Engine, Boxcar, Caboose, Hopper, Tankcar, and Tender.
This does tell me that these trains could be used on a display or temporary garden railroad as long as the track is smooth. The new soft toy storage system lets children keep their soft toys and furry friends safely and securely. Most standard wooden and plastic toy trains, including Thomas & Friends trains, are compatible with the grooved track. While the tracks in the Thomas & Friends sets are high quality, they also often come with a high price tag.
For young children, the Chuggington Wood Beginners Set comes with 13 pieces to create an oval track, two trains and two road signs. Larger sets from Melissa & Doug, such as the Deluxe Wooden Railway Set, are still fairly simplistic and also tend to be some of the higher-priced track sets.
Once you buy a wooden set, however, you can expect it to last for years and years making it well worth the money in the long run. If you want to mix and match a little, make sure you buy pieces from brands that work together. If you want to inject some of your creativity, look for tables that allow you to build tunnels, bridges and rearrange pieces the way you want.
Although many parents will give these toys to boys, girls can also enjoy the fun of playing with trains. Thankfully, most other companies that make wooden train tracks design them to be compatible with Thomas & Friends tracks, so you can expand your collection with less expensive options. Once you have a good assortment of trains and accessories, there's plenty of variety and toys for everyone.
The other side features images from the Island of Sodor for children to build on with their own train sets.
Wooden trains never go out of style and can easily be saved and handed down to future siblings and generations.

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