Although model railroads are a year-round hobby, there’s just something about the holiday season that seems synonymous with the hobby. Perhaps it’s those childhood memories of unwrapping your first train set at Christmas? Maybe it’s a recollection of the massive layouts assembled each year in major department stores? If you’re from Maryland like us, perhaps it’s the tradition of “firehouse train gardens” displayed to raise money for volunteer fire departments? Whatever the reason might be for you, there’s not doubt that if you’re reading this, you’re anticipating trains to be a part of your holiday this year too. But where to begin? In this article, we’re exploring the top 15 holiday themed items available for 2020.
If you’re starting from scratch this year, there’s no better place to begin than with a train set! Many of these come with everything you need to get started, from a locomotive and cars, to a controller and track!
Lionel Polar Express
How could we start this list with anything but the Polar Express? Arguably America’s most famous holiday train, the Polar Express is the subject of a classic children’s story centering on one child’s journey to meet Santa Claus at the North Pole. Appearing to travel anywhere, including down city streets, the Polar Express can only be seen and heard by children who truly believe. Once onboard, they’re treated with hot chocolate as they travel to the icy north. The story was adapted to a best-selling movie in 2004, and thanks to Lionel, you can now bring the magic of this Christmas classic home in both O and HO scales! Each set comes with an impressive steam locomotive with built-in sounds, three classic cars based on those that appear in the movie, a circle of raised-ballast track, and a wireless LionChief remote!
Norman Rockwell’s American Christmas Set by Bachmann
Nothing says Christmas quite like a Norman Rockwell painting! This On30 Scale narrow gauge set brings the feel of Rockwell’s artwork to life! Featuring an ornately decorated victorian steam locomotive and two vintage-style open-platform passenger cars, this set will look right at home either under the tree or set amidst a Department 56 Christmas town! An oval of E-Z Track is included, however the train will also run on any HO scale track. HO? Yes, that’s right! Although this is an O Scale train, it replicates the narrow gauge trains of the early 20th century, and has been designed to run on HO Scale track!
Bachmann Christmas Village Streetcar Set
Who doesn’t love a classic victorian Christmas scene? Think cobbled streets and roasted chestnuts! Well, you’re going to need a trolley to truly make that scene a reality, and Bachmann’s Christmas Village Streetcar is just the set to make this happen! With a simple out-and-back track setup, this set is perfect for incorporation into either a Department 56 Christmas scene, or to decorate a window sill or mantlepiece. Featuring several straight sections and 4 curved pieces, the set is auto-reversing – meaning you can leave it running back and forth on its own for as long as you like! When you’re done with running it, you can simply return it to the included engine house/station. Like the Norman Rockwell Set, this set is narrow gauge O Scale (On30), and will run on the same track if you wish to combine the sets!
Bachmann North Pole Express Set
Another variation of the storied train to the North Pole, the Bachmann North Pole Express recreates the classic look of the train to Santa’s workshop! Featuring an HO Scale steam locomotive, tender, and two heavyweight passenger cars, this set will definitely look the part as it circles your Christmas tree on the included oval of E-Z Track! In addition to being a great holiday decoration, this is also an excellent introduction set for anyone getting started in HO Scale. With industry standard dimensions and couplers, this set can be endlessly expanded upon with HO trains from just about any manufacturer!
Micro Trains “Santa’s Off the Rails” Set
One side of this light-hearted Christmas train is decorated with iconic scenes of Santa making his deliveries, but look to the other side, and you’ll see that things didn’t exactly go to plan! This set features a classic N Scale EMD F Unit locomotive, three billboard boxcars, and a caboose – all decked out in appropriate Christmas colors and cartoon imagery! While this particular set doesn’t include track or controls, it would be a great gift for your favorite N Scaler with a sense of humor!
Additional Rolling Stock
Do you already have a layout or holiday set, or are you looking to add a little more interest to your new purchase? You can build on your existing collection with this great selection of new holiday themed rolling stock items!
Lionel Polar Express Add-On Cars
While the Polar Express set comes with three great cars, you’ll need plenty more for a full-length consist to capture all of the action seen in the movie! From the Letters to Santa Mail Car to the Hot Chocolate Car, and two Hobo Cars, there are plenty of exciting and animated options to add to your set! A selection of freight cars can also be purchased to diversify the jobs for your Polar Express locomotive! For more serious modelers, a selection of accurately-scaled O Scale Heavyweight cars can also be purchased for this series to give your train a realistic and authentic appearance!
Lionel Collectable Holiday Boxcars
Add to the festive cheer with a selection of classic holiday themed O Gauge boxcars from Lionel! Featuring both a selection of attractive holiday themed designs and classic Lionel artwork, these cars will look excellent on any holiday themed railroad!
Walthers Trainline Santa Claus Coal Express Hopper Car
Has the population on your railroad been naughty or nice this year? You decide with the new HO Scale Santa Claus Coal Express Car from Walthers Trainline! This traditional open coal hopper features a bright, festive paint scheme, and will be a great addition to either a holiday display or a humorous touch your year-round railroad! This car is 100% compatible with all other HO Scale sets and rolling stock!
Fox Valley Models Holiday Flatcars
Get those gifts delivered before December 25th with this great selection of N Scale Holiday Flatcars from Fox Valley Models! The 2019 and 2020 Christmas themed cars feature a multi-colored wrapped gift load and separate running numbers. However, if you’d rather remain purely secular in your celebrations this year, you can take a page out of Cosmo Kramer’s book with the Festivus For the Rest of Us car – complete with the essential Festivus Aluminum Pole! Just don’t tell George Costanza!
Micro Trains Thomas Kinkade Series
Sure, we’ve got Normal Rockwell fans covered with the Bachmann American Christmas Set, but we can’t forget the other iconic Christmas artist, Thomas Kinkade! With this new series of N Scale billboard style boxcars from Micro Trains, you can pay tribute to the well known artist in the best way we know how – on the rails! Each car features a classic Thomas Kinkade Christmas scene!
Accessories and Scenery Items
No holiday themed railroad is complete without a few seasonal accessories to complete the festive scene!
MTH Railking Christmas Buildings
Bring the Christmas festivities to your O Scale streets with these great structures from MTH, including houses, a station, and more – all decked out with working Christmas lights!
Lionel Christmas Themed Buildings
Lionel also produces an excellent range of ready-to-place O Scale Christmas themed structures! From houses with snow on the roofs, to stations and a covered bridge, these add-ons are sure to add to your Christmas scene.
Ho Scale Winter Details
These are just some of our favorites for this season – you can browse our full range of holiday themed trains here!