The Ultimate Railroading Beginner Gift Guide

The holidays are fast approaching, so it’s time to think about the gifts we’ll buy for the special people in our life.

While helping someone discover the joy of model railroading is always amazing, it’s a good idea to know the best ways they can get started in their railroading journey.

First…think about whether size matters

Before we get into specific products, think about the person you’re buying for and how much space they have to build a model railroad. Read our blog post about model train scales to give yourself an idea of the types of model train products you might want to add to your holiday shopping list.

Look at our guide to the most popular model railroading brands, too.

Now, what about those gifts?

When getting started, you can’t go wrong with a train set

A train set is undoubtedly the best thing to buy someone completely new to model railroading. Your gift will give them everything they need to get started, including a model train, rolling stock, and enough track pieces for a basic layout, typically an oval.

Here are five train sets that will make great gifts for beginner railroaders this Christmas.

  1. Bachmann HO 00691 Thoroughbred Starter Set

This is a fun Bachmann train set that gets its name not from a horse – although there is a horse on the box! – but from the range of iconic railroads featured in it.

With pieces from Norfolk Southern, Norfolk and Western, and Southern Railway, this is an excellent beginner train set and a brilliant gateway to learning about the history of these railroads, today merged under the Norfolk Southern name.

In this boxed train set, you get:

  • F7 Norfolk Southern diesel locomotive #4270 with operating headlight
  • Open Quad Hopper, Norfolk and Western #12988
  • Gondola, Southern Railway #1246
  • Wide-vision Caboose, Norfolk Southern
  • Body-mounted E-Z Mate couplers
  • 47″ x 38″ oval of snap-fit E-Z Track, including 12 pieces of curved track, one piece of straight track, and one plug-in terminal rerailer
  • Power pack and speed controller
  • Illustrated instruction manual

Buy this train set here.

1. Bachmann HO 00647 Santa Fe Flyer Set With E-Z Track

The Santa Fe railroad is one of the most iconic in American history, and this train set from Bachmann is your chance to get someone up and running over the deserts, mountains, and cities of their own landscape.

This Santa Fe train set includes:

  • EMD FT diesel locomotive with operating headlight
  • Open quad hopper
  • Gondola
  • Off-center caboose
  • 36″ circle of snap-fit E-Z Track, including 11 pieces of curved track and one curved plug-in terminal rerailer
  • Power pack and speed controller
  • Illustrated instruction manual

Buy this Santa Fe Flyer train set here.

2. Bachmann N 24025 The Stallion Train Set, Norfolk Southern

Another Bachmann set with a horse-inspired name and theme, this time in N-scale and sticking wholly to the Norfolk Southern theme.

This excellent starter train set includes:

  • F7-A diesel locomotive with operating headlight
  • Gondola, single-dome tank car, wide-vision caboose, 24″ circle of snap-fit E-Z Track including 11 pieces curved track and one curved plug-in terminal rerailer
  • Power pack and speed controller
  • Illustrated instruction manual

Buy The Stallion train set here.

3. Kato N 1066285 Intercity Express, Amtrak (Phase VI) Set

If you’re buying for a beginner railroader who’s more likely to want to build an urban landscape than a rural one, then this Kato Intercity Express Set is an excellent buy that will kickstart their hobby while ensuring their model railroad passengers travel in style.

A great feature of Kato is the available rolling stock options. Model railroaders can mix and match their cars or create long intercity trains, all sporting the same cars throughout.

4. Lionel O 1923040 Flyer LionChief Set With Bluetooth, Union Pacific

An iconic railroad and perhaps the most iconic model railroading brand in history, this is the ideal gift if you’re buying for someone you know will love this hobby.

Combining stylish design with the latest modern features and technology found in model trains, this stunning set will help any budding railroader get up and running in minutes.

In this boxed train set from Lionel, you get:

  • 0-8-0 Steam Locomotive and tender
  • Union Pacific boxcar
  • Union Pacific tank car
  • Union Pacific caboose
  • Eight pieces of O36 curved FasTrack
  • Two FasTrack 10″ straight track sections
  • One LionChief FasTrack Terminal section
  • One Plug-Expand-Play Power Lock-on section
  • Wall-pack power supply
  • LionChief remote for locomotive

Buy this amazing train set here.

Help them get started with their layout, too

Do you want to do even more to help your lucky gift recipient get started with their model railroading journey? If so, then why not gift them some accessories, too? These also work great if you’re buying a gift for someone you know is getting a train set from someone else, and you want to buy a thoughtful stocking filler to complement their main gift.

Here are some of our favorite multi-scale accessory choices.

1. Woodland Scenics TR3525 Gum Trees, 2-1/2″ To 3-1/2″ (3)

Trees are a great starting point for turning a train set or collection into a full-on layout. These Woodland Scenics trees are suitable for N, HO, and O-scale layouts and come with planting pins and an optional detachable base.

Buy a few of these Woodland Scenics sets or combine them with another tree set to enhance realism and allow the recipient to build their own woodland.

2. Bachmann SceneScapes 32154 4″ To 6″ Pine Trees With Snow (24)

If you want to go a step further when buying a tree set, this 24-pack of snow-covered trees  from Bachmann SceneScapes is an excellent buy to kickstart a winter scene.

While these trees are best matched to HO layouts, they’re suitable for all scales and ideal for creating a dense hillside forest or a woodland railway scene.

3. Realistic Backgrounds 704-12 Mountain And Lake Scene 13″ X 38″

A fantastic way to start moving towards a layout is with one of our background images from Realistic Backgrounds. These are ideal for railroad layouts in the corner of a room and will make people look twice at photos of your scene!

4. Blair Line Z/N/HO 1550 Laser-Cut Billboard: DIY Custom Signs

We have a host of signs and billboards here at Model Train Stuff, but there’s nothing like making your own!

This Blair Line pack contains everything your gift recipient will need to create their own signage, whatever scale gift set you buy them.

5. City Classics HO/N 501-4 Gasoline And Auto Repair

If you decide to buy a gas station building as a gift, or you know your soon-to-be model railroading enthusiast enjoys coming up with their own creations, these stickers are a wonderful gift to adorn a gas station in any layout. Another potential use for them is as billboards – they can stick them on to small pieces of wood or card to use throughout their layout!

Remember to share your pictures!

If you’re around at Thanksgiving or on Christmas Day when gifts are unboxed and new model railroads come into service, remember to grab a picture and tag us on Instagram!

Happy railroading!