Best Starter Train Set: Your Ticket to an Exciting Model Railroad Hobby


best starter model train set

Are you looking for a fun and rewarding hobby that can provide endless hours of enjoyment? Look no further than model railroading! As a beginner, finding the best starter train set is crucial to get you started on the right track. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

In this article, we’ve done the research for you and put together a list of the best starter train sets on the market. From classic steam locomotives to modern diesel engines, these train sets offer everything you need to start your model railroad hobby.

Understanding Starter Train Sets

Starter train sets are the perfect way to begin your model railroad hobby. They come with everything you need to get started, including a locomotive, cars, track, and a power supply.

Most starter train sets are designed for beginners and are easy to set up and use. They are also affordable, making them an excellent way to test the waters before investing in more expensive models.

Top 5 Best Starter Train Sets for Beginners

  1. Bachmann Trains – Thoroughbred Ready to Run Electric Train Set

This set features a classic EMD GP40 locomotive and three freight cars. The easy-to-assemble track is compatible with other popular brands, and the power pack ensures smooth operation.

  1. Lionel – Pennsylvania Flyer Electric O Gauge Model Train Set

The Pennsylvania Flyer set features a powerful steam locomotive with realistic sounds and smoke. It includes a gondola car, boxcar, and caboose, as well as an easy-to-use remote control.

  1. Kato USA Model Train Products – N Scale Santa Fe Super Chief Starter Set

This N scale train set is perfect for those with limited space. It features a sleek EMD F7 locomotive and four passenger cars, as well as a complete oval of track and a power pack.

  1. Hornby – Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Train Set

Harry Potter fans will love this train set, featuring a detailed replica of the Hogwarts Express. It includes a locomotive, two passenger cars, and an oval of track, as well as a unique platform and signage.

  1. MTH Trains – HO F7 Freight Train Set

This HO scale train set includes a powerful F7 diesel locomotive and three freight cars. The easy-to-assemble track and reliable power supply ensure a smooth operating experience.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Starter Train Set

Before diving into our top picks for the best starter train sets, it’s important to understand the different factors that go into choosing the right one for you.


One of the first things to consider is the scale of the train set. Scale refers to the size of the model train in comparison to its real-life counterpart. The most common scales for starter train sets are HO, N, and O.


Gauge refers to the distance between the rails on the track. The most common gauges for starter train sets are HO and O.

Power Source

Starter train sets typically come with either an electric or battery-powered engine. Electric engines are more common and are generally more reliable, while battery-powered engines offer more flexibility in terms of where you can run your train.

Control System

Most starter train sets come with a basic throttle that allows you to control the speed of the train. However, more advanced control systems, such as Digital Command Control (DCC), allow for greater flexibility and more realistic operation.


Starter train sets can range in price from less than $50 to several hundred dollars. It’s important to consider your budget when choosing a set, but remember that higher-priced sets often come with more features and better quality components.

Tips for Setting Up and Maintaining Your Starter Train Set

Once you’ve chosen your starter train set, it’s important to properly set it up and maintain it to ensure it operates smoothly. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Track Layout

When setting up your train set, consider the track layout carefully. A basic oval layout is a good place to start, but you can also get creative with different configurations to add more interest to your layout.


Make sure your wiring is properly set up to prevent any electrical issues. This includes making sure the power supply is correctly connected and that the wiring is securely in place.


Regular maintenance is important to keep your train set running smoothly. This includes cleaning the track and wheels, oiling the moving parts, and ensuring that all components are properly secured.


Choosing the best starter train set can be a daunting task, but by considering factors such as scale, gauge, power source, control system, and price, you can narrow down your options and find the perfect set for your needs. Once you have your set, be sure to follow our tips for setting up and maintaining it to ensure it operates smoothly for years to come.


  1. What’s the difference between HO and N scale? HO scale is larger than N scale, with a ratio of 1:87 versus 1:160. This means that HO trains are larger and more detailed, while N trains are smaller and require less space.
  2. Can I use any power supply with my train set? It’s important to use a power supply that is designed specifically for your train set to ensure it operates properly and safely.
  3. What’s the difference between DCC and analog control systems? DCC allows for more advanced control over your train, including individual control of multiple trains on the same track and realistic sound effects. Analog control systems are simpler and more basic.
  4. How often should I clean my train set? Regular cleaning is important to prevent buildup of dirt and debris. Depending on how often you use your train set, you should aim to clean it at least once every few months.
  5. Can I add more track to my starter set? Yes, many starter sets are designed to be expanded with additional track and accessories. Be sure to check the compatibility of any additional components before purchasing.