Train sets range from small, beginner options that are perfect gifts for toddlers to larger models with bridges, tracks, and tons of add-ons that could appeal to tweens and teens.
We researched and tested the best train sets on the market for all ages, considering the safety features, age restrictions, size, and features.
Tender Leaf Toys Wild Pines Train Set
Suitable for younger kids
Contains small pieces
Explore a beautiful forest scene with the Wild Pines Train Set from Tender Leaf Toys. This 30-piece set allows for endless track designs with three carriages carrying various multicolored logs, a logging truck with nine logs, a log pile housing a sleeping bear, and six trees in different stages of life.
This set also includes a lake with two magnetized boulders and two bears to travel throughout the course. Little ones can learn about trees while trailing their trains through the scene past obstacles like spinning trees, boulders, and large fire trees that require moving.
Tender Leaf Toys uses sustainable rubberwood in all of its products and plants new trees so you can feel good about your purchase. The high-quality material also feels sturdy, and long-lasting, and won't be an eyesore in playrooms or living rooms. Beware that this set does contain small pieces, so you should keep it out of reach of kids under 3 years old.
Price at time of publish: $120
Dimensions: 37 x 24.8 x 6.3 inches | Material: Wood | Recommended Age: 3 years and up
Brio My First Railway Beginner Pack Train Set
High quality pieces
Perfect for toddlers
No small pieces
Magnets can be weaker than other models
BRIO is known for its well-made, creative toys, and this wooden train set is no exception. It’s perfect for kids just getting on board with train adventures. This starter pack comes with a brightly colored train, a bridge, ramps, and tracks. The parts, which are made of solid wood, are easy to put together and take apart so they can experiment and design all sorts of routes. It’s also compatible with all of the other BRIO train sets, so you can expand their collection over time for limitless possibilities.
Price at time of publish: $45
Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 4 inches | Material: Wood | Recommended Age: 18 months and up
KidKraft Ride Around Train Set and Table
Compatible with other sets
Includes storage space
Easy to assemble
This train set comes with everything kids need to get their train game on, including the table. There are 100 pieces, including train tracks and three trains. The fun doesn’t stop there, however, as this set provides a brightly painted landscape that sets the scene as well as fun features like an airport with a runway, a helipad, and a hospital with an ambulance. There are animals, trees, bridges, additional vehicles, and more for tons of imaginative adventures. Two storage bins underneath provide a place for the pieces not being used. The set is compatible with Thomas and Friends and Brio wooden train sets as well for even more fun.
We love that there are enough pieces to go around, even with several kids playing. This reduces fighting over more desirable pieces and makes it perfect for siblings and playdates.
Price at time of publish: $175
Dimensions: 47.8 x 34.25 x 16 inches | Material: Wood | Recommended Age: 6 months and up
VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Train Station Playset
Educational and interactive
Battery life is short
This cute train set can get kids’ learning on track while they play. Not only is it a great train set with tracks, an electronic train station, a bridge, tunnel, and more, but it will also teach them important skills on their journey. From letter sounds ("‘T’ is for train") to colors and time and even phrases in foreign languages, they’ll be learning as they roll the train over SmartPoint locations. Additional vehicles can be purchased separately, and each elicits a different response to the SmartPoints. Three required A batteries are included.
Price at time of publish: $60
Dimensions: 3.94 x 5.12 x 7.87 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 1 year and up
Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Train Set - O-Gauge
Puffing smoke feature
Easy to set up
Users found audio quality decreased after use
This train is a bit of an investment, but if you’re looking for some serious track action, this may be just right. It features an engine, a three-dome tank car, a boxcar, and a caboose with realistic details such as opening doors and metal handrails, as well as enough track pieces to make a 40 x 50-inch oval. The train is operated with a battery-powered remote (three AAA batteries are not included) that can power it backward and forward and control whistle and bell sounds, steam chuffing, and special announcements.
Price at time of publish: $493
Dimensions: 16.75 x 17.75 x 8.5 inches | Material: Metal | Recommended Age: 14 years and up
Bigjigs Rail Wooden Fairy Town Train Set - 75 Play Pieces
Multiple pieces and ways to play
Some users found certain pieces did not snap in perfectly
If your little engineer prefers to think pink when it comes to toys, this wooden fairy town train set will be a hit. Pretty and pastel, this one stands out among traditional train sets that are typically decked out in dark or primary colors. The set comes with 75 pieces for tons of building fun. Included is everything from a pink bridge to pastel trees, houses, and even a helipad. Of course, there are fairies included as well.
Price at time of publish: $106
Dimensions: 3.54 x 22.83 x 14.37 inches | Material: Wood | Recommended Age: 3 years and up
LEGO City Cargo Train 60052 Train Toy
Multiple different builds and pieces
Compatible with other LEGO sets
Kids may need adult help to complete
This STEM-based train set combines two childhood favorites into one fun toy that lets them build their own motorized train brick by brick. Included is everything they need to build a cargo train, including a crane to help lift and lower the cargo as well as an eight-channel, seven-speed infrared remote control to send it rolling down the tracks. Other pieces include a full circular track with 30 curved rail tracks and eight straight ones, and accessories like a cow (for the cattle wagon), a bucket of milk, and a train station complete with an office that has a computer, cup, trash can, and fire extinguisher. In all, there are 888 pieces, which can be combined with other Lego sets as well.
Price at time of publish: $212
Dimensions: 22.91 x 14.88 x 4.65 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 6 years and up
Lionel Thomas & Friends Christmas Freight Lionchief Set with Bluetooth
Users found the quality less than other models
There’s no better time of the year for a train than Christmas, and this Thomas & Friends Christmas Freight Train set will help you celebrate in style whether it’s December or any other month of the year. It comes with a Thomas the Tank Engine, who sports a removable Santa cap. There’s also a wagon car and a caboose, as well as trees, presents, and tracks on which the train can travel. It’s all controlled by a remote that lets you move the train forward and backward, plus sound bells, whistles, and special announcements. Note: The remote requires three AAA batteries, which aren’t included.
Price at time of publish: $220
Dimensions: 18.5 x 17.37 x 9.5 inches | Material: Plastic | Recommended Age: 8 years and up
What to Look for in a Train Set for Kids
The packaging of any train set you purchase will advise you of any safety issues as well as a recommended age so that safety concerns do not arise. This could include small pieces that could become safety hazards for small children. In general, follow the guidance of the product and always stay close by when small children are using new toys.
In terms of electric trains, "they operate on a 120-volt system" and parental guidance may be necessary for any electrical cords or battery installments that are required, Peter Southard, “The Train Doctor” and President of the Twin City Model Railroad Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota advises. But, "the voltage on the track is actually very low. So there is virtually no chance of any kind of electrocution happening," he says.
Train sets come in a variety of difficulty levels, from ones you need to build yourself to those that are out-of-the-box and perfect for toddlers. Your child’s age, abilities, and interest level should all be factors when shopping. Also, make sure you look for a set that'll hold their interest so they don’t outgrow it too quickly.
"The younger they are, the larger the scale," says Southard, referring to the size of pieces in a train set. According to him, wooden train sets with bigger pieces are more suitable for toddlers and young children. When children enter grade school, Southard recommends an O gauge set (larger scale set) and then when entering high school or adulthood, moving to an HO (or smaller scale) model.
Extra Features or Add-Ons
Some sets come with just the basics, while others come complete with a table plus other vehicles, people, and scenery to interact with the trains. Your budget, as well as your child’s preferences, should drive your choices.
Extras can also make train sets more or less complicated. "You want to consider how easy is it for the child to mainly operate the train," says Southard, which can involve actually putting the train on the track or using the remote to make it go.
Additionally, toy trains with several extra features may require more maintenance. "If you're going to buy trains online, recognize the fact that it is going to be very interesting if you have issues with that train to get it serviced," Southard shares. You will likely have a different experience if you buy from a local store. However, some online retailers may provide service or piece replacements if necessary, which can be found on their respective websites. Even so, this may affect where a consumer chooses to purchase their set.
How much room do you have to house your train set? If you have a large playroom, then size may not be an issue, but if you only have a corner of a room to use, you may want one that's on the smaller side. Also, consider how easy it'll be to take apart and how much room you need to store it.
How fast does an electric toy train set travel?
Some of the fastest electric toy train sets can travel up to 15 miles per hour, right out of the box. That's pretty fast for a model train! If a toy train engineer wants to, they can modify the train to go even faster. A word of advice: Take it slow to prevent breaking your model train cars.
What does Ballast mean for a toy train set?
When you hear the word "ballast" in relation to toy train sets, it's talking about the mixture of crushed rocks and stones that lay beneath the railroad tracks. This gives it an authentic look since actual ballast is used with real trains. There are many types of color of ballast available so you can get just the look you want.
What's the best way to set up toy train tracks?
The best way to set up train tracks really depends on what you're working with. Each model train can be set up a bit differently, so it's best to look at the included instructions if available. This will give you step-by-step directions on how best to set up the toy train tracks. Generally, you hook together the train by choosing straight or curved pieces of track. If you are going to have a large track, it's best to plan your layout ahead of time. Think about how you want your trains to travel and make a quick outline on paper. Now you're ready to set them up just right.
How long does a toy train set last?
Train sets are a great investment because they are a quality toy that lasts a long time. Wooden train sets last for a lifetime and can even be passed down between generations. A plastic train for a toddler won't last quite as long, but will still hold up to many hours of play. A model train set is built to last and shouldn't need to be replaced within a lifetime as long as it's treated with care.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Julie Evans, a writer and editor who has worked with a host of diverse companies including Microsoft, USA Today, Realtor.com, Brit + Co, CafeMom, and SheKnows among others. Additional research was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product roundups, expert-focused articles, and more. Expert advice was provided by Dr. Peter Southard, “The Train Doctor” and President of the Twin City Model Railroad Museum.
Additional reporting and research was done by Stacy Fisher, a writer with nearly two decades of experience covering crafting, freebies, and other fun pastimes.