|Written by Paul D. Race for and|
|Big Christmas Trains come in different sizes. Most model railroaders use trains that are relatively small, such as HO or N scale. But neither of those scales is particularly impressive circling a Christmas tree; they're even too small to look good circling a Holiday Village, such as those by Dept. 56(tm), Hawthorne Village(tm), or Lemax(tm).
Big Christmas Trains(tm) to the rescue! We offer two basic sizes of trains that can be described as Large Scale, and O scale (which includes O Gauge/027 and On30 trains). If it helps to think of it this way, O scale trains should be about about twice the size of HO trains, and most Large Scale trains are over three times the size of HO trains. So none of the trains on this page these will get lost under the Christmas tree.
|This page is just to give you a little more detail about why certain Big Christmas Trains are better than others for specific uses. When you are trying to decide what sort of Big Christmas Trains you need, it helps to know something about the scale of those trains, that is, the numerical relationship between the models and the real thing.
Big Christmas trains come in two basic sizes, the "Large Scale" trains that are made to be used outside, and the "O scale" (and "O gauge") trains that generally work better indoors. Within O scale/Ogauge trains there are two major divisions:
Here's a table that shows some of the best uses of each scale of trains. 5 stars means that this is the best train for the job. 4 stars means "good"; 3 stars means "useful/doable"; 2 stars means "doable but there are more effective choices"; and 1 star means "only as a last resort."
|Large Scale: Really Big Trains for Garden and Public Display Railroads - Most of the trains that you see in people's gardens or public display railroads are between 1/20 and 1/32 the size of the real thing. In other words, they are up to twice the length (and 8 times the bulk) of the other trains in this catalog. If you want to see visitors' jaws drop when they see your Christmas tree, jump to the Large Scale Christmas Trains page.
The smallest circle of track that Large Scale trains run on is 51" across. That said, most people can use a larger circle of track around the tree (we usually use a 63" or larger circle of track, since we get big trees). But if you want your train on a table instead of on the floor, you might consider an O gauge/O27 or On30 train.
O Gauge/O27 - Traditional for Trees, Useful for Towns - These names generally signify the old-fashioned trains that run on three-rail track such Lionel(tm) trains. O27 actually designates a kind of track that certain O gauge trains run on. In fact, many people use the terms O-gauge and O27 interchangeably when they are discussing Lionel train sets such as those shown in the Big Christmas Trains catalog. So don't get discouraged if vendors or articles seem to jump back and forth between the terms.
O-gauge/O27 trains are made to look right with accessories that are 1/48 the size of the real thing, so they'll look good around your Holiday Village as long as your table is big enough to hold a circle of track. Any set of Lionel (or even an old set of two-rail American Flyer) will look good around your Christmas tree.
Lionel has issued several nice O-gauge Christmas Trains that are sturdy and offer excellent play value to youngsters (although you're supposed to put the track together and hook up the power for anyone younger than eight). Most Lionel(tm) trains require at least a 40" by 40" space to run, though they come with enough track for a 40" x 60" oval.
On30 - Best for Towns and Tabletop Trees - Unlike O gauge and O27, On30 is a fairly new kind of train. On30 trains also look good around a small or medium Christmas tree. But they look their best when used with Holiday and Display Villages. These trains are nearly as big as Lionel trains, but they run on the same kind of track that HO trains use. They tend to be more detailed and more "old-timey," so they're usually a pretty good match for the better quality ceramic villages. They also look great with cardboard Christmas ("Putz") houses.
On30 trains require a minimum of a 38" x 38" space to run, although most of the sets come with enough track to make a 56" x 38" oval. If you don't have enough room for that, Bachmann makes an On30 streetcar set that can run back and forth in almost no space at all.
Bachmann's original On30 trains were literally designed to look good with ceramic Christmas villages - their first set was painted for Dept. 56. Nowadays, Bachmann's On30 trains are also being used by model railroaders - they are that accurate. But they offer a set or three painted for Christmas every year, in addition to great little streetcars. All Bachmann products have a lifetime warranty - after a year you pay a flat fee for repairs or replacement, but that's still way better than the competition.
Not long ago, most of Hawthorne Village's train "collections" were based on Bachmann's On30 trains and used all Bachmann moving parts, so they were 100% compatible and, like Bachmann models, warrantied for life. Due to the poor economy in 2007 and early 2008, Hawthorne village recently began using other manufacturers, so the quality of the trains themselves is less consistent. Our pages that list Hawthorne Village trains tend to list only the Bachmann-based products, so you can rest assured that in addition to getting world-class collectibles, you're also getting top quality motors and parts.
Many people who start with a Thomas Kinkade(tm) or other Hawthorne Village train collection eventually add Bachmann On30 trains, or vice versa - they all play together very nicely (in fact the mechanism for most of them is built in the same factory).
Because I think that Large Scale, three-rail O gauge, and On30 trains are all useful, fun, and attractive, I have included examples of all three in the Big Christmas Train buyers' guides. However, I've made a point of keeping them in separate sections to avoid confusion. If you have any question about the usefulness of one piece of equipment over another, please contact me.
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