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Letters to the Editor About Big Christmas Trains
Large Scale Christmas TrainsO Gauge Christmas Trains
On30 Christmas TrainsMore Holiday Villages

Written by Paul D. Race for and

Though we've been writing about trains since the mid 1990s, we didn't start writing much about indoor trains until 2004, when we began our BIG Christmas Trains™ web page to answer questions from people shopping for trains to use at Christmas. Many of those trains were O gauge (mostly Lionel) or On30 (from Bachmann or Hawthorne Village). Not all of them were Christmas trains, though. So we also started other resources:

Of course, the more resources we make available, the more questions we get. We try to answer e-mail questions by a direct response, but many e-mail questions could be of interest to our other readers. So we post those questions and answers answers on this "Letters to the Editor" page. (In case you wondered, we answer questions about Garden Railroading on the Family Garden Trains' Letters to the Editor page. When the question is of interest to both audiences, we may post it both places.)

Why so many resources? There are just too many neat products and great ideas to fit everything into just one or two sites. (In case you haven't noticed, original sites have gotten huge. This way folks who love one aspect of the hobby can start focusing on the area(s) that interest them most, then pick up other ideas from our other sites as they get the chance.

Finally, we've been around long enough to know that for every person who posts a question, there are a dozen or more folks with the same question who never ask it. So we're still glad to hear from you. Sometimes we get a bit behind, so it may be a while before you see any question that you posted here. But since I also try to reply personally to every e-mail, that shouldn't be a problem for you. As always, we hope that you will please "contact us with any corrections or other follow-ups to our answers.


Topic list





























Spirit Of Ireland Express Train Collection






























New for Christmas, 2006! Lionel Holiday Traditions train.




































The Johnny Cash Collectible HO Scale Express Train Collection






























Rudolph's Christmas Town Express Train Collection

































Hawthorne Village Trains




























































































Thomas Kinkade Christmas Express Train Subscription Plan





























































































Hawthorne Village Trains

























































































































Visit our BIG Train Store™ Buyer's Guide Pages




































Click to see articles and resources for a joyful family Christmas.




























The Wonderful World Of Disney Christmas Tree: Collectible Disney Tabletop Christmas Decor
























































































































































Spirit Of Ireland Express Train Collection






























New for Christmas, 2006! Lionel Holiday Traditions train.





























The Johnny Cash Collectible HO Scale Express Train Collection










































Rudolph's Christmas Town Express Train Collection










































Hawthorne Village Trains




























































































Thomas Kinkade Christmas Express Train Subscription Plan



























































































































Hawthorne Village Trains























































































































































Click to see quality Christmas collectibles with railroad themes.























































Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns™' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much more
















































Click to see articles and resources for a joyful family Christmas.



































































































































































































































































































































Spirit Of Ireland Express Train Collection


























































New for Christmas, 2006! Lionel Holiday Traditions train.


























































The Johnny Cash Collectible HO Scale Express Train Collection


























































Rudolph's Christmas Town Express Train Collection


























































Hawthorne Village Trains

























































































































































































Thomas Kinkade Christmas Express Train Subscription Plan
































































































































































































Hawthorne Village Trains



























































































































Click to see quality Christmas collectibles with railroad themes.























































Click to sign up for the 'Trains-N-Towns™' newsletter, with articles about display villages, indoor railroading, and much more
















































Click to see articles and resources for a joyful family Christmas.


















































The Wonderful World Of Disney Christmas Tree: Collectible Disney Tabletop Christmas Decor
















































































































































































































































































Spirit Of Ireland Express Train Collection


























































New for Christmas, 2006! Lionel Holiday Traditions train.


















































































































































































Building My Own Auto-Reversing Trolley System? - Dec., 2010

Marcel Pannekoek writes:

Is it possible to build an auto reversing street car when I buy the special tracks (44548 / 44549), the bumpers (44491), the power pack (44212) and the street car (25127) seperately? I'm not interested in the car barn and it is hard to find a webshop that ships to Europe.

Marcel,

Thanks for getting in touch. I sympathize with your difficulty getting trains and accessories in Europe - I have many European readers with the same issue. A few years ago, I had a vendor who would ship anywhere in Europe. But after several years of healthy trade, his trains stopped getting there, the buyers would file a grievance with their credit card companies, he would lose the train and the money, and the shipping fees. . . . and he had to give up trying to ship out of the US. In the most recent recession, he just gave up selling trains altogether and went into another line of work, so I can't even ask him to reconsider.

Bachmann UK, the British branch of Bachmann Trains, DOES import a number of other brands to Europe, so that might be a place to look for accessories at least.

Regarding the reversing set, you also need a reversing unit. We used to build our own in the 1960s when you couldn't buy them, but I've long since lost the schematics or will to accumulate many more soldering iron scars. . . .

An example of a store-bought version is here:

Bachmann UK MAY import that to England, or have other offerings from other brands. Most have sensors that go at each end of the track so you can tell when the train/trolley has crossed into the "end zone." Then there's a built-in circuit that senses when the sensors have been tripped and a relay circuit that cuts off the voltage, reverses the polarity, and turns it on again.

Sorry there isn't an easy answer. As you can see, when you buy the set, you're not really spending money on the barn, you're spending money on the circuitry that the barn houses.

Hope this makes sense. Please let me know if you have any luck buying or cobbling together a system, so I can advise future readers - Paul

Tinplate-Style Water Tower in N - May, 2010

George Chapman Writes:

Thanks for your offer to send N scale plans. Lets try the Water Tower and see how that works - George.

George,

The water tower isn't exactly a plan, since all the dimensions depend on the size of the tube you found to build the tank part. If you can come across a tube or broom handle that is about 1" in diameter, that should work, then adjust the measurements in the plan to match - for instance, the base would be a 1" cube. You could probably go up to 1.5" without looking wrong, since this is a model of a very tiny "tower." I've added HO, TT, and N scale versions of the tinplate graphics for this project at the following address: http://bigindoortrains.com/primer/spook_hill/spook_hill_water_tower/spook_hill_water_tower.htm

I haven't made tiny versions of the brick and stone photographs yet, though.

Let me know if this give you what you need - Paul

More Cars for Bachmann On30 Christmas Passenger Train - April, 2010

Hal Levy writes:

I would like a source to buy additional passenger cars for Northern Lights train set.

Hal,

Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, Bachmann doesn't make those coaches separately. You might consider picking up a refrigerator car or two to put at the head of the train, that was a common practice on short lines that passed farming communities - the reefer cars were for picking up milk. Yes, I realize that a Christmas train wouldn't necessarily be picking up milk, unless maybe it was reindeer milk, but you get the idea.

If you NEED another passenger car or two you might consider trying to find another Northern Lights set, then use the locomotive for something else. Or look at individual cars that have color schemes that don't clash with your coaches. On Ebay, I looked up Home > Buy > Toys & Hobbies > Model RR, Trains then entered "On30 passenger" in the search field and got several from different lines. Then I did the same thing for "On30 coach" and got a different set of products. I wouldn't be surprised if you would get different listings for On30 (with the letter O) and for 0n3 (with a zero) as well.

I have one of the Thomas Kinkade coaches that I've been known to run with my Bachmann Christmas set, although it's not the same colors at all. Several of those come up when you go to Home > Buy > Toys & Hobbies > Model RR, Trains and just put "hawthorne" in the search field. The Kinkade set first came with deep red paint in on the windowframes, the new set comes with green, in case you wondered.

If you do those searches every few days, you're bound to find something that you think will work with your set. Sorry I can't be any more specific. Hope you enjoy your trains - Paul

Beginning With Putz Houses and Lionel Trains - February, 2010

Chris Brooks, of Morrisville, Pennsylvania. writes:

Hi! I like your website very much. I wonder if you can help me with 3 questions.

  1. Do you know of a collectors' club for the Carole Towne Christmas village sold only at Loews stores every Christmas or dealers who I can contact who sell these products?
  2. Do you know of any club or dealers which have a specific interest in log cabin lighted Christmas buildings? And
  3. Do you know of any club dedicated to or concern that sells only log cabin models (toys, ceramics, wood, antique -- anything)?

Thank you for your help. And keep up the good work with your wonderful site.

Chris,

Lowes' "Carole Towne" Christmas village is mostly made by Lemax, so if you're looking for a particular piece, try looking under that name.

I can't help you with the log cabin questions, though. Are you looking for ceramic Log Cabin models? I'll keep an eye out for them if you'd like - Paul

[Ed. note: Chris wrote back that he's especially interested in collecting log cabin models of any kind, so if you have something you'd like me to bring to Chris' attention, please get in touch, and I'll forward your note to him. - Paul]

Paul Race

Beginning With Putz Houses and Lionel Trains - February, 2010

Elaine asks:

I would love patterns on how to construct Putz houses for Christmas villages for our train that my husband found. It is an O gauge and we don't have a transformer or electrical outlet to start, we will have to purchase one for it. My husband just found the trains separately and the tracks separately nothing else. Not sure what else to get for it. Need help starting a complete set. Thanks

Elaine,

Thanks for getting in touch. Hopefully by now you've found our articles on making glitterhouses and other cardboard structures to go with your trains. The glitterhouse articles replicate those little Japanese-made, glitter-colored cottages that were popular from about 1928 on.

If you want an even older look, our "Tribute to Tinplate" articles describe how to build replicas of the old metal buildings that Lionel and other companies used to make to go with their trains in the early 1900s.

Regarding your train's transformer, if you have a 3-rail set, ANY Lionel transformer made to go with O gauge trains will work. American flyer transformers made to go with S gauge trains will work, too. Look for transformers with AC output going to the trains, usually about 18 volts. 99.9% of the second-hand Lionel transformers you see on Craig's list or wherever, will power your train just fine.

Power supplies made for other scales put out DC, which doesn't work with Lionel O gauge trains or accessories.

Hope this helps - Paul

Steep Connecting Track Question - February, 2010

Paul Berkow writes:

I'm getting reading to set up a new O Gauge layout in a small room. I want to make it a 2 tier layout because of the small space. Another words, a second layout about 3 1/2 feet above the main layout. I realize that in order to get to the second tier, I will have to run track at 4% grade (if I have to back up to a 3% grade, I'll have to loop even more than 2 1/2 times) around the perimeter 2 1/2 times to get up the 3 1/2 feet.

QUESTION : Is there anything I can put on the track going up to the 2nd tier so the wheels won't slip. Of course, I can tie in a second engine every time I send a train up to the top tier, but I'd like not to have to do that if possible.

Paul,

Most people who try to set up a two-tier RR with that much vertical distance don't bother trying to set u a connecting track.

Do you have any of the Lionel locomotives with the magnetic or rubber drive wheels? Those were made to pull longer trains than the weight of the locomotive would support or to pull short (out-of-the-box) trains up the trestle add-on. I'd suggest experimenting with one of those and deciding on the combination of grade and train length you'll be pleased with.

Also, tight curves increase resistance, so an 18"-radius curve at 2% might be equivalent to a 36"-radius curve at 3%, depending on how heavy and free-rolling your rolling stock is.

Sorry I can't be more specific than to say that 4% grades = short trains in every scale.

Best of luck, Please let me know how things work out - Paul

[Ed. Note: Since I sent this reply, I received permission to publish Pete Eggink's article on grades for garden railroads. It has parts that apply mostly to outdoor trains, but also definitions that apply to any scale. The article is at:

Trains for Christmas Villages and Trees? - February, 2010

Debbie writes:

I have wanted to get a train for years now and have a large Dept. 56 village and am interested in something for the village, but not the HO scale (too small for me). I was told to get S scale, but I am not sure now after reading about the On30 modeal trains.

Also am interested in a large train to around the Christmas tree that looks like one of the older sets. Thanks so much - Debbie

Debbie,

On30 trains are very close to S scale in size, and they have the advantage of being made today. S gauge trains haven't been mass-manufactured since the 1960s. On30 trains also run on smaller circles of track so they fit in more places, and the track is more realistic.

Actually the Bachmann and Hawthorne village On30 passenger trains are nearly identical to a train set Bachmann made specifically to go with Dept. 56 villages. So they ARE your best bet for a Christmas village unless you have, say, a lot of room, and an American Flyer S gauge train set in the attic.

Bachmann's On30 Christmas trains are shown on this page:

I have one of the passenger sets and it's great, plus I have several other Bachmann pieces that are very nice.

Hawthorne Village On30 train collections are built on Bachmann On30 chassis, but they have extra special paint jobs and other detailing. They're sold a piece at a time - you subscribe to them like you do a magazine. Some of their Christmas trains are listed on this page:

I have several of their pieces, including three or four of their locomotives and passenger cars, and they're very nice, especially if you're "into" a particular period or kind of village, like Disney, Rudolph, or Coca Cola.

For around the tree, a Lionel train set will give you a more traditional look, especially if you buy one of the sets (like the El Capitan) that was originally built in the 1940s. A few sets are listed on this page:

They are sturdy and popular. Some Christmas-themed Lionel trains, including a great Polar Express set, are listed on this page:

If you'd rather have an "old-timey train" look than a "vintage toy train" look, check out the Bachmann Large Scale trains - they are VERY impressive around Christmas trees. A few are listed on this page:

I have several Bachmann Large Scale trains, including several Christmas pieces, and they usually get very good comments from visitors.

Hope this isn't too confusing. The short version is that I recommend:

  • On30 for Christmas Villages
  • Lionel O gauge for trees if you want a vintage toy train look
  • Bachmann Large Scale for trees if you want an impressive-looking old-timey train.

Have a great 2010, hope you make up your mind before Christmas - Paul

Catherine Henry's Glitterhouses - December, 2009

Click for to see Catherine's site.Catherine Henry, Proprietor of the "Not Your Average Sock Monkey" blog, writes:

Paul and Howard,

Thank you for your great glitterhouse articles, plans, and instructions. I have been using some of the plans for glitter houses you provided. So far I have built your basic cottage, and the Little Charmer, the SpookHill Castle, and the "pumpkin" Cottage, and it turned out great. You can see pix of my Christmas village on my December, 2009 blog: http://catherinemhenry.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html

I havent yet posted the pix of the halloween village (sort of out of season ) but I will after the holidays.

This is a lot of fun to make. I have begun (timidly) doing my own designs, They aren't too bad. I tried my hand at a wobbly Halloween house, and found out that it is a lot easier to build a square, solid house than a shaky, wonky one, but I filled the gaps with a "plaster"of my confection and the house looks real cute (I'll send you a picture, if you want when I finish it)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your site and its great tutorials - Catherine

Catherine,

Thanks for letting us see your work. They are very attractive. Let me know if you post any designs on your site and we'll link to them. - Paul

GREAT HOUSES! And I really like the more pointed roofs and your own details. We're so happy to see the plans being used, and with such outstanding results! - Howard Lamey, proprietor of LittleGlitterHouses.com

Reversing Loops on a Bachmann On30 Streetcar Set - December, 2009

Phil Hobden writes:

I found your website on the On30 trains and, in particular, the Christmas Trolley On30 set from Bachmann.

We just received our Bachmann On30 Christmas Trolley set and are quite pleased. I have a question: I have seen dogbone track sections or 'whye' track sections used to make up a dog bone arrangement where you are able to have a return loop that re-combines back in to a single track to go in to the trolley barn. An example of this that I saw recently was in the SuperStreets product that Lionel offers in O 3-rail. They offer a dog bone track/street section. Are you aware of any one that offers such a track section in HO for these On30 trolley sets?? I have searched on-line to no avail.

Again, my thought was to run 1 or 2 trolleys on 2 tracks that have the dog bone or whye at EACH end of the line. Two trolleys could then be running on the same loop - the trolleys could actually pass each other. Thanks in advance - Phil

Phil,

Thanks for getting in touch. I've very glad you're satisfied with your set. That said, return loops on three rail O gauge sets are easy because the positive line is always in the center. In 2-rail track, if you run the outside line into the inside line of a loop, you create a perfect short circuit.

There ARE setups for doing what you described, but they involve using magnetic switches and a switching circuit to reverse the power on the main line while the train is traveling around the return loop. Then on other end you need the same thing again. Plus your trains are more likely to derail on turnouts (switches) than anywhere else. So most folks have mainline track running both ways.

A book on wiring HO railroads would be very helpful to you at this point.

Please let me know if I've confused you more than I've helped - Paul

A Reader's Glitterhouse Project - December, 2009

Click for bigger photo.Linda McCloskey, who first contacted us in 2008, has built a Cristmas version of this house. She says:

I am glad I am on your newsletter mailing list...I enjoy reading it. I appreciate all the effort you put into it. I am attaching a picture of a glitterhouse that I modeled after Howard's "Twin Peaks" plan. . . . Thanks again for your informative website.

Linda,

Thanks for the great photo; keep up the great work - Paul

Where Can I Get a Crossover for Lionel G Gauge Plastic Track - November, 2009

Irene writes:

Please tell me where I can locate G gauge crossover track. The little one love Grand Dads Polar express. We'd love to combine "Christmas story" and run them both this year. Thanks .

Irene,

Thanks for getting in touch. Are you saying you have the G Gauge polar express and one other train? It would help if I knew what the other train was.

If you're thinking about doing a figure eight in most track formats, you'll need, not only a crossover track, but also at least two half-length straight pieces. If you're NOT thinking about doing a figure eight, never mind that part.

Regarding the crossover itself. Lionel doesn't make a crossover for any of its Large Scale (G Gauge) products. If all of your large scale trains run on batteries with plastic track, you might could get a crossover for New Bright or Scientific Toys/EZ Tec and make it work - the width between the rails will be correct, but the way the track hooks together will be different. Still, most folks who have mismatched track get around that by hacksawing the bit that doesn't fit and fastening the whole thing to a thin piece of wood with screws, including the ends of the adjoining track pieces.

Here is what seems to be an Amazon link to a set of Scientific Toys/EZ Tec track even though they show the wrong photo [and they ran out of product right after I sent this link to Irene - ed].

Here's a link to a site that shows the photo and links to other vendors. I DON'T Know this site, so buyer beware.

Again, the track will not fit together with your track, but it's the same width, so if you can figure out how to MAKE it fit, you're home free.

Now here's the bad news. If your second train DOESN'T take batteries, that is if it needs metal track to run on, you'll have to find a real Large Scale brass track piece.

Only a few are made. Some are shown on the following page:

Again, you may need to resort to the taking-off-the-track-connectors-and-fastening-all-five-pieces-to-a-board solution, plus figuring out how to wire the thing. But it is possible.

Hope this isn't TOO MUCH INFORMATION. :-)

And I hope you have the best possible Christmas season. Please send me a photo of your RR when you get it set up - Paul

How Can I Get a Damaged Train Fixed? - November, 2009

Fred Bierschbach, of Platte City, Mo., writes:

A little elf knocked grandpa's train engine to the floor. Several pieces broke off. We have the pieces. We would like to return it for repair or replacement.

Dear Santa's Helper,

I need to know what kind of train it is and what kind of damage was done. If you have a Bachmann or Hawthorne village train, you can send it to Bachmann with a flat fee and they'll fix it up or replace it. Of course if it's a Hawthorne village train, you'll want to make certain they send back the original locomotive plus any replacement parts.

You can contact Bachmann through the following page:

Or if you think you can replace the parts yourself, you can order them through the parts department. Click the Parts button on the service page.

I have used BOTH and been very pleased with their service service.

If by some chance you have a Lionel, you'll have to contact an authorized Lionel Service dept (usually the biggest hobby shop in town is "authorized.") I haven't used them recently, so I'm not sure of their policies.

If you have some OTHER brand, please let me know,

Whatever you do, to it quickly. Right now tens of thousands of other folks are getting their trains out of the attic and finding out something isn't quite right, so the repair departments will get backed up in a BIG hurry.

If you don't think your train will be ready to run by Christmas, you can always shop our On30 Buyer's Guide pages for a second locomotive that you can use as a backup when you get your original back. Again, Bachmann makes Hawthorne Village engines, so they run JUST as well:

Please let me know how things work out - Paul

How Can I Complete a Hawthorne Village Train Collection in Australia? - November, 2009

Robyn, in Australia, writes:

My partner has part of the Silver Moon Express Train, He has the Engine and the first Carriage of the set, I am interested in purchasing the rest of the set to complete the train set. Thanks, Robyn

Robyn,

Thank you for getting in touch. I have a bit of bad news for you, though. The Silver Moon Express Train (and other Hawthorne Village train collections) are sold in the United states by Collectibles Today, which doesn't shop to Australia.

Sometimes the Bradford Exchange in Australia carries Hawthorne Village merchandise, but they don't have any Hawthorne Village trains listed on their site at the moment.

Still, that might be a place to start.

It sounds like your partner got the first two shipments in the collection (or else someone else did). Folks in the U.S. can usually call the Collectibles Today # and get a collection resumed. Their page for checking on orders is http://collectiblestoday.com/ct/vieworderstatus.jsp, though, due to agreements with their branches on other continents, they won't usually ship merchandise overseas, even merchandise that the other branches don't stock. :-(

If you know someone in the US who could subscribe for you and ship the trains to you as they arive (usually a piece at a time), you could ask them to call the Collectibles Today customer service # 1-877-268-6638. (Unfortunately that # won't work for you.)

The good news is that these trains will run on an HO gauge track with almost any HO train power supply. The track that comes with them Bachmann Nickel Silver EZ-track, but that's not mandatory. Also the trains and couplers are compatible with all commercially available On30 trains and any OTHER Hawthorne Village trains you come across. So you if you shop for track and a power supply locally, you can easily have enough to run your train by Christmas, even if you can't get the other coaches.

Finally, these trains occasionally turn up on eBay. Yes, many eBay sellers in the US won't sell outside of North America, but some will.

Sorry I couldn't help you directly, but hopefully I've given you some options. Please let me know how things work out - Paul

How do I Find the Right Materials to Build Glitterhouses? - November, 2009

Carrie writes:

Could you tell me what Acid Free White Bond Paper is? Is bond a thickness? Where to buy?

Could you tell me what a small steel square is and where to buy? Cutting mat? Chipboard? Where do I buy corrugulated cardboard?

Will any glitter work?

Carrie,

Thanks for getting in touch. I'll try to answer your questions.

Acid free white bond paper is the better quality typing or printing paper. You usually can get it in a ream at any business supply store. It will say "acid free" right on the label. They use that term because cheap copy or typing paper was made with a process that left chemicals in the paper that would eventually cause it to break down, like the pages of a cheap paperback. "Acid free" means that, all other things being equal, the paper won't self-destruct.

A "steel square" is actually a triangle with one right angle that you use to make certain you are drawing right angles. It should be available most places that school, craft or business supplies are sold.

A cutting mat is a pad made of synthetic material that will withstand shallow cuts from a craft knife like a Xacto knife. You can get them at craft stores.

Chipboard is a kind of heavy solid cardboard, like the back of writing tablets. In most cases you can use thick posterboard (available where school supplies are sold). Howard also has been known to use cardboard from cereal boxes or other sources. He didn't start paying for cardboard of any kind until he started making more houses than he could eat cereal to keep up with. In otherwords, chipboard or any other solid cardboard may be available for free if you look around for it.

Corrugated cardboard is the kind that they use to make big cardboard boxes. If you look at a cross-section you will see a wavey layer of cardboard sandwiched between two layers of flat cardboard. This gives the cardboard strength without weight. In my town, any store and most businesses throw away many boxes made from corrugated cardboard every week.

Most glitters will work. Howard prefers to use glitter that is clear, as it gives a more authentic appearance to vintage-style cardboard houses.

Hope this helps, please let me know if you get stuck on any of our other terms or instructions, - Paul

Where Can I Find a Train for my Christmas Tree in England? - November, 2009

Angela, in the UK, writes: Could you please help me were to buy a train for under a tree? I am having trouble finding what I need in England. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right place. Many thanks - Angela

Angela,

Thank you for getting in touch.

Bachmann Trains (an international model railroad manufacturer) distributes many kinds of trains in the UK. Chances are any hobby shop can get them. If you have room for at least a 50" circle of track, here are some "large scale" solutions:

O27 trains are about half the size and will fit in a 38" circle of track. Bachmann carries Williams:

IF you can find Lionel O gauge trains, those will work around a Christmas tree, too.

If you have a small tree or not very much room, you might be satisfied with an On30 set. They are about 3/4 the size of O gauge trains. Bachmann only lists one set sold in the UK, but there might be more:

Any hobby shop in the UK should be able to order you these trains, and may have them in stock. If you shop around, you should be able to get a better price than you see on the pages I sent you.

I'm sorry that I can't have trains shipped over from the states, but by the time we added shipping, etc., they'd be pretty expensive.

Best of luck, please let me know if you have any other questions (or if I didn't answer this one properly). - Paul

Bachman Reversing Trolly Not Reversing - November, 2009

Brian Rammage, of Mesquite, Nevada, writes:

Please help me with my Bachman Reversing Christmas Trolly. It leaves the station OK but when it gets to the end it seems like it hits a "dead spot" and does NOT reverse. I would be willing to purchase some straight and curve track to see if I have bad track (have you heard of problems with this product?). - Brian

Brian,

Thanks for getting in touch. Have you inserted any track that didn't come with the set? It takes special track. Normal track will fit mechanically, so sometimes folks mix them up. But the track for the trolley has four conductors, not two. Look on the bottom of track and see if the curves all have the same # and if the straights all have the same # That's my first guess based on experiences of other folks who've accidentally mixed up the track. If you have all the right track, then it may be something else. - Paul

Brian writes back:

Thanks for the fast response. At first I did "mix up the track" hoping to get a little more distance out of my trolley. However, I soon discovered that it did not work. So I put together only the "special" track that came with the set.

The problem is that when the Trolley gets to the end straight track (the one right before the small bumper track). It merely stops and will not reverse until you physically turn off the power and give the trolley a little push. Then it goes all the way back to the terminal where it stops and then heads out again only to stop at the end of the track.

Do you sell any of this "special" track? If so, how much? I would like to buy more track to see if I have bad track or a bad trolley car. - Brian

Brian, the track you need to extend your set is:

  • For straight pieces, use Bachmann #44548 track.
  • For curves, use Bachmann # 44549.

I don't sell it, but Amazon has links to vendors if you can't find it locally. (Actually I don't sell anything - I recommend products I like and have links to suppliers with a good reputaton for customer service.)

Did the steet car set work when it came new out of the box? Or did you buy it used? If the latter:

  • Are the track or the trolley wheels very dirty? That's the main reason for needing to nudge things to get them started. "Smoke fluid" or the kind of lamp oil folks use for those cheap repro kerosene lamps will clean the track and wheels nicely. Dab it on an old cotton rag.

  • Also, on many of these sets, there should be a tiny magnet somewhere on the bottom of the trolley. The magnet is supposed to trip the reverse mechanism. Use a steel paperclip to find it, holding one end. The motor itself is a magnet, so there will be SOME attraction even if the little magnet I'm talking about is missing. What you are looking for is a separate magnet on the very bottom of the trolley.

    The streetcars that are sold separately don't have the magnet attached, only the ones that come with the set. Maybe you got the wrong streetcar? Or the magnet fell off?

I haven't had my hands on one of these in some time, so I can't get much farther into it. Try the Bachmann Service department if I haven't been any help:

Best of luck. Please let me know what you find out, so maybe I can be more helpful to the next person - Paul Paul www.BigIndorTrains.com www.FamilyGardenTrains.com

Can I get a Hawthorne Village Coca Cola train in Belgium? - November, 2009

Nadine ecrit

Je souhaite acheter un train coca cola avec wagons comme photos, cela est-il possible et a quel prix? merci

Nadine,

Je suis désolé, mais j'écris très mal le français. J'espère que cette note fait sens pour vous.

Les trains Hawthorne Village sont vendus aux États-Unis et au Canada par Collectibles Today. Cela fait partie de la "Bradford Exchange" (Bourse de Bradford). Dans d'autres pays, ils sont vendus seulement par la Bourse régionale Bradford.

    http://collectiblestoday.com/ct/int/int_home.jsp

Je suis passé par la plupart des sites européens Bradford Exchange ce matin. Mais je ne pouvais pas pu trouver aucune qui présentait le train de Coca Cola.

Quelques sites vendus d'autres trains. Mais peut-être vous pouvez contacter Bradford Exchange sites en Europe et leur demander des idées.

Ou avez-vous quelqu'un qui vit aux Etats-Unis? Peut-être que vous pourriez lui demander d'ordonner à vous ensuite de les expédier en Belgique?

Je souhaite que j'ai eu une meilleure réponse. Je souhaite également que j'avais mieux le français, mais c'est une autre discussion.

Nous vous remercions de prendre contact. Si vous pouvez trouver ces trains en Europe, s'il vous plaît laissez-moi savoir où, si je peux dire à d'autres personnes. Joyeaux Noel - Paul Race

[In English, the answer is that the Bradford Exchange, which has several offices in Europe, is the only company licensed to import Hawthorne Village trains and towns in Europe. So they should be the first place to check. That said, they only carry a small percentage of the products available in the U.S. So, often the only answer is to have a friend in the U.S. subscribe to the collection and send it across the Atlantic. Not my favorite answer, but there it is.- Paul]

What Train Should I Get for my Dept. 56 Display? - November, 2009

Jim Thompson writes:

I am having a hard time choosing a train size. I have a large DEPT 56 North Pole Christmas display on a platform roughly 4 feet wide X 12 Feet long. We display about 50 house. Looking for something that will go with my houses. I read all of the articles and need to make up my mind soon. Any advice will be appreciated.

Jim,

Does your Dept. 56 display have any particular theme? If so, the Hawthorne Village On30 train collections might have something that suits your little community exactly:

If you're just lookine for a "generic" Christmas train, the On30 train sets by Bachmann may be what you need:

All of the Hawthorne Village trains and Bachmann trains are made by Bachmann, one of the world's largest model train manufacturers, and carry a lifetime warranty on the locomotive. The track is also standard, Bachmann Nickel Silver EZ track, available at almost any hobby shop.

One other fact worth knowing is that the first On30 Christmas train that Bachmann made was designed specifically to go with Dept. 56 villages. It's no longer made, but the other On30 sets described above are very similar. You'll see more information about that set at our article:

On the other hand, if you have room for a Lionel set, you might like that. If you grew up with Lionel, you might be more comfortable with that than the Bachmann-manufactured trains.

There are some great Lionel Christmas sets at the following URL:

Lionel is more solid and brings more nostalgia value for folks who grew up with those trains; On30 tends to be better detailed and to be a better match for the appearance, color schemes, and finishes of Dept. 56 and Lemax buildings and accessories. I have a bunch of different On30 trains, so I may be a little prejudiced, of course. :-)

Hope this helps. Have a great holiday, and let me know what you decide - Paul

Where Can I Find Trees to Go with the Houses I Built? - October, 2009

Caitlin I. writes:

I have recently been building some of the model houses on your site and have been having a great time. I am wanting to build a village that I can have up in my house all year and decorate for different seasons. I am now interested in adding scenery. I am wanting to either purchase (but preferably make) trees for all of the different seasons. Can you tell me where I can get supplies to make trees/bushes etc. that will be in proportion with the printable models on your site? It seems like I can't find anything big enough. Thanks - Caitlin

Caitlin,

Thanks for getting in touch. For most of the buildings on the BigIndoorTrains primer page, the most cost-effective way to make trees is to use dried plant material from Autumn Joy Sedum, Hydrangea Arborescens, or even weed heads you notice in the ditches near your house.

You've probably already seen the following articles on my site, but in case you haven't these might help.

If you need bigger trees, so let me know. I think I have seen another article or two on other sites that might help you.

I'd also be delighted to see photos of your completed buildings - the best feedback Howard and I have - and the best motivation to keep coming up with new structures - is knowing that folks are really using and enjoying the results of our efforts - Paul

[Caitlin since sent me several great photos of her vintage cardboard house projects. I'll be putting some of the photos elsewhere on the site, but I wanted to give you a preview below - Paul]

Click for a bigger photo.

I Bought Trains From Somebody Else and It's Your Fault - September, 2009

(Actually this is a toned-down example of a kind of e-mail I receive periodically from people who aren't readers or customers but don't know who to contact when a train purchase goes south. In this case, it seems to be a fellow who signed up to receive monthy shipments of a Hawthorne Village train collection from Collectibles Today. That company usually "bends over backwards" to provide good customer service if you contact them directly using the information on their web site. Basically it's a reminder that you should print off and save the purchase information WHENEVER you order something over the Internet.)

A Reader Whose Name is Withheld Wrote the Following: (He also used all caps and worse language but I'll spare you that.)

Stop sending me any more train items, sets., etc. I have put all items in mailbox. I have paid for all that I ordered and a few more I didn't until I realized that you send them periodically. I don't want any more sent to me.

Thank you in advance. I also find it interesting that I cannot locate a phone number in order to talk to someone regarding these unauthorized shipments.

Dear Name Withheld,

Although I recommend many kinds of trains to my readers, I don't sell trains myself, so you didn't buy anything from me.

In this case, it sounds like you have ordered a Hawthorne Village train collection from Collectibles Today. My pages and the Hawthorne Village pages all explain very clearly in large print that these are subscription trains, which you get and pay for a piece at a time, starting with the locomotive. I am sorry that you did not read the materials when you ordered your train, but the good news is that the people you actually bought it from are really very helpful and will be glad to help get this straightened out.

That said, you have to call them yourself. Their customer service phone (which is posted on the Contact pages of their web site) # is 1-877-268-6638. Call during business hours Monday through Friday.

I recommend Hawthorne Village and the rest of Collectibles Today's products to my readers because they have good products and the best satisfaction guarantee and customer service I've encountered in this market.

Good luck - please let me know if I can help with anything else. - Paul

Note to Readers: Do you Need the Order Tracking Pages? If you have questions about an order you placed with one of our recommended suppliers, please click on one of our Order Tracking Pages:

  • If you ordered a Lionel product, the best place to start is on the Lionel Order Tracking page.
  • If you ordered any other product, including Bachmann, Hawthorne Village, and AristoCraft, please go to the general Order Tracking page.

Power Supply for Hawthorne Village (On30 or HO) Train in Europe - September, 2009

Suzanne writes:

Hi. We have bought a christmas train on e-bay and found they had American power point connections. Is it possible to get adapters to make them work in the UK? Thanks very much for your time - Suzanne

Suzanne,

Thank you for getting in touch.

If you have bought a Hawthorne Village train, they use low-voltage DC power, the SAME exact kind of power as most HO and OO trains. The locomotive's motor and chassis are made by Bachmann trains, which are also sold in Europe.

Forget buying an adapter - that will chew up a lot of power and probably burn out your power supply eventually anyway. The easy solution is to purchase a new power supply made for use in Europe.

To the right is an ad for the power supply Bachmann recommends for its OO gauge trains in the UK, catalog # 36-560. It even says "On30" on the box.

Any hobby shop that sells HO scale trains should be able to sell you that power supply or some other that will plug into your mains and run your trains. Be SURE to get DC power, though (Lionel and a few other brands use AC power, and that's bad for your train).

I hope this is the hardest "problem" you ever have with your train - Paul

What Scale are Glitterhouses In? - July, 2009

Amanda writes:

Hi, I was reading the article on glitter houses on your site. I would love to make some of them. Could you tell me what scale they are in if I wanted to purchase figures/accessories to put in the scene? - Thanks.

Amanda,

Thanks for getting in touch. The first thing you need to know about traditional Christmas villages (also called putzes, train gardens, and Christmas gardens in various parts of the country) is that between, say 1890 and 1965, it was very common to mix scales of buildings and accessories. After all, people considered them toys and decorations, not models. So many of the old photos that show figures and glitterhouses in the same photo show figures that are too large to go into the doors of the houses. Dept. 56 carries that tradition forward by making figures that are too large to go through THEIR doorways as well. If their figures were the same scale as the houses, they'd get overlooked in the general clutter.

So if you see some figures you like, don't worry too much about whether they'll go through the doorways of your glitterhouses. For any kind of Christmas village display, I probably wouldn't buy anything smaller than O scale figures (which are 1:48, or one forty-eighth the size of the real thing). For a long time most Dept. 56 and Lemax figures were closer to 1:32, and some are approaching 1:24 in scale - double the size of O.

If your people are on the front edge of your mantel, and the houses are set at the back of the mantel, nobody will really notice anyway.

Now for specifics: Howard Lamey, who designs the Glitterhouses, made most of them to go with his HO scale trains (about 1:89). Most of the traditional glitterhouses he models were about the same size. But if you go looking for HO people, you'll probably be disappointed - HO people are about 3/4" tall, too small to see as individuals.

Our newer line of projects, Tribute to Tin is a little larger in scale, mostly hovering around S (1:64) scale, although we usually make the doorways big enough to accommodate O scale people at least. (They're about 1 1/2" tall)

But even there, it's more art than science - many tinplate railroads and towns included figures that were left over from Standard Gauge, which are closer to 1:29 in scale, and as much as 2 3/4" tall. And at Christmas, quite a few of THOSE figures were used on streets with little glitter houses with doors 1" high. Hope this isn't too confusing.

Back to the glitterhouses. If you have a lot of room and you want to have your figures match your houses closer than I described in the last paragraph, you could always double the size of Howard's glitterhouse plans. Or "borrow" any of our O or S scale Tribute to Tinplate plans and use them to make a glitterhouse.

There are other approaches, of course. Antoinette Stockenberg's Christmas village display uses "flats," a kind of German figure made like tin soldiers, and averaging 1"-1 1/2" high. But those are harder to come by. Antoinette's web page is here:

For lots of other photos of glitterhouses (or as Ted Althof calls them, putz houses) in context, visit this page:

Hope all this information doesn't overwhelm you. The best thing to do is look at a few good examples, then try one you think you can do. Scale isn't as important at first, as much as just getting your hands dirty, well, sticky with Elmers at least.

Best of luck, please write back with any questions - Paul

How Do I Get a Different Basic Train Engineer Frequency? - April, 2009

Jon Durkin writes:

I bought a crest basic engineer to operate one track system on my HO setup. Then, I bought another for my second system and it was the same frequency (27.195) as the first. In the article you wrote you said that there were several frequencies available. Do you know if there are still different freqs available? Thanks, Jon

Jon

TE Basic's are made in "batches," a big bunch of one frequency, then a big bunch of another, etc. Most dealers only order a few at a time so they wind up with an assortment of frequencies. There is supposed to be something on the packaging to indicate which batch it is. Obviously that's not much help to you now. :-(

At any given time there are usually six or seven different frequencies on store shelves around the country. If you still have the receipt and packaging for the second one, you might be able to exchange it for a different frequency, or return it to the store and try to find one with a different frequence somewhere else. Otherwise, maybe AristoCraft's service department can help you.

I'm copying your note to T.A.T.E., a sort of spokesperson for AristoCraft who is also a good friend; he almost certainly has more insight into this than I do and may be able to suggest an alternative I haven't thought of.

[Ed. Note: The following reply is from T.A.T.E]

Jon,

Thanks for your interest in Aristo-Craft Trains!

Paul was right on the money when he said that when we produce the TE Basic, we make them all one frequency, and then the next production is on a different frequency.

Since the very largest portion of our TE Basic users never use more than one at a time, this meets the needs of 99% of our TE Basic customers. We do make multiple frequencies, since we do know that some folks do use multiple units.

Each package has the frequency identified on a white star sticker on the outer packaging. The best way to get a second unit on a different frequency would be to contact a few of the larger mailorder retailers, and see what frequencies they have in their stock. Dealers who maintain very large inventories of our products often have more than one frequency in stock. . . . [Watts Train Shop, in Indiana, is one dealer that keeps a large inventory.] Be sure to be very specific about the frequency you have and the requirement that the purchased unit be a different frequency.

e-Bay is another option.

You can also give our sales desk a call at: 973-351-9800 (10AM-5PM Eastern M-F) and we can check our stock to see if we have a different frequency in stock. All items sold directly from our warehouse are sold at MSRP +shipping, as we try not to compete with our retailers.

Alternatively, let me know what frequency you have, I can have the warehouse check what's on the shelf.

Enjoy Your Trains! - TATE - The Aristo Train Engineer

Is there a real English Train that Goes with the Dickens Village? - February, 09

Shelia writes:

I am looking for a train to go with my Dickens'village. Are there any on30 which are 'British'steam trains? Or something that would be generic 1850's, but not identifiably American?

Shelia,

You've hit on a "sore point" of Dickens Villages - nobody actually makes a working On30 train that is actually based on the trains used in the early 1800s in England. If you just want one for looks, the Dept. 56 Flying Scot #55735 is a set of ceramic sculptures in the shape of an early British train. (I'll try to attach a photo). But this is a toy, not entirely worth tracking down in my opinion.

One toy set that was sold under the Dept. 56 name was #5997_8. The locomotive is North American, and it has a north american caboose, but the coaches are definitely European. I'll try to send two photos of that as well.

You MIGHT be happy with an HO european tran. Many are made, though I don't know enough specifics to give you any recommendations. They will look a little small next to your houses and very small next to your figures, though.

Within the On30 family, your best bet is to select a starter set that you think will blend colorwise with your set. I have the Bachmann Christmas passenger set shown on the following page:

The Thomas Kinkade Lamplight Village set has a paint job that looks a little more English to me. That train is shown on the following page:

If you're okay with a more modern look, the Lionel O gauge Hogwarts express is actually a fine model of an early 20th century British (Great Western Railway) steam train)

Hope this helps, please let me know if you find something I didn't list, because you're not the first person with this question and you won't be the last.

Have a great spring - Paul

Train Whistle for a Christmas Express Train - February, 09

Linda writes:

Need information on a train set that I could get a whistle with to sound like a real train. I have a Christmas Expess train and would love to have the sound of a real train added if at all possible. I would appreciate any information you could give me on this issue Thank you LInda.

Hi, Linda,

I have to confess you've asked a question I haven't thought about in a long time. My outdoor trains mostly have sounds built in, but I don't think about it much for my indoor trains, since I tend to only run them at Christmas when the stereo or something is playing anyway.

One suggestion that comes to mind is to contact your local hobby shop and ask them what they have that would just sit somewhere and you could make the whistle blow just by pushing a button. Lionel used to make a box that did just that, but your power supply might not be strong enough to drive it.

It may also use a sensor to whistle when the train comes by, but you might not want that on a train that circles the track every 45 seconds. :-)

Bachmann makes a similar product, that is shown at the following page:

It's a little small compared to Christmas Village structures, but you could put it toward the back if that was a problem.

Another option might be to go to your library (or amazon) and get a CD of train sounds and put it on a little CD player hidden next to your railroad.

Some HO modelers use a fancier setup where they have little speakers hidden around the railroad, and the train sounds seem to follow the train from one part of the railroad to the other, but those systems are pretty expensive. Hope this helps - Paul

Click to see exclusive, licensed Disney(r) train and village collections!

Is it Safe to Keep Trains in the Attic? - December, 08

Barry Jones writes:

Do you know if it is OK to store LGB and similar trains in the attic? I have a small collection of G guage and other trains and have kept them in the basement for years but now plan to finish off the basement and am wondering if the heat and cold in the attic are likely to cause a problem. - Thanks.

Barry,

Is your attic ventilated so it doesn't get to 150 degrees F? or get filled up with humidity from the house like a sauna? I have kept several Large Scale trains in the attic for years with no noticeable effects (except some natural oxidation of the brass track that would probably have happened anywhere).

But my attic IS ventilated. Also I live in Ohio. If you live in Florida or Ottowa, the answer may be different - Paul

Need Two Big Christmas Trains in Ireland Next Year - December, 08

Finn Ryan, of Ireland, writes:

Hi. I organise a children's charity event in Ireland every Christmas. Next year we would like to get 2 large train sets for under our 2 biggest trees. The trees are approx 12 foot high & I am looking for something really big to run under them(indoors). Any suggestions on where I should start looking?

Thanks for your help. No panic on a reply, this will all be for next years event. Regards - Finn Ryan

Finn,

Thanks for getting in touch. Are you talking about a one-day event (or even a one-evening event)?

In that case, I would recommend Bachmann Big Haulers. They are big and a very good value (You can get bigger garden trains but not for less than $400US@). The train in the title photo of the following page is a Bachmann. Two Bachmann Christmas starter sets are shown farther down the page.

Also the ET&WNC Passenger train on the following page gets used as a Christmas train a lot. The colors are more muted but it's very impressive under the tree.

The passenger cars on these trains are lit by a 9volt battery that goes in a compartment under the train, so they'll glow all evening, whether the train is running or not. But if you are going to use them for several days, you're going to want to stock up on batteries or get a recharger and some rechargeable batteries.

You might also consider getting an extra train set just so you'd have extra track and a backup engine in case one of the locomotives took a header. Bachmann track can only be used indoors, but a nice oval of track comes with each set, and you're planning on indoors anyway.

If cost were no issue, I'd recommend buying a circle of brass track for each train, say 8'-diameter or 10' diameter, depending on how far out you expect the trees to spread and how much room you have. The trains WILL run better. But that will cost more than the trains. . . . The Bachmann curves make 4' circles, but with the straights included (especially if you buy an extra set), you can make "squares" or "octagons" around your trees. The trains just won't run as smoothly as if they had wider radius turns.

Now if I've misread your note and you're really going to be running these trains for weeks instead of hours, I'll recommend AristoCraft - it costs more but holds up better in the long run.

The AristoCraft Passenger set shown near the top of the following page is one of my favorites: http://bigchristmastrains.com/ls_xmas/ls_xmas.htm

Again, it's smaller than the Bachmann set, but much more solid.

WHATEVER you do, I'd love to see photographs, and maybe a write-up - either for my BigChristmasTrains.com page or for my FamilyChristmasOnline.com pages. . . .

Have a very merry Christmas and a spendid New Year - Paul

[Editor's Note: Finn replied and said:

Wow! Thanks for all that, it will certainly keep me busy in my research. I'm sure I will have some more questions before I purchase & yes I will supply photos & a report. The event is run over one weekend, 2 sessions each day & we hope in the next few years to stretch to 2 weekends. So the trains would need to run for 4 days pretty much non stop but I don't have a problem keeping a stock of batteries around. Thanks again. Happy Christmas - Finn]

Keep in touch, Finn!

Information on O Gauge and Thomas Kinkade train - December, 08

Liana writes:

Hello,

I need product information. I would like availability and the pricing on the following items:

  1. Lionel North Pole Central
  2. I wanted to know about a picture I saw on the top of this page of your website that. Please click on link to see picture of train http://bigchristmastrains.com/o_gauge_xmas/o_gauge_xmas.htm. Is that model available? If yes, what are the features?
  3. Lastly, the Thomas Kinkade tabletop train.

Thank you so much for such a resourceful website. I get a very personal feel from the website...in other words, welcoming - Liana

Liana,

Thank you for getting in touch. First of all, I should apologize for leaving the white Lionel train on the O Gauge Christmas train page. It is no longer available. Every few years Lionel changes the color of this set. When I started that page the locomotive was white. Two years later it was green, and the white ones were getting hard to find. Now it's read and the green ones are getting hard to find. I actually have some notes about that at the bottom of that page. It has almost exactly the same features as the red and green "Lionel North Pole Central Christmas Train" that we show now, however, so if you come across a white one somewhere else, you'll have some idea what you are getting. It's my favorite of the three, by the way, but outside of the paint job they're all three the same train.

Now here's the hard part, the green one is almost out of stock too. I followed up on it and found out because of your e-mail to me. So thanks. The one vendor who WAS carrying it is out but I just found two more who are. The one I put up was the one selling at the lowest price. If I get a chance, I'll add the other ones too, later.

Now I'm not entirely sure which Kinkade tabletop train you mean. Generally I have either a "Buy button" or a line that says "Click on the photograph for more information." Those should take you to the Collectibles Today pages that dscribe the product in more detail. Collectibles Today is the only company that sells those, so whatever pricing they advertise is the only pricing there is.

If you're looking for a whole train set, only ONE Kinkade set is sold as a set this time of year - most of them are only sold a piece at a time, like a subscription magazine. The first "issue" is the locomotive and tender (coal car). The second issue is one car and a loop of track. The third issue is a car and the power pack. Once you have those three issues you have enough to run the train, although every train has at least four issues and many have more.

Right now the original Kinkade Christmas train is available in a Super Starter Set, which is the first three issues, enough to run a train, all at the same time. You also get charged for all three at one time, so be prepared for that.

Information on the Super Starter sets is on both my Hawthorne Village train page and my Thomas Kinkade train page. http://bigchristmastrains.com/hawthorne_trains/kinkade_train.htm

Click on the words "Super Starter Set" on the page above to go right to the Collectibles Today page. . .

If you're interested in the one-piece Thomas Kinkade train-and-town sets, just click on the "buy" buttons near the one you like for more information. It's completely safe - you don't have to decide anything until the next page.

Why don't I post prices? When I started out, I did. But I found out that just LISTING some of these trains caused my "preferred vendors" to sell out in a hurry, then if I wanted to still list them, I had to find other vendors who charged other prices. As you may guess, that made the last few weeks before Christmas very weird for me. So now I make you click through. Sorry about that.

Best of luck, and have a very Merry Christmas - Paul

Broken Coupler on a Hawthorne Train - December, 08

Kara writes:

I just ordered the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer train from Collectibles today and managed to break one of the couplers. It looks like they are just held in by one very small screw and would be an easy fix to replace, but this is my first train set of any kind and I have no idea how/where to get a new coupler and what to get. From some internet research, it seems they are the Kadee couplings. How can I find out what size I need and where to purchase a new coupler? Are they as simple to switch out as the single screw would imply? Many thanks - Kara

Kara,

You are right, this is an easy fix. These trains use mechanisms, chasses, wheels, and couplers from Bachmann train company's On30 line.

Update for 2009: Reader Lee Olson says: "In regard to the latest letter regarding Bachmann On30 couplers, these actually are HO couplers, nothing special. Bachmann E-Z Mate couplers are the direct replacement."

Your first stop might be to call some hobby shops in your area and ask if they have Bachmann Ho or On30 trains. Even if they don't, any well-equipped hobby shop should have a coupler that would be compatible.

In the meantime, you could swap out the "last" coupler from the "last" car so you have enough to run the train.

Hope you're enjoying your train in the meantime. Please let me know if you have any other questions or issues, Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - Paul

How Big is the Bachmann Big Hauler Locomotive? - November, 08

Costa writes:

Hi, I'm interested in the Bachmann G North Pole Special, and I would just like to know the relative size of the locomotive. Can you also provide me with the size of the Bachmann G Night Before Christmas and Bachmann Jingle Bell Express (how long and how high of just the locomotive). thank you for your time.

Costa,

All of the current Bachmann Large Scale (G) train sets use basically the same locomotive, the "Bachmann Big Hauler Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0)."

Although they have been reengineered several times since they were introduced in the 1980s, their overall dimensions have stayed the same. So if you've every seen ONE Bachmann 4-6-0, you know the size. If you've seen an LGB mogul, the Bachmann is longer, and I think a tad taller.

Now here's the embarrasing part: I have three or four of these buried somewhere, but I don't have time tonight to dig one out. The measurements below come from a supplier, and are probably accurate.

Scale: G 1/22.5

Steam Locomotive Size

  • Length: 18" (45.7cm)
  • Width: 4-1/2" (11.2cm)
  • Height: 7-1/4" (18.4cm)

Tender Size:

  • Length: 11-3/4" (29.8cm)
  • Width: 4-1/2" (11.2cm)
  • Height: 6" (15.2cm)

In other words, this is about as big a locomotive as you want to see around your Christmas tree - that's why I call it a "jaw-dropper" in that application. They also look very nice in the yard or garden railroad. They're WAY too big to use with Christmas villages. Does that help?

Have a great holiday season - Paul

Save Your Internet Order Confirmation Pages - November, 08

Patty writes:

I ordered the Philadelphia Eagles wooden train for my 4 year old grandson. A full payment plus shipping costs was sent on October 6, 2008. When might I expect the train to be delivered?

Patty,

Thanks for getting in touch. I understand your disappointment. However, I don't sell that train, nor do I link to it from my site. In fact, I can't even find this train on any of the sites I link to, so I don't know where to tell you to look.

When you ordered your train, did they send you a confirmation e-mail or give you a confirmation screen to print? That would tell you who to contact.

Or if you ordered over the phone, do you have the catalog or web page you were looking at when you ordered?

Sorry I can't be more help. When you do figure out who you ordered from, please let me know. If it's someone I link to and they're not much help, I may be able to help you out.

Again, I'm sorry you're having trouble getting this merchandise - you probably should have received it by now, so you're right to start tracking it down. - Paul

[Editor's note: I included this exchange as a reminder that whenever and wherever you order online, you need to print the "confirmation page" and save it somewhere. This time of year I get several messages like this from folks who aren't even sure where they ordered their trains so they write me in hopes that I sold them the train or know who did. (In case you wondered, I don't hear personally from the hundred or so folks who order and receive their trains in the same timeframe with no problems.) The point is, keep a printed record of ANY internet transaction, and you'll always know who to contact if you think something is going haywire. Thanks - Paul]

What Do You Recommend for a Back-and-Forth Railroad? - November, 08

Jeff Walsh writes:

For Christmas decor, where can I find a train that runs back and forth (forward and reverse) on a length of straight track?

Jeff,

If you want Large Scale (Big trains like LGB or AristoCraft), BOTH LGB and AristoCraft have made "reversing systems" that depend on a little magnet you put on the bottom of your train. The Aristo system use to be part # 11090. I think they have a new version now. Basically, if you get one of those sets, you can run any Large Scale train on it as long as your track is at least three times as long as your train.

If you're thinking of something smaller, like On30, you should consider the Bachmann auto-reversing trolley set. The Non-Christmas number was 25016. I don't have the Christmas number, but either works fine for Christmas. Unfortunately my only supplier that carries that just went out of business, but you should be able to find one around.

The product is shown about halfway down the page on the following link:

You'll notice that there isn't a vendor link. Sorry. :-(

Still, I hope this puts you on the right track - Paul

[Ed note: Jeff and I followed up with several e-mails. He has ordered a Bachmann Big Hauler train and is shopping for reversing units as I type this.]

How Big is the Bachmann Big Hauler Locomotive? - November, 08

Costa writes;

Hi, I'm interested in the Bachmann G North Pole Special, and I would just like to know the relative size of the locomotive. Can you also provide me with the size of the locomotive in the Bachmann G Night Before Christmas and Bachmann Jingle Bell Express sets? Thank you for your time - Costa

Costa,

All of the current Bachmann Large Scale (G) train sets use basically the same locomotive, the "Bachmann Big Hauler Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0)."

Although they have been reengineered several times since they were introduced in the 1980s, their overall dimensions have stayed the same. So if you've every seen ONE Bachmann 4-6-0, you know the size. If you've seen an LGB mogul, the Bachmann is longer, and I think a tad taller.

Now here's the embarrasing part: I have three or four of these buried somewhere, but I don't have time tonight to dig one out and measure it first-hand. The measurements below come from a supplier, and are probably accurate.

Steam Locomotive SizeTender Size
Length: 18" (45.7cm)Length: 11-3/4" (29.8cm)
Width: 4-1/2" (11.2cm)Width: 4-1/2" (11.2cm)
Height: 7-1/4" (18.4cm)Height: 6" (15.2cm)

In other words, this is about as big a locomotive as you want to see around your Christmas tree - that's why I call it a "jaw-dropper" in that application. They also look very nice in the yard or garden railroad. They're WAY too big to use with Christmas villages. Does that help?

Have a great holiday season - Paul

Angry Budweiser Fan Wonders Why His Train Collection Didn't All Come at the Same Time - November, 08

Editor's Note: I included this note because I get about three of these a year - people who ignore all of the information about collectible subscription trains on our pages and on the Collectibles Today/Hawthorne Village pages. Some convince themselves that they should get the whole train for the cost of the first installment (the locomotive, which is always worth more than you pay for that installment). Sometimes they refuse to pay for the second piece and CT stops shipping stuff to them, then they wonder where the rest of the train is. This reader may have done that or he may have simply failed to read the part about the train coming one piece at a time, about 3-4 weeks apart.

Either way, the news is very good for him. If he's upset because he misunderstood what he was ordering and just wants his money back, he can return the pieces he has so far for a full refund. If he just wants to know why he doesn't have more of the train yet, the CT help desk can check on his shipment dates. Either way, CT is so helpful (even to misguided customers) that I can reply cheerfully and helpfully even to comments like the ones below. - ed.]

Joe (not his real name) writes:

I bought the Budwiser train and you have only sent two of thew three required boxes whats up. I am ready to contact the state attrony generals offfice.

Joe,

I am sorry that you don't seem happy with your purchase, but you didn't order your train from my site. In fact, I don't even advertise Budweiser trains on my site, if you don't count this reply to your note.

Based on what I can figure out, you almost certainly ordered a Hawthorne Village train collection from Collectibles Today.

Click to see this page on the Collectibles Today site. Does the image on the right look like the page you ordered through?

As their web site points out, they sell these trains as "collections." You get one piece (they call it an "issue") every few weeks, and you pay for them one at a time.

See if you can locate the paperwork that came with your train. If you ordered online, and you printed out your order number that would help, too. Then call their help desk at 1-877-268-6638.

If the third piece is on the way, they can tell you. If you aren't happy with the products or their service, they will give you instructions on returning the pieces you have so far for a full refund.

I have several similar trains in my collection, including a McDonald's train that is very nice. I'm sure you'll be delighted with the train once you've worked everything out. But if for some reason you're not, Collectibles Today has an excellent reputation for customer service and a 1-year satisfaction guarantee.

Hope this helps. Please let me know how things worked out or if I can help in any other way - Paul

McDonald's Train is a No-Go - November, 08

Ken writes:

My son just received a gift from his great grandfather. It’s a McDonald's Electric Train Collection from Hawthorne Village. I opened the train and set it up for my son. Once I connected the power and placed the train and its coaches on the tracks and turned the speed up expecting it to start moving. However, the train did not move. I checked all the connections and the train and its coaches lights are lit so I know that it’s not the power issue. The lights on the train and coaches increases and decreases in intensity as I move the speed dial. Do you know if there is a switch on the train so it will allow moving? The train did not come with any direction and I don’t know where the train came from so I can’t contact the company where it was shipped from.

The train was shipped to grandfather’s address and then it was shipped to us from him. I hate to contact the 90 year old and disappoint him that train did not work if it was an operational error. I can’t find a switch any where. It’s probably broken but I thought I would ask. Do you know who makes this train? Thank you, Ken

Ken,

Click for more information about this train. Thanks for getting in touch. I can probably answer your question. First, please look at the photo to the right see if this is the train in question:

I have one of these, and there isn't a switch on the locomotive - if the lights come on in the coaches, and the locomotive is on the track, the train should run.

However, I have lots of good news for you. The locomotive is made by Bachmann company, which has a lifetime warranty on their trains. In the WORST CASE, it could cost you $15 to get fixed. The "worst case" is:

  • If there is no documentation or
  • If the train was obviously abused, or
  • If the train was purchased from someone who is not a legitimate dealer such as through ebay or from a collector, or
  • If the original purchase was more than a year ago.

The link for Bachmann's service department is:

You would send them the locomotive ONLY with a check for $15 and they would fix it.

The reason I suggest this is that Collectibles Today, who sells Hawthorne Village trains, sells them one piece at a time, like a magazine subscription, so if your son got the whole set at once, they COULD have come through someone who subscribed and then sold the set to your son's great-grandfather.

Alternatively, your son's great grandfather might have subscribed himself and waited until he had the whole set before he gave your son the train. Or he may have bought the train from one of the other (very few) legitimate outlets for Hawthorne Village trains and bought the train there. If THAT'S the case, and the locomotive is less than a year old, Hawthorne Village will replace it for free. Go onto the Collectibles Today Contact page for a description of your return options:

Or if those links don't answer your questions, their help desk # is 1-877-268-6638, although I have to warn you, they get seriously snowed this time of year.

Or if for some reason Hawthorne Village can't replace it, and you have documentation that proves it was purchased through an authorized channel within the last year, Bachmann will fix it for free.

I know that there's a lot of "ifs" in this note, but I told you about the "worst case" first so you'd know that the worst that can happen is you're out $15 plus shipping one way. It's just as likely that you can get it replaced or fixed for free. This is one reason I like promoting these trains on my site - both Hawthorne Village/Collectibles today and Bachmann have excellent records of customer satisfaction.

So if you can find out nicely where and when the train was purchased, you will know where to send the locomotive and whether or not it will cost you $15.

This is a very nice set and a thoughtful gift; I'm sorry you've had this glitch, but, as you see, getting it "rectified" won't be all that painful. I do suggest you act soon, though, because both Bachmann and Collectibles Today get seriously "snowed" this time of year.

Finally, if for some reason you can't get the locomotive back in time for Christmas, you should know that ANY Bachmann On30 locomotive will work with this train. Here's a page that shows most of the On30 locomotives.

Thanks again for getting in touch. I hope I've both answered your question and given you a little reassurance that a non-working train by a world-class company like Bachmann is not the "end of the world."

Please let me know how things work out, and have a great holiday season - Paul

Will On30 Trains Run on Tighter Curves? - October, 08

Richard Baker writes:

Space is a problem in one portion of my Department 56 Christmas Display. I am considering using the Bachman EZ Track 15" radius. Will my On30 trains navigate on that radius? Thanks.

Dick,

That's a REALLY good question. The little 0-4-0s and 0-4-2Ts will navigate a curve as small as 6" radius. But you probably have the 2-6-0 that comes with most On30 train sets. My guess would be that they would handle a 15"-radius curve okay, and so would most cars made for On30 today, although the passenger cars will look a little toy-like on the outside of the tight curves. I can't say for certain unless I go to the store and buy some 15"-radius track and try it out for myself, though. Sorry I'm not entirely prepared, the question never came up. But when my dad was into HO, we ran some ridiculously large trains on the 18"-inch radius track, including 2-8-8-2s and the like.

For really narrow spaces, mantles and the like, I recommend the auto-reversing streetcar set, the one shown about halfway down our On30 page

I think it actually comes with 15"-radius track, but the track also has extra conductors to handle the reversing mechanism, so it's not interchangeable. You can put other trains on the reversing track though - I think you add a magnet to the bottom of the locomotive.

Hope this helps, please let me know what you wind up doing - Paul

Do you buy Lionel Train Collections? - October, 08

Shelly writes:

Do you buy Lionel Train Collections?

Shelly,

Thanks for getting in touch. I don't collect Lionel myself, though I know some folks who do. Unfortunately, most Lionel collectors started out running Lionel trains in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, so as you might imagine that demographic is, let's say, shifting. In other words, more people are leaving the Lionel collection hobby every year than joining it - yes, some Lionel afficianados will argue with me, but I go to the train shows, too, and see the same dealers bringing the same trains back year after year, sometimes with lower prices. I personally buy trains to run, not to collect, so this sort of dynamic doesn't affect me like it does the person who is used to thinking of their "Lionel Girl's Train" as an investment.

Every year it becomes a litlte bit harder to find a market for anything but choice pieces. If you want to put together a list of pieces, I'll send it around to folks I know. Your BEST bet to earn every possible nickel is to sell it a piece at a time on eBay. Some pieces go for less than they should, but some go for more than they should, so it usually balances out. But you may not have the time or interest for that.

Let me know if you have any other questions,

Best of luck - Paul

Are the Buildings in the Kinkade(tm) Villages Lighted? - October, 08

Marian D. writes:

I am interested in electric lighted miniature houses by Thomas Kinkade. In viewing the web site I'm not certain if the houses are painted to look like light from the windows or if they are electric lighted. If you have a catalogue with electric lighted houses by Thomas Kinkade I am interested in having you send it to me. Thank you very much - Marian

Marian, I have houses from two or three different Kinkade series, and they are all lit from within by electric lights. Some of them have translucent windows that are made from a different material than the house itself. They are quite dramatic lit up. They are also very attractive when they're not lit, if that helps.

Click for a way bigger photo.The photo to the right shows two Kinkade buildings on one of my little setups last year. They're both from the Lamplight Village set. Although they come with lights, they are not lit in this photo. (I keep forgetting to plug them in when I take photos.)

The windows in the flower shop on the right are painted pale yellow, but they are also thinner than the rest of the structure, so the light glows through when it is plugged in. The windows in the church are made from another material, like a hard resin, that gives a stained-glass window effect. It has a warmer "glow" than the flower shop when it's lit. These are all still in my attic at the moment, so I can't be more specific, but this should give you a general idea.

If you go to the Collectibles Today page that shows these, you'll get a better idea of how they look when they are plugged in.

Regarding catalogs, I'm sorry, but I don't have any printed ones. I just provide a lot of links to the Collectibles Today pages because I like their products and their customer service. The only online index I have to these is the Kinkade Trains page.

Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any more questions. - Paul

Stop the Train! - June, 08

[Name withheld] writes:

I would like to stop future shipments and would like to make returns back to the company...please send me information on what I need to do. Thank you.

Dear [Name withheld],

If I am guessing correctly, you probably ordered a train or village collection from Collectibles Today, who makes Hawthorne Village trains.

Their customer service # is: 1-877-268-6638

They are very helpful, especially if you've kept all the packaging and paperwork. In fact, you can stop any subscription at any time, and you can usually send back the pieces that you don't want within 364 days!. After that the trains have a lifetime mechanical warranty from Bachmann, so you have a backup even if you have a problem with something years down the road.

Historically, Collectibles Today is very helpful with this sort of thing. But you do have to contact them yourself, as their privacy policies keep me from getting a record of your business transactions with them.

Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any more questions about this or any other topic you see discussed on our sites - Paul

[Note: I included this e-mail for three reasons:

  • It is a good example of a kind of request that I get once in a while to answer questions about a subscription train or village order. In most cases, I can only refer the reader to the Collectibles Today customer service number (which is already on my contact pages). In case you wondered, readers who contact Collectibles Today through the customer service number have reported very good service. So have customers who have contacted Bachmann Trains about Hawthorne Villages trains that need repair. One reason I allow Collectibles Today/Hawthorne Village(r) advertisements on my page is that they are helpful to everybody (even me), within reason, of course. The other reason is that their products really do have exceptional quality.

  • It is also a good example of something else that occurs. The tone of the note seems fairly urgent, but the sender sent this e-mail from an account that is not letting new e-mails through, and my reply to the sender keeps bouncing. About 20% of the e-mail inquiries I get come from people who either have an e-mail system that is not accepting new mail, or whose e-mail system is set to block everyone NOT on their "whitelist." Usually this hurts only me. Sure, I spend from five to twenty-five minutes replying to inquiries, and it's frustrating when reply bounces. But in this case, neglecting to include a working e-mail address (or phone #) will complicate this person's life, and probably make it seem like I haven't replied to the original request. PLEASE, if you have an urgent request, or if you have any doubt that your e-mail will be working for the next several days, include a telephone number.

We new return you to our ordinarily scheduled e-mails. ]

Christmas Buildings for On30 Trains in the UK? - June, 08

Tim Viney, of Portsmouth, UK, writes:

Where can I buy Christmas buildings for On30 scale in the U.K.?

Tim,

If you're thinking about ceramic Christmas buildings that will go with your On30 trains, Collectibles Today, who does the Hawthorne Village trains, has an affiliate branch of the "Bradford Exchange" in the UK. Try: http://bradford.co.uk/index.php/cat/c5_Trains-and-Cottages.html/XTCsid/2db08d670b32dc7f9a92fb1213009054

If link doesn't work for you, try http://bradford.co.uk then click on Trains and Cottages in the left column.

They carry a pretty nice selection, including several sets we can't get in the US.

Alternatively, if you want an "old-fashioned Christmas" look and wouldn't mind "rolling your own," my friend Howard Lamey's "LittleGlitterhouses.com" has some instructions you might enjoy perusing. He has several projects yet to be added to his site (some of them are already on the "building" and "glitterhouse" pages of my BigIndoorTrains.com primer pages. Try http://bigindoortrains.com/primer/primer.htm)

Finally, if you're thinking about more realistic buildings that you could decorate for Christmas and which would look good with your On30 trains, consider getting inexpensive ordinary O scale structures and painting them for Christmas.

Hope this helps, please keep me up-to-date on your project, and send photos if you'd like to share with other readers - Paul

What Train Goes With My Lemax Town? - April, 08

John says:

My G scale Christmas Train doesn't go well with my Lemax Christmas houses. Which scale train would?

Click to see On30 Christmas trainsJohn,

On30 trains by Bachmann were designed to look good with Christmas villages. Check out:

Also, Hawthorne Village trains are built on Bachmann On30 frames, so they're the same size, just more expensive and detailed.

Click to see Hawthorne Village train collections.

MANY garden railroaders, who have Large Scale trains they run in the garden and even around their Christmas tree, have On30 trains they run indoors in the winter. I have been accumulating some On30 trains myself, mostly for taking photos and writing articles. They're like 1/3-size versions of your G-Scale train and just as well made (in some cases better).

While you're looking at Christmas Villages, have you seen the Glitterhouse reproduction pages? Here's a good starting point:

Hope this helps - Paul

Looking for a 3-volt Adapter for a Village House - January, 08

Sue G asks

I am looking for a replacement voltage adaptor for a village house 120V to 3V Do you know where one can be purchased?

Sue,

Thanks for getting in touch. I don't sell these myself and most of the people I advertise for don't either, but they're pretty easy to come by before Christmas. They are sold almost everywhere they sell holiday village houses. Lowes, Jo Ann's, Michael's, usually WalMart, usually Kohls and so on.

Often they're made so you can plug several accessories into one power supply, which isn't a problem since most of the accessories draw very little current.

After Christmas, they mark them down and sell them out, and you don't see them until next fall.

If you know the brand name of the adapter you had or the accessory you are using it with, that will help you get the right one next fall, or maybe find it on the internet. Most of them use the same fittings, but it would be nice to be sure.

If you need the adapter before next fall and you can tell me the brand name of the adapter or of the accessory you are using it with, I might be able to help you track one down.

The most common brand is Lemax. They occasionally turn up on Ebay even during the off season.

Ordinarily I don't send folks to ebay, but these ARE a little hard to find in the store this time of year. Please let me know if I can help in any other way - Paul

When do New Collectible Trains Come Out? - January, 08

Kevin Mullins writes:

Regarding the collectible trains: are there new trains issued every year? Is there a certain time of year the new trains are available? For example when will the new issues for 2008 come out? Thank you - Kevin

Kevin,

Thanks for getting in touch. Regarding your question, here's a long answer to a short question. . .

It seems like new collectible trains can come out any time of the year. They try to get new ones out by October most years to stimulate pre-Christmas sales, but that's not consistent. In fact, I find out about some trains because I learn that one of my readers has ordered it before I even knew it was on the market. Every year when I'm updating my buyers' guide pages, I do a "search" on trains and see what they have that I don't have listed. There are a few I haven't listed because they don't appeal to me at all, and a few I haven't listed because they don't fit into any of my categories, and I haven't gotten around to creating a new web page to accommodate them.

But other than that, I try to keep up.

The only thing that is somewhat predictable is that if they DO a train and village related to the same topic, (such as Rudolph or Norman Rockwell or the Munsters), they almost always do the village first and see how that goes (apparently it's a lot more money to design a train than to design a village).

They DON'T always follow up. For example, the first Nightmare Before Christmas village came out 18 months or so before the train. Both were very successful, leading to a Nightmare Before Christmas "Sandy Claws" village. At the same time as the "Sandy Claws" village, they introduced the "Corpse Bride" village. But that hasn't been a huge seller, and I'd be surprised if a train set for it appears.

I have a button that says "collectible trains" at the bottom of many of my pages. The Collectibles Today folks like to change links around, but I asked them to keep that one constant so that when folks click on it they can see a page of their trains. Counting the sports trains, they usually have about 50 train sets active at once, so you can navigate around from there (or enter "train" in the search box and see what else they have. And you'll have exactly the same amount of "warning" when new trains come out as I do.

I work with the Hawthorne Village marketing people, who are very nice and helpful to me and my readrs, but they're not in the loop enough to give me any "heads' up."

Hope this helps, Thanks again for dropping by - Paul

Starting a Fifties Lionel Railroad - January, 08

Joe Pierro, of North Carolina, writes:

I am retired now and would like to set my Lionels up on a permanent basis. I am looking for track plans and extra tracks. my set is from 1953 and 1954. I am looking to add pieces, tracks, scenery, etc, but I only want old pieces is great condition. thanks for your help - Joe.

Joe,

Congrats on the retirement. I don't have access to Lionel collectibles myself, but I do know that the market has stabilized. Many older collections are being sold off, and there aren't enough new collectors to keep the demand as high as it was, say, in the 1970s and 1980s. The dealers who drag their "collections" from one train show to the next are still trying to get the prices Greenburg showed back when the demand was high, but the truth is I see the same, exact trains on their tables year after year after year.

That said, train shows are good places to SEE what you're getting exactly, and most people find a few pieces they want at prices they find acceptable.

Ebay bidders usually inflate the value of most pieces (and you have to remember that a lot of these guys charge you double the actual cost of shipping). But if you have a friend who's an experienced e-bay buyer, he or she may be able to help you there.

Regarding track plans, there have been many books of Lionel track plans in the past, you should be able to track down some good ones on Ebay or Amazon.

If you want a really elaborate railroad, especially if you're going to try to fit it in wierd places (like around the laundry room), consider a track planning program. RR-Tracks is pretty good. Some new "shareware" or "semi-free" ones that I haven't tried are being advertised.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Please let me know how it goes, and if you want to take photos and keep a record of your progress, I'd love to post it. Best of luck - Paul

What About Other O Gauge Trains? - December, 07

Tom Lindsay says:

Hi, I enjoyed your article about display trains but wanted to point out that O gauge operates on tighter curves than HO or On30 - the O specification is 31" diameter curves, and O-27 is 27" diameter, compared to HO's 38". Right now Lionel is selling its sets with 36" curves, but for one trying to save space, O is capable of running in significantly smaller spaces than HO / On30.

Anyway, otherwise I enjoyed your article. You should really talk about the many fine O gauge offerings besides Lionel - Atlas and MTH are both making products at comparable price points that in many ways beat the Lionel products, for example.

Tom, Thanks; you are right on all counts. Mostly the articles have the focus they do because they come out of user inquiries or suggestions, and even photos they send to me. As it turns out most of the BigIndoorTrains and BigChristmasTrains readers have Lionel 3-rail starter sets or On30 trains or Dept. 56 buildings or some combination of the three, so do spend a lot of energy trying to help them make sense out of those combinations.

Do you have a seasonal RR setup using MTH or Atlas or O27 curves, I'd be glad to add your photos or even put up a feature showing your railroad as one of the many "right" ways to do this thing.

In the future, I would LIKE to include a broader perpective on more tips for more kinds of O-scale and O gauge railroads, but "serious" O-scalers and O-gaugers have a lot of resources now, whereas folks who started out with a Dept 56 village and decided to add a train are really left high and dry by most "model railroading" resources. I believe this kind of synergy is good for ALL the hobbies involved, a reason I'm promoting O gauge garden railroading on another site, and so on.

Please keep in touch - Paul

Looking for a Curved Power Connection Track Piece for a Kinkade Train - December, 07

Michael asks:

Last year I purchased the Thomas Kinkade Christmas Train with the many different cars etc. My question is this: the powerpack is connected to a straight track, I would like one round and not straight. Do they make those?

Michael,

The track is made by Bachmann and sold at hobby shops everywhere. Look for Bachmann NS (Nickel Silver) HO EZ-track. What you're looking for is called a "terminal" section on an 18" curve. The part # is 44402. It comes one to a package. I don't have any here, but you'll get it faster if you go to a local hobby shop anyway.

The other thing worth knowing is that the engine and chassis of your train are also made by Bachmann, so you can always get service for them. Bachmann On30 trains are mechanically identical, so if the store owner wants to know what kind of train you have, just say it's an On30 and that will mean more to him than saying it's a "Thomas Kinkade" train.

Finally, if you have a digital camera, I'd love to see a photo of your train set up, whether it's around a tree or a town or ???. I've put a lot of work into trying to build that aspect of the hobby but don't have many photos yet.

Hope this helps, please let me know if it doesn't - Paul

Can You Use Christmas Trains Outside? - December, 07

Ross asks: Would train to go around front yard by itself?

Ross,

Large Scale trains from Bachmann and AristoCraft are designed to run outside. You could install a temporary or permanent loop of track in your front yard and let the train run out there just the same as if you were letting it run around your Christmas tree. Our local club has a "portable" railroad that consists of a lot of boards that are precut to make a railroad and supports. They screw it together onsite and take it down when they need to. The roadbed (the part that supports the track) is made the same way as the roadbed in my Simple Raised Railroad article. What makes it "portable" is that the posts supporting it are not as solid and they are not set into the ground.

The other thing you need to know is that Bachmann track doesn't hold up very well outside. If you're going to have your train out more than a few days each year, consider investing in solid track such as that made by AristoCraft.

Yes, it's a lot more (since industrialization in China is driving up the cost of copper), but it is made to last for decades outside.

The AristoCraft Christmas Freight set that I mentioned as the 2007 Garden railroading bargain of the year also has a remote control that will control ANY train you put on your tracks (although if your RR is more than 10 meters from the house, the signal may be too weak to run from indoors). Another option might be to leave the power supply indoors and run heavy cables carrying just the DC outside.

This probably seems a little confusing at first, but lots of other folks have gone before you and had successful projects. That's one reason there are so many options.

I noticed you mentioned On30 as well. You CAN run On30 trains outside but they are not as weather-resistant as Large Scale trains, and little things like bird poop on the track can derail them. Also they're more subject to being blown of the track by the wind, and they're hard to see from more than a few feet away. But if you have a relatively protected small space, you CAN use them this way, just remember to take the trains inside between operating sessions.

Hope this helps. Please e-mail me if you have any more questions - Paul

Power Supply for Dept. 56 Train - December, 07

Mike Garofano asks:

I am not a train hobbyist or enthusiast (sorry), but my wife is a big collector of the Dept 56 Original Snow Village. We have the Dept 56 train and it has run fine for a few years now (only operates from late Nov to early Jan). However, this evening, the train suddenly stopped running. I have an electrical background so went through the usual troubleshooting steps (not a bad track connection, not an outlet issue, etc.)and traced the issue to the power supply/controller. When I went to open up the controller to investigate further, I found that the four screws that hold it together had non-standard screw heads, a type I've never seen before and could not even find online. Do you know (or know who I can ask) can help in troubleshooting and repairing our train? Thanks!! - Mike

Mike,

Do the train and power supply look like the ones in this photo?

If so, your train was made by Bachmann and that is a Bachmann power supply. It may say "spectrum" on the top. If it is a Bachmann power supply, it can be replaced by ANY HO power supply. If you want to try to fix it yourself, I suppose you could call Bachmann and ask them for advice. However they MAY fix it for you for a flat fee ($20?) and shipping one way.

Also, if you have the set in the photo, Bachmann can fix it, too.

If you don't have the set in the photo, and you can send me a digital photo of the set you do have - I may be able to find someone who can help you out.

Hope this helps - Paul

[The next day Mike e-mailed me back and said his power supply was working again. Duh, I should have thought of that - there's a circuit breaker in the things and sometimes they just need to cool down. As it is, all's well that ends well." - ed]

Can I Get Your Trains in the UK? - November, 07

Andy Kent, in England asks:

Do you ship to the UK or have a supplier here?

Andy, How you get trains in the UK depends on which trains you want. Lionel, Bachmann, and AristoCraft trains can be shipped from our American affiliate, TrainDiscounts.

If you want a Hawthone Village train, you need to contact the Bradford Exchange office in Britain and see if they have the train you want.

Either way, order early for Christmas. Please let me know if you need more information. Thanks for getting in touch - Paul

Power Connector for Dickens Village train - October, 07

Marie Miller writes:

I bought this train many years ago when the first train for the Dicken's Village came out. The tracks are old and very hard to keep connected. I found some tracks that were sold with a later addition at a local Hallmark shop but they did not have the piece of track for the power connection. I noticed you have track pieces for sale but do not see a track for the power connection. Do you offer one? Thanks

Click to go to an Amazon page that lets you order this part.Marie,

Thanks for staying in touch. If you have the ORIGINAL Dept 56 Dickens Village train, it was made by Bachmann, whose track you can buy at any hobby shop. Unfortunately I don't have the piece you need, but I think the piece shown in the photo to the right is probably what you need. If you click on it, you'll see several vendors who are selling it through Amazon.

You can probably get it at a local hobby shop if you'd rather see exactly what you're getting. Just look for Bachmann Nickel Silver EZ HO gauge track.

Please let me know if I can help in any other way - Paul

Colts Superbowl Train Question - October, 07

C. Berry writes;

How many train cars come with the Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl Express? Is each car a total of 3 payments of $23.31 + $8.99 for shipping or is the total for the whole Diesel Locomotive + the cars a total of 3 payments of #23.31 plus $8.99. Can the whole train set be purchased at one time & delivered at one time? Thanks.

Collectible NFL Football Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl Electric Train Set Collection Cherie,

I know it's a little confusing. The train is a "collection" that comes in separate shipments. Each shipment is $69.95 + 8.99 for shipping and handling.

The Diesel "A" unit (the piece pulling the train) is first. Then comes the "B"Unit with some track, then the big car with the Colts on the side and a power supply. I don't know what the fourth car on this train is, but the fourth piece is always a car and the "rest of the track." By the time you have the first four pieces, you have enough track to make a nice oval and a nice train to run it on. Now here's where it gets interesting. If a train is popular, they keep making cars, and you can keep getting them as long as you want. Each car comes with more track or sometimes other accessories like switches, crossing signals, and so on. The "Basic set" is considered to be the first four shipments. Anything after that is considered optional, although you can always stop after the 1 or 2 pieces if you want. Also, they have a 365-day warranty, so save everything that comes with the train, including the certificates, etc. If you decide after a couple of months you don't like it, you can send it back for a full refund.

Regarding getting more than one issue at a time (say trying to get the first 4 issues at once), your best bet is to contact Collectibles Today directly and see if that's possible. It usually isn't but you may be lucky. Their 1-800# is 1-877-268-6638

Best of luck, please let me know what you decide to do, and if I can be helpful with any other questions - Paul

What Do Gauges Mean? - September, 07

Kathy Vahovick writes:

I'm new to model trains and would like to know what the designations, ie 0 gauge mean for the different gauges. Thank You.

Kathy, Technically, "gauge" means the difference between rails. As examples, most real trains have track with rails that are 4'8 1/2" apart, though some have rails 30" or 36" or one meter apart. When companies first started making toy trains, about 150 years ago, each company made their track at a different gauge, so if you bought a train from one company it wouldn't run on the same track as a train from another company.

About century ago, Maerklin and the other manufacturers wanted to standardize toy train track so toy trains would be more interchangable. They came up with three different gauges. Gauge 3, 2, and 1, with 1 being the smallest. Gauge 1 is the only one of THOSE sizes being manufactured today. It's about 1 3/4" wide. Almost all Garden Trains run on Gauge 1 track, sometimes called G gauge track.

Click to see Garden Trains that run on Gauge 1 track.

Gauge Zero (now called O gauge) was invented for people who didn't have room for Gauge 1 trains. Its track is about 1 1/4" wide. Most Lionel trains run on O gauge track today.

Click to see Lionel O gauge train sets.

HO is about half that size, about 5/8". MOST HO trains are models of "standard-gauge" trains (the kind that run in the United States on rails that are 4'8.5" apart. They are about 1/87th the size of real trains. The only HO gauge trains on my site are the Sports Team trains.

Click to see a list of available sports trains.

N is about half of the size of HO; it's used by people who want to have a large railroad empire in a relatively small space. To give you an idea of size, my thumb is bigger than most N gauge locomotives. I don't have any N gauge trains on my site at all, since I tend to focus on trains people my age can see without squinting.

In between O and HO is S scale (which is seldom used these days) that uses track with rails 7/8" apart and tend to be 1/64th the size of the real thing. Not much is being made in S scale these days, so it's probably not important for your purposes.

In addition to track gauge, there are differences between the kinds of trains that are modeled. As an example, MOST HO trains are models of "standard-gauge" trains (the kind that run in the United States on rails that are 4'8.5" apart_. They are about 1/87th the size of real trains.

Back to O gauge, most O gauge trains IMITATE "standard-gauge" trains. If they were really made to scale they would be 1/45th or 1/48th the size of the real thing. But they're not, usually, because they would be too big to fit in most folks houses reasonably. So they are often made too short to be "scale trains." Still, they're very good around Christmas Trees

But a new kind of train that is popular with Christmas village is the On30 train. These are models of very small real trains that ran on track only 30" wide. But they are built in a scale that O gauge trains should be (1:48). As a result, they are nearly as large as Lionel, but they run on HO gauge track, so they fit almost anywhere. I recommend On30 trains for use with Christmas vilages and small Christmas trees.

The biggest trains you can easily buy are 1 Gauge trains, also called G gauge, Large Scale, or Garden Trains. They are large enough to be seen across a big backyard, and most of them are made to handle sunlight and dampness. I recommend them if you have a really big Christmas tree or you want to set up a big display for the neighborhood or a business.

Here's the short list of what's most readily available to most people:

  • O gauge three-rail trains from Lionel - Good for Christmas trees
  • On30 trains from Bachmann or Hawthorne Village - Best train for Christmas villages
  • Large Scale trains from AristoCraft, Bachmann, LGB - Great for large Christmas trees or outdoor or professional displays.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions - Paul

A Bigger, More Colorful Train - September, 07

Jimmy, of Columbia, Maryland says:

Hi Paul, I stumbled across your website and it has tons of great info. I'm interested in a large scale, colorful Christmas train set and was just curious what your recommendation is. Currently, I have Lionel's Polar Express and it looks great with my Christmas village going around my tree. But I want a big colorful set now. Thanks for your help - Jimmy

Jimmy,

I'm glad you like your Polar Express train, it is a great set.

Do you usually have a pretty big tree (7' tall or more)? If you want something jaw-dropping, I'd consider a Large Scale set.

The Bachmann North Pole Special is a very attractive, colorful model.

If you want something really solid, consider the AristoCraft train on the same page. Not quite as big, but very reliable. The passenger version is being reissued; if you're interested in that, I can track you one down.

The Lionel Classic train is even more colorful, but it is definitely more toy than model. Some folks have complained that the mechanisms are noisy. So if you're more interested in train action than elf action, you may be better off with the Bachmann or the AristoCraft.

BOTH of these trains run on track that is about 1.75" apart, a half inch larger than your Lionel Polar Express uses. They both sit MUCH higher, so they make a very large impression on visitors.

If you want to stay with O gauge 3-rail track, any of the trains on the Lionel Christmas Train page will run with the Polar Express train you already have.

Don't ask me which one is "best," I've owned versions of almost all of these and they serve different "roles." My favorite manufacturer overall is AristoCraft, but I run these trains outside under some fairly tough conditions, something you'll probably never do.

Please let me know what you decide, and how you like it. - Paul

What's the Difference Between the Red and Green Lionel Trains? - August, 07

Kim, of Holland, Michigan, asks:

Other than colors and wording on the cars, is there any significant difference between the Lionel North Pole Central Christmas Train and the Lionel Holiday Tradition Special Train Set?

Also, trying to be sure I understand your review of the North Pole Central on Amazon (since it appears that 2 sets have the identical name?) - is the one that Amazon offers the diesel version? If so, do you know where we could get the steam version?

Finally, is it possible (in the future) to buy other cars that would be compatible with these sets?

Thank you very much for your helpful website and the answers to my questions!

Kim,

I am SORRY to confuse you. First of all, you are right, the main difference between the North Pole Central Christmas Train and the Holiday Tradition Special Train Set is the paint job. Also I think the train set that is being sold as #630022 on Amazon IS actually the Red Lionel North Pole Central Christmas Train that they show. E-hobbies, who first listed the item, listed the wrong catalog number and item description, and nobody in Amazon and none of the other vendors have seen fit to correct it, resulting in some confusion. Again I'm sorry.

Unfortunately, the non-Amazon vendor I had for this train just went out of business, so I can't send you to someone who knows the difference between one kind of train and another. However, people HAVE been ordering the red set through Amazon and getting the right train set (the steam one) from whichever Amazon vendor they pick, so I probably just confused the matter by pointing out that e-Hobbies had listed the wrong product # and description. :-(

Worst case, you COULD call the vendor directly and ask them (most of them have 1-800#s you can find by googling the company name). If you wind up ordering the train directly over the phone, I won't get any feedback, so please let me know how things work out.

The other question, what cars are compatible with these sets, the answer is ANY Lionel O27 car is compatible, including the Hammacher-Shlemmer cars shown on the page, and any O27 Christmas cars Lionel issues in the future. Even the Polar Express cars will run with this train on the track that comes with it, so compatibility isn't a problem.

Hope this helps,

Paul

Does the Kinkade Christmas Express Set Have a Caboose?" - August, 07

Marion W. writes:

I would be interested in knowing if the T.Kincade Christmas train has a caboose included anywhere along the line? If it does I would like to know when and how to get one. Thank you, M.

Marion,

The best way I know to get that information is to contact the Collectibles Today people directly. Their customer service phone # 1-877-268-6638. They also have a page for e-mailing questions at:

Still, folks seem to have better luck calling.

Best of luck. - Paul

Do You Have a Printed Catalog? - July, 07

Waleed, of Dallas, Texas, writes:

Please mail me a catalog about your trains.

Waleed,

I don't have a printed catalog at the moment - everything I can link to is in my web pages, and it changes weekly as new products come out and old products are discontinued and sell out. I couldn't keep a new catalog updated this way.

If you're interested in a particular kind of train, let me know and I may be able to send a catalog for that manufacturer to you.

Please let me know - Paul

How Big is the Nightmare Before Christmas Train? - July, 07

Patty C. writes:

I'm interested in the Nightmare Before Christmas train set but need to know the size in inches of the engine first. thank you.

Patty,

Thanks for getting in touch. I just got my Nightmare Before Christmas locomotive out to measure it for you. The locomotive by itself is about 7 1/4" long. The locomotive and tender together are 12" long. They are about 2" wide. The highest part of the locomotive is the smokestack; measuring from the smokestack to the ground the locomotive is 3 3/8 inches high. The rest of the locomotive averages more like 3" high.

Except for the Tim Burton-inspired paint job it is a 1:48 scale model (O scale). It is a replica of a locomotive that really ran on many small railroads in this country from a century to a century and a half ago. Think of the size of this thing as halfway between HO and O. Even though it is O scale (the same scale that Lionel is supposed to be) it isn't as big as most Lionel trains because it's a model of a relatively dinky train.

That said, it will run on most HO railroads, except that it won't go through most tunnels because of the tall smokestack.

Hope this helps - Paul

[Readers, this and other Halloween Collectibles are shown at our Halloween Trains page. - ed]

How Should I Suspend an On30 Railroad Near the Ceiling? - May, 07

Neil, of Littlestown, Pennsylvania, writes:

Is there any way to hang an ON30 track from a ceiling or close to a wall. I want to set up a running train around my son's room. Thank you.

Neil,

The good news is that On30 trains are pretty lightweight so anything that supports its own weight will hold up an On30 railroad as well, unless you add a bunch of ceramic buildings or something else heavy.

The bad news is that there isn't a single out-of-the-box product or solution specifically made for On30. There are several for Large Scale (garden trains), but they would be overkill for what you need. If you want to look at the AristoCraft product for suspending Large Scale trains, it may give you some ideas.

Some folks build the equivalent of long bookshelves. If you do this, the only "tricky" part is measuring how far "out" you need to come in the corners. Assuming you're using track with a 36"-diameter curve, you'll probably use a square piece 26" or larger in each corner. (Decide how far away from the wall the center of the track will come on the straight parts and add 20") Then you lay the square piece next to a shelf piece, tie a pencil to a string, put the pencil where the "inside" edge of the shelf hits the the square piece, hold the string down tight at the corner that will be toward the inside of the room, and draw an arc that shows you much you can cut away in each corner.

Whether you support the whole thing with bookshelf brackets or some other way is up to you. The advantage of "shelves" is that you can decorate behind the train, using painted backgrounds, false fronts and other shallow scenery devices. I even make some false fronts you can print on your computer at: http://bigindoortrains.com/indoor_resources/0_s_scale_building_fronts/0_s_scale_building_fronts.htm

Others build a roadbed that follows the track plan (cut out of wood or plexiglass) and make some sort of U-shaped brackets to suspend the roadbed from the ceiling.

Finally, the EZ track that comes with On30 sets from Bachmann or Hawthorne village is identical to the track that comes with Bachmann HO sets, so anything made for suspending HO track may work for you if you come across it (I looked myself but didn't find anything.)

Hope this helps - Please let me know what you find and/or decide. - Paul

Can I Get Hawthorne Village Products in England? - May, 07

Gaynor Williams, in the United Kingdom, writes:

I want to purchase the New York christmas in the city hawthorne village.I am living in the UK so i am unable to buy online.Please could you tell me how I can buy this item. I will be visiting New York in November. I wonder if you could tell me if there are any stores that sell this item.I shall be very grateful.Thank you, Gaynor

Gaynor,

A few Hawthorne Village items are available from the Bradford Exchange's office in the UK. They're not shown in the online catalog, but if you try the following link, you might get someone who can help you.

Most Hawthorne Village collections are only available by subscription (standing orders) unless you luck into finding one on e-bay or buy one from a scalper (someone who subscribes until he gets the whole series, then lists it for twice what he paid.)

Also, the laws governing the "standing orders" vary from country to country, so the US branch has got burned selling directly overseas and won't do it any more.

Sorry I don't have a better answer, hope this helps at least a little. - Paul

How Do I Get the Power Supply for a Coca Cola(r) Train? - May, 07

Theresa, of Pittsburg, Kansas, writes: comment: I have the first 3 cars just like the photo shows. I would like to set it up and run, but I did not receive the power supply.

Teresa,

Did you get the Hawthorne Village Coca Cola Train? If so, congrats, they're out of production and very hard to come by. Originally they came in a "subscription," where you place a standing order so that as each piece becomes available, it is shipped to you and billed to your credit card (usually about one per month).

I have taken down the Coca Cola train page, since it's out of production, but you can click on this for your reference to make certain we're talking about the same train.

Usually some track comes with the second car, a power supply comes with the third car or some such, so that by the time you have the locomotive and the first three cars you have everything you need to run the train. Since the Coke train is no longer available, whoever gave it to you may have got it in some other way, or perhaps they cancelled their "subscription" after a few pieces arrived. Fortunately, the electronics of this train are made by Bachmann, so the power supply they sell with ANY Hawthorne village steam train will work. It's called a Bachmann Spectrum "Magnum" #44-6681 Hobby. It's also the same power supply they sell with their On30 trains, such as the ones shown on the following page:

If you're interested in getting more pieces for your train, you could call the collectibles today hotline and ask them if anything is still available. It's POSSIBLE that the car that comes with a power supply is still available, so it might be worth a try. 1-877-268-6638

Otherwise, the Bachmann Spectrum power supply that comes with the On30 train sets will work fine. I'm sorry I don't have a part number for you, but any good local hobby shop should be able to help you.

Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any other questions - Paul

How Many Pieces are in the Village Sets? - February, 07

Rob Maury, of West Virginia, writes: My wife and I received the John Deere Christmas Village Thomas Kincade version as a gift but we often wondered if there were more pieces to the village available. Woul you please send me more information concerning this particular village and we are also interested in the John Deere halloween Village set. I would like to know approximately how many pieces are in that village as well.

Rob,

Regarding the Hawthorne Village collections, your best bet is to call the Collectibles Today hotline. USUALLY you'll reach someone who knows how many "issues" there have been for each set.


    United States: 1-877-268-6638
    Monday - Friday (excluding major holidays)
    8:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M., Central Time.

That said, EVERY village has at least four buildings. Usually any accessories that come with the set are shipped with the third and or fourth building. That said, if a set is very successful, they will KEEP making buildings for it, as long as people are still interested or as long as they have the License. That's not a problem with the Kinkade stuff, as he and Hawthorne Village have had an ongoing relationship for a very long time, but the John Deere company may have only signed a 2 or 3 year agreement with them.

If someone has given you several buildings at once, they either subscribed to the set and "saved it up for you" or else they got it as a special purchase somewhere, say as a part of an employee rewards plan or something. If you want more of the same set, you SHOULD be able to call the hotline above, explain which pieces you have and sign up to receive the next piece. A "subscription" is a sort of "standing order," where they send you the next piece every 3-4 weeks and bill your credit card. (If the next piece hasn't been made yet, you'll have to wait a little longer between pieces, but in your case, you're already a few "issues" behind, so that shouldn't be a problem.)

BOTH the Thomas Kinkade John Deere villages are relatively new and very popular, so a: Both sets are still getting new buildings, and b: it's likely that both sets will wind up with 8 or more buildings (maybe as many as 12). But of course you can stop your subscription whenever you feel like you're running out of counter space or whatever.

Please let me know if you have any more questions - Paul

What is the Price on Additional Cars? - February, 07

Betty, of Medon, Tennessee, asks:

What is the price on additional cars?

Betty,

Which train were you inquiring about? If you're asking about a Hawthorne village train, all trains have at least three cars, most have more. They keep making them as long as people keep buying them. The first Thomas Kinkade Christmas train is up to 12 or 13 cars. The cost of each Hawthorne Village Train "issue" is the same. So the price listed for the first issue is the price for each "issue" following. Most cars come with a piece or two of track or maybe some other accessory, so you're getting more than just a car. If you stay subscribed to a series, eventually you'll get them all. If you have part of a series and you'd like to subscribe and get the rest, contact Collectibles Today hotline. 1-877-268-6638. Tell them what train you have and which pieces you have so far.

On the other hand, if you have some other brand such as Bachmann or AristoCraft, let me know what brand you have, and I'll point you to information on getting additional cars.

Hope this helps - Paul

Batman Train Missing Couplers - January, 07

Mary writes:

Yes, I ordered the Batman train [from Hawthorne Village™], but I am missing a part. I would like to know how to order this part. It connects the train cars together. Thanks again.

Mary,

Each car should have a "coupler" on each end. A coupler is a little hook that, from the top almost looks like a hand making a "C" shape. When the cars are pushed together gently, the couplers bump a little, forcing them apart, then they snap back and hook on to each other. The cars SHOULD come with the couplers installed, or at least in the box.

Are you saying that the couplers are missing? If so, your first stop should probably be the Hawthorne Village/Collectibles Today help desk: 1-877-268-6638

If they can't help you, the train IS warranteed by Bachmann, a very large model train company that has a reputation for good service. Bachmann's Service Dept home page is:

Their customer service phone # is: 800-356-3910.

If you explain to Bachmann that you got a Hawthorne Village Batman train without couplers, they will probably just send you some. Be sure to tell them how many cars you have.

If I've misunderstood your request, or if the numbers listed above can't help you, please let me know and I'll try to chase it through from my end. Hope this give you the information you need. - Paul

[Mary let me know later that the customer service department had handled the problem quickly and sent her what she needed. By the way, this is the only thing close to a complaint I have ever had on one of these trains - Paul]

Big Outdoor Christmas Display Trains - January, 07

Christine, from Lancaster, PA writes:

I am trying to find pricing and general info on outdoor larger scale train sets. I am interested in putting one out yearly with my display and have never looked into costs for this particular item. I looked at some of your pages but couldn't find any listed information on outdoor holiday trains except a page explaining why pricing is not available online. I assume a catalog will be mailed to me but would prefer an on-line price list if there is one available along with the different types of trains for outdoor holiday displays. Thank you for your help - Christine

Christine,

The best trains for an outdoor display are AristoCraft, such as the ones shown on the following link.

AristoCraft track is very solid and well-made, so I recommend getting Aristo Track to extend your railroad (assuming you want more than a 4'-diameter circle. Sorry if I seem to be "dodgey" about pricing, but I've had vendors raise and lower prices without telling me, then readers get mad because I'm listing a different price than they get when they click through. Even the Traindiscounts folks referenced above only put the final discount on the item when you add it into your shopping cart, because some of THEIR suppliers insist on it.

In this case, the list price for that particular train is $328, and the final discounted price is $277 [As of January 20, 2007].

The Bachmann Trains can also be used outdoors, but their track can't. The biggest Bachmann Christmas train is on the following page:

That train is 257.35 once the final discounts have been applied. But you'd have to add the cost of buying a little more track, since you can't use the Bachmann track outside.

Whatever you buy, you'll want to have a way to keep it out of the weather when it's not actually running. The Bachmanm "Night Before Christmas Train" is a little smaller:

It's $247.49 after your final discount.

P.S. One of the biggest Large Scale train shows in the world happens in the spring in York PA. Check out eclsts.com for details.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any more questions - Paul

Track and Power Questions Relating to Lionel Holiday Traditions Train - January, 07

Robert Paulsen, of Los Angeles, CA, writes:

My wife bought me Lionel's "SANTA EXPRESS" G Scale rail set this christmas. She said you all were quite helpful and answered her questions as she used your site to aid in her search. I want to set this train around the tree next year. The set comes with G Scale track in a plastic "snow" bed. It also has a remote control to start, stop, make sounds etc. The track connects directly to the wall and has a on/off switch on a small transformer. None of this looks like my old TYCO HO train set of my childhood. Or the set ups at Alied train store in Culver City, CA. They were not familiar with the set and could not answer my questions. My old TYCO had a transformer with a switch to increase/decrease speed, etc. My main question is this: can I use regular G Scale track and transformer to make a unique under the tree set-up with the Lionel SANTA'S EXPRESS? Or am I stuck with the special track that came with the set? If I am stuck with this track, does Lionel make switches, etc to expand upon the included oval? Thank you for your time. As this is for next Christmas there is obviously no rush in the answer. Great site! Sincerely, Robert Paulsen.

Robert,

I assume you mean the Lionel #7-11000 "Holiday Tradition Express" train as shown on the following page on my site?

Yes, it will run on "ordinary" G gauge track. I would investigate AristoCraft track - Aristo has the best overall selection, and the little screw-on tie plates make the best mechanical collection. It's also a little cheaper than LGB track. I have a page listing most of the options at:

The 11000 series track has bigger ties that are farther apart than the 30000 series track. Which you choose isn't all that important, but once you chose one kind try to stick with it for consistency.

Also, the train WILL run on a DC transformer/rectifier/rheostat sort of Model RR power supply like you're thinking of. But chances are you would have the rheostat (control knob) on the device turned up most of the way and use the remote, not the rectifier, to control the speed. I would NOT use an AristoCraft power supply. They use something called "pulse width power" that is great for controlling model trains, but plays serious havoc with most Lionel sound systems.

The piece of track that has the rectifier/transformer built into it should say what the output is, usually something like 1000mA 12VDC. Try to get a power supply that is about the same. If you can get a "regulated" DC model RR power supply that is exactly the same and doesn't have a rheostat (control knob) go for it. Otherwise, assume you'll use the system with the control knob most of the way up all of the time.

Hope this helps, Please let me know how things work out and if you have any other questions - Paul

Will On30 Trains Work With Hornby? - January, 07

Neil Townsend, of Bacup, Lancashire, Great Britain asks:

Will your trains run on "Hornby Sets" and visa versa?

Neil,

The Bachmann On30 trains and the Hawthorne Village should on any HO track and work on any DC hobby rectifier. The Bachmann rectifiers, of course, are made to work with 110V, so they won't work in countries that use 220v "house current." I would be surprised if the couplers were entirely compatible, though. Hope this helps, please let me know if I have NOT understood your question.

Thanks and have a great year - Paul

Johny Cash Train Questions - January, 07

Gladys writes:

I have wanted to order the Johnny Cash train from Hawthorne Village, but I am confused as to how many issues they actually have. Do you know how many they have made and how many more, if any that they have? I contacted Hawthorne and the gentleman I talked to had little or no info at all. He couldn't even tell me who the train was manufactured by. I would really appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks a lot and I really enjoyed reading your pages about all the trains!

Gladys,

The trains are made by Bachmann, one of the world's largest model railroad manufacturer. They are painted and given extra detailing by factories in China that have agreements with Collectibles Today, the makers of Hawthorne Village. This means that in addition to the one year customer satisfaction guarantee you get from Collectibles Today, you will be able to get service indefinitely from Bachmann.

Did you try the Collectibles today customer service #? 1-877-268-6638

They're usually pretty helpful about things like how many have been issued so far. That said they always make at least 3 cars and sometimes get up to 12 or more on really popular trains. You can stop getting them whenever you want to, though. Hope this helps - Paul

What Size Trains go with Kohls (St. Nicholas Square) Trains? - December, 06

David Raasch, of Independence, Missouri, writes:

Just read through your page regarding cross-over between the Model Railroading hobby and the Christmas Village hobby. This is something I would like to do next year, so I'm just getting started researching trains (as I already have some Christmas Village houses).

I guess my question is regarding matching up the scale of your train with the scale of your Christmas village houses and people:

Does an O-scale / O-gauge train tend to be the "right" size for most Christmas Village pieces? Or should I be drifting upward towards Standard scale?

I don't have Dept. 56 stuff. Mostly, my village houses were given to me as gifts. They were purchased from Kohl's over the past few years.

I'm not trying to be a nit-picker regarding scale. I just want to make sure nothing in my scene looks obviously too big or too small. Thanks!

David,

The stuff from St. Nicholas averages around O scale, similar to stuff from Lemax or Dept 56. The On30 Bachmann trains (and the Kinkade trains, etc. that are based on those trains) were built especially to look right with that sort of set. Lionel would be OK in scale, but generally has less detailing and takes up more room.

Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any other questions at all. Have a great New Year - Paul

Is the Lionel Holiday Traditions Large Scale Train for Indoors or Outdoors - December, 06

Melanie, of Los Angeles, California, writes:

I love your website! I want to buy my husband a train to go around our Christmas tree. I like the look of the Classic Lionel Holiday Train Set but I think this one is for outside, in a garden. Can you tell me if it would work around a Christmas tree inside our house, and if not, can you suggest something that looks similar?

Thanks you so much!

Melanie

Melanie,

ALL of the trains we describe would work around a Christmas Tree. The Large Scale trains we show are ALL very impressive around a tree, but they all come with a 4'-circle of track, so they will fit into a fairly tight place. The other trains can fit into 36" or smaller circles, but of course they're smaller trains.

The Lionel Holiday Traditions set (the big one with the plastic elves) is the same height and width as the Large Scale trains that are meant to be used outside, but it's actually meant to be an indoor train. For one thing, the cars are fairly short so it looks appropriate on its indoor track. It's a jaw-dropper around a Christmas tree.

That said, if your husband gets the bug and starts a garden railroad (using trains that are more appropriate for outside), he COULD run it outside once in a while without causing any serious problems.

Hope this helps - Paul

Outdoor Big Christmas Train Questions - December, 06

Billy Pappas, of Daphne, Alabama writes:

Paul, I am interested in a Christmas Train for the kids as well as the big 50 year old kid, me. I was looking at the Aristo-Craft Model that you wrote about, but could not find detailed specification information about it, such as if it had headlights or even lighted cars on the Christmas Passenger model. What I want is to set up an outdoor Christmas Village with the train. One that will last even in the rain. We have snow down here about every 15 years or so. Any help would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you.

Billy Pappas

Billy,

The train has a working headlight. However the passenger cars aren't lit (the Aristo passenger cars that are lit are much more expensive). I PREFER Aristo for most things, but if you're JUST looking for a Christmas train and you want lit coaches, Bachmann will be a better buy. No, it's not as solid. But it should give you many years of service, and does come with a very good warranty.

You'd want to order a bigger circle of track anyway. I'd recommend 10ft diameter Aristo. The little loops of track that come with the trains don't even show up outsided, and Bachmann track isn't made to be used out of doors.

Also, the Bachmann and Aristo run on the same track, so if you buy a Bachmann Christmas set this year and buy an Aristo set next year, you can mix and match.

Aristo's built up stations are very good buys if you don't have any buildings yet. If you'd rather save your money and build your own, there is a line of very inexpensive (but not exactly snap-together) kits at www.coloradmodels.com. Tell them I sent you. They need painted as well as glued together, but if you're going to paint them in Christmas colors anyway. . . .

Most important, I'd LOVE to see photographs of your work in progress, as well as your finished product. Please let me know if you have any other questions, Paul

No Room for the Train to Turn Around - December, 06

Rusty Black writes I'm looking for a Christmas train and track. The length is not a concern but the turns for the oval cannot be larger than 13". Do you have any trains of this nature?

Rusty,

Any trains that could make a complete turn in 13" would be too tiny to see. Have you considered the On30 Bachmann streetcar sets that have an auto-reversing system. They're ideal for mantles and bookshelves, and the RR can be as "shallow" as you want. They're a few "pagedowns" on the following link.

http://bigchristmastrains.com/on_30/on_30.htm

Let me know if you have any questions about this set - it was one of the biggest-selling Christmas train sets last year. Hope you have a great holiday season - Paul

[Note: Rusty ordered the trolley, although I had to help him track down a dealer that had them in stock.]

Amtrack or On30? - December, 06

Juie writes:

I need to make my daughter happy with a train and village, and my son wants an Amtrak type train. I want the On30. Since I can't find an Amtrak type On30, can I buy an HO to run sometimes to make everyone happy? Thank you, Novice Mom

The good news is that if you buy a Bachmann HO train, it uses the same track and power supply as the On30 trains.

One good example of an HO Amtrack set is the Ascela, a high-speed electric Amtrack passenger train.

My main supplier's phone # is 1-800-404-4414 Mon-Fri 9a-6p EST, in case you want to check with him about delivery by Christmas. Please tell him you're calling about store #115 so he knows I sent you.

Then if you want, you can order a Bachmann On30 train for yourself, too - The same people can get you most of the On30 trains I show. Then, when your son gets bored with his, you can "borrow" his track.

Have a great holiday season - Paul

On the Trail of Rudolph - December, 06

Jim Williams writes:

I have a Rudolph & the Misfits around the tree train set. I need some replacement track. This is a Rankin/Bass set distributed by Memory Lane. I can't find the scale or anything on it to let me know what track is compatiable to it. Can you help? It's battery powered with 12' of track.

Jim,

I'll try to help, but my site only links to trains that are made by major model railroad manufacturers, so I have no direct knowledge of your set. To make it even more complicated, Rankin/Bass isn't really the name of the actual manufacturer; it's the name of the television company that originally produced Rudolph. That said, if you can get a ruler with very fine increments and measure the distance between the inner surfaces of the rails, it might correspond to a gauge of track that you can buy from other sources. You'd probably have to have to replace all of the track with a new loop, but track for smaller scales doesn't cost much, and it will look and hold upLast sighted heading toward New Jersey in a highjacked steam locomotive, this nefarious hoofer is nevertheless on the verge of being located. You can fly, but you cannot hide, Rudolph. If nothing else, your nose gives you away. much better. Let me know the measurement when you get a chance. Or you could take one piece into a hobby shop and ask if they track that would replace the piece you have.

Even if you get your track elsewhere, I'd be interested to hear if it works out - Paul

[Note from editor: After sending this e-mail, I searched ebay for a Rudolph set that fit the description Jim gave me. I sent Jim the link and asked him if that was the train he had. If so, Jim's train was made by New Bright, a company that makes plastic toy trains. I told him that New Bright track should work with his set. Jim agreed that his set looked like the New Bright. He said "I will search for the "new bright" and let you know what happens. Again thanks...."]

Which Train Set Fits On My Dining Room Table? - December, 06

Mary writes:

I want to have a small Christmas train in the middle of our dining room table. Is there one that is small enough? Could we make a figure eight that is elevated in the center? We have an O gauge for the tree, but that is too big for the table and I'm hoping you have a suggestion for bringing trains to the table. Please help. Thank you.

Mary,

Are you planning to eat around the train? If so, I'd consider the Bachmann On30 Reversing Trolley set. It goes back and forth but doesn't take up nearly as much room as the train sets do. This was our most popular set in 2005.

If you want to have a train go "around," you may have to go to an N gauge set (very tiny but cute). My biggest Bachmann supplier has an N-gauge Christmas set worth checking out. If you want to make a figure eight, call the supplier up and ask him what extra track pieces you'll need. His # is: 1-800-404-4414

As an example of the size difference, if you could open the On30 trolley like a box, you could put the whole N gauge train inside. But which you prefer is up to you.

Have a GREAT holiday season - Paul

[Note: Mary e-mailed me back to say that she liked the N Gauge train. In fact one of her family members liked it so much they ordered it, too.]

Is It Possible To Get Hawthorne Village Trains Outside of North America? - December, 06

[Ed: In the past seven days, two Europeans and one Australian contacted me to ask how they could get certain Hawthorne Village products. The Australian reader is still receiving cars for a train subscription he started many months ago, but he hasn't been able to subscribe to the collectible village that goes with the set. The following is a compilation of my replies to Mark Noble, of Canbarra, Australia, Yanni Tofarides of Cyprus, and Louise Reilly of Ireland.]

Friends,

After a great deal of research and phone calls, I've learned that the Bradford Exchange offices in several countries have access to trains, even trains they don't advertise on their own sites. The UK office was especially helpful when I contacted them, which is good news for anyone in the EU.

To find the closest Bradford Exchange, open the Bradford Group/Collectibles Today International Page. Then look toward the bottom, where it says things like Bradford Group United Kingdom, Bradford Group Italy, and so on. Note: Do not click on the the name of the connection you're interested in, such as Hawthorne Village - those links will only take you back to the North American site.

Once you click on a site in a country that is closer to you than, say, the United States, you may be disappointed to see that the regional office does not list the trains you want. But if you use the customer service information on the regional office, you may find someone who can help you get the trains or other products you want anyway. If they won't, try the next closest office, and so on. I can't promise you'll always find a helpful person, but most of the folks I got in touch with seemed very helpful.

That said, Bachmann On30 trains are the same size and run on the same track, and since the whole train comes in one box, it's a lot easier to ship them overseas. No, Bachmann doesn't have a Rudolph or Winnie-the-Pooh set, but they do have reliable, attractive trains that you can get shipped to Europe. (Latin America's a little tougher, but I'm trying to find sources for you there, too.)

How May Cars Come With the McDonald's(r) Train? - December, 06

George Washington,Jr., of Woodford, Virginia, writes:

How many car come with the McDonalds 50th Aniversary set and will each car be priced the same as the first price?

Mr. Washington,

Have you seen my Subscription Train page? The short version is that EACH issue costs the same amount. Since the first part you get (the locomotive) is worth twice what you pay for it, it evens out quickly.

Also, all of the On30 subscription trains have at least three cars, but for some really popular sets they keep going as long as there is a demand. (At last count the original Thomas Kinkade Christmas train is up to 12 issues.) Each car comes with additional track, and some issues include other accessories. You could contact Collectibles Today's customer service # to ask for certain. 1-877-268-6638

Have you seen the "Happy Memories" Collectible Village set? It's shown on my Other Villages page. It incudes a vintage McD restaurant, a Sinclair gas station, etc.

Hope this answers your question, have a great holiday season, - Paul

Wanted: A Holiday Village Train With Lots of Bells and Whistles - December, 06

Sherry writes: We want to purchase a Christmas train We have collected a village scene over the years and want to add a train that we can expand figure eights, go up hill maybe get it to the point having two trains running together on the same track. Can you tell me what I should order?Christmas carols, railroad sounds headlights steam alot of animation.

Sherry,

If you want a train that looks the best with your Holiday Village Scene, you should check out the On30 trains on the "Get it Now" page. Those trains DON'T have sound or play Christmas carols or have a lot of animation, but they do have headlights, and they are made ESPECIALLY to look good around your Holiday Village. (The Hawthorne Village trains use the same mechanisms so you can get an On30 train now and start a Hawthorne Village train subscription if you want something special, like a Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer train.)

These use Bachmann HO EZ track, which you can get anywhere, and it's very easy to find the parts to make a figure eight or other track designs. All of the Bachmann On30 trains I am recommending this year are on the following page.

http://bigchristmastrains.com/get_it_now/get_it_now.htm

If you want to start really small, consider the little back-and-forth trolley set that is shown on the same page. You could order the trolley set now (they're in short supply), then add an On30 or Hawthorne Village train later running on a separate loop for extra action.

If you want animation and music, the three Lionel trains shown toward the bottom of the Lionel Christmas Trains page provide that. (One animated car with characters chasing each other, one car that plays music). These trains are a little larger than the On30 trains, so they take up a little bit more room. That's one reason I recommend them for under trees as much as for tabletops. However you can get extra track pieces easily, so your railroad can grow quickly with these trains also.

Unfortunately for your purposes, the train with "maximum animation" as well as music is too large for your Holiday Village. That's the new Large Scale Lionel "Classic" set. If you want the biggest, shiniest, most animated train you can buy (and one of the most sturdy), this one's for you. But each car is bigger than most of the houses in your Holiday Village.

So, my first recommendation (although it doesn't have all the bells and whistles) are the On30 train sets. Second is Lionel O-gauge trains, which has the bells and whistles but takes more room. Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any more questions - Paul

Where Can I Get a Dept. 56 Streetcar Fixed? - November, 06

Mary Lou writes:

I have the Dept. 56 Village Streetcar Company Set with E-Z Track and it does not work. Do you have a technical support group that can assist?? Please advise.

Mary Lou,

Are you using the track, power supply, etc., that came with the streetcar set? If you have the set that's supposed to go back and forth, it takes a special kind of track. You can't just buy regular E-Z track and add it on. Let me know if that's the case and I'll give you more details. Also, this may seem like a dumb question, but does the set look like the ones on our Buyers Guide pages that list On30 streetcars?

If, so your streetcar was made by Bachmann, a model railroad manufacturer with a very good reputation for customer service.

There should be a 1-year warranty on your train, so if you bought it from an authorized dealer within the last 12 months, you should contact the dealer first, and Bachmann should be your second stop.

The really good news is that Bachmann provides excellent customer support. In fact their "limited lifetime warranty" means that they will fix or replace your train (at their option) for a flat rate that covers parts and labor. The "flat rate" goes up occasionally, but at the moment the flat rate for On30 trains (which is probably what you have) is $20. A few years ago they replaced the motor in my Large Scale Bachmann trolley and it was better than new for $20 (now it would be $25 for mine).

Not long ago, a reader whose Hawthorne Village locomotive had stopped working reported to me that it was in better shape than ever when he got it back.

The Bachmann Customer Service web site is down at the moment, but if you determine your streetcar is a Bachmann product, they will help you. Their customer service # is 800-356-3910.

That said, if your streetcar WASN'T made by Bachmann, or if you need other assistance, please get back in touch. - Paul

[Note: Mary Lou contacted Bachmann who said that they don't make that model any more but they would replace it with a new streetcar. Since the "paint job" on the Dept. 52 streetcar makes it a collector's item of sorts, I told her to ask if they could just put new "guts" in the old streetcar, and to contact me if there was a provlem with that. So far I haven't heard back - ed.]

What Comes with the First Installment of a Hawthorne Village Train? - November, 06

Nina writes:

I am interested in the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer® Collectible ON30 Scale Electric Train Set. I don't under stand what exactly is included in the issue for 69.95. Is it just the engine, tracks and the power pack. Or does it include all 3 additional cars as shown on the advertisement? The ad is not very specific.

Nina,

I agree that the ads aren't all as clear as they could be. In 2004, I wrote a whole article explaining subscription trains and ran it past the Collectibles Today people to make certain I was getting it right:

The short version is that the engine and tender (coal car) come by themselves in the first shipment. This is a big gamble on the part of the Hawthorne Village people as you're paying less than the locomotive would be worth even if it wasn't a custom-painted collector's item. The next installment is usually "just" a car. The third installment usually includes a car, a circle of track, and a power supply. The fourth installment usually includes a car, the rest of the track, and any figures that are included in the set.

Since these come 3-4 weeks apart, if you start your collection now (mid-November), it's not likely that you'll have enough of the train to run before Christmas. If you are a Rudolph collector, get started anyway; the orders are flooding in, and when these sell out they will be out, period. (The same thing is true of the Rudolph village, which has already been out a year and is still in very high demand.) If you don't have any sort of train now and you want a train around your Christmas village or tree, you can order a Bachmann On30 train now and get the whole thing in a couple weeks (faster if you pay extra postage). They are 100% compatible with the Rudolph train, which means you can run the Rudolph locomotive on your Bachmann On30 train this Christmas if it comes down to that.

For such "last-minute" decisions, I've put together a whole page on products that you can get right now if you want:

Hope this helps, please let me know if you have any other questions, or if I didn't answer the question you asked me clearly.

Have a great holiday seasion - Paul

Needed: A Big Train in a Small Space - November, 06

Lynn writes:

Which set would you suggest to go inside under my tree - the smallest (big cars) that you would suggest? Is there a set for a track 38 X 38. If so, what is the name of it? I want a Christmas set.

Lynn,

You probably should consider an On30 set or a Hawthorne Trains set. These are mechanically identical, but if you want the whole set by Christmas, the On30 set is your best bet. If you just use the curves that come with the set, it makes a track circle that is about 38"x38" on the outside. The cars are almost as large as Lionel cars, so they're big enough to see under the tree, and the Bachmann company will service both the On30 and Hawthorne Trains indefinitely.

I've put all the On30 trains onto one page:

If you'd rather have a collectible set and are okay with only having part of the train by this Christmas, you can get to most of those through the Hawthorne Trains page.

All of these trains come with a few straight pieces of track that you won't be able to fit into a 38"x38" circle, but which you can always use to make an oval if you have room to set the train up somewhere else later.

ANY of these trains should give you years of charming service. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. - Paul

What Cars Come with a Hawthorne Village Train? - November, 06

Sharon wrote:

I need a catalog on the Thomas Kinkade Christmas Lamplighter train; I started to get them and left off and don't what cars are available - Thanks.

Sharon,

Thanks for getting in touch. The Hawthorne Village trains, which include the Thomas Kinkade train you started buying, are distributed exclusively through Collectibles Today. Unfortunately they don't have a printed or online catalog that shows all the cars for each train, but they should be able to help you figure out what you need or how to re-start your subscription. The Collectibles Today Customer Service number is 1-877-268-6638. Please let me know if you have a problem getting their customer service person to help you, and I'll try to do any other follow-up that is necessary. So far, though, they've been very helpful in my experience. The SOONER you call before Christmas the better, though, hint, hint.

If you JUST want a working train set, you should know that the Thomas Kinkade trains are completely compatible with the Bachmann On30 trains that you order all at one time. No, the Bachmann On30 trains don't have the gorgeous detailed paint jobs that make the Kinkade trains into collectors' items. But they all play together very nicely. One On30 train, which comes in deep green, is listed near the bottom of the Year Round Display Villages and Trains page.

Hope this helps - Happy Holidays - Paul D. Race

What is the Total Cost of an On30 Train? - November, 06

Rebecca Schade writes:

I was just wandering how the costs really work. Is the amount given the total for the entire train set or is it the amount for each individual piece? Thanks.

Rebecca, on the Hawthorne Village trains, the listed price is for each piece. On the Bachmann On30 trains, the listed price is for the whole train. When you do the math, you'll realize that Hawthorne Village trains cost more than the Bachmann On30 trains, but you're paying for additional painting and detailing that turns them into limited edition collector's items. Hope this helps - Paul Race,

How Can I Get a Train All at Once? - October, 06

Mary Beth, of Baldwinsville, New York writes:

Hi Paul,

I am new to this village purchasing and rail road. Please let me know how much the train is to buy outright. Also with the Hawthorne Village too. I am interested in the beginner set then would love to become a subscriber. Please let me know. Thanks.

Mary Beth,

Thanks for getting in touch. It sounds like you're interested in getting a Holiday Village and a train to run around it, presumably on a tabletop indoors. If that's the case you should know that the Hawthorne Village trains can't be "bought outright" all at once. If you are interested in a specific collectible set, such as the Thomas Kinkade Christmas Express, you need to subscribe (like you would to a magazine) and get a part of it every few weeks. Yes, at this point, this means that you won't have the entire train by Christmas. :-( But if you have your heart set on a collectible (subscription) train, you COULD could get the locomotive and the first car or so, and order the track and power supply separately. That information was covered in a recent "letter to the editor" of Big Christmas Trains.

If you're not interested in a collectible train, you CAN buy a Bachmann On30 train and get the whole thing in plenty of time for Christmas. Bachman On30 trains are exactly the same mechanically as the Hawthorne Village trains - they just don't have the exquisite paint jobs and extra detailing that turns them from model trains into limited edition collectors items.

The Bachmann On30 Spectrum Ohio River & Western Passenger Train Set shown near the bottom of the Year-Round (Indoor) Display Villages and Trains page is good example of an On30 train that isn't in Christmas colors.

ALL of these trains use the same track and power supply as the Hawthorne Village trains, so if you wanted to start a subscription to a Hawthorne Village train and buy a Bachmann On30 train at the same time, it would all be interchangeable.

The same thing about subscription trains applies to subscription villages. If you're interested in a particular Hawthorne village, and you order it now, you'll probably get two (or at the most three) issues before Christmas. Of course there's no reason you can't get a few Department 25 buildings now to "jump start" your village.

Please let me know if this has answered your question or if I've missed something. Happy holidays - Paul

[Note: Mary Beth wrote back to say "I really appreciate all this info on the trains.... I will be ordering one with my next pay check." Turns out she liked one of the On30 trains very much. - ed.]

How Big Are Lionel Trains? - October, 06

Kara writes:

I cannot get a handle on the size of "O" gauge based on the description you have. Can you tell me something like: if the full scale train is x long by x wide then O scale will be x long by x wide? Thanks for accommodating : -)

Kara,

Actually it's not as easy as it should be. The rails on Lionel track are about 1/45th as far apart as the rails on real track. But for many years, most "serious" O-scalers made their trains 1/48th of the size of real thing. That means that a 50 foot boxcar should be about 12.5" long. But Lionel made their equipment a little smaller than it "should be" so it could go around curves easier. So cars that are 10" long (or even shorter) are more common. As far as other dimensions are concerned, most cars are about 3 3/8" high and about 2 1/4" wide. Most cabooses are shorter, but just as wide. Passenger cars and most locomotives are longer and a little bit wider and higher.

All told, a Lionel train set that had, say a locomotive, two freight cars, and a caboose would typically be about between 40" and 50" long.

Bachmann On30 trains are also 1/48th the size of the real thing, but they are models of smaller trains that seldom had boxcars longer than 30 foot. So Bachmann On30 trains might have boxcars that are only about 7.5" inches long, although passenger cars would be longer. The other dimensions would be a little smaller, too - height about 2 3/4", width about 1 7/8" Still, many folks prefer the On30 trains (or the Hawthorne Village collectible trains that are built on the same frames) to use with their Holiday villages.

To give you something else to think about, the same boxcar in Large Scale would be 16" or 17" long, about 6" tall, and just over 4" wide.

Are you looking for a train to go around your tree or around a Christmas village, or somewhere else?

  • Around the tree, Large Scale is best, Lionel O gauge is next best, and Bachmann On30 is about as small as you want to go.
  • Around a Christmas village, Bachmann On30 is best, Lionel O gauge track is next best, and Large Scale is just about impossible to fit on a table unless you have one specially made.

Hope this helps. Have a great holiday season - Paul

[Note: Kara wrote back to thank me for the detailed answer and to say she had decided on a Large Gauge Bachmann G North Pole Special train for this year. - ed]

How Can I Track an Order? - October, 06

Jazmine writes:

I ordered a train and a few other things. It has been a while and I havent received them yet. I wanted to see how much longer it might be. I looked on the web sight and I couldn't find anywhere where there was a place to track my order

Jazmine,

The Garden Train Store and BigChristmasTrains web sites point to a lot of different vendors, since no one vendor has all the trains our customers want. Unfortunately, when you click through to a vendor's page, then order a train, I don't get any direct feedback until the product has shipped, and I still don't always get all of the details. But if you can give me more information, such as which product you ordered and which vendor's page you ordered it from, I'll help you track it down. In the meantime:

  • If you ordered a Hawthorne Village collectable train, you can contact the Collectibles Today people. Their page for checking on orders is http://collectiblestoday.com/ct/vieworderstatus.jsp. If you don't think that page is very helpful, you can try their customer service phone # 1-877-268-6638, but you may be on hold for a while.
  • TrainDiscounts supplies most of the Bachmann and AristoCraft trains and some of the Lionel trains we list. If you recall clicking on a page that looks like the one you get when you click here, you probably ordered our train from TrainDiscounts. Their customer service contact page is at http://traindiscounts.com/acbhpusa/help_site/default.cfm?st_id=115&this_help=lv. Their customer service phone # is 1-800-404-4414 Mon-Fri 9a-6p EST.
  • Several other vendors supply Lionel trains to our customers as well. Again, if you can remember which product you ordered and which vendor you ordered through, that will save you a lot of time on hold to the wrong store. In addition to the stores listed above, we link to Lionel trains on the following vendor sites:
    • Buy.Com - Look for the "Order Status" menu item at the bottom of the page.
    • NowOnSale.com - Look for the words "Order Track" near the top right corner of the page. They also maintain a sales line where your questions may be answered: 1-866-669-6672.
    • Boscov's - Click on the words "Great Customer Service" on the lower left part of the page, or call 1-800-284-8155.
    • Unbeatable Sale - Click on the words "Order Status" on the orange menu bar toward the upper right corner, or call 1-888-657-8436.
    • Amazon.com - Most trains on Amazon are sold by separate vendors, but Amazon reports on shipping information. If you bought a product through Amazon, go to the page you used to order the product, look at the lower left corner for a box labeled "Where's My Stuff?" and click on the words "recent orders."
Hope this helps; please let me know if I can help you in any other way - Paul

[Note: After I contacted Jazmine the first time, we determined that she had ordered a Hawthorne Village train, so I sent her the contact information for Collectibles Today. I also referred her to my page on Subscription Trains to remind her that these trains only come a little at a time.]

Power Supply for Kinkade Christmas Express - October, 06

Tricia, of Poway, California writes:

I have the set for the Kinkade Christmas express. However my parents stopped subcription before receiving the power supply. Is there a way to purchase a power supply separately to make the train workable?

Tricia,

The power supply they use in the Hawthorne Village Trains is the Bachmann Bachmann #44212 Power Pack and Speed Controller. Any Bachmann power supply that is supposed to go with an HO train will work, however. For that matter, any power supply that is supposed to power an HO train should work. Just don't get one that goes with Lionel or MTH trains, and you'll be fine.

You should be able to get a power supply for HO trains at any hobby shop near you. Tell them you want the Bachmann #44212 Power Pack and Speed Controller or something like it.

It is also easy to get extra track. Bachmann EZ track is the same wherever you buy it, so you can extend your railroad at any time. The Bachmann EZ Track #44501 is an exact replacement for the curves that come with the train sets. #44411 matches the straight pieces.

Hope this helps, please let me know if I can help with anything else - Paul

Crossing Light Question - September, 06

Darron Nicholson, of Memphis, Tennessee, writes:

I have a question. Do you have a railroad crossing light that stays on until the last car passes the light or crossing gate? If so how much does it cost and may i see a picture of it?

Darron, Most of the trains and products I write about are for garden railroads (Large Scale) or Holiday Villages (On30, etc.) Are you interested in a railroad crossing light for either of those?

If you're interested a railroad crossing light for an indoor train, you might like the set shown on this page.

A winter version is on the Kinkade train page.

These sets will work with HO trains or with On30 trains (which use HO track).

Now, relating to how long the crossing light stays on: Almost all products like this (all the way back to the Lionel Crossing Guard) work by placing a very sensitive pressure switch under the track. The weight of the train cause the switch to close and the lights to start flashing or whatever. How long the switch stays closed is a function of how sensitive the switch versus how heavy the train is. An HO train doesn't have enough weight to close the switch on an O-gauge setup, for example. Also, your track needs to have a little "give." If your track is fastened down ALL the way around your railroad, there won't be enough "give" in the track to allow the train's weight to push the switch closed. In other words, whatever product you buy, you'll need to experiment a little to get the best results.

Some folks have come up with fancier custom solutions for doing this, such as an "electric eye" that triggers a relay when a train interrupts a beam (but then you have to aim the beam carefully, or it won't pick up unloaded flatcars, etc.) I'm sorry but I don't have any detailed instructions for that sort of thing.

I might be able to give you a little more information if I knew exactly what kind of trains you are planning on using this with.

Hope this helps - Paul

How Big are the Big Christmas Trains? - September, 06

Andrew Johnston writes:

I am trying to get a feel for the physical size of the different "Big Christmas Trains". I have read your article, but still don't quite understand. Please could you tell me:

  1. What is the guage of large scale and O27 track?
  2. What is the approximate physical size of a sample large train model from your catalogue, for example the locomotive of the Bachmann G North Pole Special?

Many thanks - Andrew Johnston

Andrew,

Here's a quick summary:

  • O27 (a kind of "O gauge") track is about 1 1/4" wide. Large Scale is 45mm wide, about 1 3/4". I haven't had a chance to get one of my Bachmann locomotives out of the case and measure it, but it's over 2' long as I recall and about 8" high.
  • The longest O gauge (or O27) locomotives that come with train sets are only about two thirds as big in either dimension.
  • The On30 locomotives are even smaller. They are slightly less than half the size of the Large Scale locomotives in any dimension (which means they're 1/8 the "bulk" if it helps you to visualize that.)

This is why I say you CAN use O gauge/O27 or On30 trains around a Christmas tree or on a tabletop. But the most impressive trains around a very large tree are the Large Scale trains. The "downside" is that they DO take up a lot of room. The Large Scale train sets come with a 4'-diameter circle of track, but they look better on wider circles of track, say 6' or 8'. And 4' is wider than most tables, so if you want a train on a tabletop that fits into the average living or dining room, you may be back to O or On30.

Hope this helps, and sorry for the delay. - Paul

What Can You Do With Half of an O Canada Train? - August, 06

Kelly, of Ontario, Canada, writes:

My father in law purchased a Hawthorne Train for my son. It looks like it was purchased as a group of trains but I am not sure if he has all the pieces. The train came in two styrofoam containers. The first container has a locomotive that says O Canada on the side of the train and a car that has what looks like coal in it. The second has passenger car with a power control in it. There is a certificate that states True Patriot Love passenger car. All this stuff is a part of a Hawthorne Village. Can you please tell me whether or not these are all the pieces. There are no tracks with this set. Any info on how much to finish this set and what are we talking about the availability of this stuff. I dont want to spend a bomb as this is for a 11 year old that really doesnt appreciate expensive stuff. What is all this stuff I have worth. Any place that has price information would be appreciated.

Thanks - Kelly

Kelly,

The Hawthorne Village trains are collector's items, not toys. The chassis is actually made by Bachmann Trains, one of the world's largest model train manufacturers, but they are hand-painted with something approaching museum-quality detailing. They are also "subscription" collections, which means that they come a piece at a time, and you pay for each piece separately.

It sounds like your father-in-law has purchased the first two "installments" of the train featured on Collectibles Today Canada's web page

I don't have access to that train, since it isn't sold to US purchasers (too, bad, really). The third installment is a car that comes with the power supply and some track, and the fourth installment is another car that comes with the rest of the track. Most of these trains are only four installments, so you have half the train, if that makes any sense. The locomotive itself is worth far more than the cost of the first installment, but Hawthorne Village is betting that people will like the train so much they buy the rest - and nearly everyone does.

Now that you know what you have: It could be that the rest of the train just hasn't come yet. Or if your father-in-law has discontinued his subscription, you could contact the Collectibles Today folks and ask about getting the third and fourth piece. HOWEVER, you mentioned that this train is for a young person who may not appreciate its value. It may be that you can't get the rest of the train, or that you would rather not spend the additional money for two more collector's items. In that case, you should know that this train and the track is mechanically identical to the Bachmann On30 train shown near the bottom of the On30 Display Train web page.

They also use the same track. Look for the heading about getting extra track on the same page. Any power supply made for HO trains will run these trains (and in fact, they will run on most HO track, if someone you know has an old HO set around).

Personally I think the O Canada train is an especially attractive collectors' item, but I would understand if you put the pieces you have so far into a safe place and bought an entirely different set for your young person to use for now.

Hope this information helps you make the best decision for your family, - Paul

Polar Express Prices and Availability - August, 06

Mari writes:

I am interested in purchasing the Polar Express train set and used the link that you provide on your website. One is approximately $350.00 and the other $299.00. Do they include the same things? When I read about them they appear to be the same exact train. I also found another location to purchase the Polar Express items at another site [site name deleted-when I checked it out they were out of stock - ed.]. Their price for the set is $289 but it doesn't appear that the cars include silouettes of the characters in them. Is that standard with this set or is that probably the reason why it's cheaper than the rest? Any info would be appreciated. Thank you.

Mari,

These should all be the same exact train set. I provide multiple links when I can because Lionel trains are made in batches, and one vendor may sell out while another has plenty in stock. Two Christmases in a row, folks who waited until the last minute have been disappointed. I am constantly researching new vendors and may have one or two more to add this fall. In addition, some of the vendors I work with change their web sites all around every year, so I have to rebuild my links every year. So I apologize if you're getting frustrated trying to find something I've listed, or if it seems to be cheaper somewhere else.

For two years now, folks who sold the Polar Express at the lowest price have sold out first, but just about everyone sold out eventually. Still, except for minor differences in packaging and color batches, there IS only one set, as far as I know.

That said, Boscovs is now selling the set for $289, if that's any help - click the Boscov button on that page again to see. The "shopping cart" price of the set at TrainDiscounts is about $306, after you get your discount, too, so the price isn't as far apart as you might think. [Note: Publishing the prices as of August 30, 2006 is not any guarantee that they will be the same when you are looking for a train later; in fact the price of this train has historically risen every year it's been available - ed.] I have heard no unsolved reader complaints about either vendor, but if you find the thing for much less from another reliable source, and they actually have it in stock, by all means go for it.

Hope this helps, PLEASE let me know if you have any other questions - Paul

Collector's Information About Collectible Trains - August, 06

Steph Gibbens writes:

I really would like to find a catalogue of all the Hawthorne Village On30 trains that have been discontinued and are now collectible, as well as new/current models. If you have that info or can help me find out how many and what cars were originally available on the complete Coca Cola Christmas train and the Spirit of America train sold by subscription by Hawthorne Village, I would appreciate it.

Steph,

I'm always glad when my readers take delight in a product they purchase, whether they actually run the train or set it in a display case. And I share readers' disappointment when they've waited a few months (or in some cases a few days) too long to order something they thought they wanted but kept putting off.

Unfortunately, nobody to my knowledge has published a reference book about the Hawthorne Village collectibles. And I'm not a collector myself - I foolishly run the trains I buy and don't pay attention to their collectibility. I have noticed that as soon as a Hawthorne Village train goes out of production, a few become available on Ebay or some other secondary market at a much higher price than they would have been through a regular "subscription" purchase (like "scalping," I suppose). But I don't know if those prices hold, or if the "real" long-term value is somewhere in between. I would certainly not guarantee that these will increase in value more so than, say, stamps or Martin guitars, or utility stocks. Even if it they wind up being a good investment in the long run, the main reason to buy these is because you like these products (and there is a lot to like).

About products going out of production: Again, the manufacturer doesn't tell anyone how much longer a product will be available, but every limited product is limited, eventually. In this case the Coca Cola train ran out faster than I expected it to, even though it was one of our most popular models. The run for the Spirit of America train was probably smaller, but it hasn't generated as much interest, so it could be available for another two years or another two days - I have no way of knowing. If you're really interested in getting a set, you should probably go ahead and subscribe now. You won't be disappointed with the quality. The photos I have access to show the Spirit of America train with the locomotive and three passenger cars, each with a different paint job. Four-issue trains are common, so that is probably the whole thing.

My understanding regarding the Coca Cola train is that there were four issues, the locomotive and three cars, if that helps. The cars are shown in the miniature photo at: http://bigchristmastrains.com/hawthorne_trains/hawthorne_trains.jpg (Of course I have to replace this photo on my web site now that the Coco Cola train is gone.)

Hope this gives you some ideas at least. It also reminded me just how quickly a product line can disappear. I wouldn't be surprised if Hawthorne Village licenses another Coca Cola set in the future (may not a Christmas set), but in the meantime, its a reminder to us all that limited really does mean limited.

Thanks again for your interest and my apologies that I can't be more specific.

Paul Race



Christmas Display Layout Question - August, 06

Shannon, an employee of a tourist-centered railroad business, writes:

I work for the [company name deleted] and we are looking for a Christmas train to go around a 20 ft tree during our Polar Express train rides. Please let me know if you would carry anything that might work for us. Thank You.

Shannon

Is this indoors or outdoors? Do you want something for the kiddies to watch while they're waiting for something else to happen or do you want something "eye-popping" that will be a feature in itself and draw folks back year after year? I can point you to all kinds of solutions, but it would be most helpful if you let me know what your overall "vision" for the railroad is.

For example, the O Gauge Lionel Polar express looks a lot like the one in the movie but isn't big enough or weather-resistant enough to be that useful outdoors. A starter set is in the $250-275 range, plus you'd need more track to make your circle big enough.

The Bachmann Large Scale trains are visually impressive, and they run outside but they don't look much like the train in the movie. A starter set is in the $189-275 range, plus you'd need more track.

With either of the above, you'd need to buy more track than comes with the set. I'd suggest a large diameter circle. If you're going with Large Scale, I'd recommend a 10'-diameter loop of AristoCraft track. Trains run better and look better on wide curves and well-made track. This will run you about $100.

AristoCraft has trains that look close enough to the train in the movie to fool most people, and they're almost three times as large as the Lionel train and made to run outside. For example their "heavyweight" passenger cars are each almost 3' long. A nice set of those with an AristoCraft Pacific or Mikado steam engine would be a train that would have people talking for years, but would run several hundred $$$. As an example the AristoCraft heavyweight passenger trains are available in PRR colors (Tuscan red, similar to the train in the movie). (For a photo of a green AristoCrart train running outside click here.)

Denny's train as shown is close to thirty feet long. You could get by with fewer cars of course. Will you have the trains at ground level or raised a little so folks can see them better?

Will you be looking for buildings to build either the kids' street or the North Pole City? I can help you find the buildings you need for the kids' street easily, but if you want North Pole City to look the way it does in the movie, you may need to have some custom building done. Also, you'll want figures and other accessories if you start adding scenery.

Okay, all of this may sound like overkill, until you learn that a well-made display railroad can draw thousands (or in some cases hundreds of thousands) of visitors a season. If you can give me an idea of what you want to start with (just a train around a tree or ? ? ? ) I'll be able to recommend products that will get you started without "locking you into" a setup you outgrow quickly. However I can guarantee that if you put up any kind of railroad at all, you'll get lots of positive comments and happier customers.

In the meantime, BEST of luck - Paul

Are On30 and Lionel O-Gauge Trains Compatible? - June, 06

Greg writes: I just have a question about the difference between o27 and on30 trains. My father has all Lionel trains in his train room and I was considering buying him a train set from Hawthorne Village. But I have been told that they are incompatible with Lionel Trains.

Greg, On30 trains (including those from Hawthorne Village) are about the same size as O27 trains, but they run on different track. You COULD try something like the trolley set with the auto-reversing mechanism and its own track. It could serve an O Scale town, but it wouldn't connect to the "regular" O-gauge railroad. But otherwise, you might want to stick with "O gauge" trains (which include O27) from Lionel, K-Line, or MTH.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

New Brite's Automated Christmas Train- March, 06

Kingsley Farrow writes:

Hi,

I'm starting to look at setting up a train for this Christmas and wanted something animated for under the tree.. I see the "G" scale train is most likely best for me. I quite like the New Bright Holiday Express animated train..what are your thoughts, experience if any with this train and what would you recommend bearing in mind I'd like it to be around for years to come. Thanks, Kingsley Farrow

Kingsley,

I am a model railroader at heart, which means that I like to see trains that look like trains and run reliably. Even the silliest "Big Christmas Trains" on my catalog pages are mostly based on real trains and made by companies that build model trains for "serious" modelers.

New Brite, as a company, has produced many toy train sets that barely last one season around the Christmas tree. That said, the Christmas train line that you've seen IS made better than their "ordinary" toy trains. And some people like them very much. I started to put a page up about them last season and ran out of time. They ARE the most animated Large Scale toy trains you can buy, and if you take care of them, they will give you several years of enjoyment. I'm not CERTAIN of how many "years to come" they'll last, though. The mechanisms of the individual cars include a lot of plastic, for example. If you run them only when you are specifically interested in watching the trains, or when you have company or some such, and you store them in a cool (but not cold) dry place otherwise, they will last you several years or more. Most of the other "Big Trains" in my catalog have been used on "display layouts," on which they run for hours a day for weeks on end, with no more maintenance than an occasional wheel-cleaning and lubrication.

Also, the New Brite track DOES work, but if you want to set up a larger railroad, or run other brands of trains eventually, look into AristoCraft or LGB track - it's many times sturdier.

That said, I have had several customers who have taken care of their New Bright animated Christmas trains and enjoyed them very much. So now you know as much as I do.

If you have trouble tracking anything down, let me know, - Paul

Getting a Christmas Coach to Slovenia - February, 06

Mitja Predovnik, of Slovenia, writes:

Dear Sirs, I've bought your Bachmann 4-6-0 Night Before Christmas G Train Set and would like to know if it is possible to buy separately lighted passenger coach that is attached to Bachmann Trains - North Pole > Special/North & Southern - Large Gauge. I would be grateful if you would also quote the price and shipping cost to Slovenia (Europa). Best Regards - Mitja

Mitja,

I forwarded your question to the Bachmann Sales office. Bachmann has a distribution center in Germany. You can get to their web site throught the www.bachmanntrains.com site, but I can't read German so I don't know where to go from there. . . Best of luck Paul [Mitja was able to get through to the German site as well as to Customer Service in New Jersey, but I don't know if he ever did get his coach. He did say he and his friends were all still enjoying the train.]

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Big Christmas Trains in Sweden - December, 05

Per-Anders, from Sweden, writes:

Hello

I write to you from Sweden.

Our family really got into Christmas trains this year; this is not a thing that any one over here has any knowledge about, so i had to buy it from USA which meant that postage set me back a fortune.

My questions are:

  1. Regarding On30 trains can they run on ordinary Marklin or Fleischmann tracks, we have 230v instead of 110v which these trains is built for,i assume it is what the power pack produces that´s important, although i can buy a transformer.
  2. Can Bachmann, AristoCraft, Lionel and LGB run on the same tracks, there is no problem to obtain LGB tracks in Sweden as they make them in Germany.
  3. How does the large scale tracks cope with snow and rain.
Best Regards and Merry Xmas

Per-Anders,

Thanks for your inquiry. I hope I can be clear in my answers.

On30 trains run on ANY HO track. You right in guessing that the power pack controls the voltage that actually gets to the rails. If you have, say, a Maerklin HO set, you should be able to run an On30 train on it with no problem, as long as the power pack is sending DC in low voltages.

Regarding Large Scale Trains: All Large Scale Trains shown on my pages run on the same kind of track as LGB trains, but I don't recommend setting up a permanent railroad with little tiny curves that come with the train sets. If you ever want to buy a larger locomotive or car than I have listed on my train site, you may find that it doesn't work on those tiny curves. LGB R-3 track, which makes a circle about 2.5 metres in diameter, will handle ALMOST all Large Scale trains nicely. Because American trains tend to be bigger, I recommend that my North American users use the "next size up," which makes a circle about 3 metres in diameter. I think LGB has just started making track in that size, but I don't know the LGB product number for that offhand.

That said, most Garden Railoaders have an outdoor railroad with large curves, but if they have an indoor railroad, it usually has smaller curves that they can fit into their basement or attic.

LGB track is made to hold up to ice and snow. As long as it's properly installed, it should give you 15 years of use or more. The long-term problem seems to be UltraViolet light from the sun, which is why some LGB track that has been outside for longer than 15 years seems to be starting to fail. I wonder if painting the ties every few years with a waterproof spray paint would help this, but no one knows for certain. The same problem occurs with other brands of track, too. Since this is still a relatively new hobby, few railroads older than 20 years are around to observe.

Hope this helps. Please let me know what kind of trains you have and what kind of trains you're thinking about, and I can be more helpful.

I don't show much LGB on my site because I don't have a reliable vendor for it. But if I was living in Europe instead of the US, I would have much more LGB in my personal railroad. If import fees and shipping make Bachmann and AristoCraft as expensive or more expensive than LGB in your country, then LGB should be your first choice for Large Scale trains. They are more solid than Bachmann, too, if that helps.

Hope you have a GREAT 2006. Please keep in touch. If you get a permanent railroad installed indoors or out, please send me some photos; I will try to get them onto my site.

Paul Race



Shipping Big Christmas Trains to Slovenia - December, 05

Mitja, of Slovenia, writes

Dear Mr. Paul D. Race,

First of all let me say that your web page is brilliant. I found all information I was looking for. I intend to buy Big Christmas Train to put it under the Christmas tree. I belive that this Christmas I am to late, but I would still like to ask you three questions.

  1. Our christmas tree is 2,3 metres high - which type of train would you recommend?
  2. How much (approximately) are the cost for shipment to Europe and how long does it take?
  3. Do you have any representative office in Europa (Austria, Italy) where it is possible to see your trains?
  4. Is it possible to get any of your cataloques via post? I am sorry, but my English is not to good. I hope that you will be able to understand me.

Kind regards and all the best for the Christmas and New year 2006!!! - Mitja

Mitja,

Thanks for the nice note. I have forwarded your request about shipping to Slovenia to TrainDiscounts, the company that handles most of our non-collectible train orders. They can tell you how much it would cost to ship and how long it would take. I am afraid I have no affiliates in Europe at present.

As far as which train is the best for you, the Large Scale trains, such as the ones on the Large Scale Christmas Trains page, will make the best showing under a tree that size:

But the circle of track they run on takes up about 1,3 meters in each direction, even if you don't use the straight pieces.

The On30 trains ARE much smaller, but are still attractive. The circle of track they run on will require slighly less than one meter in diameter. Those are shown at the On30 Christmas Trains page.

That said, I like the look of the Large Scale trains, if you have room for them. If you have room to run them outside next summer, consider the AristoCraft, since they come with weatherproof track. Please let me know how things work out.

Have a great holiday season,

P.S. Your English is better than some of my college students' English. - Paul

[Note: Since this e-mail, Mitja has ordered and received a Bachmann Large Scale Christmas Train. In late February, a friend built a power supply that would work with local current, and Mitja is having lots of fun with the "Christmas" train. Mitja says that friends are so excited, they're asking what they can buy to add on to the train. Mitja has already ordered extra track, so I have a feeling "Christmas" is going to last along time at Mitja's house. :-) ]

Bachmann North Pole Express - December, 05

Annette Brown writes:

Hi. . . for the past several years I have been collecting houses and adding new accessories to my Christmas village. This year I want to finally add a train to the ensamble. I love Bachmann North Pole Express. How much does this cost, and how do I go about ordering it? Can I get it soon? Is there an extra charge? Can I purchase more track? Please send me info.. thanks

Annette,

Did you see my page listing all of the Bachmann On30 Christmas trains? If you click on the green button under the train, you'll get all the details from a supplier who offers good service and very good discounts. (You have to add your train to the shopping cart to see your final discount.) Below the second Bachmann Train there is a section called "About the Track" that contains links to the kinds of track you could buy to extend your railroad.

Shipping can be UPS Ground, UPS 3 day, etc., depending on how much you want to spend (usually $20 and up, but you're saving more than that on the trains). If you have any other questions you may call the customer service people at 1-800-404-4414 Mon-Fri 9a-6p EST. Tell them you saw the train on store #115 so you get the appropriate discounts.

The Bachmann Train is the most reliable train built for Christmas villages. The fanciest trains are made by Hawthorne Village. They're actually Bachmann trains with really fancy paint jobs and other detailing. Unfortunately if you order one now, you won't get the whole train by Christmas. But they run on the same track as the Bachmann trains, so you could get a Bachmann train now and order a Hawthorne Village train later if you wanted. Those are listed at: http://bigchristmastrains.com/hawthorne_trains/hawthorne_trains.htm Hope this shoots you in the right direction. Please let me know if you have any other questions - Paul

Pick Your Team! Major League Baseball(R) Train

Subscription Train Questions - December, 05

Andy writes:

I am interested in ordering a NY Yankees train for my son for x-mas. I cannot tell what the total cost is, how long the subscription plan lasts, and what track I would need to order. Can you please provide some guidance?

Andy,

Most of the train subscriptions are 4 parts. The locomotive comes in the first part. The second part includes a car and some of track. The third part includes a car and the rest of the track, and the last part includes a car and any accessories that come with the train besides. You can get the cost of each installment from the web site when you click the "buy" button. Add the price of each "issue" (in this case, $69.95) to the cost of shipping that issue ($7.99) and multiply by four (about $312 when you're done with the whole thing). I've seen Hawthorne Village trains that were out of production listed for $600, but I don't know if they actually sell at that price, so I'm not counseling you to buy a train for any reason but to run and have fun.

Because it's a subscription train, if you order it now, you'll be doing well to get the locomotive by Christmas. I know that's a hassle, but that's how they do things, and most people who start a subscription are VERY glad they did. In fact, I've only heard of one customer (not mine) who cancelled after receiving the locomotive, while I've had many very satisfied customers. I've also heard from a number of would-be customers who wish they'd bought a set while it was available and are willing to pay double if I can produce one (I can't, of course).

If you get started now, and you want to run the locomotive when it comes, ANY HO train powerpack and circle of track will do for starters. If you want the same kind of track that Hawthorne Village packages with the sports train, you can buy Bachmann EZ track through the links on the sports train page. The product numbers you need are on the Sports Train Page.

The curves come four to a package; you'll need 16 pieces to make a circle. If you click on the product numbers for each kind of track, it will take you to a store where you can order them. If you're in a real hurry, most hobby shops sell exactly the same track - write the product numbers down before you go to the store. Then when the rest of the track comes with installments 2 and 3, it will all plug together for an extra big layout.

If you're wondering about urgency, you should know that this time last year almost all the NFL teams were available; today only the Sooners are still available; the rest are all sold out. Probably because Hawthorne Village makes many small batches for the sports trains sets, they seem to sell out a lot faster than, say, the Thomas Kinkade sets.

Hope this helps, and that you have a great holiday season. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Paul Race



NFL Collectible Trains from 2004 - December, 05

Maryann writes:

Hi, you have an excellent site. I have been looking for a NY Jets Village and Train Set for my son since last year. Collectiblestoday.com had it in 2004, but was sold out when I went to purchase. [The son has a working HO railroad, but that part of the message was truncated. - ed]

Maryann,

Thanks for the nice comments. Unfortunately, the NFL sets sold out quickly and are just about impossible to come by without buying them through "collectors" who buy them on "spec" then resell them at much higher prices when the series runs out.

Last year I spent a great deal of time chasing down leads on some of these, with a little success. Two or three of the collectors I just described used to have them available, but they stopped listing this year, and I haven't had any luck getting any of these trains on the secondary market unless they happened to be listed on E-Bay (at exaggerated prices). I hate being the bearer of bad tidings, which is why there are so many warnings on my pages about these things running out, etc. In your case, I'm sure you just came across the site, so you learned about them after they were no longer available. I truly wish I could help.

Please let me know if you have any other questions. BTW, the Bachmann On30 Christmas streetcar is big enough to look right with Christmas villages, but it RUNS on HO track, so it makes a nice stocking stuffer for just about anyone with trains. They make one with a little reversing set of track that you can make go back and forth on the spinet, and they also sell the streetcar by itself so you can turn an HO railroad into a Christmas railroad for a few moments each year if you want. I mention it because it is the single best selling train we have this year, and lots of people who order the set turn around and order more streetcars, so they must like them. It's listed on our On30 Christmas Train page. Hope this helps. Have a GREAT holiday season,

Paul Race

O

Lionel's Unavailable Christmas Trains - November, 05

Danny writes:

I was on your O Gauge Christmas trains page where I see in your top picture a picture of 2 train sets.

I have found the one on top - the Polar Express - but I'm interested in learning more about the one on the bottom. It looks like the Lionel 2005 Christmas set but in different colors. I've seen the green one, but prefer the silver colors.

Can you tell me how I can get a hold of this set as show in your picture?

Sorry, Danny, if you read the footnote at the bottom of the same page, you'll see that the white set sold out right before Christmas last year and hasn't been remanufactured. Lionel announced a red set (which is still featured in one of the graphics), then later announced that it wouldn't be available in volume this Christmas season. :-(

To my knowledge, the Polar Express is the first "Christmas" set that Lionel has EVER made more than one manufacturing run of; the other sets were all considered "novelty" items and were largely made to feed the collectors' market. The Polar Express set is a much better set, and most of them really are circling Christmas trees, where they "belong" in my book, and not just on collectors' shelves. I'm sure Lionel is hoping that this renews interest in the hobby. For my part, I just think it's an exceptionally good value and a very well-made set that looks good enough to run all year.

Back to the white train. In 2004, I kept having to track down new suppliers for the thing, as each supplier I turned to ran out of stock. By Dec. 20, I had no suppliers left, and by Dec. 23, even my competitors had no white sets to offer. :-( I was disappointed for my readers, as I really think it is an attractive set. The green set is basically the same train, but in different colors, but it seems a little overly bright to me. A deeper green might have been attractive. Oh, well, Lionel is what it is, a 100-year old company that doesn't always listen to its customer base. So I'm just delighted when they do something right. They did do something right with the Polar Express, which has a MUCH nicer locomotive than either the white or green Christmas train. The non-Christmas" Lionel page has (if I recall correctly) the same locomotive in Santa Fe colors, in case you find yourself tempted to get a train that not only looks great under the tree, but running all year long.

Best of luck, Please let me know what you come up with or if I can answer any more questions,

Paul Race

[Note: In April, 06, a collector/vendor at a train show had a Lionel Christmas train set in a box that clearly showed the red locomotive I was told would not be available in 2005. For a moment I thought I might owe my readers an apology. But when I looked inside the box, the locomotive in the set was entirely black. The vendor knew nothing about the train except that it seemed to be "new in the box;" he had got it from another collector in a trade. So it may be that some other collector had "snitched" the locomotive and replaced it with a generic black equivalent. But I do know that Lionel at least made boxes that showed pictures of the red Christmas locomotive, if that's any help. The mystery deepens.]

Hawthorne Village Trains

Misbehaving Coca Cola(tm) Train - September, 05

Robert writes:

Last Christmas my wife gave me your subscription Coca Cola train set. It is a fine very attractive article but unfortunately recently my locomotive does not run. It is intact, hums when put on the rails but will not go in reverse or forward. Is it possible that I can send it to you for repair or replacement? Please advise me and thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Robert,

I'm very sorry that your locomotive isn't working. In fact this is the first time I have heard of anyone having trouble with the locomotive.

Your train actually has two "suppliers," the Collectibles Today company, who makes Hawthorne Village trains, and the Bachmann company, who built the mechanical part of your locomotive.

When you received your train, there should have been information about service and warrantees in the box with the train. Collectibles Today will exchange or refund any item within 365 days of purchase if you have your paperwork in order. The Collectibles Today Customer Service page has more information.

Secondly, if your locomotive is out of warranty, the Bachmann company will fix just about anything they make for a flat rate of $20 plus shipping.

In other words, Collectibles Today is your first stop, with Bachmann as your backup. Please track down your paperwork, and any shipping slip or other receipt that shows when the train was received, and you should have everything you need.

Best of luck,

Paul Race

Note: I subsequently received a follow-up from this person who said he had not been able to find his receipt, so he had sent the locomotive to Bachmann. As far as he could tell, Bachmann had completely replaced the mechanism in the locomotive, and he was very pleased with their service.



Dickens-era Train Question - Late December, 04

Bill W. writes

Good morning---- can you recommend a train set/layout that would be compatible with the Dickens Era--- specifically the Department 56 Dickens Village Series----?

Appreciate your help---- Bill Wilson

Bill, if you don't mind U.S. (not English) trains, just about anything on the On30 pages would be suitable. They're the right size and about the right period. In fact, the train that Dept. 56 first made to go with their villages was based on the same Bachmann passenger train that is featured on the On30 page and was used as the basis for the Hawthorne Village steam trains.

In case you've mislaid the link, the On30 Christmas trains are at the On30 Christmas Trains page.

The "non-Christmas" trains are on the On30 Display Trains page.

The most attractive custom repaint of the passenger set (although not the most realistic) is probably the Thomas Kinkade Christmas Train.

Of course none of these is going to get to you by Christmas this year. If you order a train now, feel free to download and print off the "missing gift" Christmas card.

Hope this helps. Have a great holiday season.

Paul D. Race

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