Put A Christmas Train
Under Your Tree
For The Holidays

A Christmas train has been a tradition for many folk through the years. I remember drooling over the pictures in the Lionel catalog when I was a youngster. Trains running around under the Christmas tree fell out of fashion when computers started taking over the game world. But not all children lose interest in daddy's train set. And even Lionel is alive and well. 

I never had a Christmas train set under the Christmas tree until 2005 when my brother-in-law gave me one as a present.  Now it gets set up every year even though my children are grown up. Now I can't wait for my new grandson to see his first Christmas train under our tree.

My neighbours' young ones love to see our Christmas train because they can make the lights flash, have the conductor yell "All aboard", blow the whistle and toot the horn.

model christmas trainOur Christmas Train
christmas train engineA closer look at the engine and tender.

Our Christmas train set up and ready to ride the rails again. Here it is. It's a G scale train set that runs for a few weeks every year. 

The set I have is the New Bright Holiday Express, the Animated Train Set No. 387. I checked for someone who contacted me in 2015 and there were still some available on eBay. It's a really fun Christmas train, especially if you have youngsters in the house or visiting.

Here's a short video so you can have an idea of what it looks like circling underneath the tree. The little station plays Christmas songs. It has a volume control knob.

My recommendation?
Buy a big Christmas train.

Don't go smaller than O gauge, like Lionel. Consider a bigger size like G scale like my Christmas train.

A bigger G scale model train is less fragile. If your big feet step on the track while placing presents or the children's little fingers knock it over, the train and track are more forgiving of abuse. A G scale train (also called large scale or G gauge) is easier to put on the track. The larger trains just seem to look right when surrounded by gaily wrapped presents.

I wouldn't suggest you buy anything smaller than O-27 Lionel or true O gauge trains. HO and N aren't good choices unless you're planning to build a diorama or integrate the trains into a village scene on a mantle piece or table.

If you're not yet a model train hobbyist and are just doing this for Christmas, stick to the bigger sizes. LGB manufactured a number of Christmas-themed cars in G scale. You can also find Christmas cars from Aristocraft and US Trains.

box for christmas trainTake a photo of the box to help replace the items in the correct spots.

Another tip is to take a picture of how the Christmas train set is packaged. This can help when you're trying to put it away after the holiday season is over. The photo doesn't have to perfect. It's just for record keeping. Put it in the box with the train set. I also write the name of each car on a piece of paper and leave it in the box to help orient the items in the styrofoam packaging.

If your children, or hopefully you, become interested in starting a model railroad, there are some good starter sets available from companies like Bachmann and International Hobby Corp (IHC). 

Check the Walthers website for ideas as well as eBay.

The electrical power pack in these sets is often barely adequate. You would do much better to buy a decent power pack like one from Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC) and keep the train set pack for operating model railroad accessories such as lights and switch machines.

I noticed during a recent trip to a hobby store that Athearn had released a train set for Christmas. Athearn has always produced good HO train equipment and most model railroaders are familiar with the Athearn "blue box" for rolling stock and engines. 

I expect their train set is a good buy. I don't know what power pack is included for running the trains. It's probably pretty basic. 

In Canada, President's Choice (Loblaw food stores) used to sell a train set each Christmas. They stopped doing so in 2007. However, the sets they sold were excellent. You still find them at train shows, auctions and on eBay. Try searching for President's Choice HO train sets. Look for boxes like these:

presidents choice yard bull train setThe PC yard switcher came with track, power pack and a set of freight cars.
presidents choice ore train setThis Express 10 was a good ore train hauler.
presidents choice ore trainThis freight train has a steam engine, 5 CN ore cars and a caboose.

The mini Chef set became the most popular because the locomotive was a Canadian National 4-6-4 class K 5-a Hudson #5704. The original engines were built in the 1930s by Montreal Locomotive Works and were used on the Montreal-Toronto corridor. They bring back a lot of nostalgic memories for those who saw them running in their hey-day. 

Modellers would rush into Loblaw's as soon as the new release was mentioned in the Insider's Report to make sure they got the latest set before they sold out. For some the sets have become collector's items.  I use mine from time to time and have converted the Yard Bull switcher to DCC.

presidents choice chefs train setThe mini Chefs Express is one of the favorite PC sets.
presidents choice chef train set carsColorful cars and a CN Hudson locomotive.

A Christmas train can rekindle the spark of boyhood in any grownup. It has led many back into the hobby or started others on their journey.  If you are reading this because you're contemplating putting a train under the Christmas tree, you're about to launch yourself into one of the best hobbies there is for children and adults.

A real Christmas train crosses Canada

Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) has operated a cross-country Christmas train for more than10 years. I first saw it on December 3, 2008 when it stopped for an hour outside of Barrie, Ontario. 

waiting for cp christmas trainWaiting for Santa and the CP Christmas train.

The train helps raise money for local food banks. Santa is on board to greet children and parents can have their kids' pictures taken on the front of the locomotive while it's stopped at the small yard next to Anne Street and Highway 26.  It was a dull, cloudy day at 1° C (34°F) without new snow. Winter had come early that year with lake effect storms swept by a north-westerly wind across Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. The crowd of parents and youngsters began gathering around noon for the Christmas train expected between 1 and 1:30 pm. The train arrived on time and stayed for more than an hour, holding onto the one-track main line north to Parry Sound where the train would arrive after dark with all its decorations blinking and twinkling. This is a main line from Toronto to the north and west and the train has to be slotted into a very busy schedule.If you would like to watch a short video of the Christmas train in action, go to  Christmas Train Video.

 Here are a few more photos I took. Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture.

CP 9815 Christmas locomotive closeup of CP9815 locomotive side view of CP9815 CP Christmas train cars

If you're looking for a great Christmas or birthday gift, start at Amazon or eBay. You don't even have to leave your chair. Pull up a product category and type in some keywords. I bet you can even find "The Little Engine That Could".

If the model railroad bug bites you, see my  "Starting Out" page.

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