A Complete Guide to the Best Train Sets

A Complete Guide to the Best Train Sets

Looking for advice and reviews on the best train sets? Are you searching for the best train set to buy and are looking for quality recommendations and guidance? In this guide, updated for 2022, we've reviewed some of the best train sets currently on the market - from brands including Hornby, Bachmann, Lionel, Lego & Brio - to help you choose the most suitable train set for your needs.

This article is a complete guide to the best train sets. As a result, due to the volume of quality information provided, it's quite long. To help you quickly navigate to the area that you're looking for, we've provided the following quick links that'll take you directly to the relevant section:

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Summary of the Best Train Sets


Choosing a good train set might initially seem straightforward, however it's always difficult to get a true feel for different products without experiencing them first hand and actually using them in a model railway layout.

To help you overcome this problem, we've used our extensive knowledge, expertise, and many years of experience in all things model trains, to help you choose the perfect train set first time.

In this complete guide we'll take a look at the best train sets, organised by type, price, and intended age group. for ease of navigation, and use our real-world experience to discuss the benefits of each. This article is one of many in our train set series, where you'll find our expert advice and recommendations for everything from the Best Hornby Train Set to the differences between DC and DCC model trains.

This guide will primarily focus on electric model train sets, so if you're looking for advice on which wooden train set to choose you should definitely check out our guide to the best wood train sets for more specialist advice and reviews on this type of model train.

This guide was last updated in May 2022.

Best All Round Train Set

We think that the hugely popular Hornby R1234P Harry Potter Train Set is the best all round train set available.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Express Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - OO
  • Locomotive - 4-6-0 No. 5972 'Hogwarts Castle', with working headlight
  • Rolling Stock - Two Mk1 Coaches in maroon livery
  • Track - 3rd Radius Starter Oval Track
  • Controller - Hornby R8250 standard train controller

This train set is of fantastic quality and will last for many years. We love the value for money that you get with this train set. Included is the Hogwarts Castle locomotive, two carriages, oval track and controller. In addition, you also get a starter track mat, plus a re-railer to get the train back on the tracks.

The benefit of this train set is that all age groups can relate to it - most people will have seen the Harry Potter movies and can relate to the instantly recognisable Hogwarts Express train. Both young and old model train enthusiasts will get great value out of this set.

If you're looking for an excellent all round train set that's good value for money, will last for many years, offers easy future expansion potential, and appeals to both young and old, then this Harry Potter train set is a fantastic option. This set also appears to be on sale reasonably often, so be sure to shop around for the best deal prior to purchasing.

Another advantage of this set is that the locomotive is DCC ready - so if you decide to move into the world of DCC (digital) model trains in the future, it can be easily upgraded to work with this technology. For more information on DCC, see our article on the differences between DC and DCC model trains.

Alternatives for those who aren't fans of Harry Potter would be the Flying Scotsman train set or the Hornby Eurostar Beatles Yellow Submarine train set.

Why the community likes it

  • Fantastic value
  • Excellent build quality
  • Appeals to a wide range of age groups
  • Fans of Harry Potter will love it!

Disadvantages

Best Value Train Set

The Hornby R1270M Valley Drifter is the best value train set, particularly for beginners or those just getting started with model trains.

Hornby Valley Drifter Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - OO
  • Locomotive - 0-4-0T 'Crimson King'
  • Rolling Stock - Open Wagon + Four Wheel Coach
  • Track - Starter Oval Track
  • Controller - Hornby analogue train controller

This train set is great value. It's one of the least expensive offerings from Hornby, however you still get a lot for your money. Included is an 0-4-0T 'Crimson King' steam locomotive, an open wagon, a four wheel carriage, oval track and analogue controller.

We like the level of quality you get for such a reasonable price. This train set represents a great introduction to Hornby trains, is incredibly simple to setup and use, and has potential for expandability in the future.

If you're looking for a simple train set that's 'plug and play', has great build quality, and is easy to expand in the future - whilst still being a reasonable price, choose this train set.

This is also a good train set to choose if you're just 'dipping your toe in the water' with the model train hobby, or are perhaps buying it as a gift and are not sure whether the recipient will stick with model trains long-term. The low cost of the initial outlay will mean that you won't be wasting a lot of money on a more expensive train set that will potentially see little use.

Why the community likes it

  • Excellent value for money
  • Great introduction to Hornby trains
  • Simple to setup and use
  • Easily expandable in future

Disadvantages

  • Not really suitable for more experienced model train aficionados
  • Could come with more track

Best Train Set for Adults & Returning Hobbyists

The Hornby Eurostar Beatles Yellow Submarine train set is a great option for adults looking to get their first model railway set or those perhaps returning to the hobby after some time away. It's certainly a high quality set and will be of particular interest to fans of The Beatles.

Hornby Eurostar Beatles Yellow Submarine Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - OO
  • Rolling Stock - Eurostar Class 373 Power Driving Car, 2 x Eurostar Class 373 Passenger Saloons
  • Track - 3rd Radius Starter Oval, with Track Pack A
  • Controller - Hornby R8250 Train Controller

This set features a highly detailed colourful livery in the Beatles Yellow Submarine theme. It's a very unique offering in the train set world - the livery really is excellent. Of course, it will be of particular interest to fans of The Beatles - however, other train set enthusiasts will love it as well.

Included in the box are two Eurostar class 373 power car (one of which is unpowered), two Eurostar class 373 passenger saloon cars, 3rd radius starter oval track, plus controller and accessories. So you certainly get good value for money.

Being an OO gauge model train set, this will be compatible with the majority of your existing model railway equipment - so it will be great for hobbyists returning to train sets after some time away who are looking to take advantage of any existing model trains, track and accessories.

Why the community likes it

  • Excellent value for money
  • Highly detailed colourful livery
  • Compatible with existing OO gauge equipment
  • Fans of The Beatles are sure to love this set!

Disadvantages

  • May not be suitable for more experienced model train hobbyists
  • If you're looking for a train set with a steam locomotive you should choose the Flying Scotsman set instead

Best Electric Train Set for Kids

The Playtrains Flash the Local Express train set is a terrific starting point for young model train fans. It's an ideal first 'proper' train set.

Hornby Playtrains Flash the Local Express Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - OO
  • Rolling Stock - Flash the Local Express Train
  • Track - Starter Oval Track
  • Controller - Battery Powered Remote Control

Flash the Local Express is a solidly built starter train set aimed at younger children and toddlers. It makes a great first model train set. Included in the box is Flash the Train, oval track, mat, remote control, and cardboard station and tunnel.

The track in this set is great - it's really easy to join together sections and they can be easily seperated - so it's ideal for young children. However, please note that it's a proprietary type - so, whilst it'll be compatible with other Hornby Playtrains products, it will not work with track from other model train brands.

The advantage of this train set is that it makes it super simple to get started with model trains. It comes with everything you need to get up and running quickly and easily. However, you'll need to provide the batteries as these aren't included in the box.

If you're searching for a beginners kids train set that's well made, easy to setup and simple to operate then the Flash the Local Express is certainly a great option.

Note, this is a battery powered electric model train - so if you're looking for a wooden train set, you'll want to check out our ultimate guide to the best wooden train sets for detailed comparisons and reviews on the most suitable wood train set for you.

Why the community likes it

  • Solidly built
  • Specifically designed for younger children
  • Ideal first model train set

Disadvantages

  • Batteries aren't included - you'll need to buy 2 x AAA and 4 x AA batteries seperately
  • The track is unique to Hornby Playtrains so won't be compatible with other brands

Best Lego Train Set for Kids

The best Lego train set is the City Passenger Train Building Kit. This is one of the most popular train sets from Lego and is easy to setup and simple to operate.

LEGO City Passenger Building Kit

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Features

  • Suitable for Ages - 6-12
  • Rolling Stock - Lego motorized train
  • Track - Lego circle track
  • Controller - Remote control or mobile app

This is a fantastic option for a first Lego train set for kids. It's good value for money and there are lots of options for future expansion - including track, trains and accessories. It's easy to setup and operate, so is a great option if you want a train set that doesn't require a great deal of time and effort to get started with.

The set features a motorised Lego train which can either be controlled with the supplied remote control or by downloading the Lego Powered Up mobile app. It also integrates easily with other Lego train sets, so you can easily create some fantastic track layouts which are a lot of fun!

One downside of this train set is that it only includes enough track to make an oval. If you'd like to make a more interesting track layout you'll need to purchase this track expansion set or consider an alternative Lego train set which comes with more track, such as the Lego City Cargo Train Building Set.

Why the community likes it

  • Fantastic LEGO build quality
  • Suitable for a wide range of kids age groups
  • Easy to setup and operate
  • Integrates with other Lego train sets

Disadvantages

Best Iconic/Classic Train Set

Flying Scotsman is simply the most famous steam locomotive in the world. Hornby has paid a fitting tribute to this classic locomotive with their excellent Flying Scotsman R1255M Train Set. It's the best iconic train set available today.

Hornby Flying Scotsman Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - OO
  • Locomotive - LNER Class A1 4-6-2 'Flying Scotsman'
  • Rolling Stock - Two LNER composite coaches + LNER brake coach
  • Track - 3rd Radius Starter Oval with Track Pack A
  • Controller - Hornby analogue R7229 train controller

We love this set as the build quality is excellent, it appeals to a wide range of age groups, it will likely work with your existing model railway equipment, and can be easily expanded in the future, if desired.

Included in the box is the iconic Flying Scotsman locomotive, three carriages, oval track and controller. There's also a couple of accessories included - a Hornby MidiMat and a re-railer to help you get the locomotive back on the track.

A great advantage of this set is that the locomotive is DCC ready - meaning that if you decide to transition to the world of DCC (digital) model trains in the future, it can be easily upgraded to work with this. For more information on DCC, see our guide to DC vs DCC model trains.

Why the community likes it

  • Excellent build quality
  • DCC Ready locomotive
  • Compatible with your other trains & equipment
  • It's the Flying Scotsman!

Disadvantages

None

Best Train Set with Expansion Potential

A great choice for a train set with excellent scope for future expansion is the Bachmann Digital Commander DCC Train Set. This provides a great base HO train set and comes with two locomotives that are equipped with DCC, giving a number of opportunities for future expansion.

Bachmann Digital Commander DCC Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - HO
  • Locomotives - EMD GP40 Locomotive and a EMD FT-A Locomotive (both with operating headlight)
  • Rolling Stock - Plug Door Box Car, Open Quad Hopper Car, and Wide-Vision Caboose
  • Track - 56" x 38" Oval of Nickel Silver E-Z Track with Turnout and Siding
  • Controller - Power Pack and E-Z Command Controller

This set comes with two locomotives, a box car, a hopper car and a caboose in addition to track, controller and accessories - so you're certainly getting great value for money. It's a fantastic option that provides a great base to start from when thinking about expanding your model railroad in the future.

Expansion is incredibly simple - both HO and OO gauge locomotives will work with this set and there are numerous track expansion packs that are an incredibly cost effective way to create more interesting track layouts and give more operational flexibility to your train set.

Both locomotives are DCC equipped, giving great operating flexibility and potential for expansion with other DCC model locomotives. For more information on this, see our guide to DCC model trains.

Another great advantage of this set is that being in HO scale, it can also run OO scale trains on its tracks. This is very useful if you have additional OO gauge locomotives that you're looking to run on the layout.

Why the community likes it

  • Excellent expansion potential
  • Great value DCC train set
  • Quiet and efficient operation
  • High level of detail
  • OO scale trains are compatible

Disadvantages

None

Best HO Scale Starter Train Set

The Bachmann Trains Freight Train Set is one of the best options if you're looking for a great HO scale train set. It makes a great starter set for children or provides an affordable introduction to the world of model railroading.

Bachmann Rail Chief Freight Train Set

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Features

  • Gauge - HO
  • Locomotive - EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive in BNSF livery with Operating Headlight
  • Rolling Stock - Open Quad Hopper Car, Gondola Car, Steel Reefer Car and Cupola Caboose
  • Track - 47" x 38" Oval of Snap-Fit E-Z Track
  • Controller - Power pack and speed controller

This Rail Chief Freight Train Set from Bachmann Trains represents excellent value. It's a great starter train set for a child or anyone interested in an affordable introduction to model railroading.

Included in this set is an EMD GP40 diesel locmotive, quad hopper car, gondola car, steel reefer car, cupola caboose and a number of accessories. The included locomotive is powerful but also very quiet when compared to other HO train sets on the market.

As this is an HO scale train set, it also has the advantage of being able to run OO gauge locomotives on the tracks - a great option for those looking to run their OO scale model trains on this layout.

Why the community likes it

  • Affordable beginners train set
  • Great introduction to model railroading
  • Quiet and efficient operation
  • High level of detail
  • OO scale trains are compatible

Disadvantages

None

Best Wooden Train Set

Our pick for the best wooden train set is the BRIO Deluxe Railway Set. It includes a large number of components, has great variety and excellent play value. It also includes a very useful storage box.

See our complete guide to the best wood train sets for more information and up to date reviews and comparisons on the best wooden train sets.

BRIO Deluxe Railway Set

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Best Hornby Train Set

For detailed comparisons, reviews and recommendations on the best Hornby train set see our ultimate Hornby train set guide for more information.

You'll find suggestions on the most suitable model trains for a number of age groups and use cases, including the best Hornby train set for kids, adults and those returning to the model railway hobby after some time away. It's essential reading before choosing your next Hornby train set.

Next Steps

If any of the content in this guide was confusing, you'll want to check out our complete beginners guides to the differences between DC and DCC model trains and our ultimate Hornby train set guide as well as the other articles in our train set series for more information and assistance.

This guide primarily focussed on electric model train sets, however we also have a highly detailed guide to the best wooden train sets which contains product comparisons, reviews, and our recommendations on the most suitable wooden model trains. It's essential reading for anyone who's considering purchasing a wooden train set - be sure to check it out.