Every year my husband and I go toy shopping for Christmas and every year he stops in front of the toy trains and looks wistfully at the sets. He owned an electric train set when he was a child and looking at the displays brings back fond childhood memories. Even I have memories regarding trains. My brother received one for Christmas and he and my dad spent hours setting up the tracks on a plywood base.
Model trains, a classic Christmas toy, can be found circling around Christmas trees all over the world during the holiday season. Holiday train shows and special museum exhibits featuring antique and modern electric toy trains draw excited crowds. Some even collect model trains as a hobby and join model railroad train clubs. Enjoyed by both young and old, assembling model train sets bond multiple generations together and often the assembly becomes a yearly tradition. Toy trains have stood the test of time, with the earliest toy trains dating back to the 19th century.
Bachmann Trains is a leading provider of electric train sets. We recently had the chance to try out one of their models, the Santa Fe Flyer Train Set. An HO-scale train (the most popular scale of model railway), this complete and ready-to-run set is a good beginners electric train set. The set includes the following:
• EMD FT diesel locomotive with all-wheel drive and operating headlight
• Three cars: Hopper, Gondola and Caboose
• 11 pieces of snap-fit E-Z track
• 1 curved plug-in terminal rerailer track
• Power pack and speed controller
• Illustrated instruction manual
My husband assembled the track on our carpet within five minutes. With the included track pieces you can construct a 36" circle. It took some skill to place the locomotive correctly on the track, aligning all the wheels properly. After plugging in the power pack, the train did not operate at first. He had to realign the locomotive over the rerailer track before the train would run. The other cars easily coupled together with the locomotive and were also easier to place on the track. The dial speed controller goes from 0-100 and also includes a directional switch. Once we got the locomotive on the track we had no problems operating the train using the speed dial. Our children watched the assembly with excitement and anticipation. Watching closely my husband even allowed them to turn the dial to make the train speed up. The train traveled smoothly on the track without derailing until my toddler decided that he wanted it to stop and knocked it off the track!
This Sante Fe Flyer set is recommended for ages 8 and up. This isn't a set for toddlers, preschoolers or young children. The assembly requires patience and care, the set includes small parts and the cars are not build to withstand too much abuse (although my toddler did forcefully knock the engine off the track twice and the set held-up to his destructive actions). The wheels pop off easily with little force and care must be taken when removing the cars from the package. Fortunately, the wheels also easily pop back on when they do fall off. I'm not sure that the track provided with this set would be enough to install around our Christmas tree. Luckily, extra HO track is easily obtainable. Also, in order to maneuver around the electrical cords from the Christmas tree lights, we would need to purchase a bridge. The trains are fairly detailed and the diesel locomotive features a distinctive "war bonnet" paint scheme. This HO set is very similar to the one my husband owned as a child. Responsible, older children should love playing with this small, affordable starter set (it can be purchased for around $50). I know my husband enjoyed playing with the electric train! We'll probably set it up more frequently once our children get a little older. :)
If you are looking for a Christmas train, Bachmann also manufactures a train called the Yuletide Special. The company also sells a Thomas and Friends line of trains for Thomas the Tank Engine fans. Bachmann trains are available from several retailers including Amazon.com, Walmart, Toys'R'Us, Barnes and Noble and multiple hobby stores.
Bachmann Trains - the website shows all products and includes a discussion board
Santa Fe Southern Railway - website discusses history of the southern railway
National Model Railroad Association - This large organization promotes the model railroading hobby and the website has a comprehensive guide to model railroading perfect for beginners. And especially exciting news for those of us in Wisconsin - The National Model Railroad Association will host its 75th Anniversary Convention in Milwaukee, WI on July 11-18, 2010. The convention will include a HUGE train show. Sounds like fun!
World's Greatest Hobby - A downloadable model railroading guide booklet is available there.
Thanks to Bachmann Trains for this review opportunity and for providing a free train set for my family to review. I am an Amazon affliate and receive a very small commission for products purchased through my links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)