|Written by Paul D. Race for and|
Christmas villages go back over a century, but in most households they faded in popularity when houses lost their parlors and the television took over the living room. Now that Dept. 56®, Hawthorne Village®, and other companies have repopularized Christmas villages, many folks who've never had an electric train are wondering what are the best trains to use with their new ceramic or porcelain or resin village and accessories. This is not the same as asking what kind of train is best around a Christmas tree - in fact only one kind of train is really good for both purposes, but we'll get into that later.
This page will answer a few basic questions about trains for your holiday village, then list links where you can go for more information and project ideas.
How Big are Christmas Villages and the Trains that go with Them?
For detailed information on the scales of Christmas trains please see our article "Sizes and Scales of Big Christmas Trains".
Where Do Christmas Towns Come From?
Christmas village structures have historically come from a wide range of sources. Here's a quick timeline (dates are approximate):
For more detailed historical information, check out the Family Christmas Online™ article A Brief History of Christmas Villages.
You Can Make Your Own - If you like the vintage look of the old cardboard or tinplate houses, we have a wealth of free projects and resources for replicating either look on your own Christmas village or railroad. Some of those projects have links further down the page.
You Can Buy Other People's - Since Dept. 56(r) introduced their ceramic and porcelain Christmas village houses, dozens of other brands have come in and out of the business. The Family Christmas Online™ article A Brief History of Christmas Villages describes and compares many of the current options.
Our buyer's guides include many specialized collectible Christmas Village collections from Hawthorne Village(r), including villages inspired by the work of Thomas Kinkade(r) and Norman Rockwell, the shows It's a Wonderful Life and Andy of Mayberry, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer(r), brand names like Coca Cola(r), John Deer(r), Disney(r), and many more besides.
Where Do Christmas Village Trains Come From?Not many folks are up to building their own trains for their Christmas village (if you are, let me know, and I'll talk to you about a feature article). Most "store-bought" trains that work great with Christmas villages fall into two basic categories: O gauge, and On30.
O gauge Train Sets - These sets, mostly made by Lionel, include sets with Christmas colors and sets with realistic railroad names, which are actually more traditional, if you think about it. Their best O gauge set for Christmas is the Polar Express, shown at the right. O gauge train sets are also large and sturdy enough to use around a floor-standing Christmas tree.
On30 Trains - In 1999, Bachmann invented an On30 train set specifically to go with Dept. 56(r) villages. The trains are almost as big as O gauge trains from Lionel, but their paint job and detailing are a better match for most quality Christmas villages. They will work around a Christmas tree in a pinch, but if you're thinking about JUST a holiday village, On30 may be your best bet. Today they are mostly available in two formats:
Now if you're getting nervous about choosing the right train, here's two things you should know:
So don't let "paralysis by analysis" cause you to put off ordering a train for your Christmas village until it's too late. If you start with one kind of train this year, and later on, you like the looks of another one, you can run them both in the same village - a growing number of people do.
What if You Don't Have Room for a 38" Track Circle?A few alternatives are available:
For More InformationIf this article hasn't quite given you the information you need, try one of the following:
Christmas Train and Town ProjectsThe following articles from our collection have free instructions and plans for inexpensive projects that will look great on your holiday village or railroad. Several others that apply to any indoor village or railroad are listed farther down the page. Enjoy, but let us know if you find the articles useful.
In addition, you can help by sending us project tips, article ideas, and photos of your railroads and villages. We want this site to be as useful as possible to as many people as it can be. As the hobbies we serve grow, we all benefit.
Note: Family Garden Trains™, Garden Train Store™, and Big Christmas Trains™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are
Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Paul D. Race.
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