|Written by Paul D. Race for and|
What happens when you combine collectible villages with toy or model trains? - O gauge trains (such as those made by Lionel®) have been around for over 100 years. Christmas display villages, such as those made by Department 56 have been around since about 1976. Both represent hobbies in their own rights, with many magazines, web sites, clubs, and other resources serving their respective hobbyists. This web page is about what happens when the two hobbies converge - when collectible display villages (such as those from Dept. 56®, Lemax®, or Hawthorne Village®) are being "served" by toy or model trains.
As a garden railroader myself, I usually model in larger scales that are suited for backyard railroads. But when I put together a catalog of Big Christmas Trains in the fall of 2004, I realized just how many people were combining holiday display villages with toy or model trains. The advantage is that this combination of hobbies gives you literally thousands of choices for what to buy and how to do things. The disadvantage is that the two hobbies have two distinct cultures (you could almost stay that model railroaders are from Mars and display village collectors are from Venus), and few resources are available for people who want to do both at the same time.
Since 2007, we have been creating and collecting articles to help folks in this situation. In fact we've begun a site just to provide easy access to the information you need. The BIG Indoor Trains(tm) primer pages will be a good place to stop after you'd have a look at the basics on this page.
We want to help you sort through the choices you face when you start planning some sort of indoor display railroad and village, whether it will only be set out during the holidays, or whether you want to have it available all year long. It is meant to help you borrow ideas from both the collectible village and the model railroad hobbies to create something that meets your specific needs.
The first thing you should know is that, of all the kinds of toy and model trains sold, only a few kinds are suitable for most indoor display villages:
If you have something else on hand already, by all means, try it out and see how it works out for you. But if you are looking to make a new purchase, think about On30 trains (my first choice for display villages) or O-gauge or O-27 trains. Note: Don't let the fact that some Lionel® trains are described as O gauge and others are described as O-27 bother you The main difference between the two is the kind of track they run on, and if you use the track that comes with your train set you won't encounter any difficulties.
The good news is that whichever kind of trains you choose to run, you will have no trouble finding buildings, figures, and accessories to create the community (or communities) that your trains will serve.
|O-Scale Railroad Accessories - Hobby shops sell many products that were designed to go with O gauge trains. These products go with On30 scale trains as well. They tend to be plastic and generic-looking, but they give you a wide variety of choices. (The O-Scale Accessories page shows several examples.)|
|Display Village Accessories - Makers of collectible villages, such as Hawthorne Village® supply many products that were intended for seasonal displays. These tend to be hand-painted porcelain or resin. They usually have enough detail to establish a strong sense of place and time, such as a 1890s New England countryside, or a 1930s big-city street. (The On30 Trains and Display Villages page shows several examples.)|
The best part about this variety is that you can choose the best of both worlds. You can always start out with a "display" featuring mostly collectable pieces and pick up some modeling and railroading skills as your miniature world expands. Or if you have been a model railroader all your life and now you want your railroad to look like it belongs to a more specific place and time, you may take advantage of all that the "collectible" pieces manufacturers have to offer - in many cases they're more reasonable in price than you might think.
The following pages show products and ideas that will help you set up a display railroad that you can enjoy, not only at Christmas, but also all year-round. For more details on any category, please click on the photograph.
Note about Availability and Pricing: Although I try to keep an eye on things and to recommend products that are reasonably available, the model train market does fluctuate, and any product on this page may change price or become unavailable without prior notice. If you "click through" to see details on a product, and nothing happens at all, or you are routed to a supplier's home page, please let me know and I will remove the product from the online catalog until I can find a replacement or another supplier. For more detailed information about why products seem to come and go and why I have stopped listing prices for certain products, please see my article "About Pricing and Availability."
Hawthorne Village® features a collection of On30 trains that have been custom painted with designs by Thomas Kinkade and others. These are, frankly, the most charming trains in this catalog, but they are limited runs, so trains that are available this month may not be available next month. These trains run on HO track (so sometimes they're mistakenly labeled "HO" trains). However the trains are designed to look good with O-scale accessories, such as most Christmas village buildings.
Bachmann's introduction of O-scale trains that run on two rail (HO-gauge) track has permanently married the enjoyment of trains to the enjoyment of Christmas villages and related accessories. Bachmann has modeled Victorian-era trains and streetcars that look like they belong with most Christmas village structures.
Note: Family Garden Trains™, Garden Train Store™, Big Christmas Trains™, BIG Indoor Trains™, BIG Train Store™, and Trains and Towns™ are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications (www.btcomm.com). All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are
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