I put off getting a model train for the last several Christmas times but now finally have my first set. My search began around a month ago. I had two questions I needed to answer first, which scale, and what manufacturer to go with. After visiting a website that claimed that O scale matched up well with the Christmas village houses that I have, my answer of scale was found. The LHS near me had some Lionel sets that caught my eye. The Pennsylvania Flyer, Polar Express, and New York Central all looked like nice starter sets. I was leaning towards the Penn flyer since Pennsylvania is right next to me being from Maryland. The clerk told me about MTH trains, which I had never heard of before. I decided to avoid them cause the MTH sets were about 100 dollars over the Lionel sets I was looking at. I came back several days later and picked up the Pennsylvania Flyer set. After setting it up at home, and watching it go around the oval track with smoke puffing, and the whistle blowing, I sat back and felt satisfied with my purchase. Initially I just wanted the set and felt I would be done but lately I've felt drawn in by the hobby and want some more stuff, like a Diesel engine, some more track, and some passenger cars. I looked into prices on some online hobby stores and was suprised with the prices of train gear. Many of the engines being more than my set. Please let me know about other manufacturers that will work with my set. Also, do you know of any alternatives to the fastrack? I find the fastrack to be too noisy for my liking.