Young children... what age to start...?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by lisafeg, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. lisafeg

    lisafeg New Member

    Firstly I am so impressed with this forum and all the fun and helpful members. I've just spent most of my evening reading through the postings and you guys are great!

    Here's the set of events that led me here...

    1. Son's birthday coming up (3, yes, that's right 3). He loves trains thanks to wooden cheapy set and Thomas the Tank Engine! Well, he loves anything with wheels that turn! And of course those lovely christmas trains in the shops.

    2. Husband loves model airplanes (from childhood), went to Hobby Shop... LOOK AT THAT OO/HO THOMAS Electric train set... LET's GET IT ! Let's get it now!

    3. My past experience with trains (father's Lionel post-war O-gauge set each childhood summer at Pop's) gave me the presence of mind to say... let's THINK about it (even though I quizzed the shopkeep endlessly about prices, compatibilty etc).

    4. After a little research decided boy is too young. Will have to be happy with battery operated wooden Thomas trains and plastic GeoTrax RC trains for now. My father claims to be at least 4 or 5 before he got his Lionels!

    5. I can't stop thinking about trains!!!! So here I am....

    My questions are ... what are your experiences with younger children? I want to start planning ahead (gives me something to dream about!)... there are so many isssues, where, what size, which trains, etc. But those are adult concerns, I'd love to hear about your kids / grandkids feelings and unique approaches to model training. For instance, we set up Dad's Lionels every summer then had to pack it away, so we did not do scenery, more about making bigger and better track layouts and using up more ping pong tables!! not to mention maintenance on the 25+ year old set! Do all kids go for layout and moving parts or are some into the craft/model building side of it?

    What about those big christmas trains? Are they a hit with youngsters or just a hassle?

    And those 'ceiling trains' how do the kids react to them? is it adult indulgence or to the kids really love to watch them go round without touching them!??

    Well, thanks in advance for any replies... I am so wishing son was already older!!! I guess I should be careful what I wish for!!:)

    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  2. abutt

    abutt Member

    Maybe 3 is too young!


    I was five when my mother and father set up a Lionel train layout in an adjoining room to my bedroom. I was just able to see over the edge of the table. They did a wonderful job with scenery. Green oil-cloth, mirrors for lakes, many of the Lionel "working" buildings. I was allowed to run them under supervision. I managed to have many crashes and spills when no-one was looking.

    What I'm saying, at that age it was just a big, expensive toy.

    Most of us on this forum are adult train nuts. Many operating to a high degree of scale modeling. Most children today have never even seen a real train. 70 years ago when I saw my first Lionel, trains were as common as automobiles and an important part of our lives. It would be more likely to me for kids to have a truck layout! I know that's not possible.

    I'd stick to the wooden ones for a while. Let him push them around. Have close contact with them. Maybe you and your husband, like my mother and father, could build a small layout for yourselves and include your son in the building and operation. I would suggest HO for a scale in that so much is available for that scale in the hobby shops. Tell your husband I was a RC plane guy too. But that hobby left me as I got too old to run after them. I've been a model railroader all my life.

    Boys and their toys!

    Much luck, Allan
  3. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Removed - duplicate post - apologies Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  4. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Lisa - just for you - and anyone else with kiddies, this morning was the start of a new program here in the UK, which is likely to prove as popular as Thomas the Tank engine. It is called Underground Ernie and will probobaly spread around the world. The Franchise has been taken up by Bachman, and I've enclosed the press release I received this morning. One other bit of Advice - "Little hands need largish things to hold" - so don't be too anxious to move into the smaller scales til he is about 8 years old.
    Shortliner (Jack)away up here in the Highlands


    Bachmann signs up with
    Underground Ernie

    Bachmann Europe Plc is delighted to have been chosen as licensee to produce the range of electric toy trains from the new television series ‘Underground Ernie’, launched this morning on BBC Cbeebies channel.

    Bachmann have been granted the Worldwide rights to manufacture electric powered toy trains, train sets, tracks, buildings and scale figurines associated with the series that has been created by Joella Productions.

    The series is aimed at children aged 3 – 8 and features the voices of former England footballer and now broadcaster, Gary Lineker, as Ernie and comedienne Janet Brown as Victoria.

    Graham Hubbard of Bachmann Europe Plc said today “We are delighted to be associated with Underground Ernie and our challenge is to bring the superbly computerised animations into the toy and model shops as working electric trains. We began work a few weeks ago with the full support of our parent company, Kader Holdings Company Limited. Kader’s toy division has pulled out all the stops for us and we aim to have the first set on the market before Christmas”.

    There are a number of trains featured in the series including Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee and Victoria. There are also visiting trains from other systems including Brooklyn (New York), Osaka, Paris, Moscow and Sydney. All are involved in a host of exciting adventures.

    Graham Hubbard continued “We are acutely aware that we need to attract the next generation into the creative world of model railways. Underground Ernie gives us the opportunity to develop a complete system independently of our mainstream business and to attract future railway modellers. We have been excited by the enthusiasm of the creators, producers and other partners to establish Underground Ernie as way of educating children through the adventures that the characters are involved in. It will hopefully in the longer term teach them the benefits of public transport in our cities”.

    John Deery of Joella Productions said “Bachmann Europe are the perfect partner for us. We met with other toy train manufacturers but we felt that Bachmann not only had the skills necessary to make this happen, but also shared our vision in helping to make Underground Ernie a truly global brand”.

  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge, Lisa:wave:

    3 may be a bit young to have a set but not too young to introduce them to handling one carefully. I love the near cardiac arrests I give my fellow modelers as my 4 year old son pushes a rare PFM/United C&S Mogul I own around the table.:thumb:

    My children are growing up with a Christmas train and learn the principles of running them from there. On my layout, I'll set the direction and switches and let them run to their hearts content. They love a resturaunt we go to called Granny Cantrel's that has no less than 7 G scale loops of track running around the ceiling.

    I tend to believe kids enjoy the overall effect vs. the little details---unless Thomas shows up. Then they'll track the little train around the layout, oblivious to anything else they may see. Let up the leash easy and according to their age and you'll be surprised. I regularly hand over a $200 radio throttle to visiting children in the 8-12 year range at the club all the time and have had no real problems with it (well...maybe a bit in the speed department:D)

    You might enjoy reading my beloved's insights on my webpage under "The Lady of the Train".
  6. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    Hmmm, well I guess my son must be an exception to the rule as he started with trains at 2. That is when we got him his first (he's on his third) Thomas the Tank Engine table. From there, he quickly showed interest and competence (2 years 3 months) at operating one of my larger electric trains. For Christmas (2 years 6 months), we set up the same train around the tree and he had great delight at putting "passengers" on all the flat cars and running it around and around with stops at imaginary stations and high speed chases from the dinosaurs! He now has many different trains that he plays with. At the moment (he's four now) his favorite is the new Thomas the Tank Engine that chuff chuffs and blows smoke cool to the touch (blue track). He has also been playing with some of my N scale stuff so I pulled out some of my older less expensive engines out of the box and gave them to him. While his N scale layout is somewhat simple at the moment, he still enjoys it and we have plans to add a base and scenery to the circle. He gets a real kick out of imitating me when I turn the steamers down real slow and then get down at their level to watch the running gear chug by. He does the same thing and then looks at me and says, "Cool dad!" He is amazingly adept at getting the wheels on the track for such a small scale. At the risk of "bragging" further, I will stop now. Feel free to ask any and all questions you may have!

    Attached Files:

  7. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    yep, thats when i got my trains, or maybe i was 6. I started off with a Lionel O-27 Seaboard set, that came with a C&O 4-4-2 atlantic. Its a good time to start them off with trains, before they think it isn't cool, lol.

    well, i wasn't a young child all to long ago ( i'm only 16 now) so i think its pretty fresh in my mind. I always liked the first generation diesels, and such. they stood out to me as a child, the RS-3s, RDCs, Sharknoses, GP7s, and the like. It appears to me that most young children agree with me, because my younger cousin always wants to run my GG-1 or GP7 on my HO layout.

    I'd have to agree thats what i wanted as a kid, to be able to set up more tracks in all directions and combinations. I suppose the even bigger thing though, was to get more cool looking lcoomotives ( i still never succeeded in getting a new O-27 loco...). I think the biggest thing for all kids is the locomotives themselves. they stand out, thats how i felt, and thats how outher kids i know feel about it to. Its all in the Trains and the track they run on!

    As a kid, i didn't like the idea of building stuff like crafts and model building stuff, because as your husband might agree, building airplane kits were tough. they discourged me from buying any sort of kit things for a while. for most of my childhood i couldn't afford the trains though, so i never really looked into railroad kits.

    I think when they get older, like 13 and older, they will enjoy building kits more. I started building my first kit when i was almost 14, an athearn blubox AMD103. it came out horrible, but i learned on my second kit, a Athearn GP7. I now really enjoy building kits, even though i finish most fairly quickly. they will probably better be able to build the kits and work with them with less frustration at that point.

    They sure are a hit, although i only ever used my O-27. if you are refferring to the G scale trains i don't know. It was sort of a hassle, ( and even is today) because putting a train around the tree gets in the way of things sometimes, like puttign up decorations.

    Most other hassles in my case though are silly ones. my parents think light as a feather presents will damage the O-27 rails, and that greases from the locomotive could be getting into the floor. None of that happens, its just usual parantel paranoia, lol.

    while its certainly cool to have a train you don't push, putting them up on the ceiling kills it because you can't get a good look at them! kids love to be right there to see it.

    thats definitely a good place to start!
  8. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    :wave: welcome to the gauge :wave:three is a bit young but with careful supervision it would be ok I'd start with somthing large for now like G or O27 then as he gets older and showes a real interest in model RR then move over to more of a true opperating first trains were American flyers when i was 5:). by the way they grow real fast ,too fast:(
  9. lisafeg

    lisafeg New Member

    Thanks so much for all your replies!:thumb:

    TrainNut - those photos are great! What a little engineer! What scale is the larger train? It looks bigger than O ... is it G? or an obscure one? I'm thinking that or O for special christmas treat is the way to go to start. Then if he shows real interest he can extend the way he sets up and plays with his plastic or wooden set (which we'll work on getting more pieces for!). Also of course the Lionels at my Dad's will be a treat. Then by the time he's 5 or 6 we'll have a good idea of his level of interest!

    Shaygetz - great website! Your openess with your hobby is fantastic. I was lucky enough to have a Pop and Dad who also let me be involved in their 'work'. Kids can really do a lot when supervised and taught the right principles. We built a go cart from scratch when I was about 10!!

    Shortliner, underground ernie sounds good we'll look out for it. we get a lot of stuff from the bbc here in oz.

    We're very lucky here - just outside Sydney is the ZigZag Railway. .. a very active club with lots of rolling stock -- we recently took our son and his friend to a Thomas weekend - they had two steam trains dressed like Thomas and James. My first ride on an actual steam train! What a blast! We got to stand on the platform at the front of the carriage - right behind the coal hopper! Whew, stinky! The steam actually hurts your face (or is that the coal bits ?) lol!

    Well, I'm going to start dreaming of our first christmas set... then start planing a new room to house our first real model! lol!

    I'm sure I'll lurk around here on and off till we get started.
    Thanks all for your insight! I'll post a pic of the lionels when we ever get them up again.
  10. lisafeg

    lisafeg New Member

    Oh, sorry one more question so my dreaming goes in the right direction... do you guys think HO sets are good for settting up and taking down (green elite cab seems to endorse the idea of kids liking to build and rebuild the tracks).?? I read somewhere that they don't survive set up and take down well (the O gauge lionels sure took a beating, but nothing a good pair of needlenose couldn't fix).?? Any tips on types of track best for that kind of use?
  11. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Welcome to the Gauge!
    Bachmann and Life-Like sell HO sets that have track embeded in plastic roadbed, which is easy to take apart and put back together. A plus(Which wasn't around when most of us here were kids), you can run the trains on the carpets.The trains that come with the set are designed for rough handling from children, which means hardly any fragile detail that would break off.
    Good luck and keep us posted.
  12. lisafeg

    lisafeg New Member

    Thanks eightyeightfan1,
    I'll keep those in mind. Of course I'll have to search around the australian discussion forums... i'm not sure if we get those brands here.
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Lisa, I would suggest that you start him with Lionel O-27 or LGB. In fact Playmobile makes a train set that works with their line of little people and runs on LGB mechanisms. Ho may be just a bit small for a little one to get on the rails. I have enough trouble putting my ho models on the tracks at the modular club I belong to.
  14. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Welcome to The Gauge!

    My own personal introduction to model trains was at a very early age. My late grandfather had an N scale layout in his basement, and I've seen pictures of us sitting there with me in diapers on his lap. My own kids are were 7, 5, and 3 when I first set up my old HO set for them. No scenery, just a simple loop on the kitchen table, and they thought it was the greatest thing in the world.

    My kids definitely enjoy watching trains, even just run around in circles. But even when I'm building a model, they often sit and watch, interested in what I'm doing. I've even taken them out railfanning with me, and they enjoy looking at real trains as well.

    In my opinion, trains just attract certain people, like other things. I've never stopped at a railroad crossing and felt inconvenienced by the delay in traffic. I get aggrevated if the train is moving too fast, and I have a hard time looking at all the cars. To me, it's interesting to wonder where they're going, where they've been, what they're carrying, and why. I like railroad history, and being able to capture a place in time with a model.
  15. Iron Horse

    Iron Horse Member

    Here is a link to Thomas train sets with the track that 88fan describes

    Internet Trains
  16. ed acosta

    ed acosta Member

    How young is "too young?"

    Dear Lisa,
    I am a senior citizen and my mother recently gave back my very first train set. It was her bracelet! Apparently I used to drag her bracelet across the floor making train sounds before I was old enough to walk.

    I was 5 when my father gave me an American Flyer train set, but he was there to supervise the actually running. Even with the larger size of the train, it was difficult for me to rerail a car and particularly the steam locomotive and tender. As such, parent involvement might prevent a child from becoming so frustrated with trying to rerail and couple rail cars that he/she might lose interest.

    I may have grown, but I never grew up. I still get frustrated rerailing HO articulated locomotives and mommy and daddy are no longer here to help me!

    You are a wonderful parent!
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    lisa: You generated a lot of talk while I was out of town.
    I would warn you about one thing on the smaller trains: a lot of them have pointed metal bits on the couplings - the ones made for the British market especially. You have to use your judgement on how your son and his friends (or his sisters) might use these.
    I don't know when I got my first train set. I had a lot of wind-up trains before my first electric one (age 4) and my first Lionel (age 6,7). The early ones were all demolished or dismantled.
    Most HO track will develop loose rail joiners if taken apart often enough, but it's cheap to replace - rail joiners are even cheaper. My then boss was delighted when he found his son making the track into a long line rather than keeping it to the oval.
    Some kids will develop mechanical or artistic interests or talents from a model railway; others will just poke someone's eye out.
    I feel that a seasonal train loses some appeal when the season is over.
  18. FiatFan

    FiatFan Member

    The children are definitely old enough to appreciate trains. My 20 month old grandson was here in April and sat fascinated while grandpa ran the trains. In fact, the first word he learned after mama and dada was wooo-wooo. My daughter is bringing him up correctly.

    My 6 year old granddaughter has been here this week and is runniing the trains just fine. I have 14 and 16 year old grandsons who show up at the back door and disappear to the basement for hours.

    As others have suggested, I would recommend starting with the wooden trains first, the maybe to a Lionel set until they are ready to get serious about modeling, not just running the train.

    Good luck to you!

  19. nicknero

    nicknero Member

    I work at a local hobbyshop so I see what is good and what isnt the big ones you speak of are G scale they work well not many pieces to choke on and they are fun if you set them up outside Lionels are great the new ones are better for children than the older ones because they have bright colors and they are safer to help you dream lol pick up some catalogs the lionel one and the LGB one the will help alot also
  20. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Well, here's my story. As a kid, I had a ping pong table layout in my bedroom. It was a cheap standard gauge set. I was probably 8 or 10 years old and ran a strand of Christmas tree lights in the little cardboard houses on the train table. I liked to turn the lights out in the room and seen all the little houses lit up and the train running around the track with it's headlight on.
    As a newlywed, I built a little 6 X 4 foot N gauge layout. My 3 year old daughter would throw the expensive little trains on the floor so I sold it.
    30 years ago someone gave me an unfinished contoured 9 X 11 foot train table. It was just plywood with grades and a river thru the middle. It became a storage table in our basement until 2 years ago when Santa Claus cleaned out a section of the basement so I could work on it. I am 67 now and have purchased running stock and am in the process of building scenery which is my thing. I laid temporary track and ran three trains at once. It was good to see trains run again. I have scratchbuilt two bridges which took me months and months. I love to make my own custom built tunnel portals out of plaster of paris but I wouldn't recommend that for a child. I am making hundreds of trees which I understand the ladies are talented at. I am not into houses and buildings and will have all mountains and bridges, maybe a gold mine. LOL Start your child with a cheap Bachmann HO set from Walmart for Christmas. It will be tough to compete with the video games but who knows. Oh yes, one more thing. Read the book, "Playing with Trains."

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