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what was your first model train?

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what was your first model train?
Posted by GN24 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:39 AM

I remember when i was in first grade my first model train set was a bachmann pacific flyer set. I am wondering what you guys had to start out with?

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Thursday, June 16, 2022 11:01 AM

The earliest train I remember is a Fleischmann train with 0-6-0 engine and cars that I got around 3rd or 4th grade.  I still have it and it still runs.

I remember seeing a sheet of plywood with American Flyer track attached, but the train was long gone - I think my dad bought it when I was an infant.


If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Pruitt on Thursday, June 16, 2022 11:06 AM

Mine was a plastic Lionel set.

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Posted by Water Level Route on Thursday, June 16, 2022 11:26 AM

Mine was the Life-Like Complete Model Railroad.  Had everything pictured on the box.  Grass mat and all.

(Not my photo)


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Posted by BRVRR on Thursday, June 16, 2022 11:31 AM

Mine was a Marx freight set with a F3 in B&O livery a Christmas present. I think I was in second grade at the time. I remember admiring it in the Western Auto store window.

Remember its your railroad


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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:23 PM

Hello All,

Mine was a Tyco Chattanooga Choo-Choo set; which included an Operating Crane Car Set, along with a separate Hopper Car Unloading set.

I was so enamored by the Hopper Car Unloading set that almost 40-years later I designed an entire 4'x8' pike around these cars and their action. 

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by Tin Can II on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:29 PM

My first train set was a Lionel 027 set, probably used, that I got for my 6th birthday.  At the time, my dad was in med school, so money was extremely tight. 

My brothers and I got a big HO scale Tyco set for Christmas when I was 12 that featured a UP Pacific.

I still have the trains from both sets; although I haven't set up the Lionel stuff in decades.  

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:31 PM

I am wondering what you guys had to start out with?

Somthing by Tyco, but I do not know which set.


Living the dream.

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Posted by floridaflyer on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:38 PM

Mine was a standard gage lionel 2-4-2 with three passenger cars and four freight cars. Got it used for Christmas in 1946. Track plan took up the whole living room. Set was built in the 1936-39 era.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, June 16, 2022 4:13 PM

Are we separating "model trains" and "toy trains"? I guess mine was kinda both, since it was an early 1960s American Flyer "S" set, a toy train which was built to full scale size. It also used track with individual plastic ties, kinda like Atlas snap-track only S gauge. 

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Posted by DrW on Thursday, June 16, 2022 5:59 PM

Back in Germany, when I was five or six, a Märklin 0-6-0 with two freight cars and a a short (2-axle) passenger car on a 7' x 3.5' particle board. In the first year, the board was bare and I had to build houses with Legos.

Over the years, until I was about 10, this was built up stepwise to a double loop with a figure 8 (wiring is easy with Märklin), working catenary, working signals (even the catenary had insulated stretches which were unpowered when the signal was red), and lots of scenery. All this was done by my mom (God bless her soul) in the 2-3 weeks before Christmas each year.

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Posted by GP025 on Thursday, June 16, 2022 7:31 PM

Cox HO scale train set with a Burlington GP35. Christmas present back when I was about 7.

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Posted by Enzoamps on Thursday, June 16, 2022 7:46 PM

About 1952 or so, got a Lionel 027 railroad.  And some Plasticville.  A couple years later I got an orange Lionel reversing gang car.  I watched that thing for hours.  Let it run into my hand and it reversed.  Hey, I was about 7 years old.

And a few years later, we got a couple 4x8 sheets of plywood, made them into tabes and put them in an L shape, right out of the Atlas track plan guide.  Athearn rubber band drive GP9 and a little Docksider.

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Posted by Pantherphil on Thursday, June 16, 2022 9:19 PM

 Take a look at my avatar.  Lionel O27 set with a pair of track loops, automatic crossing gate, semaphore signal and whistle shanty plus lots of Plasticville buildings for me and my little brother.  I was 5 he was 3.  Layout expanded over the years.

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Posted by snjroy on Thursday, June 16, 2022 9:31 PM

Cox military train, Christmas 1976... I loved that set.


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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, June 16, 2022 9:35 PM

Hogwarts Express


I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by cowman on Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:16 PM

It was a used pre-war Lionel 0-6-0 set on a 4x7 plywood base, painted green or brown as appropriate,, with green dyed sawdust sprinkled into the green pqint.  Came to me before I can remember.  Still ran last time I tried it.  An O gauge American Flyer Zepher came with it, but it was (still is) in rough shape.

Have fun,


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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:28 PM

It must have been before I started school.  It was an O scale Lionel set with a steam engine.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by hjQi on Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:30 PM

Mine was a Lionel O train set with tracks. I then bought lots of O tracks but then soon realize that O took too much space so I switched to HO. I still have the Lionel train set and would set it up in my house during Chritmas...


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Posted by EMDSD40 on Friday, June 17, 2022 10:26 AM

At birth, my aunt bought me the Lionel PRR Congressional Set and my father the Wabash F3 set. The "platform" became a Christmas tradition. They still run today on my O gauge layout under the HO. Their memory and traditions turned into a lifetime hobby which I am very thankful for.

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, June 17, 2022 10:48 AM

I got Lionel 0-27 around age 5 but even before then, used Marx "wind up" (also called clockwork) trains.  Two 0-4-0s, one metal and  streamlined a bit like the Milwaukee Road 4-4-2 or more likely the NYC shovel nose Hudson. The freight cars were tin, and the couplers were a sort of downward L shape flat metal with a slot, so the downward facing tab would go in the slot.  Like what some Lionel steam locomotives had between the loco and the tender.

I have an even vaguer recollection that the other steam locomotive, black plastic, originally had a front headlight (like from a flashlight) run off of D cell batteries but that the light was busted or maybe the battery holder had become rusted or corroded before I got the engine.  So I never got to enjoy that part of ti

The freight cars were lithographed including all details, on flat tin.  The cars were light and made a very satisfying noise as they were pulled around.

 Marx made a plastic accessory that I had: a gray plastic semaphore that attached to the track so that when the train ran over that section of track the weight would cause the semaphore to move down.  How it actually worked was that the semaphore would almost flutter up and down due to loco and train cars passing over it.  I believe I incorporated that onto my Lionel set up when I got it.

The clockwork mechanism was simple in the extreme.  You'd wind the crank on the side of the engine with a little lever on the top of the boiler set to "brake," set the engine on the track, hook up tender and cars and move that lever so the engine would have off like a bat out of the bad place, but very quickly limp to a halt.  And then I'd wind it again.  And again.   The gauge of the track (simple two rail somewhat like Lionel's 0-27) was O gauge or close to it so these were pretty big toys.  

They were pretty beat up when I got them, so I suspect my folks got them cheap.  Of course I wish I had them now.  I have some recollection that when I did get Lionel trains I would try to combine my clockwork trains and Lionels on the same layout, probably creating very satisfying collisions in the process and not doing either set of trains much good.  But I also seem to recall that there was some incompatability between the Marx windup trains' drivers and the Lionel switches.  

This is OT but there was a higher class of clockwork/wind-up trains in England that used regulators or governors to keep the speed in check and giving you a much longer running time than the minute or so that I recall from my Marx trains. 

This is even further OT but at that same time there were other wind up toys to be had -- cars and trucks that ran with spring power, toy airplanes whose propellers ran by clockwork, toy ships (that floated - sort of) with propellers, and toys for the floor that would spin and make noise, powered by winding them up, which you did if I recall right by pushing down on a central handle as you set them on the floor.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by chutton01 on Friday, June 17, 2022 11:38 AM

Sure why not.
My absolutely first train set was I guess a Lionel 3-railer  c. 1969, don't recall much about it to be honest, except it seemed poorly made - were there a lot of cheesy Lionel knock-offs around at the end of the Swinging '60s?
By 1972 I upgraded to the Glorious Tyco 0-4-0 Shifter & Tender (in PRR livery, with a red caboose). I think the set came with a silver Swift Meat Reefer and most likely a 40ft gondola (good for putting army men and Hot Wheels cars in).  I am pretty sure the loco had Tyco and not Mantua etched on the tender underside, althought I would not bet more than 2 pennies on that. The shifter (switcher really) worked OK till the kinda cheap valve gear bent kind of late in its live (late '70s IIRC).
Next, time for me to leave the steam-era and buy a EMD GP20 with christmas money (I think it was AHM, I distinctly recall Yugoslavia etched on the bottom) in what was likely Burlington livery. Likely very late 1974, purchased during a big sale at Mays (where everyday's a sale day. A digression, but it is a bit depressing to see a list - likely not complete- of stores that closed over the decades, many of which - Alexanders, Woolworths, Mays, Korvettes, Gimbels, Gertz, A&S, TSS and many others, I once shopped. I guess Sears will join that list in due time).  Anyway, the locomotive ran OK, but the handrails were a mess I'm afraid due to my careless handling.
Finally, I got with the program and purchased an Athearn GP9 in cool, rugged BN black and green livery (yes, this was 1979, so the wide-body wasn't that realistic in hind sight).
The earliest freight car I still have is the lovely pipe hauling flatcar (green Western Maryland, like the one shown here). Trucks and couplers updated, and load sort of secured, it runs OK - I don't use it too much on my modules but it's something from over 40 years ago (in addition, looking at the work building in that image (mine was plainer), I was able to turn it in a decent building addition to a lumberyard building on one of my modules - once in a while its worth holding on to old stuff, but usually not.

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Posted by Mark B on Friday, June 17, 2022 9:25 PM

Early 1950's It was a Marx set with the clunky couplers. I was expecting something with the Lionel name on it. Hated the set.

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Posted by Little Timmy on Saturday, June 18, 2022 8:34 PM

My first exposure to model railroading was my father's 1951 Marx set. ( I still have it.)

About 1975 ish I got a Tyco bicentennial set...  sometime in 1981, it got mixed up with my other hobby at the time ... fireworks...

By 1982, I was building my own stuff, Athern, Model Die Casting / Roundhouse,  ect...


Rust...... It's a good thing !

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, June 18, 2022 9:07 PM

MY first train was this plastic set from, well, I don't quite know who made it *, but it was certainly for a younger age than what these two fellows are (I'm on the left). I got hundreds of hours of "playtime" with this set.

 EJT_1963 by Edmund, on Flickr

However I do see some Plasticville kits there and a Revell Superior Bakery so I was already assembling "scale" models.

My dad built this 4 x 8 but it was off limits for me unless he was home from work.

 First_HO-1962 by Edmund, on Flickr

The seed was planted. Those are all my Matchbox cars on there.

Cheers, Ed

    * Found it: Child Guidance.

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Posted by Darth Santa Fe on Saturday, June 18, 2022 11:56 PM

My first one was an N scale Bachmann PCC trolley when I was 5.  My dad had some N scale trains and track at the time, which I'd learned to set up and handle carefully, and I found out that the rear pilot was just high enough with a slight lip so that I could "couple" it over the big rapido couplers on the freight cars we had.Big Smile


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Posted by hon30critter on Sunday, June 19, 2022 1:56 AM

Those are all my Matchbox cars on there.

When I was about four years old my Aunt Ruth visited us from Calgary, and she brought me half a dozen or so Matchbox and Dinky cars. My family was of limited means. Gifts were only given on birthdays and at Christmas, so getting a cornucopia of so many wonderful toys out of the blue was absolutely breathtaking. I couldn't believe that they were all for me!

I still have most of those cars but they are in pretty sad condition because I put many miles on then when I was a kid. Recently I came across one of the cars. It appears to be an Alfa Romeo but I'm not sure. Maybe someone can better identify it. The only markings on the casting are 'Dinky Toy' and 'Made in England'.

It was missing the wheels and the axles. Why the axles would be gone is beyond me. I'll blame my brothers! To make a long story short, I decided to resurect it and I found a source in the Netherlands that had the correct replacement wheels. I made new axles out of brass stock. The car now has a place of prominence above my workbench.

Here it is:

Reliving my childhood is fun!



I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by PennsyLou on Sunday, June 19, 2022 6:12 PM

Inherited my Dad's post-war lionel set (loco was a Pacific) when I was about 8, under the tree for Christmas.  He had a pretty extensive setup with lots of switches and the operating log dump.  I built a large O scale layout in the basement, which was wiped out when a sewer line burst above it.  The Pacific exploded in green flames when I applied power to the track.  Despite the damage, we got well over $100 from a collector which allowed me to get started with my first HO layout.  Had an Athearn PA/B set in B&O livery and the IHC 0-8-0 switcher on that layout.

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Posted by wrench567 on Sunday, June 19, 2022 8:19 PM

 I saw a picture of me as a toddler. I had one of those trains held together with Slinkys pulled with a string. Does that count?

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Posted by "JaBear" on Monday, June 20, 2022 3:14 AM

Hornby clockwork. by Bear, on Flickr

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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