Getting kids interested in trains

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Getting kids interested in trains

  • First off, I would recommend using trains you yourself are interested in and comfortable with. I'm lucky that I model with three rail O gauge trains because they are big for little hands and you can get some rugged pieces. If you model in HO or N gauge you can make a case for staying with your own gauge and using the more durable pieces you have,although a loop of three rail track, an old 1033 or LW transformer,and a Williams diesel is VERY simple for anyone to handle.I say diesel because I would recommend you buy kids trains they'll actually see on the tracks today. I do NOT understand the logic of Lionel and other companies marketing things like New York Central or Pennsylvania steam freights to kids born in the 90's. I'd get freight cars with loads so there's play value beyond watching the trains run around in circles. In O gauge there are operating accessories: I'd invest in some of them. I'd start out simple: no Protosound II for a first train. Do that later. Make sure whatever you get the kid is dependable and rugged and stuff that if it's tumped off the tracks some you won't worry about. When the grandkids come over the house I put stuff up to run that I won't mind too much if it's broke. Also, I try to stay away from the rocket-bomb stuff that goes airborne with just 10 volts. Mike Santa
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  • I have a grandson that is three and a half, and we watch trains as often as possible. For my birthday, my wife and I took the kid to Strasburg for an honest to goodness steam train ride. The trip for three days was a couple hundred dollars, the time spent together was great, but the look on his face when he saw that steamer up close breathing smoke and steam was priceless. Needless to say that he is now a confirmed train nut. The wife now has a bumper sticker that says "Pray for me, my husband chases trains." That is how I planted the seed in my grandson, and can't wait to watch it grow.
  • One of the things that really got me interested in building a model railroad is that as akid I liked watching trains running behind my aunt and uncles house when they babysat me. I really liked watching the big blue conrail diesels hauling freight along with the occasional Amtrak passenger train passing through.

    On the more mischeivous side me and my brother liked throwing stones at the trains and I'd often try to throw one into the coal pile in hoppers. Nearly 99 percent of the time it would bounce off making a neat ricocheting sound sound of a rock hitting metal. Only one time in all that time did it ever make it into the hopper.

    Also around that time The Carnegie Science Center was doing it's miniature railroad and village and I thought it was really neat watching the trains running around the layout. I also well as scenes some featuring little animated figures doing things like chopping wood and shoveling and the small amusemtn park scene with the little rides moving.

    That got me very iterested in building a layout of my own and during christmas in 1988 I got an HO sclae bachmann trainset. Using some sheets of plywood I built my own miniature railroad in the dining room.

    In typical 9 year old fashion I used hot wheels cars instead of the more to scale ones made by Busch, praline, and wiking. But I didn't really care. Besides to a kid making 10 dollars a week allowance that much money for a little car just seemed ludicrous.

  • There's no magic formula but everyone here has hit on the main points.

    Firstly if you are into it then they will at least be interested and if you pretend to be reluctant to let them join in they'll die trying!

    Secondly good old Thomas is really pulling them in with what amounts to saturation coverage in books, TV and the toy market. Our 3 year old had a pushalong Thomas bubble blower which didnt work well so Grandpa stripped it to try and fix it and ended up removing the push along handle and soap bubble mechanism and having it just as a large toy train. We also bought a Peg Perego ride on train and she sees me looking at trains on the Net so trains are - along with Lego - pretty much locked in..

    BTW I dont agree about Lionel missing the point by marketing steamers, those engines are what kids see the most of in stories and TV and they dont really see all that much of real trains , most of 'em, so it doesnt really matter.

    Last but not least I think its the play value that really scores. ANYTHING that gets you to play with them is all they really want. So our grand daughter will go to any lengths to keep me on the floor with her and therefore if its something I really like, I dont feel I'm being harassed and will keep at it so choose something you enjoy.

    Asherah likes sending things in the wagons and getting stuff sent back to her so I made the switch to O gauge because of its strength and size. We took her to Trainland and observed what caught her eye and we've taken her to see various displays and things like Lionels cattle loading set are obviously what she really likes.

    You've GOT to let them drive even though derailments will occur so choose something pretty rugged and keep the good stuff on display for later.

    IMHO Lionel would have a much larger slice of the pie if they would only understand the importance of getting them young and one way to help would be to have a line that emphasized durability and play value and wasnt so expensive as to put it out of most kids reach. Even a train mad Grandpa balks at some of the prices!
  • Take them to the largest club layout you can find. In Los Angeles, that is the Pasadena Model Railroaders (Sierra Pacific Lines) in East Los Angeles near the Alhambra city limits. Unfortunately, I do not have their website handy.

    Good luck.
  • Simple start them at a young age five is good.
  • I have a grandson that started out watching Thomas the tank. When he turned 2 I got him his first train set (Lionel O-27) and helped set up a simple layout. Now at 2 and a half years old, I have an avid train watcher. Now I happily get pestered to go to the train yard to watch the big boys play. A nice way to share quality time and satisfy my addiction to trains. The wife thinks it is great.
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  • I have 4 kids.3 girls and 1 boy. they like to visit my train room from time to time. My son ,he sees me working on different areas of my layout and tries to help. Sometimes too much,he does good.I see that he is really going to be into it. He also likes to bring his toy trains into the room. he's 4 years old. I started him out on FIsher Price first, then GEO-CITIES.on His fourth birthday, I bought him his first Thomas the train .train set, it was made by Bachman. Hes pretty smart for a 4 year old. He knows his cars(example,if were waiting at a crossing he'll say ,dad theres a tanker theres a boxcar and so on). If hes outside playing.he'll make a special trip inside to tell me theres a train. He loves the hobbie,just as much as me
  • In the UK there are Model Railway Shows on all over the Country at all times of the year. Whilst there are a number of specialised shows where the standards of Exhibits is very high, quite often the models themselves are designed to run in real time where shutting duties and stock movements are very slow! This maybe absorbing and interesting for the exhibitors, but to the paying public especially children whose attention span can be measured in milli-seconds; will not interest them as much as a layout where there is a lot of movement. I and my children have been captivated by simple layouts which do not necessarilly rely on realism to convey the atmosphere of a railway but show that model trains can be great fun for young and old alike.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine and Train Rides are probably good for kids.

  • For really young kids 18 months to 4 years old, the wooden Thomas trains are great. I have a 7 year old and a 4 1/2 year old and realized that they were getting a bit old for Thomas. We are lucky in the St. Louis area to have a company called the Whittle Short Line railroad they make wonderful wooden diesels and modern freight cars. Both boys continue to play with these all the time. These products have significantly lengthend the life of the wooden Thomas track. A simple loop of electric train track, regardless of scale, becomes boring to a little kid quite quickly. The wooden trains provide significantly more imaginitive play. We are also building an HO scale layout together. Little hands can be taught to be careful, and both of them can get my BLI Mikado on the track correctly without problem. We have been "playing" with the HO scale trains for about 3 years now. The trains helped them learn colors, helped them learn fine motor skills, helped them learn logic and control. (I set them a route and they have to manually switch and then place a specific box car at a precise location). The best fun we have is making Athean BB kits and weathering them together. Ink washes and powders all get used to make some of the heaviest weathered cars you have ever seen[:D] The bottom line is that this hobby can be very rewarding for kids and parents alike. We just switched to DCC with a Digitrax Zephyr and Andrew (7) is already quite proficient at running trains. Christopher (4) uses an old MRC powerpack on a jump port while Andrew jumps around the Digitrax keyboard controlling the functions on both his and the Jump port locomotive. Since I am using 4 digit addressing based on the road number of the locomotive both of them are having to use thier brains to remember larger numbers. In my view a significantly better use of their time than being glued to the TV or Nintendo!

    Simon Modelling CB&Q and Wabash See my slowly evolving layout on my picturetrail site and our videos at