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My 9 year old has asked Santa for a train set! I had an uncle that used to do it when I was a kid, and I thought they were cool. I am thinking this might be something fun I can share with the kid.

Don't want to spend a fortune, but I want to get him started with something that he can grow.

Give me some recommendations on what Santa should deliver guys! Dad wants to have fun too!
 

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Lionel is good, I have one.

I mean the train itself gets boring, fast.

If you want to prolong the fun, I would recommend getting some time of board/table where you can continually modify the environment that the train rides around in. Take a look in your local hobby shop, they might have some on display and offer you some ideas.
 

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+1 on lionel. But there are several other brands that are probably just as good (if not better).

Santa has been delivering a set to my 6 y/o each year so far. O-scale, which are the larger trains with a three-rail system circa 40's and 50's. A nine year old may find HO scale more enjoyable. Smaller (so you can build a larger set up in same amount of space), looks more realistic, more to choose from and can get models that need to be assembled/painted etc. Lot's of magazines out there full of ads (eg model railroader). There's also a great shop in Mnt Lakes NJ (I think its called train station, but Google Mnt Lakes, NJ and Lionel and you'll find it). Good starter set will set you back anywhere from $150 to $400. The Lionels that run remotely are more expensive but a lot more fun. I've got a table set up in the basement that is 8 X 12 so you need to think about how much space you can give up. 4x8 (sheet of plywood) is about the minimum, though. If you want, I'm sure I have a lot of books around that I can send you to give you some ideas. PM me with address if you want to borrow them. Good luck.
 

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I had a huge lionel set and loved it. I agree, the modifying of environment is the most fun. There are some amazing things you can add. Go visit http://www.djunction.com/ in person. Be prepared to spend a lot of time walking around. You'll get any idea of the tons of stuff you can build on.
 

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Funny this was posted. I have a early 1950s Lionel Rio Grande set still in the box. I should find out if its worth anything.
 

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I have always loved them. However I never made anything of them because the prices are absurd with most of the stuff. Some locomotives can be $500+. I used to have HO scale, but if I were to do it again I like the smaller scales. I really like N-scale, and somewhat like Z scale, but it can be a little pricey. Smaller scale means more stuff in a smaller place.
 

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For I kid that age I would definitely recommend O or O27. You must also consider: Your budget, steam, diesel, or electric locomotives, and freight or passenger cars.
If you're willing to spend a little more might I recommend MTH? Many of even their basic sets often have protosound (fancy sound system for the uninitiated) and/or protosmoke (a fan-driven smoke system that produces voluminous amounts of smoke). Lionel basic sets usually have just the draft or pump driven smoke units. They won't have railsounds (lionel's proprietary sound system) but they usually have a horn or whistle. Most of these sets come with their proprietary roadbed track systems. These look nice but they cost more to add on to and I found them rather noisy and unreliable. The rails are also not galvanized like traditional track is so they rust sooner. I have used my traditional O27 track for years without issue but I stored my roadbed track for a few months and came back to find it covered in rust.
Another company you might want to consider is Williams. Their trains are built like a tank and have a few features (not as many as MTH but enough to please the average kid) and the price is decent. A few years ago the company was bought out by Bachmann, and while I wouldnt touch a Bachmann trainset with a mosin nagant bayonet the Williams line has not suffered in quality since then. So for entry level train sets your choice is:
Lionel : lowest price, lowest features, Greatest selection, most costly accessories
Williams : Medium price, medium features, lowest selection, cheapest accessories
MTH : Highest price, Most features, medium selection, medium-priced accessories
 

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My 3-yr old son got a new "Polar Express" G-Gauge Lionel train from Santa last year. I stumbled on it a few weeks before Xmas at an overstock store in the area (Ollie's Closeout Store) priced at about 1/3rd the cost of what it sells for on Amazon.com (see link). Though I would've definitely paid the Amazon price for it after seeing it in action.

Good quality train set and the little guy loves it. It's operated by a wireless remote which is easy for even a 2-yr old to use. I rigged up a 3-cell (12V) LiPo battery (being an RC plane/heli guy, I had to go that route) for it which allows him to run the train for weeks on a single charge. Great train set for a young kid - you can buy extra track (which I did after Xmas) though G-Gauge is not the most popular scale size, but it's the perfect size train for circling the Xmas tree.
 

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9yo=HO or O gauge!! Lionel would be my choice but Bachman stuff isn't too bad and is much cheaper to see if he really takes to it. (if you decide HO scale) There are some really great sets out there as well that have been discontinued. I would suggest a real Train and Hobby shop though. One ... you get knowledgeable staff. Two ... if the child looses interest in trains, he may pick up on something in the RC world which means possible trade in. I also agree that the scenery is fun to do as well.

As for the HO scale .... don't sell them short!! Some of the finest trains are in HO scale (solid brass engines come to mind) and even the best of the best are in N scale!!!! (but those get tiny and hard to work with as a child ... or an adult!!) Good luck to ya and if you need some accessories or other trains and such, let me know. A good friend owns a Train and Hobby shop and another friend sells mostly but toys on Ebay.
 

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I agree with what others said. I had a train set, but I enjoyed making the buildings more than playing with the actual train. I was really into models growing up (looking at them now, for as much as I enjoyed them, I SUCKED at building them), so the buildings and stuff for the train were definitely the focal point for me.
 
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