Model Trains & Toy Trains
Berkeley Parents Network >
What/Where to Buy >
Model Trains & Toy Trains
We have a 1950s American Flyer 283 model railroad train that we
need to get running again. Does anyone have a suggestion for a
good model railroad repair shop in the area? Thanks!
Tin Plate Junction near Jack London Square on 4th Street repairs
trains, 444-4780. There is a bench fee--$30 or $35, I think--to
take a look at it, and then they will give you an estimate.
For our lionels, we go to tin plate junction trains, in oakland.
My husband is a toy train fan and he recommends Tin Plate
Junction Trains in Oakland (Jack London Square area). If they
can't do it, they will probably be able to recommend someone
681 4th St
Oakland, CA 94607
I don't know about a repair man but Point Richmond has a model
train museum run by volunteers who have set up the entire thing
themselves. it's well worth a visit anyway, but I'll bet one of
the people there can point you in the right direction.
train museum fan
This is kind of a multipart question. My 3 year old son is a
train fanatic who has gotten it into his head that he is going
to get an electric train set for Christmas. To say that he
really wants one is an understatement -- he talks of nothing
else and has even gone so far as to make a book for Santa with
pictures of various kinds of trains in it that he's clipped from
toy catalogs. This is despite (or perhaps because of) the fact
that every time the subject comes up I tell him he needs to be
older before he can have model trains. He's not a kid who
generally asks for toys, but he is mad for model trains and
loves going to the model train museum in Pt. Richmond, to the
model train store in Jack London Square, etc. Battery operated
Brio/Thomas type trains will not do -- he wants a real model
The problem is that model train sets are hugely expensive and
they're designed for older kids -- like eight year olds. I don't
think he has the dexterity to play with a model train set. So
here are my questions: Have any of you who are parents of train
nuts found a model train set that's appropriate for a
preschooler? I've seen Playmobile ones on Ebay that seem like
they might be okay, but I haven't seen them up close so I don't
know. And if not, how do I prepare him for the disappointment of
not getting the one thing he wants for Christmas?
My 3 year old loves our electric trains. We got them last
christmas and set them up occassionally. That said, he is
really too young for them. They break often (after he has
dropped them); it makes me nervous having the trains plugged in
(he tries to ''help''), and they are a little challenging to put
back on the tracks after every derailment. They are really fun
for him (and big sister) when an adult plays with them too.
Perhaps you could get a small set for special occassions. I'm
sure we'll be setting them up again for the holidays.
Here's an idea: I know Rockridge kids on College Ave carries
these little engines by Lionel and Thomas the Tank that are brio
sized and compatible, but run on batteries, so can be turned on
and off. They aren't that expensive and maybe your child would
be happy with them if he hasn't seen them before. That said we
have an electric train every year around our Xmas tree and our 2
year old son can operate it, but needs adult supervision and
assistance. They can turn on/off and regulate speed but maybe
not put back on the tracks etc. We use my husband's old
childhood Lionel trains, received when he was four or five years
old. I know the new ones are crazy expensive, but if you must
have electric, you can buy them on ebay used, maybe starting
with some less perfect and cheaper ones. Good luck!
The great thing about having a son who wants an electric train
is that you get to play with it too. My son also likes the model
trains at Pt. Richmond. The first set we (ok, me) bought for our
son was a G scale set -- very large and easier for little kids
to handle. The best ones are from Germany (LGB) and priced
accordingly. Fortunately, you can also buy much less expensive
sets made by Bachmann, and best of all, you can get them for
closeout prices from www.trainworld.com. Last time I looked,
they had a cool circus train set for $70. The trains are pretty
sturdy, too (smaller scales seem to be more delicate), and the
bigger wheels and track make it easy to handle. Have fun.
Hi, I hope this does not complicate things for you but we got our
son who is now 5 an electric train when he was 3 1/2 years old.
We helped him with it when he played with it and always supervised
him when he used it. He still plays with it and still needs our
help. The one we got cost under $90 at Toys r us which I realize
is not cheap but was cheaper than many we saw. He loves it and has
never had any problems except for some frustration when he cannot
get it on the track himself. Good luck deciding what to do.
I have three sons, 3, 6 and 9, all of whom are train-crazy to
varying degrees. My middle one sounds abit like yours. I believe
for Christmas the year he was just 4, we got the two older boys
electric trains. While they do enjoy them and the then-4 year old
could manage them with so me dexterity, i.e. railing and
rerailing, they can't really handle the whole set-up themselves.
My husband built a 4' x 8' train table for them and we have had
different layouts on it. With the addition of the 3 year old, we
found that the set was too often in a non-working state that
required a large time imput from an adult to set right. The
trains have recently been put away pending a major change in the
type of tracks so we can make a real permanent layout.
The short answer is - he is too young for a real electric train.
Maybe another two years, if you are willing to spend some time
keeping it running. You might try a relatively inexpensive set( I
have seem them for less than $30, usually at Christmas time) that
just runs around an oval track. They are not well made and won't
hold up over time, but might satisfy him now.
Lastly, other train outings - similar to Pt. Richmond set-up is
the Walnut Creek Model Railroad right near the Lindsay Wildlife
Museum in Walnut Creek. They are open mostly on Friday evenings I
think with some weekends. Check their website at www.wcmrs.org.
Also it is great fun to take Amtrak to Sacramento and walk the 1
1/2 blocks to the Train Museum which has full scale trains,
electric model trains, and Thomas trains.
My boys (8 and 6) have had electric trains for quite a while. I
don't exactly remember when they first got them, but I'm thinking
it's been a good 3 years or more. We were really suprised that
they were able to put the trains on the tracks but we started
with HO scale and they've been happy with that ever since. You
can find good used and cheap trains on the Internet and Ace
Hardware in Berkeley on University is also a good resource. You
can find small track layouts (I'm racking my brain trying to
remember where we got our first set, but I think it was a gift)
around. I hope someone has more information for you for
resources, but you should be able to find stuff on the Internet
and I'd say to let him try it out. He will probably surprise
Just one piece of advice about electric trains -- make sure you
get the E-Z track! We had a non-EZ track, and it kept coming
apart every few seconds. It was very frustrating! Then we got
some EZ track, and it's heaven! It locks in together so the
track can't come apart.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a train set for my 3 year
old son? He loves trains, we have lots of Thomas trains, Brio
trains, but no track yet so I would need a set that is compatable
with the trains we already have. We don't have room for a train
table so I want to buy him something that he can play with on the
floor, so it needs to be small, but a little more complex than a
figure eight. Any suggestions? I've been to Toys R Us and was
completely overwhelmed by all the choices. It's an expensive
investment so I want to buy something that we can expand if he
stays interested. Thanks so much for the input!
I'm interested in purchasing a train table/train set and don't
know where to begin. I know the popular brands are Thomas and
Brio. I think I can buy a generic train table, unless there's a
strong argument for going brand name. Can I buy generic tracks
that will be compatible with both Brio and Thomas? Do you
prefer Brio, Thomas, or some other brand? I need educating and
I need help! Thanks in advance!
haven't the slightest clue about trains
I got a set a IKEA: a figure-8 of wooden track with bridge/tunnel at the intersection
and 4 simple wood cars. It cost no more than $25, probably less. Chances are,
they still have train sets, but their toy selection does change frequently. The track is
compatible with Brio train cars. You could buy two sets and make your train fan and
pocketbook very happy.
For the person who asked about which train set to get. I wanted to tell you how
much we like the Thomas trains. I think the fact that they have faces on them really
helped my son engage in creative play. He makes the trains talk to each other,
reinacting some of the scenarios from his day. They ''play chase'' around the track,
hide and go seek. Sometimes they are rough with each other and then say sorry. Its
like he's practicing social situations. We also occasionally let him watch the thomas
videos and read some thomas books which I think also helps him be creative with
the trains. Also, the thomas trains have stronger magnets, so you can make longer
trains without them coming apart. I noticed the magnets on brio trains will give out
when they have more than a few cars attached. We got the thomas trains as a gift
when my son was about 20 months old and he still plays with them regularly at 4
years old. I would start with the figure 8 track and then get an extender set. You can
ask relatives to give him train accessories like the station, a bridge or the water
tower for his birthday or christmas. We have a train table but my son now likes to
make train tracks all over his room. Trains tracks also provide good practice with
a thomas fan
Our 4-year-old son inherited a big set of Brio trains from his
older brothers. He has really enjoyed playing with them the past
two years. We've added a few Thomas engines to the set and he
really prefers those to the Brio engines, because they have faces
and personalities and he knows them from the videos. I think the
quality is very similar. Thomas and Brio are totally compatible
except for one Brio tunnel we have that the Thomas trains are too
tall to fit through. I have bought both Thomas and Brio on ebay -
that's a good place to get bargains (but at this time of year,
there is a lot more interest so prices may be higher!)
We were very happy with a set of generic tracks that we ordered
from this website-
After careful research, we bought our son a 100-piece train set
last xmas that I'd recommend as a great starter set. It's made
by Maxim Enterprises (http://maximenterprise.com/trains2.htm) -
there's a list of retailers on the website, and you can often
find them on eBay, too. It's totally Thomas/Brio/etc.
compatible. They don't have our exact set anymore, but it's
very similar to the 100-piece sets they have - it has track,
risers, bridge, crossing gate, roundabout, buildings, animals,
people, signs, trees and a train, plus it came in a nice wooden
box, with a padded lid that doubles as a seat. Far less
expensive than Thomas/Brio stuff, and has held up well and
offered lots of options for track layouts and play. We bought a
few Thomas engines to go along with it, since my son's into the
I found my son's first train at Ikea for about 12 dollars. It's
simple, fits with Thomas and Brio, and makes a figure 8 with a
bridge, has an engine and 3 cars and he LOVES it. Here's the
link to see it, I hope I've done it correctly. If not, google
Ikea go to children's Ikea, then you'll see choices for toys,
and the trains are there.
IKEA sells wooden tracks (approx 10 feet for $15) along with
some cars. These tracks are interchangeable with Brio, and
Imaginarium. They claim to be interchangeable with other brands
as well, but I haven't tried.
Thomas Fan's Momma
I am planning on buying a train table and slowly adding the
various trains (Christmas, birthday, etc.) for my 2 year old
son, but didn't know there were so many choices. Based on my
research thus far, they are not all compatible, so I'm looking
for advice on which to commit to. I'm interested in the
pros/cons of Thomas, Brio, Imaginarium, and anything else that's
Train for Toddler
Can you wait until Christmas time? If so, then Costco sells one
each year at that time. It's a table and a starter train set
with just a few trains. I've had mine for over two years, have
added all kinds of trains - from Brio, to Thomas, to Target's
brand. If you can't wait, try Ebay, Craig's list, or local
resale stores - Toy Go 'Round in Berkeley, maybe? Also, post a
request for one on this network's marketplace and one on Craig's
Best of luck.
Regarding the Brio train excursion: Our son Will is now 4 1/4, and he
played with his Brio train set almost exclusively (along w/a few diggers &
various other trucks) from about 2-4 yr.s old. Round & round the coffee
table... We started with a new set of a figure 8 & the small trains that
come with it (the BIG Christmas gift). It's one of the smallest sets you
can buy, & already extraordinarily expensive. That set kept him very happy
for a very long time - just the one crossing tunnel was interesting enough.
Then he learned that there are such things as toy stores, and Thomas
trains, so we bought a few more trains over time, used & new. We also
rec'd more tracks (of various brands) for gifts, all of which together do
not make a perfect set like the color pictures, but do very well for a
little guy. My basic advice is - because these are such fabulous toys, and
because they are fun for grownups too, buy enough to have fun with, but
don't buy everything at the beginning. It was great fun to add little bits
& pieces as we went along, and they are really overpriced - it's easy to
get roped in & overdo. And now, he's much more interested in Leggos &
Tinker Toys. Everything changes... He still loves trains, though. On the
subject - look for "Choo Choo Trains" the video of all trains and no dumb
songs or narration (Tiddlywinks has it.) Amazingly, he still watches that
one. Also, the Berkeley Public Library has a good selection of train
videos (with songs & narration, but still mostly pretty good.)
About 3 years ago (haven't checked since), Toys-R-Us carried a "Sesame
Street" train set that is compatible with Brio. You get a pretty
large layout (no crossing tracks, but a long straight bridge plus the
two vertically curving pieces which constitute a bridge in their own
right) for a very reasonable price. However, the wood might not be as
strong as the oak used by Brio: some of the curved tracks had their
male connector break off with the grain, and I suspect those were
Sesame Street tracks. We got that set to start with, and later added
two Brio boxes: 1) two straight/curved branching tracks; 2) assortment
of straight tracks, including small tracks with two male or two female
ends. My son was also given a tunnel as a birthday present. If our
son had retained interest, I might have added a turntable but what he
has gives a lot of flexibility.
The Brio products come with a brochure of all the different sets, and
we got ideas for what to add from looking the the sets pictured.
Does anyone know if the wooden train set sold by Ikea
matches with Brio brand parts?
Yes! They are compatible. I think IKEA may have plastic
connectors versus wood, but they work just fine.
I'm looking to buy my son (20 months old) a used train set
(preferably a Thomas the Train). I noticed in the ''marketplace''
emails that several other people are looking for the same
thing. I got no replies to my listing there to buy a used set.
I'm wondering if anyone knows of a good store to buy a used
set. Clearly something happens to all of those old train tables
and train pieces when kids are no longer interested...!
I started the train thing for my son at about this same age, and
he loves it still at almost 3! I don't know if you are
specifically looking for Thomas the Train, or the wood Brio type
train sets. I opted for the wood, since there are a lot of
knock off brands that work just fine with the wood Brio set. My
favorite is the train sets available at IKEA. They're wonderful
and a whole lot cheaper! I've had good luck picking up
miscellaneous used pieces at the Toy Go Round store on Solano in
Berkeley. For this age he doesn't know the difference between
the name brand and the knock-offs, and since I don't know how
long this phase will last, I didn't want to invest a lot of
money. Plus, this stuff gets pretty beaten up at this age.
For a train table I got my son a really nice one for Xmas at
Target for $70. Target carries a lot of wonderful wood toys
around Xmas, like these train sets and tables, that I don't
think they carry year round. It's worth it if you can wait that
long. The other good resource for used train stuff is eBay.
Welcome to the world of trains
Actually, I would suggest that you try Target. Around Christmas
time, we purchased a 100 piece train set at Target for $14.99!
5 piece train, lots of track, some decorative elements such as
animals and trees were all included. For your sake I hope it
wasn't just a Christmas fluke!
this page was last updated: Feb 6, 2009
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network