Tips for Buying Model Trains Online

The online market has been the buzz in the world wide web recently, and it will stay there for a long time. You have probably had an online transaction at least once in your life. You have probably bought food, clothes, and toys online. 

Many have also gone to the online market to look for a missing piece of their collection. You best believe that online markets have the highest possibility to hold rare items that physical stores don’t have with them. Rare items of a hobby you invest in, such as art knives, action figures, and model trains, can be easily found in the online market.

For a model train collector, this is excellent news! But attached to its popularity, digital markets and online buying platforms have also become an opportunity for bogus sellers, scammers, theft, and hackers to take advantage of digital markets’ popularity.

To ensure that you get what you ordered, here are some tips when buying model trains online.

Tips for Online Buyers

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It is normal to take cautionary measures when buying things online, especially if it is a hobby you invest in. Before buying, you have to ensure that you are spending your money on the correct items and that these items are in good condition. After all, a good amount of money is hard to find and so are model trains in good condition.

Here are some helpful tips when buying model trains online:

Check the Seller Background

A good number of hobbyists would trust sellers that have been in the business for years – the ones that are already well known. However, the new ones in the industry can sometimes offer you a better deal and offer you broader choices. You should not let that deal pass. Still, you have to check whether the seller has a legitimate account. 

Trust the Ratings

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Ratings are the buyers’ responses, whether the product is in good condition, if it is worth its price, or if it is shipped on time. Remember, these buyers have the same mindset as you. They want the best, especially if it is a rare item.

Review the Online Reviews

Regardless if they are good or bad, read the reviews. They will help you come up with a decision. Sometimes the bad review may not be about the product but on the courier. You cannot just walk out on a good deal because of that.

Check the Photos

Sometimes, when buyers review the product, it comes with a photo of the product when they receive it. The uploaded pictures of the buyers are an excellent reference to the condition of the train. Don’t just rely on the photos posted by the seller.

Contact the Seller

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Sellers of rare items can be very responsive. This is not because of the price the item is sold for but because some sellers are also collectors. They are more than happy to assist you, send you photos, and may even suggest better items.

Check the Condition of the Model Train Set

As said earlier, you can check the condition through the photos of the buyers or photos sent by the sellers themselves. But if you are a beginner, here are some points in buying model trains in good condition online. 

Train tracks

Train tracks

The materials of the products bought online can be difficult to determine, especially if the seller did not specify it in their posts. However, you will know if the set is good if the tracks are metal instead of plastic. A good track will have plastic ties and a metal rail. Go and check the reviews of the previous buyers.

Power Source

It is better to buy a model train set plugged to the wall for power instead of a battery-powered one. Usually, these battery-powered sets are for children to encourage joining the hobby. Thus, it cannot power the upgrade that you may decide to add later on.


Like your tracks, wheels are sturdier if they are made of metal. Metals help clean the rails and are good for tracking. If you already bought a set with plastic wheels, don’t worry since you can always buy replacements.


More often than not, you get what you pay for. So expect cheap model train sets to be of low quality. Of course, starter sets are on the cheaper side, but they can still be of good quality. Prices also vary from one seller to another. 

For a reasonable price, train sets may include an oval track, three to four cars, and a power supply. Some may consist of an additional track and other accessories signs and trees.

The online market has great offers, especially for collectors. You might even find rare pieces for your collection. However, before you buy, make sure to read tips online. After all, that’s good money you are going to spend.

What are the Common Scales and Gauges of Model Trains?


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Scales and gauges are important when it comes to choosing between different size model trains and tracks. Manufacturers use these numbers to describe the sizes on offer and if you are buying online, the scales and gauges should be amongst the first things you should consider.

However, there is a slight difference between the UK and American models. This is why you should always check with the company your purchase from. 

Scale is usually defined like a number for example 1:87 for HO scale trains, or 1:22.5 in the case of G scale. The 1 represents a full-sized train, whereas the number 87 means that it’s 87 times smaller. With that said, in the case of the N scale that’s 1:160, the train model is supposed to be tiny since it’s 160 times smaller than a full-sized locomotive.

What Are Some of the Best Brands of Model Trains?

There are several reputable manufacturers and brands of model trains out there that offer affordable items with impressive build quality. But then, there are also those who sell expensive pieces that will cost you your kidney. When it comes to buying a model train, quality is of utmost importance. Since you will be assembling and disassembling the parts regularly, it is important that the parts are durable.

While buying a model train online, you should opt for brands like Atlas, Lionel, Hornby, and Bachmann.  These brands have been working on model trains for nearly a century now and specialize in making the best-quality trains and tracks etc. 

If you are a beginner, you will have to spend a little time experimenting with different brands to find out which works out the best. Once you get your hands around the basics, you can adhere to a single brand if it meets your needs and preferences.

FAQs: Tips for Buying Model Trains Online

Here is a look at some common questions asked about buying model trains online.

1. How do I choose a model train?

To choose a model train, you first need to consider the area where you will be building it. Then, comes the size of the train, quality, price, and durability. If you are a beginner, you should start with relatively cheap model trains and eventually make your way up as you develop the skills.

2. Are Model Trains a Good Investment?

Model trains have brought good earnings to some hobbyists but have not worked out well for others. You can buy, build and sell them at a good price though depending on what the buyers are looking for. Plus, If you look at it interms of a long term business, then you might want to reconsider your decision. 

3. Where Can I Sell Model Railway Stuff?

There are several ways of selling your model railway stuff. For instance, you can try selling on sites like eBay and Amazon. Additionally, you can ask around and look for those who collect such items. Railway models that are unique and built with extreme precision tend to fetch a better price. 


Buying model trains online can be a slightly tricky process. To avoid any frauds or scams, you should read online reviews, contact the seller, define your needs and preferences and focus on the quality. The tips mentioned above will surely help you narrow down your options, which otherwise can take a lot of time and effort.