Starter HO set for 5-year old

ZandT Jan 17, 2021

  1. ZandT

    ZandT TrainBoard Member

    My almost 5-year old son has been into trains for a while now and we recently visited a train store, thinking he would want to get some Brio or Thomas trains. Apparently, he tells us those trains are for babies and he wants REAL trains (pointing at the store’s HO scale diorama).

    We bought a used Athearn’s HO dummy diesel unit for him a year ago but stored it away and didn’t take it out until yesterday. He absolutely loves it but he wants to see it run on the tracks, I don’t have HO tracks only Z and T scales. He takes good care of his toys, especially his trains. I’m thinking he’s ready to start with a HO set as it’s widely available and something he can expand in the future. I DON’T want a starter set that uses special tracks (i.e. Lionel Ready-to-Play or Marklin My World).

    Which starter set would you recommend, used or new is ok.
  2. dalebaker

    dalebaker TrainBoard Member

    Well, you could go with either Bachmann or Walthers. For a 5 year old, I’d probably stick with Bachmann. Go with a diesel power set. They come with EZ Track and what you need to get started. A simple 36” oval on a 4’x4’ ply board to keep it simple and could be put away easily. You will probably spend around 130.00. There is a lot of stuff you can do for a 5 year old and be a hero in the process!

    When the grands wanted to set up a train, we used the coffee table in the living room, it was up off the floor and they could sit on the floor and watch the train go by. Be sure there is a gon on the set, they lik to add their own loads!

  3. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    I'll let others field your question, but can your five-year-old easily and reliably put HO trains on the track? I ask because Lionel is often recommended for young children because they're easy to handle, durable and less prone to clogging on carpet lint when set up on the floor. Lionel's Fastrack is their standard track and is used by modelers of all ages.

    I think it's great that you to want to get him started off right. (y)
    trainman-ho likes this.
  4. ZandT

    ZandT TrainBoard Member

    @Hardcoaler he has great motor skills and we have cheesy inexpensive toy train sets in different sizes and he is very particular about putting the trains correctly on the tracks. The gripe is he can’t buy extra tracks or accessories for it. I want to be able to go into a train shop and be able to find HO parts for his train set and have that special experience.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  5. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I think your point about 'special tracks' will be hard to overcome. While all HO scale is 16.5mm gauge, pretty much all manufacturers will use some patented/proprietary connector system. That means Bachmann EZ track cannot connect to Kato or Marklin, Piko, etc. Any train will run on any track (thanks to NMRA standards), but you cannot mix most track brands without heavy modification.

    EZ Track is probably your best bet, especially if you like setting up on the floor. Most hobby shops will have it in stock, so you can expand your collection without having to search online or at obscure stores. Bachmann starter sets are not super expensive, which is good as an introduction to the hobby.

    Track with molded roadbed has become more common these days, but Atlas and Peco still make 'classic' track with just rails and ties. Connected solely by rail joiners, this is the classic universal track. Since Bachmann uses rail joiners, you can connect roadbed-less track to it, as long as you build a small ramp to get it to the correct height.
    dalebaker likes this.
  6. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

    I'd recommend using Kato Unitrack.
    You can buy a starter set with an oval of track and a power pack/controller or get the pieces individually.
    The rail joiners on the Kato track are more durable and can be easily replaced if they get broken.
    You can search for a local shop that carries Kato track here:
    Or, the track is readily available from various online sources.
  7. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    Kato Untrack is nice, but their starter sets may be out of a 5-year old's league. Kato models aren't exactly starter locomotives, and even a careful kid could break them. I guess you could buy the M1 though, but trying to buy Kato track with other models may be overwhelming for new modelers. The benefit of a starter set is that everything is right there.

    I think the main thing Kato Untrack has going for it over Bachmann is their curve geometry. I can't really figure out how to make a double track loop with EZ Track, I think the Kato curves are better designed with inner and outer radii taken into consideration.

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