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Hey Guys,

One of my grandson's is three and a half, and comes over to spend the day every other Saturday.  I showed him my layout and ran the train a little for him about 4 months ago, but it was weird, because he just couldn't mentally comprehend that the train was moving and controlled by the transformer throttle.   He kept wanting to lean over and push the train along by hand like his toys.   He quickly got bored and wanted to play on the floor with his  push trucks and toys.

I have a copy of the Lionel 120th Anniversary Catalog, though, and keep it on the coffee table in my den.   I have never bought anything in it, but occasionally flip through it,  because it is a beautiful catalog and you can learn alot about O Gauge just by reading about the products.

About two months ago, when he came over, I was looking through the catalog and he wanted to see what I was reading.  I sat him up on my lap and started showing him all of the trains in the beautifully colored pictures.  He got really interested. 

When we got to pages 110 through 119, he went crazy.   Those pages have all of the Thomas & Friends, and Disney Toy Story, Frozen II, and Mickey Mouse engines and cars.   He watches all of those shows on t.v. all of the time, and  was t facinated by those trains.

He wanted to take the catalog home with him, but I said no, because I knew it would just end up in a pile with his other books and toys, and soon be forgotten.  So, I told him it was "Pop's Train Book" and had to stay on my table, but he could look at it whenever he wanted.

Now, whenever he comes over, the first thing he says is "I wanna look at Pop's Train Book."     He takes it over to his little chair and table, and spends about a half an hour by himself, looking through those nine pages and talking to himself.   He is an extremely careful child, and treats  the book like its made of gold.  When he is done, he walks it back over to the table and gently sets it down.

Just thought I would pass this along to others.  Maybe this is a way to kindle the hobby interest in a small child, and help him grow it as he gets older.

The little train shop down the street has a stack of the newer catalog for free, so if the pictures of those products are somewhat different,  I think I'll go down and get one of those for him look at, just to keep his interest fresh.


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Sounds like you're on the right "track".

Because kids like to play on the floor, I set up a small S gauge layout on the carpet with a small conventional transformer and my 4 year old grandson quickly picked up on how to control the train by moving the red lever. You could do the same with an inexpensive HO Thomas-like starter kit, too. Of course, now at 6, he wants to operate my Cab 2.

I would also recommend a kid's LCCA membership for $25, which means he will get his own membership certificate and all the Lionel catalogues, plus special kid's publications, sent to him directly in the mail every other month or so. I got one for him as a birthday present and he really looks forward to getting things to look at in the mail and then we can "discuss" what he saw when he comes over. It also stimulates kids to start reading at an early age, which is never a bad thing.   


Have you thought of setting up a small wooden Thomas layout for you grandson? As he is still in the hand-powered phase, this could be a way to further his interest in the hobby. There are also many Thomas books you can pick up for $3-6 on Amazon, you can keep these at your house and they could be "Pop's Thomas Books!"

For his 4th or 5th Birthday, if he still shows interest, perhaps you can get him an O-scale train set ($140-200 on da'bay right now for the Thomas Set). He could run his own trains, with his grandpa! I personally have many wonderful memories of running trains with my grandfather. Also, this would be a great hands-on way to teach him about the basics of electricity.

I second what Richie has said. As an LCCA member, they really do a fantastic job of getting kids interested in the hobby.


My grandson will be five in June.  He is obsessed with trains (especially steam trains).

When he was a little over a year old I had just discovered Mike Armstrong's videos on YouTube.  I was at my desktop computer watching "California Trains" when Connor came over and wanted to sit in my lap and watch.  The video is an hour long.  He watched it for 45 minutes.

Then came the Thomas videos when he was home with my daughter and her husband.  And also the Mike Armstrong "Steam Trains Galore" videos.  When he was two years old he got a hand me down Thomas and Brio set with a table that had storage drawers for the wooden trains.  His second, third, and fourth birthdays were all train themes.   The summer after his second birthday I brought him on a steam train ride and made a DVD of it for him to have.  He still watches it.   Every Christmas he would spend hours in front of the N Gauge two tier layout I set up for the holidays.  And, of course under the layout were MP3 tracks from Mike Armstrong videos coming through two sets of computer speakers.  One for the steam train tier and the other for the diesel tier.

By the time he was four he no longer wanted to watch "trains with faces".  He only wanted to watch real ones.  By then I had dug out the Lionel trains I had as a kid and began restoring them with Connor attentive enough to spend an hour watching me solder, sand, etc.  He told his mother that he wanted a "remote control train" for Christmas (2020).  They live in an apartment in Queens so she asked me which ones to get him.  In the end she wanted the O Gauge (despite the extra space it took up) so after the wonderful help I got from forum members here he had a great starter set with lots of fun things to go along with it.

Now that he is approaching five he still cannot get enough YouTube videos of real trains, O guage trains, and N Gauge trains.  He can run a bluetooth app to control his trains, a bluetooth app to control my Arduino based DCC N Gauge trains, and of course a conventional throttle for both.  When he is doing remote learning 60% of his answers are turned into some sort of a train theme or how whatever it is they are discussing is related to trains.

Every kid is different.  In Connor's case I don't think I needed to get him interested in trains.  He got me RE-interested in trains.  His first word was "wheel" and trains had them.  Maybe it was as simple as that.


Last edited by Craftech

Sadly, two of my grandsons are super sensitive to loud noises, including the one looking at the train book.  They hate it.    So, even though there is an small-town wooden trains station 2 miles from my house, where the AmTracks come through north and south and stop several times a day, I don't think they could take the sound.  :-)

Probably the greatest "ally" of toy trains is SANTA CLAUS, and many Christmas trees of hobbyists also accommodate a floor layout at its base. And there's THE POLAR EXPRESS movie and trains - perhaps the greatest children's story of our time.

At Mottler Station, for many years we set up O-gauge holiday train layouts in the living room bay window. Each year at Christmas, the layout grew in size and in height with with multiple levels. Ultimately, the layout expanded to fill our two-stall garage.

Our granddaughter showed an interest in my Rock Island trains, so I bought HO trains like my RI trains for her - and placed them at the base of a small Christmas tree for her. On Christmas Eve, she slept on the floor near the trains that she described as "just my size."

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394

I gave my two sons' families a starter set (Lionel LionChief Pennsylvania Flyer) for Christmas, when the kids were about 2 years old.  They all still LOVE when Dad sets up the train around the tree.  For awhile until the parents asked me to stop, I gave each one a Christmas car, with "From Grandpa, 20XX" written on the bottom.

My grandson (now 5) has been parent-limited as to TV, and especially video usage.  He has NO I-Pad, etc.

He is still fascinated by trains, and loves to visit Grandpa to run Grandpa's trains on (what he calls) a "real train set".  He also sets up HUGE, elaborate wooden train set "layouts"- sometimes through three or four rooms in their house.  He sends me videos, or Facetime calls to show me his latest creation.

When at our house, we play a game- "Hide the muscleman"- I bought a cheap plastic male wrestler figure, about 3" tall.  He hides it anywhere on the layout (not in a car or building though- has to be in plain site although can be behind something).  We alternate- with Grandpa, and/ or Dad having to go around the corner or in the bathroom while he hides the Muscleman) then we alternate.  This will go on as long as his Dad and I will play.

I periodically give him train cars to take home at the end of the visit- last was a crane and crane tender.

For one week at home- he refused to drink anything but water- reason : "I am a steam engine, and my boiler uses only water."

The magic is still there- we adults have to be willing to feed it!!

A young train lover would enjoy the Polar Express book, an absolute work of art both for the written prose and the illustrations.  A great book for a parent or grandparent to read to a youngster.  The book was written and published in 1985, quite a few years before the movie version came out, not the other way around as is so common today.  A great way to introduce trains and reading to a child.


@Mannyrock  This may give you some ideas.  I see some similarities between the ways you've described your grandson and the way my daughter at that age liked to "read" for long periods of time (for her age), liked playing with things she could move herself, was careful and did not like loud noises.

I decided to buy her first train set (she calls it the Santa Train) when she was three.  I spent about 3 weeks putting together the basics of the layout seen here which was low enough that she could reach everything she might find interesting from the plastic stool she could move around herself (pictured below).  I tried to include lots of interactive elements that she could control herself, with the occasional help from Dad if she needed it.  She liked to move the O gauge figures (especially Santa) around the layout, operate the milk loading platform (onto a flat car so she could see it happen), dump logs using the operating track, same with the coal dump car, add coal to everything (even it it wasn't a prototypical use) and especially "drive" the automobiles around the road on the perimeter of the layout.  Later she enjoyed running the trains, painting the bench fascia and adding more scenery and figures.  Even though she's older now (at an age where most kids would rather be on their iPads), she still enjoys running the trains with Daddy when we set them up each Christmas in a temporary floor layout.  She's really looking forward to our next "real" layout.  Hopefully coming soon.

Milk Platform


She also doesn't care for loud noises.  When she was 5 we went to the "Train Museum" in Roanoke,VA and she really enjoyed that too, no loud trains there, just parked ones.



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Last edited by SteveH

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