As a kid especially, nothing beats the magic of Christmas morning. Rushing into mom and dad’s room then rushing down the stairs to the Christmas tree to wait for the rest of the family to stumble on down. One of my fondest memories of the season from when I was a young lad was watching our Christmas tree train set go around and around the tree while I waited for my parents to make it down the stairs.
We’re not quite sure how under the tree Christmas train sets became a thing, but it caught on, and now, millions of families around the world place a locomotive under their fir, pine, or spruce.
But if you’re one of those who have yet to adopt the tradition of putting a train under the tree, we’ve got you covered with our list of the top 10 best under the tree train sets for Christmas in 2018. The list below features all sorts of trains in every price range, so take a look:
1. Lionel North Pole Central Ready to Play Train Set
Basically, there are two main brands of Christmas tree train sets on the market: Lionel and Bachmann Industries. In fact, in most retail stores, you’ll see these two brands prominently displayed.
One of the best on the market from Lionel is the Lionel North Pole Central Ready to Play Train Set, which comes in at just under the $100 mark. It has an oval track that measures 50″ x 73.2″, with 24 curved track pieces and 8 straight track pieces.
The train, itself, has a holiday-themed colorway of red and green. It says “North Pole Central” on the side of its four trains. It also has a working headlight at the front, and makes authentic train sounds. The caboose says reads “Merry Christmas” on the sides as well, giving it that extra bit of holiday flavor.
It comes with an easy to use remote control that has a dial for forward and reverse, and it also has a button to sound the whistle, a button to ring the bell, and a button to play announcements.
It requires Three AAA batteries for the controller, and train itself uses six C cell batteries. The North Pole Central Train Set has a high 4.1 out of 5.0 star rating on Amazon from 99 customers, with 82% of reviewers giving it 4 stars or above.
It’s one of the best Christmas trains under $100 that you’ll find on Amazon.
2. Bachmann Industries Jingle Bell Express Electric Train Set
The other high quality ~$100 range train for under your tree is the Bachmann Industries Jingle Bell Express Electric Train Set. Both the track and the train size are a bit smaller than the Lionel one above, with the track only coming in at 47″ x 38″.
This train has six cars, all of which sport a Christmasy colorway and design. It also has an operating headlight on the front, and it also has a tank car, box car, quad hopper car, and an off-center caboose. It comes with 21 pieces in total, and the track is easy to assemble, using the E-Z Track snap-together style of track.
It uses an electric dial that sits in front of the track as well, so that will take up some space that otherwise might house a small present.
Best of all — no batteries, which is one of the reasons why this train holds an impressive 4.0 out of 5.0 star rating on Amazon.
3. Lionel Polar Express Train Set
The most popular under the tree train set is the Lionel Polar Express train set that’s modeled after — you guessed it — the 2004 Tom Hanks film, The Polar Express.
It’s a simple-looking design, with a locomotive, a coal car, and two long seating cars, both of which sport “Polar Express” on the side. It has an incredible level of detail unlike anything else we’ve seen in the G-Gauge train set size, including footprints in the snow on the top of one of the cars.
The Polar Express makes authentic train sounds, including a bell and whistle, and it has a working headlight.
It has 12 curved and 4 straight G-Gauge black plastic track pieces, and it’s easy to unpack and setup. It has an RC remote as well.
It also comes with three small figures: the conductor, the boy, and the hobo. It also has an observation car with “disappearing hobo” feature.
4. Disney Park 30 Piece Christmas Train Set
Disney, especially Mickey Mouse, has always had synergy with the holiday season, mostly thanks to kids loving Disney toys and the numerous Mickey Mouse-themed Christmas specials. In fact, you’ll frequently see Disney-themed Christmas tree decorations every year as well.
So if you’re a lover of all things Disney, check out the Disney Park 30 Piece Christmas Train Set, which features Mickey, Goofy, Chip and Dale, and more. It comes with five train cars: a locomotive, coal tender, skating carol car, caboose, and a box car. Each of these train cars sport a Christmasy red and green colorway and design.
It has 12 curved tracks and 10 straight tracks, and it comes with 2 lamp posts as well. It also plays music in the form of Disney theme songs, and it has some choo choo sounds.
It comes with a remote control, and it requires 4 C batteries for the train and 1 9V battery for the remote. It’s recommended for ages 6 years and up.
5. Lionel Mickey’s Holiday to Remember Disney Christmas Train Set
Lionel also has their own version of a Disney-themed holiday train with the Mickey’s Holiday to Remember Disney Christmas Train set.
It measures 40″ x 60″, and it has 8 curved track pieces and two 10-inch straight pieces. It requires 3 AAA batteries.
It comes with five train pieces: a locomotive, coal tender, Disney-themed box car, an animated gondola, and a caboose.
One of the best features of this train is the fact that it has a locomotive that actually puffs smoke
The Lionel Disney Train Set is a much higher quality than the one directly from Disney Parks, which is why it has such a higher price point. If you buy it on Amazon, you’ll save a pretty penny, though, as this same exact set will cost you nearly $100 more at retailers like JCPenney and, surprisingly, even more at Wal-mart (it’s $443.99 at Wal-mart at the time of writing this).
Note that this is one of the louder trains, so if you’re looking for something quiet, this isn’t your best bet. But if you want the best-looking Disney Christmas train on the market, this is it.
6. LEGO Creator Expert Winter Holiday Train Construction Set
It should be no secret that I, the lone toy editor at Heavy.com, love all things LEGO-related, and right now, this LEGO Creator Expert Winter Holiday Train Construction Set is THE highest-rated under the tree train set on Amazon, holding a 4.8 out of 5.0 star rating.
This is one of the best-looking trains, and half the fun is putting it together every year. The train itself measures 20″ long, 2″ wide, and 4″ high, and it has a curved track that has a 27″ diameter.
Once it’s fully assembled, this set has four cars: a locomotive, a coal tender, a box car, and a caboose. It also comes with five minifigures, including a locomotive driver, ticket collector, a boy, a girl, and their grandmother.
The LEGO set also comes with numerous accessories, including green wreaths, decorative lights, white tree pieces and more.
I’ll also note that it can be upgraded with Power Functions from LEGO if you want to add a remote to it.
7. Seasonal Vision Christmas Tree Train Set
If you’re looking for something cheaper than the trains above, check out this Christmas Tree Train Set. It comes with three cars, and it has a real working light. It also plays authentic locomotive sounds.
This track is actually mounted around the tree, and it has a track that’s 36″ wide. That’s right, it sits in the air instead of on the floor around the tree, and it’s attached to stabilizers which are attached to the center of the tree. It works best with an artificial tree because you can be sure it’ll fit, but it will work with real trees as well (just make sure you buy one that is small enough to house it.
This train set requires 4 AA batteries.
See it in action below.
8. Bachmann Trains Night Before Christmas RTR Large Scale Train Set
Bachmann’s 4-6-0 steam locomotive comes with a 5’4″ x 4’3″ oval track, so it’s quite sizable, and the train, itself, is larger than most on this list. It has a locomotive, coal tender, gondola and bobber caboose, complete with a Santa figure.
It uses a dial and is entirely electric, meaning you don’t have to worry about picking up batteries for it. Instead, it plugs into an outlet.
The train is highly detailed, complete with a green, red, and white colorway.
It’s one of Bachmann’s higher quality, higher-detailed Christmas tree trains, which is why it has the heftier price tag. Still, it’s highly rated with 66% of reviewers rating it 4 stars and above, and this same train will cost you $350 at JCpenney.
9. Lionel Trains Frosty the Snowman Train Set
A great and unique-looking cheap train is the Lionel Frosty the Snowman G-Gauge Train Set. Instead of the typical green and red color scheme you’ll find on most of the under the tree trains, this one has a white and blue scheme.
It has a big track that measures 55″ x 72″, and it’s easily expandable if you need a bigger one. Comes with 12 curved and 4 straight track pieces.
The train itself is a locomotive, coal tender, box car, and a caboose, and the freight cars are decorated with fixed knuckle couplers and Frosty the Snowman-inspired holiday decoration.
It comes with the standard, easy to use Lionel remote controller that’s great for little conductors, and it features both forward and reverse modes.
Best of all, it comes in at a $67 price point, so not quite as expensive as some of the other trains on this list.
10. Bachmann White Christmas Express RTR Electric Train Set
Finally, the White Christmas Express train set is another great sub-$200 option. It’s incredibly well-detailed, and it has battery operated car lights to boot (so the passenger cars actually illuminate).
It’s electrically-operated, so you don’t have to worry about batteries to power it (except for the lights, of course). It uses the typical dial mechanism.
If you’re looking to go the classier route with your Christmas tree decor this year, the White Christmas Express is the best under the tree train.
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