Best Ho Scale Model Train Set in 2024 – Buying Guide & FAQ

If you are a model railroad enthusiast looking for an HO electric train set, then you know that finding the best set takes time, effort, and surely a lot of money. With so many models and accessories available, choosing the right HO train brand can be an overwhelming challenge.

To make your search easier, we have compiled a list of the best HO scale steam locomotive makers in the market. These include Atlas, Lionel, OTOH, Bachmann, Rapido Trains, Bowser, Intermountain, Proto 2000, and Athearn. It is worth noting that selecting the best maker of HO scale locomotives depends on various factors, such as prototype accuracy, price, finish, drive quality, engine chassis, design details, and robustness. Ultimately, the best HO train set for you will be the one that matches your preferences and requirements. With a little research and patience, you can create an awesome model railway that will give you hours of entertainment and enjoyment.

Below we provide a well-researched selection of the top 5 HO scale best electric train set on the market.

Best Ho Scale Model Train Set

best ho scale train set

#1. Lionel The Polar Express HO Scale Electric Train Set – Best Overall

When it comes to the best HO scale train set, we highly recommend that you try out the Lionel The Polar Express HO Scale Train Set. This premium set is made for those who want to splurge. Needless to say, everything about this set is absolutely premium from the intricate level of detailing to simulated snow on the roof. It also has some really realistic movies like sound clips everyone loves.

The set comes with Bluetooth technology, DC or DCC transformer, knuckle couplers, LED lighting, a maintenance-free motor, a horn, a bell, steam sounds, Polar Express PA announcements, and great rail sounds.

Everything from the track to the train is made to perfection and there are clearly no shortcuts here. Lionel is clearly the industry leader here and the quality of the parts reflects all of this. Some people do say that the track is pretty useless and hard to put together but we never really experienced anything like this when we put together this set.


  • Nice Bluetooth technology
  • Great horn
  • Easy to assemble
  • DC or DCC transformer
  • For the more advanced, though beginners will enjoy it too


  • Not ideal for small spaces

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#2. Bachmann Trains – Santa Fe Flyer HO Scale – Best Power Pack

Next up, we have the Bachmann Trains Santa Fe Flyer HO Scale, which is the best ho scale train set for those who want a ready-to-run freight train set that is powered by an EMD FT Diesel Locomotive. First and foremost, this is a 36 inches (91.44cm) Circle of Snap-Fit E-Z Track that includes 11 pieces of curved track and 1 curved plug-in terminal rerailer.

The Bachmann HO scale Santa Fe electric train set is multi-colored. It is a ready-to-run set. You’ll get a power pack, speed controller, multiple coaches, both open and closed and an operating headlight. It is very easy to set up, runs smoothly, and has a UL-listed power pack.

Many people like it because it is a sleek and powerful train that has this “war bonnet” paint scheme. While it is not really considered a professional model train, it is a nice entry point for a hobbyist. And although the set says that it is made for ages 14 and up, we think that it is perfectly suitable for kids as long as they are not trying to swallow these trains.


  • Has functional headlights
  • Great Xmas gift
  • UL-listed power pack
  • Easy to assemble


  • Not ideal for small spaces

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#3. Bachmann Jingle Bell Express Ho Scale Train Set – Best Xmas HO Train

Another really nice option when it comes to the best HO scale train set is the Jingle Bell Express HO Scale Train Set. This train set is a very nice ready-to-run train set that many people absolutely love. It is powered by a 0-6-0 Steam Era Locomotive and has really nice operating headlights. And the manufacturer is Bachmann, which is clearly one of the leading and widest-known model train manufacturers.

It includes a single dome tank car, box car, quad hopper car, off-set cupola caboose, power pack, and speed controller.

Overall, we think that this set is sturdy enough and includes this nice EZ-track system that makes setup really fun and easy enough. Although we still think the Kato and Lionel system is easier, Bachmann is ok too. Lastly, we have definitely read some negative reviews saying that it derails too often. Look, no model train system will be perfect, but we haven’t had frustrations with it de-railing.


  • Easy to setup
  • Does not feel flimsy
  • Plastic parts are durable
  • Easy to control


  • Not to be used on uneven floor

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best ho scale train set

#4. Bachmann Rail Chief HO Scale Train – Best and Most Complete

The Bachmann Trains Rail Chief HO Scale Train is a really nice 130-piece freight train set that is powered by an EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive and just looks spectacular. Overall, we think that this is a very nice starter train set that has pretty high standards when it comes to the details. We really like the engine as well, which is one of the better-looking pieces.

It comes with an Open Quad Hopper Car, Gondola Car, Steel Reefer Car, Off-Set Cupola Caboose, Signal Bridge, Miniature Figures, Railroad Signs, Street Signs, and Telephone Poles.

Additionally, we really like the fact that the box cars have a really nice weight and look to them. It does a fairly good job of not derailing, although it is always a bit prone to this. Overall, this is a very good-looking set that has these really nice details we like. For one, the engine has these headlights that grow brighter as you go faster.


  • A serious model railroader
  • High standards for detail
  • Packaged in a sturdy, informative, and easy-to-open box
  • Comes with telephone poles, signs, people, and a signal bridge
  • Great for beginners


  • The plastic engine and train wheels may tip over

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#5. Bachmann Trains – Pacific Flyer – Best Value

Lastly, we have the Bachmann HO Trains Pacific Flyer, which is definitely one of the better ho-scale train sets for those who want a great entry-level train set in the model train community. Please keep in mind that this is not one of these super expensive model train sets designed for professional use. It is great for kids and those just getting into the hobby.

It includes a Gondola Car, a Box Car, and an Off-Set Cupola Caboose.

The first thing that is quite nice about this ho-scale train set is that it is just quite the bargain. If you don’t feel the need to entirely splurge just yet, this is a perfect beginner set. Overall, we think that the quality is pretty amazing for what it is worth, and has a pretty good motor that drives a lot of power to the tracks.


  • Best Value
  • Great for new hobbyists
  • The engine is very strong
  • Cars hook up nicely
  • Car couplers work well
  • The transformer is sensitive to speed control


  • Plastic looks cheap

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What to look for when buying an HO best electric train set – Buyer’s Guide

There are 5 features that you want to research before buying a train set in the HO scale.

  1. Safety
  2. Quality
  3. Compatibility
  4. Accessories
  5. Price

1. Safety of model trains toys

Though generally using HO scale trains is safe, you still need to ensure that overall safety is a top priority. An experienced model train enthusiast will tell you that one of the most appealing aspects of HO scale trains is that the tracks are perfectly safe to touch while in use. You can lay your hand on the track and not feel any shock or pain, thanks to the transformer in the power supply that converts electricity into a low voltage. Though this is true, it is always best not to touch the tracks no matter what.

Having said this, this means that playing with scale trains is a safe and enjoyable hobby for all ages, including children. However, it’s important to note that smaller parts of the trains may be a choking hazard for young children. Additionally, children may be attracted to dismantling the transformer, which can be dangerous. Therefore, it’s recommended that parents carefully read the age group information and indicate the guidelines that come with the train set before giving it to their children. Supervising children when they play with scale trains, including passenger trains, express trains, or even a simple train set is a must and should not be undermined. With the right precautions and care, HO scale trains can be a great addition to your model collection, and a fun and safe activity for the whole family to enjoy.

2. Brand and quality of HO best train sets

Purchasing model trains means that you need to consider the brand and the associated manufacturing quality. There are many well-known brands in the market for model trains such as Bachmann, Atlas, and Lionel. However, there are also others that may be less familiar.

To ensure that you choose the right model train, start by identifying the brand that appeals to you. Then determine the type of model train that works best for you such as HO, O, OO gauge model trains, and so on. Finally, shortlist the type of train, whether it be a Christmas train, wooden train set, beginner starter train, or any others that may fit your preferences. By selecting a renowned brand, you will be guaranteed the quality of your purchase. Furthermore, choosing a suitable type of train and a specific category can help ensure that you get the right model train for your needs and preferences.

3. Compatibility of tracks

Purchasing a starter train set is great, but it is of utmost importance to consider the compatibility of the tracks. One should always check that the tracks that come with their train set are compatible with other manufacturers of trains. This ensures that you can mix and match different sets from different brands and create a personalized track layout that meets your needs and preferences.

It is also important to note that sometimes tracks can differ in size, shape, and curvature, which can significantly affect the way the train operates. Therefore, it is essential to take care when selecting tracks to avoid any damage or frustration that might occur. In general, investing in compatible tracks will give you the freedom to expand your train collection using different brands. By selecting compatible tracks, you can create a unique and exciting layout that will give you endless hours of fun and entertainment.

4. Accessories that come with new train sets

When purchasing a new train set, it is important to check what accessories come included in the box. Often times, these accessories can elevate the train set from a simple toy to a realistic and immersive experience. Some common accessories include buildings, signs, basic scenery, bridges, rivers, and more.

It is a good idea to make sure there is enough track to make a nice circuit, allowing for various configurations and possibilities. Without enough tracks, the train set may feel limited and not offer as much entertainment value. So be sure to check the contents of the train set box before purchasing to ensure you are getting the most value for your money and the most exciting experience possible.

5. Price of HO top model train brands

When it comes to HO scale trains, there is a wide range of train sets to choose from. Selecting the perfect one can be a difficult task, given that train sets come with prices ranging from $25 to $500 and sometimes more than $1500. People in the scale train hobby believe that brands are important. So the more popular the brand, the higher the price tag.

However, the price of the train sets can be influenced by factors such as set details and size. A set that carries several cars on a Figure 8 track has, in most cases, a high price. The material used in the tracks can also affect the cost. The most common material for tracks is nickel silver. Nickel is used because this material does not rust. Other materials used include aluminum, steel, and brass. In humid conditions, steel and brass are prone to rust, so best to stay away from these two. Overall, when searching for the best set for children, it is important to consider the price point, quality, and safety. It’s a good idea to research various options to find the best value.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the HO scale best model train brand?

Some of the top model train brands in the HO category are:

  • Atlas
  • Lionel
  • OTOH
  • Bachmann
  • Rapido Trains
  • Bowser
  • Intermountain
  • Proto 2000
  • Athearn

It is difficult to say which of the above best model train brands is best. Choosing the best brand of HO scale train depends on various factors that are most important to model train enthusiasts. Factors like price, visual aspect, details, drive quality, power source, engine chassis, and robustness. All of these factors play a crucial role in determining the quality of a model. It is worth noting that every brand has its own strengths and weaknesses (pros and cons) which may appeal to different users differently. Therefore, it is best to choose the brand that suits your preferences and requirements and fits your budget.

Does Bachmann make good HO trains?

Bachmann is a well-respected company in the model train industry and they are known for producing some of the top HO gauge trains available. Their trains are a great way for both children and adults to get started in the hobby, as they offer some of the best train sets around. Note that Bachmann’s electric model trains are known for their impressive build quality and attention to detail. This makes the company a popular choice among collectors and model railroaders.

While some may argue that Bachmann’s trains were not up to standard in the past, the company has turned things around and now produces excellent HO trains. Overall, Bachmann trains are a great investment for anyone looking to start a model train collection or simply enjoy the hobby. With reasonable prices and high-quality products, it’s no wonder Bachmann’s trains have become so popular.

Where are Bachmann HO trains made?

Bachmann is a major player in the model train market, manufacturing model rail, and model locomotives in a variety of scales. Founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the company’s North American headquarters are still in the US. However, like most things nowadays, Bachmann HO trains are now manufactured in China.

Note that the firm is part of the Kader group, whose products are made in a Chinese Government joint-venture plant in Dongguan, China. Despite this move, Bachmann is recognized as one of the best manufacturers of locomotives in the world, and its sets make great gifts for children and adults alike. These sets are designed to cater to the interests, skills, and budgets of model train enthusiasts, bringing joy and excitement to many. Whether you are just starting out or have been in the hobby for years, Bachmann HO trains offer a quality and variety that combines tradition and innovation.

Is N scale cheaper than an HO best electric train set?

N scale and HO scale are two of the most popular model train sizes worldwide, and many people wonder which is cheaper. In general, the N scale is considered to be cheaper than the HO scale. This is because N scale trains are smaller in size and require less material to build. Additionally, many top brands offer a wide range of N gauge locomotives and rolling stock at affordable prices. It’s also worth noting that many N scale train sets come with a larger variety of pieces than HO scale sets, making them an even better value for beginners. Ultimately, the decision between N and HO scale will depend on personal preference, but if affordability is a top priority, N scale is a great option.

What is better HO or N scale?

HO and N scale are two of the most popular options when it comes to model trains toys. If you’re looking to get started in the world of model railroading, either HO or N scale would be a great choice.HO Scale is considered “better” by many due to its larger size, which makes it easier to detail and handle, especially if you have poor eyesight.

On the other hand, N Scale is also considered “better” in its own right as it is smaller, allowing for longer trains, larger yards and industries, and better scenery-to-track layout. Ultimately, whether HO or N Scale is better for you will depend on your personal preferences, needs, and goals for your model train set. Both scales have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to do your research and choose the one that suits your needs best.

What is the difference between HO scale train and N train?

The main difference between these two scales is size. The N scale is roughly half the size of the HO scale with a 1:160 ratio. Many experienced modelers tend to use N scale to build more complicated layouts in smaller spaces. This miniature size allows for smaller but detailed scenery and intricate track designs. However, N scale can also be used in larger spaces, such as garages or basements, to create vast N scale empires with several connected tracks.

The HO scale is a larger scale that is 1:87 in ratio and is well suited for expansive layouts that feature dramatic scenery. Choosing between HO and N scale largely depends on the amount of space available and the desired level of detail for the model railway. If you are looking to start a new train set, it is recommended to consider the scale that best suits your preferences and available space.

What does HO stand for in model trains?

HO scale is a popular size in model trains, and the abbreviation “HO” stands for “half-O.” It is called so because the HO scale models are half the size of O scale models. The HO smaller trains are affordable, take up less space than the larger O scale models, and have become incredibly popular with people who are moving into smaller homes and apartments, or those who want to take up less room in their train room.

Which is better HO or O scale trains?

This ultimately comes down to personal preference and goals for the train set. HO scale is a popular choice due to its relatively easy entry point and affordability. It is half the size of O scale, which requires a larger commitment, investment, and space. For beginners, a smaller scale like HO can be easier to manage and manipulate. However, for those looking to create intricate and detailed layouts, O scale may be the better option. With a larger size, more detail can be added to the scenery and buildings, making for a more realistic and visually appealing layout. Both scales of train sets are a great option for hobbyists and enthusiasts alike, it just depends on what level of detail and time commitment one is willing to invest.


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