Wooden Toy Railways
vintage wooden railway sets have not received much attention from toy
collectors. (With the humble
exception of this author, of course!) These
tiny trains are somewhat overshadowed by larger wooden toys … and of course
… by electric and battery-powered trains.
The “collecting” focus for small wood trains is primarily on
contemporary trains like Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, and the search for
more track and accessories to add to existing layouts for play.
finding vintage train sets in excellent condition is becoming increasingly
difficult and challenging. Finding
sets with their original packaging and paperwork … more so.
After all, these trains were not purchased to collect or display. They
were bought for play!
vintage sets in excellent condition usually sell for $20 to $125. You
can probably add from $10 to $50 for sets with original packaging and paperwork.
vintage trains will “operate” perfectly on newer layouts.
But if you are considering buying older sets just for the extra track,
make sure the track connectors are compatible with your existing track.
Otherwise, you and your “little ones” may be in for some frustrating
play-days. For example, SH/Playskool
and Snap Train tracks are still relatively plentiful, but most will not directly
connect to the peg and hole track that is commonly used today.
if you are looking for worthy additions to your collection or layout, don’t
overlook the character or “themed” train sets that have been produced in
more recent years.
some of the most attractive and finest quality themed sets have been produced by
Maxim Enterprise Inc of Lakeville MA. Maxim
has been making a wide variety of quality wooden toys for over 45 years.
These sets include the award-winning Tootsietoy Sesame Street Railway
series (1995), “The Little Engine That Could” train series (2002), the Coca
Cola Christmas Train (2003) and the superb Lionel Heritage Series trains (2006).
Lionel Heritage Series was particularly noteworthy for giving little railroaders
wooden trains made to resemble engines and rail cars which appeared in
Lionel’s famous electric train catalogs. Giving
that classic Lionel “look” of realism to any wood train layout.
of these great themed trains are shown here in a group photo.
They were in production for a relatively short time, and most vanished
from store shelves and into playrooms rather quickly.
In a separate photo is the colorful Looney Tunes “Acme Express” train
set (year and manufacturer unknown) ... another author-favorite.
quality wooden railway sets … old or new … seem relatively expensive in
today’s plastic-filled toy market. But
with only minimal care, wooden sets can “serve with distinction” for several
generations. And each generation can
add its own favorite trains and accessories.
These little imagination-powered toys just seem to become part of the
otherwise noted, all the trains and sets pictured in this article are from the
author’s collection. Identifying,
preserving and documenting these great toys are ongoing efforts.
The author gratefully welcomes any additions and/or corrections to the
information provided. Also, the
author wishes to express his appreciation to Hart Larrabee, Sharon Nowlin and
Doug Atkinson for their sage advice and assistance in compiling information for