If your child is into trains the first thing you have to learn about is train track. And if your child is into trains, you already know who Thomas is. There are 3 types of toy track where a Thomas train can run:
Brio, Lionel, Thomas all make wooden track. All of the wooden track that I have seen all fits together)
None of the track shown above will fit together so be careful of what you buy and look at the name of the product carefully. You CAN use the Track Master train with the wooden set, but not the other way around. The Take and play is really little so it will only use the Take and Play trains. We have all 3 types plus some track brands for different trains, I think we have it all. I'm considering a gift registry for my son's next birthday so I don't get another different type of track. To a kid, it doesn't matter which kind you get, and you will end up with all these different types of track in your home. If you are getting a gift for someone else's child, ask the parent which kind of train they want in their home.
For the more advanced train lover there is different sized trains popular here in the US that you can get at hobby shops and train stores. They are listed in order of size from smallest to largest:
- N Gauge
- HO Gauge
- O Gauge
- G Gauge
Gauge identifies the distance between the rail heads which tells you how large your trains are going to be. I have HO Bachman (this manufacturer carries Thomas) and O gauge Lionel trains in my house. My son is in love with the little N Gauge trains but I'm not attempting that until his manual dexterity improves. That size train can be frustrating for a 4-year old. The G Gauge is EXPENSIVE because it is so big. It is used in gardens. I read a blog that used the O Gauge in the garden and I'm excited to try it this summer.
There are other gauge trains but you are going to have a hard time finding track and accessories. I'm sure it will get overwhelming if I go over it all, so I'm just going to keep it to what is the most popular for in the blog.
If this is the first time you ever set up trains, you should just get a starter pack and then buy expansion packs to add on to your original set up. But if you are like me, you want a custom design so you have to order the track individually to get the look that you want. I'm not going to sugar coat it, custom setup is very difficult, but if you have a lot of time and refuse to give up, it is doable.
The most easy set up for a train is the circle or oval. When you buy your starter package you will get a transformer (you only need one of those per train set up), some track and some wires. I suggest that you buy the FAST TRACK (shown above) because it is much easier to deal with than the standard track, sometimes they both do fit together.
If you are going to start buying curved track and slapping stuff together yourself, you must learn that all curved track does not have the same radius. What does that mean? Some track is not as curved as others so that you can make different sized circles. The bigger the radius, the larger the circle, the smaller the radius, the smaller the circle. I found this out the hard way with my HO set when I just started slapping curved track together and couldn't figure out why I got some funky shape instead of a half circle.
The the larger gauge tracks will have to be a larger radius than the smaller tracks so the train can actually make it around the curve. Below are the list of different radius curved track I have found, I do not know if there are others because I'm not looking for any more different types of radius track, that is for sure!!
Your best bet is to not mix the curved radius track on the same circle, unless you know what you are doing. To make matters even more confusing, the curved track can come in different lengths in addition to a different radius. When you are buying curved track make sure you check the radius and length of the track so that it is all the same if you don't want to drive your self insane.
It took me about 4 hours to do this setup on my own below, it would have been a better idea if I would have laid out a design first instead of just trying different track to see if it fits.
(Notice the additional toy track under the table)