Why do people like toy trains? Everything about the world of model railroading

Why do people like toy trains? To embrace a passion rich in art, culture, and history. Model railroading encompasses different souls, facets, and secrets, often still unknown, capable of surprising even the most passionate enthusiasts.

The aim of this exploration is to amaze you... get on board, let's begin!

Do people still collect trains: everything you still don't know

The answer is “yes”, there are still a lot of toy train enthusiasts around the world! Speaking of the community of devoted model railroaders, we find many extremely well-known names filling the pages of the history of this hobby. For instance, the Italian President Giovanni Gronchi, besides collecting model trains with extreme passion and attention, occupied a room in the Quirinale Palace with a model railroad layout. Some precious images of him can still be found in a 1961 documentary, where he is captured playing with his son Mario with two three-rail trains in an American theme. In a specific fragment of the film (at minute 6:51), an FP7 locomotive can be seen passing by, most likely a miniature belonging to the Pennsylvania RailRoad company.

But Gronchi was not the only politician passionate about model railroading: names like Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan surely ring a bell. In Italy, among sportspeople, we cannot forget to mention Formula One champion Riccardo Patrese, famous for his boundless passion for collecting model trains.

Among the most famous model railroaders in the music scene, we have Rod Stewart and Frank Sinatra. It is said that Sinatra often, while the journalists claimed he was in town having fun, peacefully stayed at home playing with his models, where he kept a large layout, accompanied by a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Moving into the television and film universe, there are many references to model railroading that have escaped less attentive viewers for years. In the movie "Back to the Future Part III" (1990), Dr. Brown built a non-scale electric model to demonstrate his future travel experiment to Marty in 1885. In the TV series "Hinterland" (Season 1, Episode 4, "The Girl in the Water"), there is a clear reference to model railroading. In this episode, we see a semi-reclusive character, who lives and works at a train station, building and taking care of a model railroad layout. This reference reveals the familiarity of Tom Mathias, the lead investigator of the TV series, with this hobby.

To conclude this series of curiosities that you might still not know, we cannot forget "The Sopranos," where Bobby Baccalieri is passionate about model railroading to the extent that he wears a train conductor's hat while playing with his models in the garage. The same happens in "The Simpsons," where Reverend Tim spends all his time (when not in religious attire) in the company of a large collection of toy trains while wearing a themed uniform.

Why Collect Electric Toy Trains

There are many reasons to collect electric toy trains, and they can vary greatly from one person to another.

First and foremost, there is the immense and unconditional passion for trains, railways, tracks, and everything revolving around this magical world.

But this is just the beginning!

At the foundation of model railroading, we certainly find a keen eye for technology, the environment, and the materials that make up the layouts and miniatures. There are numerous communities related to this passion, starting with NMRA, which can provide an opportunity for enthusiasts to share and often lead more and more people to immerse themselves in the world of model trains. Another driving force behind this passion is the desire to never stop learning, engaging in practical skills and more. It's diving into a universe rich in history and culture, looking to the past while keeping up with the times.


If you are a beginner enthusiast or curious about how to start a journey as a model railroader, find out how to get started by reading our article "How to Get Started with Model Railroading?"


Model Railroading and Layouts: Must-Haves for Enthusiasts


Model railroading is one of the most structured and engaging passions developed around the faithful reproduction of reality in scale.

The choice of the setting is crucial for the realism of our layout. It is important to avoid improbable elements such as very tall mountains with steep sides that deviate from reality, instead aiming to recreate the idea of a railway line that fits into the landscape, incorporating details such as sharp curves (if necessary) only in masked contexts, like inside a tunnel.


After selecting the setting, an essential must-have is the selection and introduction of realistic figures. Although the most economical option still prefers purchasing unpainted figures for customization, this may not always be the best solution. It is indeed advisable to practice extensively before hand-painting colored figures to ensure they look realistic and consistent. The human figures in the layout should also be positioned strategically, with the placement on board the train being particularly crucial for the final result.


There are also details that can make your work extremely realistic. For example, let's talk about the smoke effect, which can now be achieved without leaving any residue on the models and is therefore essential for creating an impressive model railroad layout. As we know, steam trains had a characteristic puff of smoke, but how to reproduce it? Inside the locomotive's body, a small resistance chamber is placed and electrically powered. Drops of a specific oil are introduced through the chimney, and upon contact with the resistance, they evaporate, creating a stunning effect.

Is it possible to recreate this magic in an analog model railroad? What are the differences compared to the digital alternative?

The introduction of steam is a solution that can easily be incorporated in both analog and digital model railroads, with the difference that locomotives equipped with a digital decoder will produce realistic puffs of steam, even when stationary, while in analog models, the smoke emission will cease when the train stops since the resistance is no longer powered.

These are just a few points that a good model railroader should know and use in their work to make it unique and realistic, never forgetting the essential must-have to properly pursue this wonderful hobby: passion