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10 of the best toy train sets

We've selected the top railway and train sets for children aged 18 months to 6 years (and more), from simple wooden sets to clever track-switching, engine-jumping techy tracks. Full (pretend) steam ahead!

beat toy train sets

A toy train set is the ultimate classic children’s toy – whether they’re teeny, tiny or 10. Perfect for letting their chug-chug-chug-woo-oh-hoo imaginations run wild, practising hand eye co-ordination, and enjoying building the track piece by piece.

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Over the years, some train sets have gone all techy with motorisation and electronic features, or incorporated well-loved characters Thomas The Tank Engine but there are still plenty of old-school wooden train sets to choose from, too.

Here’s our pick of the best train sets for children aged 18 months and up…

1. Carousel Wooden Train Set, £15

Age: 3+

What it is: A 60-piece wooden train set, with straight and curved track pieces that you can flip over to make into a road, too. Includes trees, people, animals and traditional village buildings, such as a sweet shop, fire station and hospital. Made from FSC-approved wood.

Why we love it: It looks lovely, the pieces are chunky and nicely detailed, the set is durable, there’s lots of options for moving the track lay out – and it’s amazing value for money! We do wish it had more actual trains, though.

Available from: Tesco

2. BigJigs Freight Train Set, £119.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 130-piece set made from responsibly-sourced materials that includes a wooden track, working turntable, crane, 2 engines, houses, cars, scenery, signs, workers and townsfolk. Comes with a wooden storage box.

Why we love it: It’s a large, great-quality set that builds into a track with different levels and had dozens of lovely accessories, including trees, houses, cars and signposts. We like the 2 bridges, the turntable and the magnetic crane – and it’s nice to see it comes with a wooden storage box, too.

Available at: BigJigs Toys

3.  LEGO City 60198 RC Cargo Train, £179.99

Age: 6+

What it is: A 1226-piece mega that features a motorised engine with a 10-speed Bluetooth remote control, a working crane, 32 track pieces, railroad switch lever and control centre with signal lights. Comes with 6 LEGO minifigures, as well as loads of accessories, including pallets, logs and a snow scooter. Requires 10 x AAA batteries (not included).

Why we love it: It’s expensive but seriously good fun (and a good build, too). We love the crane with its rotating, extending arm, the armoured truck (for your gold bars, of course) and the railroad switch that sends the train on a different track. It’s a bit of a battery-eating monster, though; if you connect it to the LEGO app and use your phone instead of the remote control handset, it helps – and you get some extra sound effects.

Available at: LEGO, Argos and Smyths Toys

4. Brio World Travel Switching Train Set, £85

Brio World Travel Switching Train Set

Age: 3+

What it is: A lovely wooden track that has a train station with two levels and a special lift to move between the two. There’s also a blue and a red train, plus passengers so that little station masters can have lots of fun choosing where the passengers can travel.

Why we love it: Brio train sets are renowned for their quality, attention to detail and longevity. This set is not exactly cheap (Brio sets rarely are) but it’s beautifully designed with features such as the lift to thrill a small train lover.

Available from: John Lewis

5. Ikea Lillabo 20-piece basic train set, £8

ikea train set

Age: 3 +

What it is: A 20-piece set that includes 3 differently coloured trains and a little bridge.

Why we love it: It’s a simple, basic wooden track – at an amazingly good price. You can add on lots more bits and pieces from the same Lillabo range (there’s a very cool turntable for £3.50, for example) and they’re all compatible with pieces from the more expensive Brio and Bigjigs sets, too.

Available from: Ikea

6. Thomas & Friends TrackMaster Turbo Jungle Set, £38.49

Age: 3+

What it is: A Thomas-themed track with a jungle twist, inspired by his adventures in South America (if your child loves the Thomas movies, you’ll know what we mean). It comes with a full track layout – including a big bank and 2 booster tracks – palm trees and a motorised Thomas train. Requires  2 AAA batteries for the track to work,

Why we love it: It’s fast, fun and high energy: as well as switching Thomas to Turbo mode, you can – thrills! – launch him in the air and even make the booster tracks change colour. Fortunately, the set is sturdy and easy to set up. You may find it works best on a hard surface, rather than a carpet.

Available from: Smyths Toys

7. BRIO World Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Travel Set, £149.99

Age: 3+

What it is: A 37-piece interactive wood and plastic train set that includes a train and 2 carriages that connect magnetically, several passengers and their luggage, wooden track, bridges, ‘smart’ action tunnels, stations and 2 sets of points. Requires 2 x AAA batteries (not included).

Why we love it: The best bit about this train set is the red button on the train that you press to record your own train sounds or voice announcements – to be played when the train goes through 1 of the ‘smart’ tunnels. (There’s an associated SmartTech Sound app, too, you can download to create more sounds.) The other tunnels each change your train’s progress, stalling it, restarting it or changing its direction. Fun!

Available at: Amazon and John Lewis

8. Lego Duplo Number Train, £12.99

Lego Duplo Number Train

Age: 18 months+

What it is: A brightly coloured 23-piece train (but no track) with 3 carriages and bricks, numbered 0 to 9 to stack on top. Comes with 2 figures and a cat.

Why we love it: It’s bright, chunky, cheerful: the perfect first train for a toddler. The counting theme is a nicely incorporated – and the cat is a lovely, toddler-pleasing touch.

Available from: Lego and  Amazon

9. KidKraft Adventure Town Wooden Train Track Set and Table, £192.99

Age: 3+

What is it: A large (110cm x 79cm x 53cm) wooden play table with moulded edges, a landscape design on top and 2 collapsible storage bins underneath. Comes with a whopping 120-piece accessory set, including train track, vehicles, people, trees, a crane and a helicopter.

Why we love it: Astonishingly, this big sturdy table can be assembled or packed away in under 1 minute – without a screwdriver or allen key! We also love its kid-friendly height (ideal for standing and kneeling) and the detail in the accessories. Pricey but you do get a lot for your money.

Available from: Amazon

10. Green Toys Train, £29.95

Green Toys train

Age: 2+

What it is: A sturdy, eco-friendly blue and red steam engine with 2 linking carriages, all made from recycled plastic milk bottles. Contains no BPA, PVC, phthalates or external coatings. Comes with 2 ‘conductor bear’ figures.

Why we love it: It’s not just green; it’s well made and beautifully chunkily toddler-sized. The wheels roll easily on both carpet and a wooden floor, and the roof of the covered carriage lifts off. Oh, and you can put it all in the dishwasher for a quick clean!

Available from: Green Nipper and Amazon

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