Opinions on Different Brands of Wooden Train Sets

Updated on May 21, 2009
K.C. asks from Merrimack, NH
11 answers

Hi Mamas,

My son and I have some limited experience with wooden train sets. We're shopping for our own set, and I'd like to make sure I'm making the best purchase for the money as it can add up fast.

I am familiar with Brio and Thomas but I don't know much about other brands. Are there other durable brands that will stand up to years of multiple-child play?

Any wisdom or insight would be greatly appreciated!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Hi, K.:
My mom has worked in the specialty toy industry for 30+ years and my brothers and I grew up with Brio. She now finds Nuchi the best of all. It is much less expensive than Brio, but made of harder wood than the Ikea, Target and other inexpensive brands. The beauty of the hard wood (made in carefully monitored factories intent upon safety and sound worker conditions) is that it lasts! Beech wood lasted through 3 of us and is not only a keepsake housing our memories, but will live through my children as well. That's real value!

Nuchi is a product of the Little Little Little Toy Company and can be found mostly in locally owned toy stores. The best part of your question, though, is the value of rail play for kids. It's a puzzle that grows and changes as our kids get older. My brothers and I would design a layout and then rip it apart and start over to make it "more twisty" or "longer and skinnier". The train cars were fun, but not nearly as important as the track!

L., mom of a two year old!


PS--a REALLY important thing my family learned was that "less is more". Start with small sets and gradually add a few pieces of track and switches over time. The toy seems brand new with new "puzzle" variables added. How many new layouts could we figure out now? Metered out in this way, kids can play with Nuchi from under two through ten. That's a great "cost per hour" of play ratio!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We have a Melissa & Doug set for our two boys (3 year old and 18 months), and that works well. But, honestly, I second what people said about the IKEA tracks and trains. They are cheaper and they work well with the other more expensive sets. We have our IKEA tracks interspersed with the Melissa & Doug ones. Start small, add on -- good advice! Have fun! (You will most likely find yourself playing train, too!)



answers from Boston on

Target has an off brand that is compatible with Thomas and Brio and you get a lot more track for your money.Target sets also usually come with little cars and trees and bridges and things. Depending on when you are looking to buy, the holidays had great sales at Target and other stores for Thomas sets last year so I would think they might do the same this year.



answers from Boston on

I think the Thomas and Richard Scarry ones were also made by Brio. We have the Brio "no character" version. We had bought a cheaper one at BJ's when our oldest was getting into them. It was junk and we ended up tossing it. Brio is worth the extra bucks and can be added on year after year. If a piece breaks, they were very good about replacing it at no cost too.

good luck!



answers from Boston on

We bought a big set from Lillian Vernon years ago. Our son is now 12 and it's still in great shape. It looks just like the Brio but without the cost. We also supplemented various pieces throughout the years to get curves and bridges we wanted more of. They're all interchangeable.

We love the set still and, even at 12, every once in a while, our son will pull it out again. Now it only stays out for a day or two, then gets put back in it's storage bin. The bin in full and the size you would put under a bed to store blankets, etc.

Have fun!

P.S. We bought the entire set all at once but gave different parts of the set to our son over a 2-3 year period for Christmas and birthdays. It was exciting every time he opened an "addition" to the set!


answers from Boston on

Dear K.,

we are happy with BRIO, also because it can be supplemented by IKEA trainsets (tracks and cars) and even fit a Japanese train, that was purchased in Tokyo. I am not sure that IKEA (the Swedish furniture store) has them in the US, but here (in Austria), they sell wooden train kits with an engine, three cars and a figure eight track set that is very inexpensive. We use it to supplement the BRIO, which is more pricy. We got a BRIO engine with reloadable batteries and are happy that we did. We didn't want a battery run at first, but my brother alerted us to the fact that the fun part is trying out the tracks you built with the self-powered train. He was right.

We also had looked at HABA (but they couldn't deliver their new wooden train before x-mas, which is when we got ours) and LEGO. We preferred BRIO over LEGO cause its wooden and nicer. we figured our children can always build LEGO bridges over BRIO traintracks, and they do...

good luck,



answers from Boston on

My sons love wooden trains. When my oldest was 1 a friend got him a cheap no name wooden train set from walmart and he is now 7 and we still have it. My parents got him a no name train table from christmas tree shops one year for $60 and its still standing even though my 2 year old thinks its for standing and jumping on. I say save your money and purchase a cheap no name wooden train tracks set and purchase a few thomas trains for him trust me they grow out of thomas quick but will still love trains. My oldest has now moved onto children's model train sets and now our 2 year old is getting use out of the wooden tracks and thomas trains when he's done we will store them.



answers from Boston on

Hey K.,

I have both Thomas and Brio, my almost 3year old seems to like the Thomas trains better.

One suggestion is that you should checkout Craiglist, I am looking for a train table and I notice that there were some trains for sale as well.

Hope this helps!
Good luck



answers from Boston on

Those brio sets are sooo expensive. We have purchased a ton of tracks from Ikea (very inexpensive) and they are WONDERFUL. They work with the brio and thomas small trains, so you can always switch it up. Like all these wooden trains, they are labeled for ages 3 and up, but I found my son was OK with them after he was 2 or 2 1/2. Just watch the wheels.



answers from Boston on

My 5 year old is also into the wooden trains. We have a lot of Thomas' Wooden Railway but I've found that you can get the Imaginarium sets a a lot cheaper and they all fit together. We have also picked up a few sets and accessories at the Christmas tree shop that also fit with the other two. The Imaginarium sets are very durable. He regularly takes them all out and builds a track around our whole house and then dismantles it and packs it all up so they have gotten and taken a lot of use.
One other thing that I found in the last year is that AC Moore carries all of the Thomas sets. If you watch the fliers you'll see some good sales on the sets and engines ( like buy one get one free) or use the coupons in their fliers to get a percentage off one item.
Have fun!



answers from Hartford on

I was not impressed with the toys r us brand. I think it's called imagenarium. The track kept falling apart