model train set on track

Fun Facts About Trains for Kids of All Ages

Learning all about how trains work—and sharing that knowledge with family and friends—is one of the best parts of growing in the toy train hobby! This page contains some cool facts to jumpstart your curiosity! Be sure to check out all of the resource links, too.

Did You Know? Train Whistles Send Signals!

There are different combinations of long and short  blasts on the locomotive’s whistle or horn. They let the train crew communicate. Here are just a few:

Apply brakes, stop!

Release brakes, proceed.

Approaching a crossing.

Flagman protect rear of train.

When standing, back up.

When standing, start.

A series of shorts: emergency, something on the tracks!

There are other signals, and there may be some variations when such signals are sent from the conductor to the engine via a communication gong, buzzer, or whistle. Procedures are included in railroad handbooks.

Want to know more? We like this authoritative discussion of railroad signals from a very old issue of Trains magazine.

Other aspects of controlling trains include trackside signals, block control, and more. Check out this article from Trains for a more in-depth look. Today, much communication to and onboard trains is by radio or other mobile communication, with railroads and toy trains taking full advantage of the digital revolution.

Impress Your Friends with These Train Facts

  • Gauge is the distance between rails on a train track.
  • Marklin acquired LGB in 2007 after an extensive battle in court.
  • Scratchbuilding is the act of creating buildings, scenery, and cars by hand rather than assembling them from kits.
  • The difference between model trains and toy trains is that model trains are built in exact scale to their prototypes.
  • Nuremberg, Germany, was the original center for toy and train production in the 19th Century.

What’s the largest train layout in the world?

Northlandz, in Flemington, NJ, claims to be. It has 8 miles of track and up to 100 trains running at once!

What’s the smallest train layout in the world?

Truthfully, we aren’t sure! There are Z-gauge layouts that fit into a briefcase or under glass in a coffee table.

Looking for More Great Train Resources Online?

We have assembled a number of links to major toy train organizations and information sources from around the world. Check out our links and learn something new!

Want to Get on the Inside Track to Fun? Join Our TCA Youth Clubs!

Learning about trains is even more fun when you can share your enthusiasm with others. If you’re not yet a member of our TCA Kids Club (under age 13) or TCA Teens Club (ages 13-18), get your parents’ permission to sign up for free to experience more of the toy train collecting hobby and meet new friends!

When you join, you will receive a membership certificate, member card, and more.