RC trains can offer kids a childhood creative play favorite full of developmental opportunities and fun, but choosing the right one is important to their good time – there’s a lot of RC toys on the market, and some are worlds better than others. It’s important that RC toys offer a good balance of durability and performance, but it can take an eagle eye to tell the good from the bad. If you’re looking to modernize your children’s toy trains with a radio controlled pick, have no fear. We investigated the 11 best RC train sets to buy in 2019 to help you choo-choo-choose!

Our Top Picks

Bestoverall Train Set

Best Overall

Playmobil 5258 City Action

Upgrade Choice Train set

Upgrade Choice

Lionel Polar Express Train Set

Best Budget Buy Train set

Best Budget Buy

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster

How to Pick the Best RC Train

1. Recommended Age

Age recommendations are always important to follow when you’re buying gear and toys for the kiddos, because it’s there to keep them safe and make sure they’re having fun. Items designed for a younger child won’t interest big kids, but littles may be unsafe or feel frustrated while trying to tackle toys made for older kids or teens. Following these recommendations is a good starting point for avoiding buyer’s regret, because even good toys aren’t good if they’re not fun and safe for a child.

2. Size

Train sets can be expansive or compact – some of the picks on our list are single unit train cars or engines, while others come with tracks to create a set or connect to others. The smaller picks are great for kids who already have a collection and are looking to add on, while a larger set is a good starting point for beginners. Regardless of what you’re looking for, dimensions may be important to your choice.

3. Colors

Real trains come in many colors, and so do toy trains – if your child already has a serious collection, chances are it has a bit of an aesthetic they’re trying to maintain, so you may be trying to purchase within those parameters. If they’re not, you might be looking to find replica items or ones that look a specific way, so knowing the colors as well as any possible variations can be pertinent in these cases.

4. Special Themes

It’s not present in every item here, but some of these sets feature a special theme – a Thomas the Tank Engine design, LEGO John Deere and others. These sets tend to be one-offs or collector’s editions rather than parts of a full train system, which may or may not appeal to you depending on your child’s preferences.

5. Batteries

Like all RCs, RC trains require a source of power. The battery situation with kids RCs can be a little confusing at first, because some of them come with a rechargeable battery for the car but no remote batteries, some come with batteries for both and some come with no batteries at all. RC toys aren’t much fun when you can’t operate them, so knowing what you’ll need and keeping it on hand will spare you major frustration.

6. Includes Tracks

Bear with us while we explain this one. Not every RC train actually NEEDS tracks, but of the ones that do, some include them and some do not. The ones that need tracks but don’t include them are generally intended to be part of a larger system. For the purpose of our list, we’ll tell you if the train does or does not include tracks, but if it doesn’t NEED tracks at all, we’ll tell you that too, to avoid confusion.

Train Set

The Winners

#1

Best OVerall & Best Playmobil RC Train

Playmobil makes toys kids love that encourage them to imagine, and Playmobil 5258 City Action is no exception. The RC freight train is able to tote the cargo car loaded with your child’s choice of cargo down the tracks for lots of fun and creativity not offered by a typical RC car. In the front car, your child will find the conductor, who can be removed and replaced through the opening side door. This set includes three cars as well as two fun figures for kids to play with, encouraging small motor development and imagination.

  • You'll love: It's a fun, creative train set that's easy for younger kids to use

Recommended Age: 4 – 10 years
Size: 23.6 x 5.9 x 19.7 inches
Colors: Yellow, red, blue, black, grey
Theme: Playmobil
Batteries: 6 AA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: Yes

#2

Lionel Polar Express Remote Train Set

Upgrade Choice

The Lionel Polar Express Remote Train Set is a classic children’s tale, and it’s portrayed here through a beautiful classic Lionel train that evokes the train so famously seen in the book and movie of the same name. The O gauge train set has a remote control that’s very easy for kids to operate wioth immersive features like a puffing smoke unit, real (and bright!) head lamp that make pretending even more fun. Kids can trigger audio they’ll recognize from the movie, including the conductor’s famous “All aboard” and realistic train sounds. Notably, it comes with slightly fewer tracks than some Lionel trains, but it’s compatible with O gauge tracks.

  • You'll love: It takes the theme of a beloved train story and combines it with a high quality Lionel train for play
  • Watch for: It comes with a few fewer track pieces than some Lionel trains

Recommended Age: 8 – 15 years
Size: 18.4 x 17.4 x 9.2 inches
Colors: Black, blue, red
Theme: Polar Express
Batteries: 3 AAA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: Yes

#3

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster

Best Budget Buy

Paying another visit to Shining Time Station, kids will love this recognizable Gordon engine which is compatible with Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster tracks and other TrackMaster sets but also able to be used easily on its own on any smooth surface. Holding and operating the remote is super simple for kids, as the one button operation lets them develop their hand eye coordination and control the train without frustration. Fischer Price is known for their sturdy toys, and this durable pick is easily portable and holds up to childhood play.

  • You'll love: Kids will love playing with the familiar engine, who works easily on all smooth surfaces

Recommended Age: 3 – 7 years
Size: 10 x 2 x 6 inches
Colors: Blue, red
Theme: Thomas the Tank Engine
Batteries: 2 AAA batteries required
Includes Tracks: No

#4

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster

Kids love the Thomas the Tank Engine series, and Percy is an iconic engine that’s been around since the beginning. Here, he’s seen as (optionally) part of a Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster set, and he can be used with the tracks that come with those sets or on his own on any smooth surface – low carpet, tile, hardwood and even pavement, to name a few. The single button remote offers kids foolproof, frustration free operation for a toy that’s just the right size for small hands and ideal for taking along on trips. 

  • You'll love: It's a train with an iconic theme that doesn't actually require tracks and is great for taking along on trips
  • Watch for: It's not a "real" train, so it's not compatible with most wooden tracks or non Trackmaster systems

Recommended Age: 3 – 7 years
Size: 9.5 x 1.9 x 6 inches
Colors: Green and red
Theme: Thomas the Tank Engine
Batteries: 4 AAA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: No, tracks optional

#5

Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Ready to Play Train Set

This beautiful classic Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Ready, a trusted name in toy trains, has controls that are simple for kids to master. The Berkshire style locomotive features highly detailed and beautiful engine and caboose cars as well as a middle cargo car for fun loading play. The traditionally scaled train features 24 pieces of curved track as well as eight pieces of straight tracks. Kids are able to go forward and reverse and trigger sounds including announcements, whistle and bell, and a real working headlamp makes the toy even more realistic.

  • You'll love: The realism is intense on this toy and the controls are simple to master

Recommended Age: 4 – 15 years
Size: 22.9 x 6.1 x 13.8 inches
Colors: Black, red, white, yellow, accents
Theme: Classic train motif
Batteries: 3 AAA batteries and 6 C batteries not included
Includes Tracks: Yes

#6

G Steam RC Train Engine

This wonderfully detailed classic G Steam RC Train Engine is modeled after a vintage German engine style. There’s lots of articulation on this beautiful car, which runs on G scale tracks, sold separately. The train also features realistic steam engine sounds, including a train horn and chugging. It’s a slightly more complex pick that kids who already love RC cars will enjoy but younger users might struggle with a bit. Keeping the train on the tracks requires a little bit of finesse – there’s a learning curve with this engine.

  • You'll love: The styling is beautiful and unique and the sound effects add fun to pretend play
  • Watch for: It's a better pick for older, experienced users; first timers may find it too complicated

Recommended Age: 3+
Size: Dimensions not provided
Colors: Black, brown, red
Theme: Classic train motif
Batteries: Included
Includes Tracks: No

#7

Lionel John Deere Train Set

Lionel John Deere Train Set is a recognizable brand beloved by people of all ages, and fans of the brand will be delighted by this classic train featuring the John Deere motif. The bright kelly green that’s the brand’s signature adorns the train with classic yellow accents and beautiful detailing. Three train cars on a total of 32 tracks lets kids create their own unique railway setup, and they’ll love immersive audio like sounding the whistle and ringing the bell.

  • You'll love: It has a fun and unique John Deere theme that's perfect for fans of the brand
  • Watch for: It's exclusive to the Ready to Play train system, so it's not compatible with other tracks

Recommended Age: 4+
Size: 22.9 x 6.1 x 13.8 inches
Colors: Green, yellow, black
Theme: John Deere
Batteries: 3 AAA and 6 C batteries not included
Includes Tracks: Yes

#8

Tomy Chuggington RC Brewster

The super simple button control on this sweet train makes him fun and easy for little users to operate. His big, cheerful face and friendly eyes greet kids as they play, and better yet, he can also be used as a push along toy, stimulating important physical development in younger kids who are still improving gross motor skills. The motorized vehicle features 360 degree spin action for extra fun, and he’s just the right size for small hands. The Chuggington RC Brewster is a great pick for fun on the go, because he stores easily.

  • You'll love: He has simple controls kids can operate easily and can be used as a push along toy even with no batteries

Recommended Age: 3+ years
Size: 12 x 6.5 x 9 inches
Colors: Blue and yellow
Theme: Kids train with friendly face
Batteries: 6 AA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: No tracks, none needed

#9

Geo Trax RC Christmas

Best RC Train Set

This unique Geo Trax RC  would be great for a holiday gift or a fun display, ideal for any child who loves the Christmas spirit. Fischer Price offers kids a light up rail bright, skating pond, illuminated engine and lamp posts as well as 4 holiday songs kids will love. Santa and his elves are present, and signs for the North Pole and other Christmas accessories can be spotted easily. Batteries are included with this toy, so it’s ready to go right out of the box, especially convenient on Christmas morning when the shops are closed!

  • You'll love: It's a beautiful set with plenty of accessories that looks great on display
  • Watch for: It has a pretty clear holiday theme, so it would feel a little out of place at a different time of year unless they REALLY love Christmas

Recommended Age: 2 – 7 years
Size: 36 x 15.3 x 5 inches
Colors: Red, green, brown, white, accents
Theme: Christmas
Batteries: Included
Includes Tracks: Yes

#10

BRIO RC Train Engine

Best BRIO RC Train

BRIO is a trusted manufacturer of trains for kids, and this BRIO RC Train Engine has immersive features that kids will enjoy. The specially designed controller looks just like real train controls, but features simple 2 channel operation even younger users can master with ease. The engine itself is a bright, eye catching cherry red, and it’s usable on BRIO tracks and standard wooden railroad tracks, not included. The size of the durable engine plus realistic lights and sounds make it a great pick for users at the minimum recommended age of 3. 

  • You'll love: It's a sturdy pick with realistic features and controls that look like those in a real train
  • Watch for: No tracks are included with this toy

Recommended Age: 3+
Size: 4 x 1.5 x 2 inches
Colors: Red and grey
Theme: Classic train motif
Batteries: 4 AA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: No

#11

LEGO City Passenger Train

Best LEGO RC Train

LEGO builds are great for encouraging small motor control and spatial reasoning. The LEGO City Passenger Train 7938 gives kids the unique opportunity to build their own remote controlled train from scratch, with a set that includes fun figures and accessories to inspire creative play. A train station with a ticketing window, chairs where passengers wait and yellow safety indicators are all realistic elements kids will enjoy playing with, and the track system includes a total of 32 pieces for unique creations. 

  • You'll love: It's a chance to build a kit AND play with an RC train
  • Watch for: It's not compatible with LEGO 9V train sets, only City models

Recommended Age: 6 to 12 years
Size: 27.2 x 1.9 x 4.7 inches
Colors: Red, white, black
Theme: LEGO
Batteries: 9 AAA batteries not included
Includes Tracks: Yes

DIY, Craft and Decor Ideas: For train set lovers

Egg Carton Train

Craft projects are a great way to reuse clean packing materials around the house, and the unique shape of egg cartons makes them an especially good pick. This egg carton train craft by Erica at Craftulate is cool, colorful and works great with other small toys.
Egg Carton Train DIY

Train Birthday Party

If there’s a birthday, you gotta party – and what better way to do it than with a fun train theme? Kids will love this train birthday by Rachael at Nate and Rachael – we thought the blue and white cupcakes were extra fun.
DIY Train Cake

Train Rocks Game/Teaching Tool

Painting rocks is a fun, easy craft that you and your kids can enjoy together, and these train rocks by Sam at Color Me Happy can be used for counting and color identification lessons as well as creative play. Drawing a track on a piece of posterboard is an especially clever way to use them.
DIY Train Rocks Game/Teaching Tool

Quick Decision

Playmobil 5258 City Action – Best Overall
There’s plenty to do on this sturdy set made by a brand known for inspiring childhood creativity

Lionel Polar Express Remote Train Set – Upgrade Choice
The Polar Express is a beloved tale, represented beautifully here through a train evocative of the one in the book/movie

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends TrackMaster – Best Budget Buy
Kids love Thomas and Friends, and they’ll keep coming back to this inexpensive Gordon toy that needs no tracks to run

Toy train
Train sets are a beloved childhood staple, and kids of all ages are eager to play. Here’s our train top picks for toddlers 2019
Hannah H.

Hannah H.

Hannah is both a parent and a freelance journalist and author. You go, girl! She is an impeccable wordsmith and her warm and witty outlook on life makes her pieces a joy to read.

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