Looking for help tracking down childhood ready-to-run train set

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New Member
Hi All -- this Christmas I was remembering back to one of my very favorite presents as a child: a large (for me as a kid) ready-to-run train set.

I have very little technical knowledge of the hobby, so I am hoping someone can help point me in the right direction. :)

Here are the specs I can recall - forgive me for any noobie terminology:

* Size: It was rectangular - my best guess now being somewhere between 3 and 4 feet on the long side, and proportionally less for width (2 to 3 feet)

* Scale: My guess now is N Scale. Seems like the engine was about 4 inches long and maybe 1/2 inch wide.

* Engine: I recall the engine was a Union Pacific that looked very similar to this one:


* Cars: I recall a brown freight car with black wheels and a caboose. Not sure if caboose was red but it seems likely. I do not know if there was a fourth car.

* Layout: I cannot recall if it was a figure-8 or loop-within-loop, but it seems like it was a figure-8 with a bridge. I do not recall a tunnel. It was a ready-to-run set in that all the track was set up on the layout and it was all one unit. I do not recall any town or such in the middle, just hills. Seems like it was styrofoam. I do not even recall trees or buildings, just general colors on the styrofoam.

* Timeframe: This would have been the early 1970's - my guess is 1972-74.

I spent a few days searching the net but have discovered I am in need of assistance! :) I thought it might be a Life-Like set after some of my research, but now it seems like it is smaller than those? It was a HUGE present as a kid, but I imagine in reality it wasn't that big - I'm thinking 3.5 x 2.5 ft roughly.

Wondering if there is a ready-to-run resource that might help me narrow this down?

My goals are to:

(1) Find the set so I know what it was and see pictures of it.

(2) If they exist (e.g. ebay), I would love to buy it again (figure this is not very likely). If the set doesn't exist, I would love to buy the engine (especially) and the other cars, some track, and just set them up in a line on my desk at home - and then someday make a small layout so they can run - ha!

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can offer!



Well-Known Member
Staff member
If this is definitely a nostalgia thing and you're "flat out" determined to have the exact same thing as then, then ebay is most likely your only choice. Having said that, "N" scale was in it's infancy back then too (like you). You have grown up, so has "N" scale. Why not check out what is available now, not only in the way of engines and rolling stock, but track and structures/scenery.

Think of it this way "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."

Time to move to the Grown Up hobby and while cherishing those childhood memories, enjoy the greater satisfaction that modern models can only bring.


Well-Known Member
Welcome to the forums, glad to have you onboard!

I can relate! My Mom gave me a Tyco spirit of 76 set for Christmas 1974. I found several on eBay and I got it running like new. One of the most fun things I have ever done!

Search though this web site. http://www.ho-scaletrains.net/index.html

From your recollection of the size and availability I would almost be certain you had a HO scale set, but Lionel made locomotives like that in the early 70s as well, in O gauge. I seriously doubt you had an N scale set because N was not widely available. Any chance you remember where your set was purchased?g

When I get some time I will dig out my Lionel book of 1970s products and see what I can find.

Can you remember anything about the track? was it 2 rails or 3 maybe?

I will enjoy helping you with this project.


Armchair Engineer
Hi Waca. There were quite a few manufacturers of N scale trains in the 70's. Try Googling images for these brands and see if you recognize any of them. I would start with Atlas, Bachmann, Lifelike and Model Power. If you don't find it under these brands try Arnold Rapido, Concor, Rivarossi, Minitrix, AHM, and MRC. Also Aurora brought out Minitrix trains under the name Aurora Postage Stamp Trains and Revell brought out Arnold Rapido trains under the name Microtrains. These are the only manufacturers I know of during that time frame. My guess is you had one of the first 4 I mentioned. There are a ton of images for these train sets in Google images. You may find the set you had. Than the best chance of actually finding the set to buy would be on Ebay. Hope this helps you out, Ron.


All new now!
Wow, I can't help you track down your train set but I sure had fun looking at the train set website! Kinda makes me want to find a G.I. Joe set from 1985!


New Member
Wow - thanks for all the information and replies! I went through and did another set of searches based on the new information (dang, how I wish I had just one photo of the original set!) and remembered a bit more:

* Engine: I recall that it had a metal body. Overall really well made, "heavy" and cold in the mornings. Was a high quality piece of engineering. Also recall that the set was "quiet" to run. Don't know if the Bachmann engines were metal, but this UP diesel (yellow third up from bottom right) looks a lot like it (I can't remember if it was grey or green on top of the nose though). Definitely had more of a rectangular roundness (rounded edges versus any long curves). Does the fact that the engine is metal help narrow the search to specific companies?

* Scale: I'm sure the engine was no more than 5 inches long and maybe a little more than 0.5 inch wide (tricky to remember sizes from childhood). I'd lean towards a bit shorter in length. Probably an inch tall? I was really into miniatures (still am) and I thought this was an amazing model. I originally thought HO when I began my search but it seemed too big - thus the idea of N - and then it seems like the scales vary somewhat between manufacturers, etc., and now I understand N was fairly new then. Interesting.

* Couplings: Had the style of couplings shown on the engine here - I think these are Rapido style? I've seen various versions (shapes that vary slightly) - this one looks very similar to the ones on the original set.

* Layout: The set looked very similar to this (even the four total cars seem right), but was rectangular and I do not recall any buildings/telephone lines, etc. I recall the box was the biggest Christmas present I ever saw and had to be about 4ft x 2.5ft x 0.5ft - this would have been roughly the size of the layout as it was ready-to-run.

* Where bought?: I would guess: Sears or one of the military Exchanges we would frequent (I'm a navy brat and we bought lots of models, etc., at the Navy Exchanges). Also it wouldn't have been lavishly expensive or anything. I can see it being Bachmann because we also bought their Mini-Planes, etc.

Thanks again for all the help! I think a catalog from 1970-1974 would be the most helpful. I'm going to focus on the companies listed. I think Bachmann may be the first I need to eliminate from the list as it seems quite likely to me (the overall look fits), followed by Life-Like, Tyco, Lionel. The catalogs on the sites are useful but frustrating sometimes as they don't zoom well on the newer computers with retina displays (driving me crazy!). As soon as I see it I will know, which is why I was hoping a catalog from that time period would be helpful.

To me this is a like a treasure hunt! :) REALLY appreciate the help!


Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Sure sounds like one of the AHM twice around sets. They were in all the Woolworths and Woolco stores. I believe that is going to be very hard to find because the foam base was thin and it disintegrated fairly quickly.

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