Papa’s Favorite Lionel Train: The Polar Express

A Model Train Review by Papa

We all love the movie The Polar Express, and Lionel has produced quite a range of train sets, rolling stock, and accessories around this story.  I’ve always wanted my own Lionel Christmas Tree railroad layout, and was excited when I discovered I could own The Polar Express. I was delighted to find Lionel offers O scale including The Polar Express LionChief Train Set with Bluetooth.

This set has a 40 inch by 60 inch oval of FasTrack, a DC power pack, remote control, the engine and tender. It also comes with two coach cars and an observation car, all with “snow” covered roofs.  These Lionel model railroad sets are special in that they also come with four O scale figures that can be attached to the cars and engine by using the available figurine pins on them. The figures each have a socket on one foot that fits the pins. My grandson and I love staging figures on the roofs of the cars, or the front of the engine, and watching them ride the rails.

Another version you might find in model train hobby shops, or perhaps used from a private model railroad seller, is Lionel Polar Express Remote Train Set, which is very similar to what I’ve listed above, except it does not include Bluetooth controls, and neither the passenger cars or observation car are painted with snowy tops.

When I bought my set, I also got a The Polar Express Holiday Gift Set which came with a hard bound copy of the picture book and a beautiful silver bell for the Christmas tree. Our version of the gift set came with a “golden ticket”, but current versions may come with the movie on DVD or Blu-ray instead. These extras were the perfect gift for my grandson, who is my favorite train buddy.

If you shop around, you might find other versions of the Polar Express sets in the Lionel Ready to Play and American Flyer (by Lionel) model railroad lines.  Please note that engines and track provided with either of these sets are not compatible with Lionel O scale FasTrack, which is the track I prefer.

Now comes the fun part, expanding the Polar Express train set.  The available expansion accessories fall into three main categories.  First, Lionel offers an extensive array of add-on cars. Second, there are the Lionel O scale accessories like bridges and other structures.  And third are the Polar Express figures packs.

Here are just some of my favorite add-on cars for The Polar Express:

Disappearing Hobo Car 6-84602

Hot Chocolate Car 6-84603

Letters to Santa 6-84601

Diner Car 6-84604

Boxcar 2-Pack 6-83645

Conductor Announcement Car 6-83437

Silver Load Hopper 6-84370

Baggage Car 6-84605

Combination Car 6-84600

There are many additional cars that be found on the shelf in hobby and train stores from previous Lionel releases.  In addition to several of the railroad cars above, I own a Polar Express Aquarium car and a Silver Bells car. I’ve also added several non-Polar Express Lionel O scale Christmas cars, including a Christmas Music Box car.  With all the extra cars, and another Lionel engine, we were able to run more than one train around the Christmas tree this year!

The Polar Express Scenic Accessories

In addition to this wide variety of model railway rolling stock, Lionel produces a number of O scale Polar Express scenic accessories.  I started with a bridge, since my layouts always include water (using a piece of blue vinyl)  and fishing. I added some vintage Lionel accessories and a train station platform, but there are even more additions available including the hero’s childhood home, the Polar Express Gateman shed, flagpoles and more.

In addition to displaying my Polar Express and other holiday model railroad sets with Lionel accessories, I also set up a village of ceramic buildings that I’ve collected over the years. My little town has complimented my O scale Christmas model train set for many holiday seasons.  While they aren’t exactly the same scale, they are close enough, and the bright lights of the village on a white felt bed bring to mind steam trains rolling through a small town in winter.

This brings to mind a little tip: If you don’t have lots of O-scale accessories, but you have other toys and decorations in a similar scale, feel free to use them! All it takes is a bit of imagination, and you can decorate your model railroad with any manner of items, from paper mache mountains, to ceramic cottages and LEGO townhouses.

Add-on figures for The Polar Express:

Finally, Lionel has produced a range of O scale figures specifically for The Polar Express railroad line.  Available sets include more characters from the movie such as Santa, his elves, reindeer, wolves and rabbits.  

Setting up a Christmas layout is really fun, and I hope you’re feeling inspired to build The Polar Express model railroad set at your house this holiday season.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

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