Last updated: August 12, 2021

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You are looking for a Christmas present for children or don’t want to go wrong with a planned surprise: You’ve come to the right place. The wooden railway is a hit in all children’s rooms – if you just pay attention to a few points. We’ll help you decide between the countless suppliers and sets.

We show you what you should look for when buying a wooden train, which models are suitable for which age and in which price segment different offers are. With a few tips, you can also easily personalise and expand your wooden railway. You can also find out how best to clean your used wooden railway here.

The most important facts

  • The robust individual parts of the wooden trains are already suitable for small children: The toys are recommended from the age of two or three.
  • Not all train sets are compatible with each other: A list shows you which brands produce compatible train tracks.
  • Want to get creative? A construction manual helps you to build your very own wooden railway.

The Best Wooden Railway: Our Picks

Buying and rating criteria for wooden trains

Before you buy a wooden train set, there are a few things to consider. The following points will help you to keep an overview in the railway jungle:

With our tips, it will be easier for you to compare offers and then decide on the most suitable product.

Age recommendation

With a wooden train, nothing breaks easily: at the age of two, most toddlers are already able to consciously push objects in a certain direction. The sturdy components of the wooden railway as a starter model are precisely tailored to the fine motor skills of toddlers – and encourage them in a playful way.

Number of components

Different models can vary greatly in the number of components they have: Sets with more than 100 components are among the larger ones. But be careful: Often, larger sets simply include more decorative accessories, which does not automatically mean more fun.

Accessories & additional equipment

More wagons, traffic lights or light and sound effects? Almost all manufacturers offer a large selection of additional equipment with which the railway landscape can be further expanded. The perfect gift for the next children’s birthday party.

Theme area

The railway world knows no boundaries: Should the train travel through an ore mine or a dinosaur landscape? Here you are spoilt for choice when buying. But the good thing is: different sets can often be combined with each other very easily.

Type of drive

Wooden trains are either electrically or manually driven. Battery locomotives can go forwards and even backwards – but they are not very powerful. Here, it is important to take a closer look at the ratings of the individual products. The latest generation of locomotives can even be controlled via Bluetooth connection with a smartphone. However, the electric locomotives often have to be bought separately and are rarely included in entire railway sets.

Material origin – and properties

When you buy a wooden train set, you are consciously choosing a sustainable and natural children’s toy. But there are also differences here; many manufacturers supplement the railway with plastic accessories. Labels such as the FSC label guarantee that your child’s toy is definitely sustainable. For example, the Swiss brand Brio uses trains made of FSC-certified wood.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about wooden trains answered in detail

Despite these first tips, there may be some questions that come up before you buy your wooden train. Therefore, we answer the most frequently asked questions about wooden trains here.

Who is a wooden railway suitable for?

Wooden trains have been an integral part of children’s rooms for generations: from the age of 12 months, wooden locomotives without tracks are suitable, and from the age of two or three, more complex kits are also possible.

Wooden trains are interesting for both younger and older children. (Image source: 123rf / Oksana Kuzmina)

Once you have a train set, you won’t get enough: thanks to additional accessories, the wooden train set grows with your child and is therefore also a suitable toy for primary school children. Thanks to its robustness, parents don’t need to worry about tantrums or initial fine motor difficulties.

Which wooden train systems are compatible with each other?

The market leaders Brio and Eichhorn are easily compatible with each other and can also be plugged into most conventional railway suppliers. Railways from IKEA can also be connected to many products. However, it is more difficult if you want to connect lesser-known suppliers such as “Hape” or “point-kids” with other sets.

How do I clean a wooden railway?

Cleaning toys is important, even with wooden toys. Untreated wood is best cleaned with lukewarm water and a splash of ordinary vinegar. However, you should avoid aggressive cleaning agents – after all, toys quickly end up in your child’s mouth. Battery-operated locomotives, however, must not get wet: If they are very dirty, sanding them down with sandpaper can be an emergency solution.

How can a wooden train be built or personalised?

Of course, you can also build a wooden railway yourself. The rails in particular are relatively easy to make yourself with a circular saw – if you have woodworking tools at home, of course. The platform “Let’s Bastel” shows in a YouTube video how the rails from the supplier “Brio” can be milled.

A locomotive is also easy to make yourself and thus personalise: Hornbach has instructions with an integrated shopping list. For those who are not so keen on handicrafts, companies such as Schmatzepuffer or Kokokil also offer individualised wooden trains according to your wishes.

Conclusion

Whether homemade, personalised or already prefabricated: Wooden trains make children’s eyes light up. But so that the surprise doesn’t turn into a nasty surprise, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the age recommendation and the size of the wooden train set beforehand. If you already have a starter set that you want to expand, make sure you check the compatibility of the different suppliers.

It is also important to think about the origin of the wood and to clean the wooden toys from time to time. For this, we recommend lukewarm water with a little vinegar – or, in the worst case, sanding down the wooden parts.

Image source: Mike Bergmann / unsplash

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