How to Buy Used Model Steam Trains

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How to Buy Used Model Steam Trains

Referred to regularly as live steam locomotives,, model steam trains are smaller scale, precise replicas of the steam trains that were in use for transportation before the advancements in railroad technology. Used by children and hobbyists alike, model steam trains are a source of fun through the re-enactment of times gone by.

Whilst there are the obvious benefits to buying a brand new model steam train and its various necessities, buying second hand also has its advantages. For instance, a used model steam train may be more affordable in price or may already have been modified for certain tracks.

When buying a used model steam train it is important to be fully aware of the product that is being purchased. There are many different choices that can be made in the buying process, all of which are detailed throughout this guide.

Considerations When Buying a Model Steal Train

Regardless of whether a new or used model steam train is being purchased, there a number of consideration concerning the specifications of the train that is desired. Here are some of the main deciding factors that should be considered.


Most model steam trains and their sizes are referred to by their gauge. Whilst some collectors and hobbyists still measure their models by their scale size in comparison to the real dimension, gauge is the more commonly used of the two.

The term ‘gauge’ refers to the size of the distance between the rails that the locomotive rides on.

Auction sites such as eBay offer the opportunity for affordable deals on used model steam trains and their filter tabs separate the models by these specifications:



O Gauge

This is the most commonly used ‘toy’ model steam train size. Hobbyists with a predilection for detail and not necessarily engineering specifics tend to use O gauges, as they do not take up too much space. They are also easier to run and maintain. O gauge railroad tracks are generally made with a 32mm gap between the rails. 

OO Gauge

OO gauge is considered to be the most popular model steam train scale size. The vast majority of model steam train manufacturers cater for OO gauge.. In terms of dimension, railroad tracks made for locomotives of this gauge have a gap of anything between 16.5mm to 19mm, depending on the scale size of the model. OO gauge model steam trains are preferred for the fact that they can be tailored to specific engineering desires, with a large number of spare parts and accessories available in this size.

G Gauge

G gauge (or scale) is generally the largest of the model steam train sizes. Commonly referred to as the ‘garden scale’ because of hobbyist’s preference for using them outdoors, they allow for easier engine and design modifications because of their size. Whilst trains of his scale can be used indoors, a large amount of space may be required to get the best use out of them. G gauge tracks tend to be around 45mm in track width.

Fuel Types

All model steam trains need fuel to be able to create the steam that powers the engine. Just as real life steam trains use coal to do so, model steam locomotives make use of various power sources. The fuel sources available can vary in price and effectiveness. They also depend on the size of the model. Here is a guide to some of the most popular fuels used in the world of model steam trains:

  • Electricity: Whilst not the most commonly used or accepted power source in the model steam train community, electric tracks can be used to produce heat via an immersion heater. It is wise to take the obvious precautions necessary when using electricity and water in close proximity. A lot of OO gauge models are designed for the use of electricity as a heat and power source.
  • Methylated Spirit:Methylated spirit is a combination of methanol and ethanol. Because of its flammable nature, model steam trains that run on methylated spirit require meticulous care. It is popular amongst hobbyists for a number of reasons. It is widely available at most hardware shops and is relatively affordable compared to other fuels. It also burns at a higher temperature than most fuels, in turn enabling a better performance.
  • Fuel Tablets: Known as Hexamine tablets or ‘solid fuel’, these are a popular power source amongst ‘toy’ model steam train users. They are widely available as they can be used for many other purposes, such as heat sources for cooking whilst camping. Whilst they produce less heat than the likes of methylated of butane fuels, they are comparatively safer to use. When using fuel tablets be sure that they have been stored in a cool, dry place so as to avoid a spluttering effect which can lead to tiny, lit specks of the tablet firing off. This can result in damage to the area of use, especially indoors. Also, fuel tablets are known to expel strong smells. In this case, they may not be best used in smaller, indoor spaces without sufficient ventilation.
  • Butane Gas: Butane Gas is the most expensive of the fuel sources. It is, however, an extremely clean burning fuel and is considered to be one of the safer fuels. They are seen as safer as controlling the temperature of the engine is lot easier. Other advantages include more efficient running times and a faster heating time than the likes of fuel tablets. As a precaution, be thorough in the safety checks of butane gas so as to avoid leakages or spillages.

With all fuel sources it is best to keep children as far away as possible. Take extreme care when handling any of these fuel sources so as to avoid any fire related incidents, especially when using model steam trains indoors.

Buying a Used Model Steam Train

When buying a used model steam train there are a few things that should be taken into consideration before finalising a purchase:


As mentioned earlier in the guide, be aware of the scale size necessary to the particular model steam train being purchased. Ensure that the scale or gauge being acquired relates to the space available for use. Make sure that when buying a used model steam train that safety, sizes, as well as fuel-burning odour issues are all met. A reliable used model seller should provide all the size and scale information necessary to ensure that the buyer is purchasing a product specific to their space requirements.


Hobbyists occasionally purchase second hand steam locomotives that may be damaged or in poor condition as a money saving exercise. Buying a used model and restoring it may also be part of the experience for a model steam train user. The acquiring of replacement parts and fixing a model is a popular exercise amongst model train hobbyists, as well as a test of skill in model engineering. When buying second hand, be sure to have the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to modify or fix a model to get it back to prime, working condition. Replacement and spare parts are all available on eBay at reasonable prices that may mean that buying an ill-conditioned model is more cost-effective than buying new.


A used model steam train may only be able to be purchased as a single locomotive. Make sure that railroad tracks have already been purchased specific to your locomotive requirements so as to ensure that the best possible use of a model steam train occurs.

Buying a Used Model Steam Train Online

The use of model steam trains is a very specialist sector of the toy market. Due to the fact that there an exclusive number of model train collectors and hobbyists, there are a number of online resources that cater for very specific needs and requirements. Model steam train experts use forums as a way of discussing ways to get the best use out of their collection. They also review individual brands, as well as recommending certain fuel types to certain gauges. Also, use model steam train online retailers to gain an idea of the pricing for certain models, brands and size. Compare the prices available so as to ensure the best possible deal is being made when purchasing a used model steam train.

Buying a Used Model Steam Train on eBay

The likes of auction sites such as eBay are a cost-effective and efficient way of purchasing used model steam locomotives.. eBay has a category section dedicated not only to model steam trains but also to the sale of second hand models. Make use of the keyword search bar and the filter tabs to narrow a search for a specific model, size or even replacement part.

Do not be afraid to ask sellers question on the product that they are looking to sell. This is especially true of those selling second hand. Check the previous transactions that the seller has been a part of and compare the product description to those that feature on specialist blogs so as to ensure an honest purchase.

Larger model steam trains, such as those of the G gauge,, may only be local collection only, so be aware of the location of the seller before committing to a transaction.

Finally, one should be familiar with eBay and PayPal’s Terms and Conditions before looking to purchase anything of the site.


Buying a used model steam train can be extremely economical, as well as an enjoyable way of challenging model building and repair skills. Make the most of the resources and facilities mentioned throughout this guide so as to ensure a deal is being made that is inexpensive and faithful to the products true value. 

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