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Written by Paul D. Race for Family Garden Trains

Garden Railways Magazine

2007 Family Garden Trains Bargain(s) of the Year Award

Most garden railroad and "Big Christmas Train" products are very good values. Considering that, when I was little, many Lionel or American Flyer "starter sets" cost about as much as a new refrigerator, we really do get a pretty good return on most of our model train investments. Still, every once in a while, I get to report on a spectacular value for fellow hobbyists.

And the Winner Is. . .

This year the award goes to a train set that I own several versions of - the AristoCraft Christmas Freight set. AristoCraft has deliberately kept the price of this set substantially lower than the rest of their starter sets, and they toss in a remote control that will easily operate any garden train. This train and its more expensive PRR and AT&SF twins (shown on the Large Scale Starter Set page) have been best-sellers at their regular pricing. But AristoCraft's "premium" pricing on this train, combined with the included remote control (a $95 item by itself), make this is an exceptionally good value!

This train will really get attention around a Christmas tree, and it's a great introduction to both Large Scale trains and AristoCraft quality. Even if you already have all the trains you "need," this is the ideal train to put up on your front porch this Christmas, or to use in a display at a school, business, church, or senior citizen's center. More details and vendor links are provided on our Large Scale Christmas Trains page.

Very Honorable Mention

Click to see an article about building and painting this Colorado Models structure.A very honorable mention goes to the Colorado Model Structures buildings, last year's winner. Their 2007 product line has many remarkable values, and they are already showing signs of being the "Bargain of the Year" in 2008.

You need to file them a little and to paint them yourself, but I paint every building before it comes out of the box anyway, so that's not a problem for me.

One of their first buildings, their RR tower is on my railroad right now (daring the snow to get deep enough to bury it). In fact, I wrote a whole article about my experience with the building:

New Colorado Model Structures Products for 2007 - Capitalizing on the molds they created last year for their fire house and public school structures, the company has introduced two new storefront models that could get your next urban setting off to a quick and inexpensive start. (A number of kitbashers have combined kits to build three-, four-, and five-story buildings. They really capture the early-to-mid-1900s small-city look, and they do it for about what it would cost to fill the same space with premium, 2-story, me-too kits.)

But the products that have many modelers especially excited are their modular sections, mostly wall segments that can be put together many different ways to create many different kinds of structures, including power houses, engine houses, and many more.

Here are some example products that weren't ready for last year's article. Remember, they are dark gray and brown when they come in the mail, and your parents have to help you put them together. :-) Also, you can get all the signage you need free from the Family Garden Trains Resources Business and Station Sign" page, so you can clutter them up just like the real thing in no time..

Virginia Ridge Variety - $39.95
Shoppes at Virginia Ridge - $39.95
Building Sections (Power House Window Section Shown), prices vary.

As you can see, these are priced to make great "stocking stuffers" (if you have really big stockings). And they are inexpensive enough that you could buy enough to keep busy all winter without stressing the budget.

For a list of last year's buildings, please see last year's Bargain of the Year article.

Enjoy your trains, and especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.

Best of luck,

Paul Race

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