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Model Railroading: Buy A Train At A Department Store?

A tip if you spring for one of the trains J.C. Penny is offering this holiday season

Model trains at JC Penny?  Yep.  Reviving the spirit of the good old days when department stores had everything under the sun, including the dear, departed toy department, Penny’s has included a couple train sets in their holiday toy sections in store and online.

In my last article on trains for the holidays entitled “Model Railroading: Train Sets Fit For A Tree” I listed a Polar Express set by Lionel.   It turns out there are two of them, and Penny’s has them both for sale.   One in G-scale (or “G gauge” as the catalog listing calls it):

http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=1d10500

And the O-scale one mentioned in my previous post (or “O-gauge” as the catalog tags it): 

http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=1d27685

They also offer an O-scale Hogwarts Express for the Harry Potter fans:

http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=1d2767

There’s even a steam train decorated in honor of the holiday flick “A Christmas Story” for sale, believe it or not:

http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=1d27682

Finally, they just have a good old fashioned steam train decked out in the colors of the hallowed Pennsylvania Railroad:

http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=PRD&ItemID=1d10503

Common wisdom, however, dictates that even if you buy one of these trains from them, make contact with a local hobby shop soon after for, say, an extra train car or track, and above all, advice.   The toy displays at Penny’s are only until Christmas Eve and the bargain hunts on December 26th.  Even if you are only buying the train as a Christmas decoration for the base of your tree, don’t jump blind.   Model trains are a terrific past time but also have potential headaches like engines that won’t start, cars that won’t run right, wiring glitches, etc. that –again- no department store can help you with.  A hobby shop with a train section and knowledgeable staff on the other hand, can.  So keep one in mind even if you decide to jump for one of these admittedly bargain-priced sets J.C. Penny is offering from the legendary Lionel toy train company.