If you are considering buying a model train set, one of the first choices you have to make is what brand to get. Since model train brands have been known to come and go, it is a good idea to select a popular brand that is more likely to be around for a long time.
Based on an analysis of Google searches where a model trains brand name was included in the search phrase, the most popular brands are Lionel trains and Bachmann trains. These two brands account for over 70% of searches, both in the United States and globally.
Lionel trains dominate the model train hobby with 59% of all searches in the United States and 37% of searches globally. Lionel trains are primarily O scale, which is one of the most popular scales available, especially among serious hobbyists. Lionel is also one of the oldest brands with train sets dating back to 1900. However, the original Lionel Corporation went out of business. The brand was revived in 1969 by General Mills, the cereal company. They launched Lionel, LLC and quickly became the leading brand.
In the United States, Bachmann trains are the second largest brand with 13% of searches. Globally, Bachmann is the third largest brand with only 8% of searches. Bachmann trains were first introduced in 1946. Bachmann manufactures a large product line consisting mostly of HO scale trains, including the popular Thomas Tank Engine electric train sets. Bachmann also produces N scale, O scale and large scale trains. Prices range from under $100 to over $2,000 per train set.
Globally, Hornby is the second largest brand with 35% of searches, placing them just slightly behind Lionel. However, Hornby is based in the UK and their sales are almost all outside the United States They received only 1% of searches within the United States. Horny trains have a reputation for quality but their product line within the United States is very limited.
The top three brands, Lionel, Bachmann and Hornby, accounted for 73% of searches within the United States and 80% of searches globally. The remaining searches were spread among a dozen other brands led by LGB and Marklin, each with 5% of global searches. MTH with 3% and Atlas and Micro each with 2% of global searches. The remaining 3% of global searches were spread among all other brands. Of these remaining brands, the largest was Athearn, which received 3% of searches in the United States but only 1% of searches globally.