June 21

LEGO Trains: A brief history

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The LEGO Group has always been synonymous with endless creativity and timeless fun. This is especially true of one of its oldest and most beloved themes: LEGO trains. Let’s take a walk down memory lane (or should we say, track?).

Into the Blue (Era)

While the official story of LEGO trains begins in the early 1960s, the seeds had already been sown much earlier. The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Initially, LEGO toys were made from wood. It wasn’t until 1958 that the LEGO brick, as we know it today, was patented. Eight years later, the first LEGO train set was introduced.

Though 080 is widely considered as the beginning of this new era for The LEGO Group, the first official LEGO train set was actually introduced the year before. The 323 train was released in 1965 and was exclusively available for that year. Though it didn’t include a track, just ordinary road wheels, it remains one of the most sought-after LEGO train sets of this era.

When Set 080 came out in 1966, it featured some notable improvements – specifically, tracks and a battery-powered 4.5-volt motor. It was a hit. Set 080 also marked the beginning of the ‘Blue Era’ (named for the colour of the train tracks) which lasted all the way through until 1979.

The Golden Age

The 1970s and 1980s are often considered the golden age of LEGO trains, and for good reason. In 1969, The LEGO Group launched the 12-volt train system, which offered more power and functionality with lights, remote-controlled switches, and decoupling tracks. This took the play experience to a new level.

Sets like the 7740 Inter-City Passenger Train also became iconic during this period, showcasing The LEGO Group’s commitment to realism and detail. When the 9-volt train system was released in 1986 – replacing the 12-volt system by 1991 – its metal rails allowed for smoother and reliable operation. This system remained popular until it was discontinued in 2007, but it is still fondly remembered by many LEGO train enthusiasts. And indeed, here at BrickResales, we are often asked for parts from these sets!

The Modern Era

A new century brought more innovation from The LEGO Group. In 2009, LEGO introduced the Power Functions train system, which used battery-powered motors and remote controls. This meant even greater flexibility and ease of use for LEGO train lovers, as there was no need for electrified tracks.

Fan favourites from this era include the 7939 Cargo Train and the 60052 Cargo Train, which became known for their realistic design and operational capabilities.

Then, in 2018, the Powered Up system came along. It’s a new evolution of Power Functions, featuring Bluetooth and app-based controls that allow builders to operate their trains using smartphones or tablets. The 60197 Passenger Train and the 60198 Cargo Train were among the first sets to incorporate this technology, bringing LEGO trains into the digital age. However, the infrared technology of Power Functions still makes it a favourite for many LEGO train enthusiasts.

Keep an eye out, as The LEGO Group is soon to release the newest motors, USB powered trains. Hopefully we can say goodbye to batteries for good!

A Community Affair

Trains have always had a special place in the hearts of LEGO fans. The community of train enthusiasts is one of the LEGO Group’s most vibrant and active, with numerous fan clubs, online forums, and exhibitions dedicated to showcasing custom train layouts and models.

LEGO trains have also become a popular subject for custom builds. From historical steam engines to modern high-speed trains, the possibilities are endless.

As The LEGO Group continues to innovate, one thing is for sure: the enduring appeal ensures LEGO trains will keep chugging along, delighting fans for generations to come.


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