5 Famous Pop Culture Trains That Will Inspire Your Model

5 Famous Pop Culture Trains That Will Inspire Your Model

People get into model railroading for different reasons. Some people love making realistic dioramas, while others are fans of train design and engineering. Maybe you like building model railroads, but you’re never quite sure what kind of layout to build.

If you need some fun inspiration, you might consider building a layout based on a famous train from pop culture. Check out these five famous pop culture trains that will inspire your model.

1. The Orient Express

No list of pop culture trains could ever be complete without mentioning the famous train from Agatha Christie’s mystery novel, Murder on the Orient Express. The story features the famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot as he unravels the mystery of a murdered mob boss on a snowed-in train. The story’s twist ending is so famous and popular that there have been not one, but two movie adaptations, including the 2017 one directed by Kenneth Branaugh.

The History Behind the Orient Express

The Orient Express was a real train that started running in the 1880s. Its creator was the Belgian company Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). It had a reputation for being a high-end luxury line, and it ran all the way from Paris to Istanbul. Today, you can still ride the refurbished train as part of the Venice-Simpleton Orient Express. Just be prepared to pay a hefty sum for your ticket!

Modeling the Orient Express

Because the train is so famous, several major model train companies actually have an Orient Express model you can purchase. Make sure not to confuse it with the American Orient Express, a US luxury train that also has official models. For the layout, you can choose to model any number of amazing locations from all across Europe where the Orient Express would have stopped.

2. The Polar Express

The Polar Express is a fictional train from the children’s book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. You might be surprised to know that Van Allsburg is also the author of Jumanji, another famous book-turned-movie franchise. Most people recognize the train from the 2004 movie version featuring Tom Hanks.

Modeling the Polar Express

The Polar Express may be a fictional train, but that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from making officially-licensed models of it. If you decide to recreate the Polar Express, note that there are both children’s playsets and hobbyist-quality trains out there on the market. You can also find official figures and buildings to decorate your layout with.

3. The Hogwarts Express

Possibly the most easily-recognized train on this entire list is the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter franchise. Harry and his friends ride from platform 9 ¾ to the famous wizarding school, enjoying chocolate frogs and magic jelly beans. Though the train itself is fictional, the train used in the movies is a real train, 5972 Olton Hall. The train originally ran in South Wales, and was eventually purchased by Woodham Brothers for restoration.

Modeling the Hogwarts Express

As you might expect, there are officially-licensed models of the Hogwarts Express. There are both hobbyist versions and children’s playsets. You can even buy a Lego version!

If you decide to shop for a Hogwarts Express model, know that there’s a long history of confusion regarding the train’s class. The original train used in the films is a Hall class locomotive. However, the train was renamed “Hogwarts Castle” during the filming of the fourth movie. This led to some model train manufacturers using a Castle class train as the basis for the model. Purists may want to ensure that their Hogwarts Express is a model based on the original Hall class.

4. The Train From Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a beloved film by Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It tells the story of Chihiro, a young girl who gets trapped in the spirit world while trying to save her parents. Along the way, she makes friends with a strange boy named Haku who can turn into a dragon. When Haku is injured, Chihiro goes on a train ride to visit a witch named Zeniba in hopes of saving him.

The Journey to Swamp Bottom

There’s something about that quiet scene on the train that fills viewers with deep emotion. Miyazaki has spoken about his style of storytelling, calling on the Japanese concept of ma, or emptiness. For Miyazaki, it’s crucial that films give audience members time to breathe instead of feeding them a barrage of non-stop action. Ma is the feeling we get from watching that famous dusk train ride.

Modeling the Spirited Away Train

The train in Spirited Away isn’t a real train, and it’s not clear whether it’s modeled on a specific real-life train. While there is one official reproduction of the train, it may be difficult to purchase outside of Japan. It’s also not made to look realistic. That means that any modelers looking to recreate this iconic train have complete freedom to pick whichever train they think best matches the one in the film.

5. Snowpiercer

The last train on this list of famous pop culture trains that will inspire your model is by no means the least. Snowpiercer is the titular train from Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 dystopian sci-fi film, itself based on a French graphic novel of the same name. Bong’s version stars Chris Evans as a rebel leader who uncovers the train’s hidden secrets, including the strict social order that separates the passengers.

Modeling Snowpiercer

While model railroaders have been interested in an official Snowpiercer model for years, there is no sign of one being made available any time soon. The train in the film is an original set built specifically for the movie, and is not based on a real train. This means that modelers can use any sci-fi train that they think looks appropriate. Don’t forget to build your train on a circular snowy track!

Modeling Trains From Pop Culture

Building a layout for a pop culture train can be a lot of fun. It’s a fantastic way to shake up your model railroading if you feel like things are getting stale. Plus, there’s plenty of room for building custom scenery and figures.

You can find some of the officially-licensed trains mentioned in this post at Midwest Model Railroad. We carry N scale locomotives with sound and hundreds of other model railroading parts for you to enjoy. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, reach out, and we’d be more than happy to help you.

5 Famous Pop Culture Trains That Will Inspire Your Model

27th Feb 2023 Steven Atwell

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