Lionel's Pennsylvania Flyer, 2-4-2 LionChief, Polar Express, Bachmann's Chattanooga and Lionel's Thomas and Friends are top-rated model train engines, as of 2015. Walther, Athearn and MTH offer highly-rated model railroad engines featuring advanced digital control systems and sound decoders.
Model railroading encompasses a wide variety of engines focusing on different gauges, motor types and price ranges. The Pennsylvania Flyer from Lionel LLC is an O-gauge train, the second largest size. The model is durable, built of die-cast metal and using painted details rather than decals. The Flyer is powerful, pulling up to 13 pounds added weight above the five cars that come with the set. With lifelike sounds, a whistle, bell, headlights and smoke, the locomotive provides a realistic experience for older hobbyists.
The LionChief is another O-gauge engine from Lionel. Geared towards children 8 and younger, the model rates well for its sturdy build and painted details. Only paint smudges lowered its rating relative to the Pennsylvania Flyer.
Lionel's Polar Express is a G-gauge locomotive, the largest scale available. The model is all plastic, runs on batteries and is suitable for younger children. All of the engines from Lionel LLC come with a one-year warranty.
The Chattanooga is an HO-gauge train, slightly smaller than the O-gauge and the most popular scale. The train includes the digital command control module first integrated into model railroads by Bachmann Trains. The model lost points in durability, with wheels falling off the engine during testing.