Chuggington vs. Thomas Wooden Railway

A lot of little kids are enjoying the wooden trains.  Who can blame them?  Trains are just awesome.  Still, though, when parents are trying to figure out how to indulge their child’s train love, they often find themselves wondering some big questions.  Chuggington or Thomas?

While my friend Jo likes to tell me that I’m a big geek for the massive Train Track Tuesday layouts, I insist that I don’t actually play with the trains.  I just build them so that my kids can enjoy them.  Although I do sit down to encourage that my kids play and use some imagination….  Okay, fine, I play trains with my kids from time to time.

All Wooden Train Brands Play Nicely Together

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying some spare pieces from the bulk bin at the local toy store or if they are Chuggington, Thomas, Brio, Melissa & Doug, or whatever else.  They all interconnect.  That means you (or your children) can put together a more varied world.

Train Track Tuesday (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

Yes, It’s Expensive

Sure, you can frequently find smaller complete sets used for $100.  However, when you go to the local toy store to buy a wooden railway roundhouse, you’ll find that they are well over $75.  (And over $100 in Canada.)  If you bargain hunt, buy extra track pieces from the bulk bin instead of going name brand, and look for sales, it will only cost an arm instead of an arm and a leg.

All Brands Aren’t Equal

Sure, the track all plays nicely together, and some of the “off brands” do have awesome accessories.  Bridges and tunnels in particular can be awesome from the not so big name brands.  I love the Melissa & Doug Skyline Bridge.  But the “off brand” engines are a bit of a disappointment.  Don’t go cheap on the engines and cars, because they are just far less interesting.  The engines are often flat and boring; the cars are often flimsy.  Stick with Thomas or Chuggington engines and cars.

Which is better? Thomas or Chuggington?

Neither.  Both.  If you’re looking at the television series, I’ve got nothing.  We’ve never seen Chuggington shows and watch the odd Thomas on Netflix.  While I’m particularly fond of Sir Topham Hatt/The Fat Controller, I don’t notice the trains seeming to have distinct personalities in the newer episodes.  But with the toys?

Norton likes the Thomas trains best of all.  They are all older style engines, and let’s just face it, those are way cooler.  They’re cute and aesthetically pleasing.  Skarloey is his favorite.

However, for Eudora’s little hands, the chunkier, less detailed in shape Chuggington engines have a distinct advantage.  They’re the more modern, block shaped engine rather than the old fashioned “steamies,” so they’re easier for smaller hands to hold and maneuver.  That block shape means that there are no chimneys for Eudora to put in her mouth.  They are also just a smidgen taller, so there’s the occasional thing that won’t work together.  (For example, Chuggington engines don’t fit so well under the Thomas the Train Stop & Go Station… but the Thomas the Train Early Engineers engines don’t fit so well, either.  I’ve yet to run into any other clear cut cases where the two products don’t play well together.)

If you’re out to do a full-blown themed room, you’ll do better with Thomas.  There are more readily available companion merchandise pieces like beds, bedding, and even a little toddler sized living room suite.

What Do I Suggest?

Mix and match.  Mix and match as much as possible and remember your child’s tastes.  Sure, both Chuggington and Thomas have roundhouses.  But the Chuggington Double Decker Roundhouse with its nifty little elevating platform and options to separate may be more interesting to a young child than the single layered Deluxe Roundhouse or Tidmouth Sheds.  However, the Thomas And Friends Wooden Railway – Quarry Mine Tunnel and the Chuggington Wooden Railway Rocky Ridge Mine Tunnel are practically indistinguishable.  And the Thomas the Train Deluxe Over the Track Signal is way more awesome than the Chuggington equivalent.

I suggest that you go for the coolest option that’s within your budget.  Since they are frequently the exact same price, it’s a bit easier.

Do you have a wooden railway enthusiast in your home?  How do you choose between Thomas and Chuggington?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. We have an offbrand track and a few misc. trains. My girls only play with them from time to time, but they love them once they go through the hassle of taking them out
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  2. We had been thinking about getting a wooden train set for awhile and I finally let the elderly gentleman who owns our local toy store talk me into buying one. Darn my weakness for the elderly! 😉
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  3. I Say Go With What Your Kids & Enjoy As Long As It’s Within Your Budget!!
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  4. Great track setup. My nephew loves both thomas and chugginton.
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  5. We have tracks from IKEA, the only problem is that brand name trains don’t fit under the bridge 🙁 As for the tv shows, I think Thomas is more funny. I was laughing pretty hard at the episode where Thomas insisted he would pull the Express, but wasn’t strong enough, so ditched his very important visitors at a field and some remote station in an attempt to make the train lighter for him to pull. Dowager Tophat was very shocked when he arrived and her special guest weren’t on the train.

  6. when my boys were little.I did the same. but all brands cheap and not, or track and accessories. I am looking forwards to having another to do this with. I am gladdest I invested in the wooden ones because they have lasted (my oldest buy is 15 1/2) and I can easily see these surviving grandchildren next.

  7. My son was wild about the wooden trains. He would play with those things for hours and hours, so worth the investment!
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  8. Rachel N says:

    The bulk of our set is Imaginarium because it is a lot cheaper than Thomas and Chuggington but I have found some second hand Thomas stuff and some Thomas trains. My kids don’t seem to have a preference as far as brand goes. They like the bigger trains though.

  9. I’ll probably just take whatever I can find at yard sales 😉 Kids sure love train tables though!

  10. Thank you so much! We don’t have any trains and I’ve toyed with the idea. But I didn’t even know where to start. this makes it so much clearer for me!

  11. Bianca Munoz says:

    We love Thomas here!

  12. My son has some from each collection and he just loves them. My son doesn’t even care that they are different.

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