Lionel electric trains are what most people first think of when they think about American electric trains. Most Lionel Trains are produced in O scale (about 1/48th of real-life size), which is about twice as large as HO scale but yet a good bit smaller than G scale trains. Lionel does make some train sets in G scale, however those are mostly Christmas train sets. Years ago, Lionel also produced some trains in HO scale, but no longer.
If you are new to the model train hobby, Lionel starter sets are an easy way to get up and running with Lionel trains. In a starter set, you generally have everything that is needed to start running a train: an engine, some train cars, a loop of track, a power source and a controller (sometimes the power source and controller are combined). Because starter sets are often "loss leaders" to get customers into the model train hobby, Lionel starter train sets can be an excellent value -- usually with a price much less than you would have to spend if you purchased each item separately.
A few of the most popular Lionel starter sets are: the New York Flyer set, the Pennsylvania Flyer set, the Polar Express set, and, of course, the Thomas the Tank Engine train set (see video below). Many of the Lionel starter sets also have "expansion sets" that can be purchased separately in order to add more matching train cars and accessories to your set. Lionel has recently come out with a line of "Conventional Classics" train sets that replicate some vintage Lionel train sets from the 1940's and 50's.
Lionel O scale trains utilize 3-rail track that has a solid center rail carrying power to the locomotive. Lionel locomotives pick up the power by way of a metal "shoe" on the under-side of the train engine that slides along the center rail. The Lionel FasTrack track pieces combine the track with a plastic "railroad bed" that can be set up on a carpet floor or about any other surface.
About the Author: FunWithTrains is a model train enthusiast who has written many articles on the web about electric trains. You can visit his online store here: Electric Trains