Train Scales Explained – Which Are Most Suitable?

It goes without saying that model railroads are not the same size as the real thing. Model train layouts are scaled down replicas of their real world counterparts. As a handy reference here is a list of the main scales from largest to the smallest: O scale is 1:48, OO scale is 1:76, HO scale is 1:87, N scale is 1:160, Z scale is 1:220.

When getting started in the hobby, do not get put off by all the different train scales on offer. It is really very simple. When deciding what to purchase, just keep in mind that O scale, HO scale and N scale are the most common scales in use. Of those, HO is the most widely used scale and is roughly the same scale as the popular OO gauge in the UK.

Before getting started building a model layout, think carefully about which scale would best suit your needs and then stick with that scale for your first project.

One of the worst mistakes is to get started building your railroad layout and then decide to change train scales. Apart from the obvious operational problems, everything will look out of proportion and you will end up wasting a lot of money.

Choose your scale BEFORE you spend any money on anything. Much will depend on the space you have available – now and in the future.

Each model train scale has its own unique advantages. If you want the scenery to dominate the trains, or if you have only very limited space, look closely at N scale. HO scale (OO gauge in the UK is similar) is the most common choice explaining why hobby shops usually have a wider range of locomotives, cars, and accessories. The minimum radius for an HO scale curve is 18″, meaning a complete loop of track can fit on a standard 4 x 8-foot sheet of plywood.

And, if you have plenty of space and want your trains to really be the stars of the show, you could consider O scale layout.

4 Responses to “Train Scales Explained – Which Are Most Suitable?”

  • King of Rails:

    cant wait 2 register to look inside at it all. Was hoping you would do something like this.

  • Jim Bourg:

    Just wondered why you had not listed “G” scale.


  • Robert:

    Sorry, there were some other options I also didn’t mention in this particular posting. The club will grow each month and more content will be added month to month. In the meantime, for those who would like to know…

    G Scale trains are larger than 0 scale (1:48) but smaller than the trains that are large enough to ride on. G-scale, is approximately 1:24 (varying from 1:19 to 1:32, actually). Most large-scale trains run on No 1 gauge track (45mm between the rails). They are ideal for garden settings and because they are large they are generally hard to derail. Some people also run O-scale (1:48) Lionel trains outdoors.

  • wes delano:

    You left out S scale (1/64 American Flyer) I have a huge collection of post war A.F. and Lionel currently sells
    reissues of American Flyer (and they run on two rail track, how neat is that)

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