Strasburg Model Railroad Club displays all scales.
is the relationship between the size of a model train and the real-life
train it models.
come in a variety of sizes, or scales, from the very small model train
to the larger garden railway variety. Though their sizes were originally
described as their “gauge,” scale is now the accepted
term. Choosing a favororite model train scale is really a matter of
personal preference, experience, and budget. There are numerous variations
of model train scales, but there are five that are the most common,
making them the easiest to find. The simplest definition of a model
train scale is the relevance of the reduced size to the original train
Common model train scales: G - O - S - HO - N - Z
The most common model train scale is HO. HO model trains have an approximate
ratio to the original train of 1:87. Variations of the HO model train
scale include narrower versions of the same scale, which means the
trains are the same scale, but with less space between the tracks’
rails. The HO model train scale is probably the easiest to find and
the easiest to accessorize because many hobbyists use it. It is not
so small that creating layouts is complicated, but it is large enough
that it shows well.
N model train scale is probably the second most popular size. N scale
model trains are approximately 1:160. The N stands for nine, which
is the distance in millimeters between the inside rails of the tracks
used in this scale. They are smaller than the more popular HO scale,
making them slightly more difficult to accessorize to scale, but the
advantage to the N scale is using less space to create a complete
Other common model train scales include O (1:48), S (1:64), G (1:24),
and Z (1:220). G scale model trains are commonly seen in larger garden
railway designs. Z scale model trains are very small, and while a
complete layout could be easily achieved in confined spaces, people
with large hands, poor eyesight, and physical challenges, such as
arthritis, find it most difficult to work with this scale.
its introduction in the 30's, 1:64 or 3/16" to the foot scale
model railroading has intrigued modelers of all ages. A big boost
to the scale came in 1946 when A.C. Gilbert Co. marketed S Scale trains
that operated on 2-rail track. This introduced millions of children
and parents to the advantages of "S" over the diminutive
HO or O-27, operating on three rail track with its un-prototypical
Though there are other model train scales, these are the six most
common scales used. Depending on the manufacturer, the actual ratio
of replication may vary slightly. However, accessories and track will
remain relatively standard to each scale.
size of engines depends on the scale and can vary from 28 inches tall
for the largest ridable live steam scales such as 1:8, down to matchbox
size for the smallest in Z-scale (1:220). A typical HO (1:87) engine
is 2 inches tall, and 4 to 12 inhes long. The most popular scales
are: G scale, Gauge 1, O scale, H0 scale, TT scale, and N scale (1:160).There
is growing interest in Z scale. H0 is the most popular. Popular narrow-gauge
scales include HOn3 Scale and Nn3, which are the same as HO and N
except with a narrower spacing between the tracks.
largest common scale is 1:8, with 1:4 sometimes used for park rides.
G scale (Garden, 1:24 scale) is most popular for backyard modelling.
It is easier to fit a G scale model into a garden and keep scenery
proportional to the trains. [Gauge 1] and Gauge 3 are also popular
for gardens. 0, H0 scale, and N scale are more often used indoors.
Lionel trains in 0 scale (1:48 scale) are popular toys.
words scale and gauge seem at first interchangeable but their meanings
are different. Scale is the model's measurement as a proportion to
the original, while gauge is the measurement between the rails.
At first, model railways were not to scale. Manufacturers and hobbyists
soon arrived at de facto standards for interchangeability, such as
gauge, but trains were only a rough approximation to the real thing.
Official scales for the gauges were drawn up but not at first rigidly
followed and not necessarily correctly proportioned for the gauge
chosen. O (zero) gauge trains, for instance, operate on track too
widely spaced in the United States as the scale is accepted as 1:48
whereas in Britain 0 gauge uses a ratio of 43.5:1 or 7 mm/1 foot and
the gauge is near to correct. British 00 standards operate on track
significantly too narrow. The 4 mm/1 foot scale on a 16.5mm gauge
corresponds to a track gauge of 4ft 1 1/2in, 7 inches undersized).
16.5 mm gauge corresponds to 4ft 8.5 standard gauge in H0 (half zero)
3.5 mm/1 foot or 1:87. Most commercial scales have standards that
include wheel flanges that are too deep, wheel treads that are too
wide, and rail tracks that are too large.
Later, modellers became dissatisfied with inaccuracies and developed
standards in which everything is correctly scaled. These are used
by modellers but have not spread to mass-production because the inaccuracies
and overscale properties of the commercial scales ensure reliable
operation and allow for shortcuts necessary for cost control. The
finescale standards include the UK's P4, and the even finer S4, which
uses track dimensions scaled from the prototype. This 4 mm:1ft modelling
uses wheels 2mm or less wide running on track with a gauge of 18.83
mm. Check-rail and wing-rail clearances are similarly accurate.
compromise of P4 and 00 is 'EM' which uses a gauge of 18.2mm with
more generous tolerances than P4 for check clearances. It gives a
better appearance than 00 though pointwork is not as close to reality
as P4. It suits many where time and improved appearance are important.