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?Model Train Scales

Sep 5, 2008
Okay, you're looking to create the ultimate model railroad layout this side of the Mississippi and you're wondering, "Just what scale do I want to make this monster in?" Well, there's several things you need to consider and let's look at some of them.

First, a simple definition of scale for our purposes would the the reduced size relative to the original item being reproduced. The most common model railroad scale is HO (Don Imus' favorite scale!) This is 1:87 in relation to the real thing. This scale is used by maybe 70% of model railroaders out there. Variations on this scale include Hon3 and Nn3, which are narrow gauge versions of the same size models. (narrow gauge meaning narrower space between the tracks.)

The HO scale has become popular because it can fit into most homes but is not so small that it is difficult to work with. The minimum size for an HO model railroad is 4' by 8'. HO model trains are easy to operate and look great when displayed in shows. It is also easy to find new pieces for HO scale model trains.

Other common scales include N(1:160), O(1:48), G(1:24) and Z(1:220). There are more scales than these, but they are less common and harder to find.

The N scale is about half the size of the HO scale. N scale model railroads are difficult to design well because of their small size but are also quite charming to watch running for the same reason. The work that has to be done to the train motors and the delicate details related to such small scenery require very precision work. Although working on such small trains can be frustrating, the finished product is very rewarding.

Z scale model railroads are another third smaller than even the N scale, which means that people with bad eyesight, big hands, or other difficulties simply cannot work with this scale of model train. One distinct advantage of Z scale trains, however, is that they can be positioned in places that you would normally not expect to see a model train, such as a businessman's office desk.

Even though they are no longer as popular as they once were, many model train enthusiasts still like O scale trains. These were designed to make realistic noises as they crossed the tracks.

This was the size most popular as children's toys, as they were big enough to be impressive and playable.
About the Author
Looking for ideas for model train scenery? Visit The Model Railroader website at http://www.themodelrailroader.com for lots of helpful ideas and to get your free copy of my report on designing model railroads.
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