Model trains are unique in certain ways. Train enthusiasts agree that a well-built model train captures a small portion of reality and exhibits an engineering marvel in miniature, whether running or stationary.
But how can you understand the various sizes and scales of model trains? N Scale trains have different scale types, and a few are discussed below.
Z scale is popular for model trains because it’s the smallest train scale out there at 1/200 to 1/220, which is great for small areas. It’s also easy to use, with train pieces typically an inch in size.
N scale trains are a popular choice among model railroaders. They’re small but not too small for fine detail. These trains have a gauge size of 0.375”. These trains are perfect for beginners who want something affordable yet detailed enough to get their feet wet with the hobby of building layouts from scratch (or as close as possible).
N scale can be used for any layout you’d like—from small backyard layouts to large cityscape ones—and plenty of manufacturers are out there making models just for this market segment too.
HO Scale is the most popular scale. It’s also referred to as “1/87th” or “1:87.”
HO trains are usually made of wood or plastic, with some explicitly made for modeling purposes. You can find these trains in nearly every hobby shop, but they’re not always available at all retailers.
S Scale trains are today’s most common and most popular model train scale. In fact, it’s hard to find a collector who doesn’t have an S-scale layout that they lovingly maintain.
S Scale trains are generally 4–6 feet in size and have a gauge of 0.875 inches. They can be made out of wood, styrofoam, or styrene plastic (known as “toy plastic”). Because of this versatility—and because there are widely different varieties of S-scale models available—it’s easy to see why this scale is so popular among collectors.
O scale is the most common scale for model trains. It’s the second-to-largest scale size, making them easier to handle, but it also means that they require more space than smaller models do.
O trains are four feet long and made of styrene plastic (like all plastic train models). They’re also much lighter than metal or brass models; this makes them easier for children to move around when you want them to play together.
G scale trains are made of styrene plastic and not wood. This means that you can use your G scale layout indoors or outdoors, depending on what kind of weather you’re in. It’s the largest scale size and needs the most space.
G scale has a width of one foot (30cm). The track gauge is 1.75”, meaning there’s no spacing between the rails on your layout.
The 1/200th scale is only accurate within a few feet, but it’s useful for fine work like framing and decals. However, you can decide on your scale depending on your choice of train and get started with some fun train rides.