Model train collection, as a hobby, has grown throughout the years. The market now holds different sizes or scales of model trains for the collectors’ preference. Each model train size has its own pros and cons. For a beginner collector, choosing the right model train size is an important decision, and this decision lies on many factors.
Before diving into your options, get to know some model train collection terms first. When collectors or sellers speak of scale, they mean the model’s size in proportion to the actual train size. For instance, a 1:29 scale means that it is one 29th the size of the actual train. Meanwhile, gauge means the size of the railroad track.
With the popularity of model train collection worldwide, scales have been standardized regardless of where you shop.
Some model trains are scaled using the width of the railway track, as well. So, here are your scale options for your model trains:
N Scale—1:160 or 0.075 inches to 1 foot. N Scale belongs to the smaller options for model trains at 1/160 of an actual train and 9 mm gauge. This option works well with people who like to work with the scenery along their track and not much on the detail of the actual train.
HO / OO Scale—1:87 or 0.138 inch to 1 foot. Its 16.5 mm gauge is the most popular of all track sizes. Its size works well with limited space but still allows you to layout the tracks with accessories.
S Scale—1:64 or 0.1875 inches per 1 foot. This scale size model was very popular in the 1950s, running on an 11.4mm gauge track.
O / O27 Scale—1:48 or 0.25 inch per 1 foot. This is among the larger-sized ones and among one of the most popular sizes. It has an efficient size to pair with an elaborate layout and is easy to work with. O scale tracks are 1¼ inches between the outer rails. This option is often considered the best one for children.
G Scale. Often referred to as the garden scale, the G scale can range from 1:22.5 to 1:29 and is about 8 inches in height. Due to their size, they are often established outdoors. These G-scale trains usually run on a 45mm gauge track.
Aside from these more popular model train scales, you also have additional options.
- TT Scale—1:120 or 0.1 inches to 1 foot
- Z Scale—1:220 or 0.05 inch to 1 foot
- Standard Gauge—Model railway track sizes based on real-world standard gauge track
- Narrow Gauge—Model railway track sizes based on real-world narrow gauge track
So, which model train size or scale is best for you? It all depends on your space availability, budget, and goals.
In terms of size, bigger isn’t always better. For example, some model train collectors prioritize the size of the layout more than the size of the trains, while some prioritize the other way around.
If you have limited available space for your layout, you still have a lot of options to choose from. Smaller scales allow you to focus more on packing your layout with the most scenery.
If you are working on a budget, know that both cheap and expensive models are available in every size. But, of course, work well with your budget to allow you to still choose quality models for a less expensive cost.
One way to do this is to consider how many models of a given size you’ll need to fill your layout’s space.
It is all about knowing what you really want to decide which model trains suit your preference, budget, and space. First, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you like to build from scratch and enjoy the process of meticulously putting pieces and details together? Or do you prefer to have ready-to-run models that take much easier and faster assembly?
Do you like the continuous run situation, or do you want to play with numerous animated accessories, prototype-based operating plans, and/or multi-person operating sessions?
Do you prefer your model trains running across challenging twists and turns for your layout, or do you prioritize having a big scenery to serve as a backdrop for your model trains?
Are you considering the portability of your entire unit, or are you keen on putting them in one place?
All these considerations will help you decide which model train is best for you. After all, not everyone has the same preferences, and each collector varies in space availability, budget, and overall goals.
Before you purchase anything, it is best to take time to think through all these factors to avoid any unnecessary replacements in the future. Remember that model train collection is also a financial investment, and you only want to get what you paid for.