Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 31 Jan 2011 05:26 am

Model Train Scales – Which is Right For You?

Probably the most important decision you need to make when beginning any model train layout is deciding the scale that you are going to use. There are six basic model railway scales that you can select from, with each having its enthusiasts who will tell you that theirs is the best. Once you select your scale, you will find there are a wide variety of clubs, shows and publications dedicated to that model you have chosen.

A model train scale is the ratio of what the train is in model form compared to what it would be like in real life. The smallest is the “Z” scale, which is a 1:220 ratio, meaning the model train is 1/220th of the size of a real life train. Next smallest is the “N”, with a 1:160 ratio. Probably the most popular size for model train enthusiasts is the “HO” scale, which has a ratio of 1:87. Slightly larger, the “S” scale has a 1:64 ratio, and the “O” has a 1:48 ratio. The largest model train scale is the “G” scale, which has a 1:22 ratio (and is quite large!).

So which is the right one for you? This decision will depend on several different factors. To start, you will need to consider the size of your bench-work (the platform your model railway will be set upon), and the general space limitations you will be facing. For very small spaces, the “N” ratio is probably the best choice, as a 4 by 8 foot bench-work table will provide ample space for a nicely developed model train layout.

You also want to consider what kinds of model railroad elements and scenery you want to purchase for your layout, and the selection of items for sale in that model size. For example, because the “HO” size is so popular, there is a wide variety of scenery and trains to choose from and the competition keeps the prices fairly affordable. You may find the selection for the very large and small sizes a bit more limited. You also are more likely to find used model railroad and scenery elements for HO and N sizes for sale on eBay and in classified ads, if that is an important consideration for you.

If you are considering building a outdoor exhibit, you may want to consider the largest size (“G”) as the trains and scenery elements will generally be made for outdoor use and be suitable for use in nearly all weather conditions.

A final step you may also want to take to help make your decision is visiting a model train exhibit which has these different sizes illustrated. You then will be able to see up close which size you prefer and is the right one for you.

In conclusion, to make the right decision when it comes to the right model train scale, you need to take into consideration factors such as the space you have for your model railroad layout, the selection of trains and scenery elements you will want to purchase and where you will be purchasing them, and whether your model trains will be exposed to the elements outdoors or not.

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