Model trains come in different sizes, or scales, with the most common being HO and N. HO is the easiest to find and accessorize, while N uses less space. Other scales include O, G, and Z, with G being used for garden railways and Z being very small and difficult to work with for some.
Model trains come in a variety of sizes, or scales, from very small to the largest garden railroad variety. Although their size was originally described as their “caliber”, scale is now the accepted term. Deciding on a ladder is really a matter of personal preference, experience and budget. There are numerous variations of these scales, but there are five that are the most common, making them the easiest to find. The simplest definition of a scale model train is the relevance of small size compared to the original train being replicated.
The most common model train scale is HO. HO trains have an approximate ratio to the original train of 1:87. Variations of HO scale include narrower versions of the same scale, meaning the trains are the same scale, but with less space between the platform rails. The HO scale is probably the easiest to find and accessorize because so many hobbyists use it. It’s not so small that it’s difficult to create layouts, but it’s large enough to be clearly visible.
The N model train scale is probably the second most popular size. N trains are about 1:160. The N stands for nine, which is the distance in millimeters between the inside rails of the rails used in this scale. They are smaller than the more popular HO scale which makes them slightly more difficult to accessorize to scale, but the advantage of N scale is that it uses less space to create a complete layout.
Other common model scales include O (1:48), G (1:24), and Z (1:220). G scale trains are commonly seen in larger garden railway designs. Z trains are very small, and while a full layout can easily be accomplished in confined spaces, people with large hands, poor eyesight, and physical issues, such as arthritis, find this scale more difficult to work with.