Exploring Model Train Scales: Which is Right For You?

If you’re a seasoned hobbyist, examining and exploring different train scales is something you are likely familiar with. If you are just starting or looking to expand, one of the first steps in building your layout (and one of the most important) is to determine the scale of the trains and objects in your layout. 

So, what are scales? 

Scales are the sizes of each model train and model train accessory in proportion to its real-life counterpart. Some of the available and most common scales include HO, O, N, and G scale. 

If you’re running on limited space or have an eccentric passion for tiny things, N scale will be your go-to. Coming in at a teeny-tiny 1:160 scale, this size is perfect for those who love intricacy and minuscule details. While each N-scale item is small, you can build a layout just as grand and lively. 

The most common scale for model hobbyists to use is HO-scale, with a 1:87 proportion. This is popular due to its incredible versatility, offering great detail and intricacy along with being a larger size. A vast array of model trains and model train accessories exist in the HO size, making it great for beginners looking to plan their first layout and those who are looking for more items to fill in their layout. 

For those who have a bit more room to spare, O scale may be your best option. O scale comes in at a 1:48 proportion, making it larger than the HO variety. These trains offer greater detail, and realistic sounds and are an exquisite option for those who wish to showcase their layout. 

And for those who have even more room to spare, such as a backyard, G scale is the way to go. G-scale models are also referred to as garden railways as they are designed to withstand outdoor conditions. Those drawn to this scale could be people with families, outdoor enthusiasts, or anyone who wishes to create a world of their own amidst their garden greenery. 

While other scales exist at certain companies, these four remain the most popular and include the most variety in terms of model trains and accessories. Feel free to mix it up by placing a larger scale model in the middle of your layout as a centerpiece, or work with several layouts of different scales. Ultimately, the questions you should ask yourself include? 

  1. How much space do I have? 
  2. Am I working indoors or outdoors?
  3. Do I prefer intricacy and details or grand displays? 

After answering these questions, more can be asked later regarding more intricate details of your layout including era, colors, scenery and more. 

At Heartland Hobby, we carry a variety of options scale-wise with a huge selection of items to choose from. Explore our inventory and select the perfect scale for your project.