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.

Model train enthusiasts are always looking for ways to increase the precision and authenticity of their layouts. A more recent innovation, 3D printing, has allowed for hobbyists to do just that. 3D printing is defined as a process in which a digital model is turned into a tangible, solid, three-dimensional object, usually by laying down many successive, thin layers of a material. 3D printers, which utilize CAD (computer-aided-design) software, can be used to manufacture consumer products such as jewelry, industrial products such as prototypes, automotive and aerospace prototypes, medical products, prosthetics, movie props, reconstructed fossils and more. 

With 3D printing, a user can personalize any aspect of their project. This makes 3D printing ideal for precise and highly detailed models such as trains. Tiny details such as signage and markings can be added, along with creating larger models such as buildings and bridges. Hobbyists can achieve a remarkable level of realism by incorporating 3D printing into building their own models. 

As 3D printing is stepping into the limelight, many beginners, novices and experts have begun to form communities for like-minded individuals where they can share the products they’ve created and exchange tips and tricks. While 3D printing is widely accessible today, learning CAD, woodworking and design in general can become tricky. Platforms such as Thingverse and Shapeways allow people in search of a community to find just that.

Whether a newbie or a seasoned modeler, 3D printing can be incorporated into anyone’s model layout.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, people yearn for moments of tranquility and enjoyment. We engage in hobbies and activities that not only soothe us but offer us happiness and joy, ranging from intense exercise to reading a good book. Within the model railroading community, many reason for their love for the pastime to provide moments of serenity and a sense of therapeutic relief. 

The entire process of model railroading can be simultaneously exciting and calming for many. The process of designing layouts, constructing scenery, searching for and operating new trains and accessories, and marveling at the result involves a great amount of creativity and thoughtfulness. This type of deep thinking about something other than work or stressors in life can offer a healthy diversion and promote relaxation. 

The process can also be compared to meditation. As a model railroader works to create their landscape, their mind is focused on each meticulous task only. An example of a precise task that requires a high level of concentration is painting a tiny model person to be placed on the layout. The Harvard Medical School suggests that activities requiring focus and concentration can induce a state of relaxation akin to meditation.

Along with meditation, model railroading provides a creative outlet. For many who work in corporate/office environments, utilizing your creative side can come sparingly. Drafting, planning, designing and building an entire layout is the epitome of creative expression. The end result of this process fosters a sense of achievement and boosts emotional well-being. Psychologists cite the link between creative expression and mental health, saying it has an incredible ability to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Similar to nearly every hobby, communities exist for people to come together and share their passion with like-minded individuals. This exists for model railroaders in the form of shows, exhibitions, clubs, conventions, and even online communities such as Facebook groups. Studies suggest that having strong social connections can be tied to improved mental health and lower levels of stress. 

Everyone needs some sort of outlet in their life; some call it having a third place they can go to for respite. That third place, after work and home, can exist as a hobby to provide a sanctuary or place of relaxation. You may have been already reaping the benefits of model railroading without realizing it – now, take a moment or two while engaging in your hobby next time to focus on the simple pleasures of designing, building or admiring your railroad. 

Trains have been marked as a symbol of progress, adventure and exploration for centuries. Beginning with steam locomotives pushing through a bleak countryside to bullet trains speeding through bustling cities, trains have an undeniable allure to people of all ages. 

While trains have a long-standing history, toy trains have also remained a cherished pastime for young children. The growth from small, featureless wooden trains to highly advanced model trains has shown an incredible journey of innovation and a testament to human ingenuity. 

In the late 1800s, a company called Marklin developed the first mass-market model train set. By the early 1950s, model trains were booming in the United States.

It was the introduction of tinplate trains that truly revolutionized the model train industry, making them more affordable and accessible to the wider public. Companies like Marklin and Lionel set the standards early on for a well-crafted, highly detailed model train, and it only continues to evolve. 

In the mid-1900s, scale modeling became increasingly popular among enthusiasts. Hobbyists could choose from tiny N-scale models to large O-scale models, and build their layout exactly how they wanted it to be. Railroading clubs and exhibitions also began around this time, in which hobbyists could form communities and share their passion with one another. 

As the digital age erupted, a new aspect of modeling was developed: DCC. DCC, or digital command control, allows for independent control of multiple locomotives on the same train track. Hobbyists can also adjust speeds, sounds and program automated routes for their layouts. Even more recent developments such as 3D printing and computer modeling have allowed for even greater detail and precision, and thus, more layout creativity and originality. 

At Heartland Hobby, we are proud to be a part of this continuously expansive and dynamic hobby, and we aim to continue to grow along with all the technological advances in store. 

Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is a term that has been mentioned in nearly every community within the past few years. While artificial intelligence takes on many different forms, in its most basic form, AI is a type of technology that can process large amounts of information and attempts to simulate human intelligence. AI can perform a wide range of tasks from simple to complex. It is a rapidly evolving technology that is continuously growing every day. 

AI has entered the model railroading community in several ways. One of those is the introduction of AI-driven control systems, taking over traditionally adjusting speed and direction using analog controls or basic digital systems. Now, users can mimic real-world operations with greater precision. 

AI automation can schedule trains, control signals and switches, and even respond dynamically to changing conditions on the layout. This allows for hobbyists to sit back and enjoy watching their layout in motion, rather than having to constantly manually control it. The trains can react to environmental stimuli and automatically adjust speeds if moving over virtual elements such as terrain or being pushed against wind. 

Another option for hobbyists toying with AI is to utilize interactive features such as voice commands or a smartphone app. Some examples of this that could enhance the experience are triggering special effects like sound and lighting, or controlling train movements. This feature could showcase the extraordinary power of AI combined with model railroading perhaps at an exhibition or train show. 

Overall, the introduction of AI in the model railroading space allows for greater flexibility, customization and creativity. While artificial intelligence can be daunting to those unfamiliar with the new technology, it can be a joyful challenge to learn and experiment with those who have access to it. Still a newer type of technology, AI automation systems for model railroading can be costly. However, with it being rapidly evolving, AI-powered solutions are becoming more accessible and user-friendly over time.