Scale Model Trains

Written by Diane Sievert
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Scale model trains come in all kinds of various shapes and sizes, from tiny little trains that won't take up more than a few feet to trains large enough for children to ride around the house. The scale refers to the amount by which the toy train is reduced from its life-size prototype; for instance, a scale of 1:76 means the toy train is 76 times smaller than the real life model. Short names are applied to most common scale ratios so it's important to know the toy train lingo.

The Most Popular Scale Model Trains

The smallest of the mass produced scale model trains is the Z scale. The Z scale ratio is 1:220 which means a Z scale train is quite tiny--220 times smaller than the real thing. The benefits of working with Z scale trains, however, is that you can build an intricate layout in a fairly small space.

N scale, another type of model train common in the U.S., has a ratio of 1:160.
Larger than the Z train but still relatively small, this is the second most popular scale train. A major benefit to working with N scale is product availability--there are all kinds of supplies available for N scale train layouts.

HO scale is by far the most popular of scale model trains. The HO scale ratio, 1:87, is not the largest available, but it does require a lot of space for a decent layout. O scale (which operates according to a ratio of 1:48) and G scale (which operates according to a ratio of 1:22.5) are the largest of the mass produced model trains.


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