When you get into model trains, you quickly learn about model railroad scales. Every model train that is produced has a scale letter associated with it, such as: HO, O and so forth. The scale let's you know how true to life it is and more importantly, the physical size of the train itself. The scale refers to the size in comparison with the real thing. For example, 1:220 means the real version of the model train is 220 times larger. If you are a newcomer to model trains, the amount of space will be the first factor in determining which scale to go with. For the hardcore model trains fanatics, mixing scales is a great joy when space permits. Let's take a look at some of the model train scales and minimum space requirements.
Z Scale trains are 1:220, which means they are very small. I call these "cute" trains and they are perfect for those with an extremely limited space. As with any scale, you can expand the layout as large as you want to go.
Next up is the N Scale model trains, which is 1:160. N scale trains are semi-popular and are great if you want your focus to be on your layout and not the train itself. They are small as well, so you can fit these trains into minimal space.
HO Scale model trains are 1:87 and the most popular scale of model train with model railroaders. They offer a good level of detail and allow you to fit a nice size track into an average size space. I like HO scale trains because they blend in great with any type scenery and you get a good balance as a result.
The O Scales, my favorite, are 1:48 and very popular as well. Lionel has been making great O scale model trains for many decades. These model trains are larger and require a good amount of space for a proper layout. It is possible to setup a small oval track in about a 5-foot by 5-foot area. Although the track will seem small because of the train's size, it is better than nothing. If your layout is smaller, the O scale train will dominate the view.
There are a couple other scales, such as S and G, but these are the main ones I chose to discuss in this article. Only you can decide which scale is right for you. Some, with limited space, prefer the O scale model trains, even though they dominate the layout, because of their detail and size. O scale trains are "meatier" and are really great for pacifying the children.
All model railroad trains have a variance in quality so one scale is not necessarily more expensive than another. Although, I have found O scale model life to be a little bit pricier. You really can't go wrong with model railroading. It is highly rewarding and wholesome. In the end, you might find yourself collecting model trains across the entire scale spectrum. Get out there and ride the rails!