Scales

Scale represent the ratio of the model to the prototype (or real-life size). For example, O Scale is 1:48 Scale where 1 inch on the model equals 48 in real life. Thus, a 48' freight car would be 12" on your model railroad.

Gauge is another term you will hear frequently and sometimes interchangeably. However, they are not truly one and the same. Where scale represents a model's size compared to the real thing, gauge represents the distance between the rails.

Model Railroading takes place in many scales. The most popular have been labeled N, HO, O, and G. Of the four listed, N is the smallest and G is the largest. Below is a chart highlighting the scales along with the Pros and Cons.

Scale Scale Related Links Description Pro's Con's
N

1:160 Scale
Complete N Scale Train Sets

N Scale Layout Packages

N Scale Track

N Scale Accessories

N Scale Scenery

N scale is very quickly growing in popularity.

Typical 40 foot box car dimensions

3.25" long
.75" wide
1.00" high
Due to its size, N Scale allows for more complex and realistic layouts in limited space.  Curves can be made much more gradual.

Because it is growing in popularity, there will most likely be growth in the accessory area.

Due to its size, N Scale is often tougher for youngsters and the more seasoned hobbyists who may have a tougher time manipulating the small rolling stock.  There aren't as many options in terms of accessories compared to those available in HO Scale.
HO

1:87.1 Scale
Complete HO Scale Train Sets

HO Scale Layout Packages

HO Scale Track

HO Scale Accessories

HO Scale Scenery

HO Scale is the most popular of the scales, because it is larger than N, but allows more realistic layouts than the larger scales given the same amount of space.

Typical 40 foot box car dimensions

5.75" long
1.50" wide
2.00" high
Tons of track, rolling stock, and accessories to choose from.  Anything you can dream of is available. I cannot think of any other than space requirements when compared to N Scale.  This may be a little small for very young model railroaders, but they'll soon learn how to work with it.
O

1:48 Scale
Complete O Scale Train Sets

O Scale Layout Packages

O Scale Track

O Scale Accessories

O Scale Scenery

O Scale is what many folks think about when Train Sets come to mind.  This is because as a child, many people have had or seen a Lionel train set.

Typical 40 foot box car dimensions

10.50" long
2.50" wide
3.75" high
Many accessories available.  Due to its size, engines and rolling stock can be made to look very realistic (usually at a price).  Also, because of its size, it is easier for children to operate and older people to work with. Unless you have a lot of space, O Scale will not look nearly as realistic as the smaller scales.  Turns end up being much sharper than those in real-life which often lends itself to a more toy-like appearance.  O Scale tends to be more pricey than the smaller scales.
On30 (O Scale - narrow gauge)

1:48 Scale
Complete On30 Train Sets

HO Scale Track

O Scale Accessories

O Scale Scenery

Same as O above, but the rails are closer together typically resulting in smaller rolling stock than straight O Scale.

Narrow gauge was/is often used in logging, mining, and other operations where it's easier and more cost effective to lay narrower tracks.

Typical Passenger Coach

9.00" long
2.00" wide
3.00" high
Running On30 combines the benefits of O and HO Scales together.  You can run larger and more detailed equipment in a smaller area.

The On30 we carry is designed to run on standard HO Scale track.

On30 is a great fit for your Dept. 56 or other Christmas village set-ups.

On30 is more of a niche and not as well represented in the market place.  Finding accessories and additional rolling stock is more challenging.
G

1:22.5 to 1:29 scale
Complete G Scale Train Sets

G Scale Track

G Scale Accessories

G Scale Scenery

G Scale, sometimes referred to as "Garden Scale" is ideal for running around the Christmas Tree or outside.

Typical 40 foot box car dimensions

17.25" long
4.50" wide
6.50" high
Very easy for children to operate because they very rarely derail.  Much of the equipment made in G Scale is suitable for use outside in a Garden Railroad.  G Scale requires even more space than does O Scale.  Quality engines, rolling stock, track, and accessories can get very expensive.  There are less accessories available for G Scale.  G Scale has not been standardized to the extend of the other scales mentioned.