Most Popular Model Train Scales

  • By: Richard
  • Date: August 16, 2021
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Model trains are a hobby that many people have enjoyed for centuries. A model train is a miniature replica of an actual locomotive, and it can be built to replicate any engine, from steam engines to modern diesel-electric locomotives. Model railroading has become very popular in recent years, with new scales being invented all the time. This blog post will look at the most popular types of model trains in each scale size and what makes them unique!

What Is the Model Train Scale?

Model train scales are how railroad modelers measure how big a scale (or size) their model trains and track should be. The most common scales used in modeling are N, HO, OO/Gauge II, S Gauge, and Z Scale. To figure out what scale is right for you, it’s important to understand the basics of each different type!

Why Use Model Trains In The First Place?

Model trains are a great way to model old-timey railroads affordably and easily. They can be used for simple layouts or as complicated projects that span the length of your basement! Something is relaxing about building your own miniature world with figurines, scenery, tracks, and locomotives. It’s also therapeutic, dusting off all those tiny little pieces every once in a while (though I would recommend getting some help if you have more than 20 trains).

The best part is that it doesn’t really matter what scale you choose because there are so many different things to do with them! You could build a small section of track on top of one another – like making LEGO buildings – then add figures from various scales to make them even more realistic.

Popular Scales Of Model Trains And What They Are Used For

Scale is the size of model trains about their real-world counterpart. The smaller the scale, the more detailed and realistic your train set will be! There are six different scales that you should know about: HO (the most popular), OO, N, TTs/Nn, Z/Zn & S.

Ho Model Train Scales

The HO Scale is the most popular type of model train scale. It stands for Half O, half as big as a real locomotive or car in full size. The average length of an H0 railway track is approximately 18″, while the average length of a real train is approximately 48″.

The HO Scale is perfect for those who want to take their model trains on an “over the countryside” adventure. They can be used in dioramas or even set up like towns and cityscapes with buildings, people, cars, trees, etc. This scale size has become very popular because it offers more room than other scales while also being affordable, so you don’t need a big budget just to get started!

O Model Train Scales

The O Scale is the most popular type of model train scale. It stands for One Quarter, meaning one quarter as big as a real locomotive or car in full size. The average length of an O railway track is approximately 24″ while the average length of a real train is about 72″.

O Scale trains are often used to recreate scenes from old steam and diesel eras because they’re not too small (like HO) but also not too large, so it’s easier on your eyes when you look at them up close since there isn’t any detail lost!

N Model Train Scales

N Scale is the most popular type of model train scale. It stands for Nine-tenths, meaning nine-tenths as big as a real locomotive or car in full size. The average length of an N railway track is approximately 36″ while the average length of a real train is about 144″.

This scale has been so popular because it offers just enough detail to be interesting but not too much that you can’t see what’s going on from all angles!

Z Model Train Scales

Z Scale is the most popular type of model train scale. It stands for Zillionth, meaning zillionth as big as a real locomotive or car in full size. The average length of an N railway track is approximately 72″ while the average length of a real train is about 288″.

This scale has seen significant growth because it offers more detail than other scales and doesn’t take too much space!

G Model Train Scales

G Scale is the most popular type of model train scale. It stands for Grand, meaning grand as big as a real locomotive or car in full size. The average length of a G railway track is approximately 120″ while the average length of a real train is about 480″.

This scale is the best for those who want to live out their childhood dreams and take on full-size railways! The average G Scale locomotive will be about 18″ long, which means you’ll need a lot of room in your home or at the train station.

Scale Comparison

Scale Comparison

G Scale O Scale HO Scale N Scale Z Scale
Scale 1:22.5 1:48 1:87 1:160 1:220
Gauge 1.75″/45mm 1.25″/31mm .625″/16mm .375″/9mm .25″/6mm

Ho Scale Trains Are The Perfect Size For Both Indoor And Outdoor Layouts

One of the most popular scales among model train enthusiasts is HO, which is “half-O.” It was introduced around 1949 by a German company called Marklin, and it means that every inch on the rail corresponds to one foot. The scale offers plenty of details, but not too many, as they are more suited for indoor layouts than outdoor ones due to their size (the track alone takes up lots of space). This makes them perfect for beginners who would like to preserve their investment since these trains can be kept inside your home if you want!

  • The first reason why this type of model railroad has become so popular is that there are tons of accessories available from different manufacturers worldwide. Hence, people have an easy time obtaining the perfect set for their needs. The most popular ones are from Marklin, Atlas, and Besco, which offer various bridges, buildings (including European models), cars, train sets with different gauges, and regional layouts to choose from!
  • The second reason is that the HO-scale model railroad has become more affordable over the years due to declining prices of raw goods like metal sheets and plastic parts plus cheaper manufacturing costs thanks to machines. This made them accessible even for people on limited budgets to enjoy these miniature worlds without breaking the bank!
  • A third aspect is that this railway system uses standard track widths instead of scale sizes, so you don’t have to buy new pieces when switching between manufacturers.
  • The fourth reason is that HO scale trains are compatible with other scales, so people can mix and match them for a more realistic feel. This makes it easier to create the perfect layout no matter how big or small your space is!
  • A fifth aspect, which many enthusiasts consider as one of the major benefits, is that this railway system uses standard track widths instead of scale sizes. Hence, it means you don’t have to buy new pieces when switching between manufacturers. And last but not least: these tiny models require very little maintenance because they do not need electric power since most (but not all) locomotives run on air pressure thanks to their integrated toolbox, which houses pneumatic tools like compressors and generators!

There Are Many Different Types Of Models To Choose From – Steam Engines, Diesel Locomotives, Passenger Cars, Freight Cars, And More

  1. Steam Engines: Steam engines are what most people think of when they hear the word ‘train.’ They make a more realistic sound than diesel locomotives. The downside to steam models is that their size and price tend to be bigger, making them less popular among HO scale enthusiasts. Some modelers will build kits for older trains like Big Boy or Union Pacific’s Challenger engine.
  2. Diesel Locomotive: Diesel locomotives use electricity as power instead of coal or oil. This means they can run on batteries and don’t need a track system with an overhead wire, so you can display your train in any setting without worrying about running out of power! There are many different types, from American Flyer to Union Pacific, and if you want something a little more realistic than the traditional train set – this is your best bet.
  3. Passenger Cars: Passenger cars are just that – they carry passengers! They make great additions to any model railroad layout where you need them for either freight or passenger service. HO scale trains can be costly, so sometimes it’s better to buy an inexpensive box car to save money on these models (or purchase them separately).
  4. Freight Cars: Freight cars have many different purposes depending on what type you’re looking for; some are used strictly as cargo, while others include livestock carriers, tankers, and lumbering cars. The most popular scales among those who build layouts with freight cars are N, HO, and O scales.
  5. Passenger Trains: Passenger trains are used to transport people daily. When it comes to model railroads, passenger models can be as simple or complex as you want them to be – they don’t have any moving parts, so the level of detail doesn’t matter! The most popular scales among builders with this type of train are G and Z (G being more common).

Model Train Scales Can Range Anywhere Between 1/24th (The Smallest) To 1/87th (The Largest). The More Detail, The Better!

  • On the smallest scale, trains are as small as two inches long. The largest train of this size is made by Atlas and measures close to four feet! This makes it perfect for those who want a large model that takes up little space on shelves or tables. It’s also great for younger children because of its relatively low price point.
  • The next most popular scale is HO at about one foot in length, with an average piece costing around $36-$50. The detail here can be perfect but not quite life-like compared to what would come out of a regular-sized hobbyist’s basement workshop (N Scale). The other downside? Due to their smaller size, they are less visible from across the room.
  • N Scale trains measure around 18” and can cost anywhere between $25-$50 each, depending on the size of the locomotive or car you get. They are a great option for people who have lots of space to display their model train collection because they take up less physical space than HO scale pieces and offer more detail when compared with other scales in its class (HO). However, due to this level of detail, it is not as good an option if your goal is to keep things affordable!
  • G Scale trains tend to be about two feet long but come at prices ranging from $100-$400 per piece, so they will work better for those looking for something special instead of someone interested in getting into modeling.
  • Lastly, we have the largest scale of them all: the S Scale. These size trains are around four feet long and can cost anywhere from $100-$450 per piece! These larger models are perfect for those looking to recreate a realistic scene with lots of detail that will make any train lover drool. They take up plenty of space, so they’re best in an extra room or basement when not on display for guests but some enthusiasts like having one set aside as their private model railroad system just because it looks fantastic.

Common Mistakes People Make When Choosing A Scale And Why It’s Important To Do Research Before Making A Purchase

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a scale is what you’ll be using it for. The larger scales are perfect if you’re looking for something more like an operating model railroad, while smaller ones can be used in dioramas or as tabletop models.

Those who plan on purchasing new trains will want to know which size wheel axles their cars require because this impacts how they run (most small and medium-sized scales use 11mm, whereas large-scale trains may have 16mm). If someone wants to operate their train outdoors, metal tracks need to be purchased instead of plastic tracks that won’t hold up well in inclement weather conditions. There also needs to be consideration about whether one would prefer overhead wire or not and where the train will be placed about power sources.

The most popular scales were O Scale, HO Scale, S Gauge, and G Gauge, all developed in the 20th century. Many collectors still consider these four as the best option for model trains due to their accuracy in replicating real-life railroad environments from one part of America or another.

For example, a collector could purchase an Eastern Lines Kato Tinplate Locomotive with Sound & Light modeled after Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service line between Boston, Massachusetts and Washington D.C., Georgetown Branch (also known as “the Old Main Line”). This manufacturer also offers models like the Union Pacific GE ES44AC Evolution Series Diesel Engine that look real.


What is the best model train scale?

There’s no “best” model train scale. The best train to model is the one that you have fun with!
But for the sake of answering your question, the HO scale has roughly 0.5m between each modeled foot and has a recommended track size of 16-22″. This scale makes it perfect for kids in smaller spaces or living rooms looking for something interesting to do with their downtime. It will result in trains so detailed that the cars are an original part of its detail and the railroad tracks themselves. Scenes from this scale often include those days when there were barely any people around, farming crops by hand, or stopping at stations along the way back home with a full load for the family stove.

What is the best scale for narrow gauge model railroading

All the usual scales are available. The most popular narrow gauge modeling scale is the 0 scale, where 1″ (about 25 mm) on the model represents 30 inches (about 760 mm) on the real railroad.
The nomenclature “narrow gauge” may refer to different gauges of railroads depending upon the region and culture of their construction.
In Colombia, a narrow-gauge railway is any rural railway with a track gauge narrower than standard.
In Japan, narrow-gauge railways are defined as lines with a track width between and, regardless of their load capacity or method of operation. This term also includes light industrial branch lines with an AAR loading gauge greater than but less than standard.

Which scale has the best support?

There are a bunch of good scale models on the market. Daedalus (Russian) is a popular one, which has excellent support, but other well-known choices are too. In reading up on it, the most important aspect to consider is that whichever model you choose satisfies what YOU need in a 1/35th scale model. Finding the right balance between features and your own personal criteria might take a little trial and error. For example, AFV modelers want details inside and out, while aircraft modelers want accurate exteriors alone. And someone who does military modeling will be less interested in accuracy for aircraft or armor than they will for figures where uniforms need more attention to detail!

What is the best scale to work in if I want to build a model train layout?

When you’re building a model train layout, the best scale to work in is the same scale you want your eventual, completed model railroad design to be. The main difference in scales is that one smaller-scale design will take up less space in a room than a larger-scale one. You can build models of paper trains or use computer software; the only thing that dictates which scale to settle on is what kind of space you have available and which side of the process — designing or building–you value more highly.
We recommend HO gauge for beginners because it’s inexpensive and fun, but any size scale would work just as well for most purposes if there’s enough space for it!


Model Train Scale is a traditional hobby that has been popular since the 1930s. There are many different scales and trains to choose from, but if you’re just getting started with model train scale models, it’s important to know what size best suits your needs. If you live in an apartment or have small children who may want to play on your layout, HO scale trains are perfect as they can be used both for indoor and outdoor layouts.


Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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