Model Trains aren’t just kids’ toys. There are some very serious train hobbyists out there. Their involvement ranges from possession of a single train set to spending hours upon hours and large sums on a substantial and exacting models of a railroads and the scenery through which it passes, called a “layout”. These hobbyists, called “railway modelers” or “model railroaders”, may maintain models large enough to ride on (Garden Railroading). Modelers may collect model trains, building a landscape for the trains to pass through, or operate their own railroad in miniature.
Layout complexity may vary from a simple circle or oval track to realistic reproductions of real places modeled to scale. To enhance their knowledge and experiences, these serious hobbyists gather at model railroad clubs where they talk the talk and walk the walk of model railroad engineers. These clubs often display models for the public. Young and old love these exhibits. The large scale (garden variety) models are usually hand-built and powered by live steam, or diesel-hydraulic, and the engines are often powerful enough to haul dozens of human passengers. Railways of this size are also called miniature railways.
Scales and gauges
The size of locomotive engines depends on the scale and can vary from 700 mm (27.6 in) tall for the largest ridable live steam scales such as 1:8, down to matchbox size for the smallest in Z-scale (1:220). Recently, another scale that was introduced that is also commercially available, called T Gauge, it is 3 mm (0.118 in) gauge track and is a scale of 1:450, basically half the size of Z scale. A typical HO (1:87) engine is 50 mm (1.97 in) tall, and 100 to 300 mm (3.94 to 11.81 in) long. The most popular scales are: G gauge, Gauge 1, O gauge, S scale, HO gauge (in Britain, the similar OO), TT scale, and N scale (1:160 in the United States, but 1:144 in the UK). There is growing interest in Z scale and T Gauge. HO and OO are the most popular. Popular narrow-gauge scales include Sn3, HOn3 Scale and Nn3, which are the same in scale as S, HO and N except with a narrower spacing between the tracks (in these examples, a scale 3 ft (914 mm) instead of the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge).
The largest common scale is 1:8, with 1:4 sometimes used for park rides. G scale (Garden, 1:24scale) is most popular for backyard modeling. It is easier to fit a G scale model into a garden and keep scenery proportional to the trains. Gauge 1 and Gauge 3 are also popular for gardens. O, S, HO, and N gauge are more often used indoors. Lionel trains in O scale (1:48scale) are popular toys. S refers to 1:64 scale.
The words scale and gauge seem at first interchangeable but their meanings are different. Scale is the model’s measurement as a proportion to the original, while gauge is the measurement between the rails. Your choice of scale has a lot to do with budget and available space. N-Scale is a popular apartment size scale. The key is to stick to your choice once you have decided on a scale, and not mix scales in a single layout.