Which Scale is Right for You?

When you start on the path to model railroading, the most important question you'll have to answer is which scale is right for you. Take our quiz to find out. Some of the terms tossed around in the hobby may seem intimidating, and words like scale and gauge are no exception, so let's define them and help you on your way.

Scale simply refers to the proportion of the model to the prototype.
Gauge is the width of the track, measured between the railheads.

There are three main scales of model trains that you will have to choose from. Their main determining factors deal with the amount of space and the amount of money that you wish to spend in the pursuit of your hobby. The smaller the scale, the less costly the supplies and less expansive the amount of space needed to run your layout. Conversely, larger scales require more room and more money invested from you. The amount of detail and modeling work needed for each scale differs as well. Take a quick look at the following major scales:

HO Scale:
This is the most popular scale and is 1:87 proportion to the prototype. It requires a small area for a layout, using a sheet of plywood or even a bookshelf for some of the smaller layouts, and there are many products available for HO scale modelers. The track it runs on is16.5mm gauge.

N Scale:
N scale is the second most popular scale and quite small, being 1:160 proportioned to the prototype. Smaller trains will mean less detail, but you can run a large layout in a smaller area than HO. The gauge on the track is 9mm.

O Scale:
“O” is the largest of the common model trains, with a proportion of 1:48 of the prototype. This requires a larger area than HO or N for a layout and the trains and accessories are more costly but also more detailed. O scale track is 1-1/4" gauge. For more information about our O product line, please visit the Atlas O web site.

Of course you can't be expected to make a decision from that basic information. For additional specific scale questions and answers, try the Atlas Forum or these great books:

· Atlas Item #9, Beginner’s Guide to HO Model Railroading
· Atlas Item #6, Introduction to N Scale Model Railroading
· Basic Model Railroading - Kalmbach Publishing Co.
· N Scale Model Railroading - Kalmbach Publishing Co.
· HO Scale Model Railroading - Kalmbach Publishing Co.

To purchase the Atlas books, see your retailer, or visit our Store.

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