Model Trains Explained
Model Trains remain a popular hobby. It dates back over 100 years, with some models and layouts build for training actual rail staff, others built for pure enjoyment. A few old train models from decades ago are still in running order.
Size, Scale and Gauge
Scale models of trains come in several different sizes. These range from working trains that are large enough to ride on to tiny models that could be held in the palm of a hand. While there were no standards in the early days, but a move towards increased realism lead to several size standards.
The terms scale and gauge are used often interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Scale refers to the size ratio between the original machine and the model replica. A model that is 100 times smaller than the real train is a 1:100 scale. Most home model train kits use a 1:87 scale. This is the HO Scale, which gives a good compromise between fine detail and manageability.
Gauge refers to the width of the tracks on the model train rather than the size of the actual vehicles. the popular HO scale runs on a 16.5 mm (0.625 inch) track. There are a lot of accessories available in this size.
Other alternative scales are:
G – 1:22.5 A large type – These are used in outdoor garden settings.
N – 1:160 Quite small, with a 9mm track. Great for large layouts.
Z – 1:220 A tiny train, with a 6mm track. These might fit inside a snowglobe.
O – 1:48 Twice the size of the normal model kit, but with immaculate detail.
Larger model trains tend to have very detailed design, but they require larger tracks and layouts, which take up a lot of space. Smaller trains allow for scenic layouts in less space, but it is difficult to add all the fine detail.
Decals and Details
Almost all model train enthusiasts build layouts for their trains, and add at least some customization. This customization was once limited by what was manufactured by others, with individual builder adding paintwork of hand built scenery. But the advent of inkjet decal paper means that fine details can now be added with decal paper. It is a relatively simple matter to design and print waterslide decals with the average home computer.