Model Train Information

The model train hobby has been around for a long time. To the inexperienced, it may just appear as a hobby for those who like trains, but it is much more than just collecting locomotives. The technical aspects include learning about train scales, track gauges, types of cars, and narrow gauge vs standard gauge just to name a few. Add to that building your own scenery, learning the history of railroads and trains, and spending time with other people with similar interests, and you can begin to see the expanse of this pastime.

There are many different scales of tracks and they are not always standard throughout the world. Large scale or garden scale trains (G scale) at 1/24th of full scale to miniature trains (Z scale) at 1/220th of full scale are available as well as many sizes in between. The choice of scale among enthusiasts is a personal one and is made with regard to interest, availability, space required, and cost. HO scale is the most popular scale and is therefore most widely available.

Gauge is NOT the same as scale although the two terms are commonly confused. Gauge, refers to the track rather than the train itself. Some time ago, railroads needed to standardize the size of the track so that trains could get around between different areas. The width decided on was around 4 feet 8 inches from the outside of one rail to the outside of the other rail. Other than narrow gauge railroads (which were developed for areas such as the Rocky Mountains where rail beds were necessarily narrower), this is the size that model train track gauge is based on.

Scenery is another aspect of model railroading that many people enjoy. While it can be purchased in kits, part of the fun is building the scenery yourself. In theory, you don’t need scenery for a layout, but that would be like having a Christmas tree without decorations! The scenery is always built to the same scale as the train that runs through it. Trees, hills, mountains, buildings, people and even lakes and rivers are some of the scenery options to consider. All of the scenery is usually built on what model railroaders call “bench work”. This is the base that will hold the train, tracks, and scenery. It requires careful planning to know if the scale of train you have selected will fit into the space you build for it. Some people take the opposite approach. First, figure out how much space you have, and then decide on the scale of train you can fit given how much scenery you will want.

Model train enthusiasts enjoy hours of fun researching, purchasing, building, and sharing their hobby. One of the most rewarding aspects is seeing the locomotive pulling cars around the track you built and sharing that excitement with friends and family.

Article courtesy of  “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”

Toy Model Trains

Men who play with trains may seem a little childish to some, but those men were once boys who may have watched Thomas the Tank Engine on TV, or read about him in a book. Those same feelings they had as a child come alive again as they build that special layout, or finally get their hands on the elusive car or locomotive that they have been looking for. What is it that fascinates these grown up children? Perhaps it is having such a powerful machine under their control, doing their bidding, hauling the cars they have chosen through the scenery they have built with their own hands.

Education is another powerful draw in the model train hobby. Learning about the history of railroading, learning how trains work whether the real thing or something 160th the size of the real thing. Perhaps it is expanding your knowledge of how to properly run the electricity through the tracks and keep the trains running on schedule. How many hobbyists get started with model trains when they first wake up on Christmas morning to find a locomotive pulling cars on a track around the tree? But the toys of yesterday are no longer the model trains of today. These toys are all grown up.

If you were to pick up an HO-scale locomotive today, you would probably be surprised at its heft. The plastic trains that ran around the Christmas tree when you were a child are toys, these are the real thing. These true to scale models are made to last and their weight is evidence of that. The high quality is easily seen in the craftsmanship and materials used as well as in the intricate detail. The engines are much stronger than toys as well. While the weight helps keep the locomotive in contact with the track for better electrical connection, it is the strength of the engine that allows it to pull all those cars and go up 3% grades just like the real thing. Wheels of high quality are also essential to keep the train from derailing and also to help with that same electrical connection.

But electric trains aren’t the only option for model train enthusiasts. Some model train manufacturers offer steam locomotives to satisfy those who need to see the “smoke” floating into the sky. These locomotives offer a different kind of nostalgia for the guy (or gal) who just refuses to grow up all of the way! These model train engineers may never get to operate a real train, but watching these scale models go through their miniature world is the next best thing.

Perhaps if you ask a train engineer if they love their jobs, they would say that they do, or they might say that it is just a job. But if you ask the model train hobbyist if they enjoy their hobby, you will undoubtedly get an unequivocal YES!

Article courtesy of  “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”

N-Scale Trains

If you have been around the Model Train world for very long, you’ve heard the words gauge and scale over and over. When you first hear them, they may be intimidating, especially when veteran hobbyists use them so often and easily. I assure you though that once you have been around the hobby for a while, you too will be throwing those terms out as easily as you cite your own name.

Scale and gauge are important because they provide a standard that the various manufacturers of trains and tracks can use to ensure that a locomotive from one company will fit on the track of another company as long as the scale matches the gauge. There are quite a few different scales available which can be intimidating when you are starting out, but it can also be a boon for you. Each person has a limited amount of space available and for some, that may be the size of a warehouse, but for others it may be a small corner in their basement or garage. The different scales available can accommodate everyone. After a short time, you too will understand which letters relate to what scale and which track they run on. I promise!!

Of the four most popular scales, N-scale is the smallest at 1:160. That means that if you took an N scale model and was able to inflate it like a balloon to 160 times its size, you would end up with a full size train. N-scale is just a bit bigger than half the size of HO-scale which is 1:87. N-scale is popular among enthusiasts who do not have a lot of space, or those who do, but love to work with a large amount of scenery. There are smaller scales than the N-scale, but you will find that those, for the most part, also have less detail. Smaller size cars, track and scenery also allow a layout that is easy to add on to and to maintain. Also, as the train and track get smaller, the more your scenery will contribute to the overall beauty of the layout.

Only coming into prominence in the 1960’s, the N-scale is much newer than the O-scale or HO-scale which have been around for over 100 years. As with most of the scales, the letter N has meaning. N stands for nine millimeters between the rails which is less than ½ an inch (actually closer to about a third of an inch). As a reminder, gauge is the word used for track size. Another word you may hear in relation to the track is “code” which refers to the height of the rails.

If you don’t have a lot of space, or are more artistic (for scenery) than technical (for locomotives) you should consider N-scale. No matter what scale you choose, the fun doesn’t change.

Article courtesy of  “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”

H0-Scale Trains

There are many different scales (proportion to actual size) of model trains. This is due to many factors, like the amount of space the hobbyist has, how durable they need the model to be, and simple tradition. One of the more popular train scale models is the H0 scale. The H0 model train literally means “Half of the 0 scale”. This is not exactly correct though since the 0 scale is 1:48 and the H0 scale is 1:87. H0 scale trains use a standard track gauge that is 16.5mm between the rails. This distance comes from the standard actual distance between railroad rails of 4 feet 8 inches converted to millimeters, divided by 87 and rounded off.

This scale is popular because it is small enough to fit in a reasonable amount of space, but still be able to be creative with scenery and track layout. Fine detail that is lost in some of the smaller scale trains is retained in this scale. Another consideration is durability, especially if small children are in the house. H0 scale models are large enough to have some durability to reduce the risk of damage by small hands. Small parts are minimized while maintaining a reasonable level of detail. Because of these attributes, H0 has become one of the more sought after scales.

In the 1930’s, H0 scale trains first appeared in the United Kingdom to compete with the long established 00 scale. It failed to make headway in the UK with enthusiasts though and languished until the 1950’s when it started to gain a foothold in the US where there was a high demand for model trains that could be used as toys. The 1960’s saw continued growth of this scale whose popularity continues today. Six out of ten model train lovers prefer this scale to any other.

This popularity has led to a very large availability of train sets, tracks, accessories and locomotives throughout the world that are made by a number of companies. Collectors will find train sets in the HO scale complete with modular track, bench work kits, supplies for building models from scratch, and many models of locomotives available for any budget. Many hobbyists are so enthused that they will shop around the world for the specific piece that will make their layout perfect.

Model railroading brings out the train engineer in all of us. It is a nostalgic way of spending time with children, remembering small town life, and finding a creative outlet for your nervous energy. If you are just getting into this hobby, perhaps the H0 scale is the place to start due to the ready availability of the trains, tracks, and accessories.

Article courtesy of  “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”

G-Scale Trains

Model train enthusiasts are familiar with grouping model trains into scales. There are many scales to choose from, but the largest of the most popular scales, at 1:22 actual size is the G scale (i.e. the real thing is 22 times bigger than the model),. This scale was first made by the Ernst Paul Lehmann Patentwerk Company in Germany in 1881, often referred to as Lehmann Gross Bahn or LGB. English speakers may also know it as the “Lehman Big Train”. The US branch of the business is known as LGB of America. The G scale models are considerably larger than other scales with a train car height of about 6 inches. This is in comparison to an O scale train which at 1:48 scale is roughly half the size of a G scale train. This makes the O scale train car height about 3.6 inches.

Because G scale model trains are so large, they are also commonly referred to as “Garden Railroading” hence the name. Another interpretation of the G is that the word for big in German is “grob” and as we learned in the preceding paragraph, this scale has German origins. In order to run a G scale model train, you will need number 1 gauge track which measures 45mm between the rails.

G scale trains are very durable due to their size and so they make an excellent choice to be used outdoors in the garden. They require little or no maintenance other than wiping the track occasionally. Their durability also makes them ideal for smaller children to enjoy with their parents. Mom and Dad can be confident that their investment will last for many years even when toddlers are in the house. Small children usually lack the gentleness required of the smaller scale trains like an N scale train, which at 1.1 inches high is much more delicate than a G scale model. If the big train lover has the space, these trains can also be used indoors. Be careful though, these monsters have been known to take over a room or even an entire basement!

G scale trains are also made in the US by leading manufacturer Aristo-Craft and Bachmann in Irving, New Jersey. This company has been around for a while and also has a free club and forum on their website. You can also peruse the catalog or get an instruction manual for their trains.

Article courtesy of  “The Enthusists Guide to Model Trains”