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”