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”