HO scale model trains are 1/87 the size of real trains and 1/2 the size of O scale model trains (HO stands for "half O"). As with O scale trains, the letter "O" in HO is a misnomer since the designation was initially conceived as a zero to identify trains that were smaller in scale than 1. But the use of the letter O rather than the numeral 0 crept into everyday speech among model-train buffs and remains the standard way to refer to HO scale today.
Though first invented in the 1930s, HO scale model trains didn’t become popular in the U.S. and Europe until the 1950s when the scale was heavily promoted by Märklin, Lionel, Athearn, and others. HO never quite gained acceptance in England, though, where larger 00 scale trains still predominate.
HO has two important benefits over trains of larger sizes. First, an HO scale layout of reasonably ambitious detail and complexity can fit on a table rather than requiring an entire room, as is the case with larger scales. Second, HO trains are less expensive to manufacture than OO, O, and other large-scale trains, which makes them more affordable to collectors and enthusiasts alike.
Most HO scale trains run on two-rail tracks using direct current (DC). Adjusting the voltage delivered to the tracks can increase or decrease the speed of the trains; reversing the polarity causes the trains to roll in reverse. Some manufacturers, notably Märklin, produce HO scale trains that operate on alternating current (AC), which is delivered to the train via a conductive third rail.
The gauge used by the majority of HO scale model trains is a standard HO gauge track that’s roughly proportional to the size of the trains running on top of it. But as with the OO scale trains in England that run on HO gauge tracks, HO scale trains are also made to run on a variety of different gauge tracks, which themselves are scaled-down versions of historical railroad track sizes.
Of these variants, the most common is called HOn3. This code denotes an HO scale train running on a track similar to the 3-foot, narrow gauge tracks used by Rocky Mountain railroad operators in the late 19th century.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of HO for collectors is the opportunity to join a local module club. Members of such clubs build modules of predetermined size; each module has a finite length of track. When members get together at model train exhibitions or in private homes, the modules are linked up and trains are run on the resulting massive layout, which often feels like more than just the sum of its parts.
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Clubs & Associations
- Train Collectors Association
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- National Association of S Gaugers, Inc.
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Recent News: HO Scale Model Trains
Source: Google News
Locomotive enthusiasts meet at Science CentralFort Wayne Journal Gazette, November 29th
The HO scale measures one inch to every 87 inches of real train, which means more can go on the story board than the O or G gauge. Ryan, who grew up in Monroeville, has created part of the model train landscape from old Monroeville photos from the ...Read more
Train show brings railroad fans all aboardAlton Telegraph, November 29th
Jacklinn Harris, 6, of Sorento, watches as a N-Scale model train heads down the tracks at the Great Train Show Sunday at Gateway Center in Collinsville. ... About 60 percent of model railroading is HO-scale, and N-scale accounts for another 30 percent...Read more
Greater Cincinnati's model train displays will take you on a nostalgic ride ...WCPO, November 29th
3, EJ is offering its free-admission seasonal exhibit, “Christmas at EnterTRAINment Junction,” with three displays in a huge expo center; a Lionel train O-Scale display originally exhibited at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis; a miniature HO-Scale...Read more
Hudson Model Railroad Club hosts open houseWilkes Barre Times-Leader, November 28th
The club opened its doors to the public, allowing the community to see more than 2,000 square feet of an impeccably detailed model railroad layout. The club is an HO-scale, freelance club with nearly 30 train-loving members of all ages. “We're a...Read more
Weekend Events: RVA On Ice, Model Railroad Show, GardenFest of Lightswtvr.com, November 27th
Friday – Sunday 38th Annual Model Railroad Show at the Science Museum of Virginia. Featuring all the bells and whistles, guests will enjoy unique and traditional model train displays from across the state. Prance with Clydesdales, see a blacksmith in...Read more
Model train club plans open houseLe Mars Daily Sentinel, November 26th
(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) John Schneider, a member of Floyd Valley Model Railroad Club, explains the layout to children at the Plymouth County Historical Museum's May Day celebration. Club members will host a Christmas open house this ...Read more
Trains keep chugging through Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum ...Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 24th
The museum also offers several interactive exhibits on the first floor, including an HO-scale Thomas the Tank Engine display and a wooden train set that allows for hands-on play. The first floor also houses a working Lionel tinplate set, with vibrantly...Read more
WNC Model Railroaders' model train exhibit at Asheville OutletsMountain Xpress (blog), November 19th
Featured model trains include the HO scale Land of Sky Railroad, depicting scenes loosely based on the local area, and the N scale Eliada, Compton and Western T-Trak layout made by residents of Eliada Home through an outreach program of WNC Model ...Read more