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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Airfix Model Railways
Postwar Lionel Trains Library
Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT
Clubs & Associations
- Train Collectors Association
- National Model Railroad Association
- Lionel Collectors Club of America
- Toy Train Operating Society
- National Association of S Gaugers, Inc.
- Train Collectors Society (U.K.)
- Lionel Operating Train Society
Other Great Reference Sites
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Recent News: HO Scale Model Trains
Source: Google News
Clubs and Hobbies on the Treasure Coast Updated March 7TCPalm, March 7th
Treasure Coast Model Railroad Club: The club is dedicated to model railroading in HO scale. 10 a.m.-noon. Treasure Coast Model Railroad Club, 273 S.W. Becker Road, Port St. Lucie. Children and adults. 772-621-9636; http://www.tcmrrc.org/index.htm...Read more
Train show leaves older generations with sense of nostalgiaLongview News-Journal, March 3rd
While the majority of his models are not handcrafted, Storts said he does “custom loads for HO Scale trucks.” HO Scale means the model is of the actual “life-sized” model. “I got my first model train during world war II,” he said. “150 years ago trains...Read more
Model railroad club ties hobbyists togetherWisconsin State Journal, March 2nd
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — More than half of Mike Bubrick's basement is filled with model railroading. There's a staging yard with a mainline loop and more than a dozen tracks operated by a digital control with a hand throttle. Construction of the HO...Read more
All aboard! Model train show raises cash for youth groupHollandSentinel.com, March 1st
“Where's my John Deere?” he said as a nine-car Union Pacific train rumbled by inside 1627 W. Lakewood Blvd. The iconic green 24-car HO-scale model train carrying tractors was stopped behind the black tanker train at the Shell depot across the room...Read more
Model train show chugs into townHollandSentinel.com, February 28th
This event gives patrons an opportunity to see the largest HO-scale train layout of the Holland Modular Railroad Club in operation. The name “HO” is derived from the fact that its 1:87 scale is approximately half that of O scale, which was the smallest...Read more
Train layout collectors use dedication to keep on trackNew Bern Sun Journal, February 28th
It takes dedication to be a model train collector and create realistic scale-size towns and countryside along the tracks. Wayne Gibson got into the hobby 1971 and today, the basement HO scale layout at his Newport home measures 20 by 24 feet. There is...Read more
Cobourg train layout includes nude beachNorthumberland News, February 27th
NORTHUMBERLAND -- Along the Grafton Central Railway, train passengers might catch a glimpse of a nude beach or boys trying to tip an outhouse. Cobourg Model Railroaders member Doug Clark's large HO scale layout is set in the 1940s or 1950s with ...Read more
Rails In The Rockies Model Railroad Show February 15 & 16Estes Park news, February 7th
Valley Model Railroad); American Flyer Interactive Layout; Colorado Wyoming LEGO User Group (CoWLUG) layout; Circus Train Exhibit; Multiple layouts in Standard Gauge (N scale, G scale, O scale, HO scale, Z scale) and Narrow Gauge (ON30, Hon3)...Read more