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
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Recent News: HO Scale Model Trains
Source: Google News
All Aboard Tavares train shopDaily Commercial, December 8th
All Aboard South Train Shop moved to it current location in May. And Schubert has been delighted with his decision. His store specializes in HO scale, vintage steam to late model diesel engines and rolling stock. They will also place special orders and...Read more
Delmarva Model Railroad Club still kids at heartThe News Journal, December 7th
The kids who grew up on those delights are now much older, but some have held on to the fascination with small-scale railroading. And as the Delmarva Model Railroad Club's two-day open house “The HO layout we have here is the area of Parkersburg, W...Read more
Tracking down holiday fun at Fairfield Museum's train showFairfield Citizen, December 7th
Before that, Moerkens had model trains -- HO series in a 1:87 scale. "I had a small layout with houses as a kid, but lost interest during high school and college," said Moerkens, a Netherlands native. "When I moved to the U.S. in 1990, I started seeing...Read more
Fort Myers Model railroad: Florida landmarks brought to life in layoutThe News-Press, December 6th
Visitors admire the layout of the Gulf Coast Model Railroad at Shell Point in south Fort Myers. Fans of the the Gulf Coast Model Railroad — the Florida-shaped model train display at Shell Point Retirement Community — will also notice another...Read more
Holiday Model Train Show at Greenburgh Nature CenterPatch.com, December 1st
Designed for train lovers of all ages, the show will feature a special 12- by 18-foot display of HO gauge model trains traveling through countryside scenes of natural beauty, modeled on the terrain of upstate New York and New England. HO model railroad ...Read more
Model train show takes place Saturday, Sunday in New ParisPalladium-Item, November 15th
NEW PARIS, Ohio -- National Trail Schools is again hosting a model train show on Saturday and Sunday featuring one of the largest portable HO scale layouts in the country. As many as 12 layouts from around the area will be set up in the cafetorium at...Read more
Cape Fear Model Railroad Society Holiday Train Expo 2013Island Gazette, November 11th
It's our passion and we love being able to share it with so many people during the Christmas season." The Cape Fear Model Railroad Society will also be raffling off two model train sets at the show, just in time for Christmas - an HO Scale and O Scale...Read more
Model train pulls into Carlisle ReservationThe Morning Journal, November 9th
He estimated 150 stopped by the visitor center to watch the trains travel over the HO scale railroad tracks. The Monroeville Model Railroad Group is based in Monroeville but was founded at Paul's Hobbies in Norwalk. The group moved after the death of...Read more