For would-be Gullivers, N scale model trains from Athearn, Atlas, Bachmann, Kato, and others are a terrific way to go. Just as HO scale model trains are half the size of O scale trains, N scale model trains are half the size of HO, measuring between 1/148 and 1/160 the size of their real-life counterparts (the exact proportion depends on the country you live in or the manufacturer who made the model train). One thing is standard, though, and that is the gauge of the track, which is always 9mm wide.
N scale trains are most popular in Japan, no doubt owing to the premium put on real estate in that island nation. Most Japanese N scale trains are 1/150 the size of the real trains running on the real 3-foot, 6-inch narrow-gauge train tracks there. Models of Shinkansen (bullet trains), however, are 1/160 scale.
In England, a ratio of 1:148 is typical, although some N scale trains are 1:152. These latter models are understandably confused with the vintage Lone Star OOO scale trains that had the same scale.
Space alone is not the reason to choose N scale over HO scale. Many collectors have plenty of room to house their passions, so collecting at N scale simply allows those lucky folks to amass twice as many examples in N scale as they could in HO.
Unlike O scale, standard scale, and HO scale, some of which have been around for a full century, N scale only came into prominence in the 1960s. While the relative youth of the collectible limits the vintage value of N scale trains, it does mean that N scale collectors can generally mix and match components—standards were agreed upon early by manufacturers, making the interchangeability of many parts viable. Just having standard gauge tracks is an enormous help.
The downside of this rush to standardization was that one manufacturer, Arnold, was given the right to produce the N scale’s standard coupling, the Rapido. Not surprisingly, competitors were loathe to steer their customers to Arnold’s coupler, so they developed couplers of their own, even though Arnold owned the patent.
As it turned out, the Rapido did not work very well for automatic uncoupling and it was a bit bulky relative to the N scale’s diminutive size. Today, most serious N scale collectors prefer the magnetic knuckle couplers produced by Micro Trains.
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
- Lionel Operating Train Society