Model Trains - HO & OO & N

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Model Trains - HO & OO & N

People are often confused when they first start dealing with model trains, scenery with scale and gauge  The most common scales you will come across are largest to smallest -  O, HO, OO & N.  There are a lot of others from rider-able  model trains down.

First a few basic simple definitions

Scale =  A way of defining the ratio between a model and the real world e.g. 1/76 of the real sized item as an OO model.   Either as scenery or model trains and carriages etc.

Gauge = The distance between the tracks your trains and carriages run on. On HO/00 its 16.5mm and for N its 9mm.

Sometimes you will also find reference to the depth of the track it's self.    Again most modern trains will run on most modern track but if you have older loco's etc you should check that the wheels will sit on the track correctly some older units require deeper track sometimes known as coarse track for example Atlas makes two basic types of HO tack for this reason.

The most common scales you will find in homes are HO =1/87 scale, OO=1/76 scale and N scale 1/150.  For Example a HO scale means that for every 87 mm for the full size version in the real world on the HO model its 1 mm so if an object is 870mm high in the real world it is only 10mm high in the HO world.

The confusion arises because different scales use the same gauge track ( although you should be aware of other issues such as bend radius).  But then again most trains and carriages etc. these days state the min bend radius the unit can run on.  So if in doubt and if possible try it first.  Even if you stick to buying only HO or only OO you will still have issues with min bend radius and inclines etc. if you have long trains or carriages etc. Purists insist on all HO or all OO.  

But as a rule of thumb modern HO and OO track is suitable for either or but please check it out first  at a hobby store or club if in doubt.   I have had no real issues over the years mixing HO and OO.

As far as trains, carriages  & scenery etc. are concerned OO is slightly larger but you would be hard put to tell the difference most times . . . again I have a mixture and very few people notice any difference.   If in doubt go to a Hobby Shop or Club.   Hornby would be the most famous OO brand most US brands will be HO.    Look and compare for yourself.   Most clubs would have members who have knowledge of both.

N scale is mainly used when people don't have very much space and normally is not as detailed as HO or OO but you would be surprised at what they can achieve on such a small scale.

N scale is also some times used to create depth on large layouts if placed right people will see the smaller scale as loco's running in the distance.

Some scenery items like trees etc. can be used with any scale as long as you bear in mind the items size in real life for example a small n scale tree could be used on HO/OO again to show distance or because in the real world trees come in all sizes just bear in mind the overall look and scale so don't make them too big or small.  Another rule of thumb if it does not look right it probably is not.

I have used a mixture of of HO & OO model cars, buildings, lights and figures etc. over the years will no issues using another rule of thumb.   If a item does not look right it probably is not, so do not use it in that case.   

Beware also that some people will sell items they nominate as scale eg HO (1/87) that have not really been built to that scale or because they believed it close enough to be that scale.  This is not an issue if the item looks ok in your layout and is thus somewhere near the scale ( purists will disagree). 

The internet is a great way to check for your self about the details of an item.   If the item is not sold as a scale model ask the seller for the size of the item and then use the internet to check the size against the real item or a similar item.

Track underlay for some scales eg HO or OO is no different, since the track width is the same.

Hope this helps clear a few things up.

Disclaimer
I am no expert by any means.  The above is simply my views on the subject.   It is a guide only and before you act on any of the information above I suggest you check and recheck with other sources and not take this in any way as fact or gospel  I will not be held responsible for any problems, issues, losses or damage cause directly or indirectly by any statement made above.

Never take anything at face value always check other sources . . .make your own mind up and only then act.
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