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It's all about scale

Lots of people get confused between scale and gauge with model railways.

A model train Scale is the relationship between its size and the size of an actual train, usually measured as a ratio or as a millimetre to inch conversion. OO scale is said to be 4mm:ft or 1:76.

A model train Gauge is the distance between the inner edges of the two rails that it runs on.

Historically there are broadly two main groups:
1. Standard gauge which is based on a 4ft 8 1/2inch prototype, and there is also
2. Narrow gauge which includes any railway with a track gauge less than the standard gauge.

The more popular scales and gauges are listed below. Small Scales.

Z Gauge
1.5mm to 1ft, 1:200 scale
6.5mm gauge (inside track width)
This is a commercial gauge produced by Marklin. It is relatively expensive and specialist.

2mm Scales.

N Gauge
2mm to 1ft, 1:148 scale in UK
9mm gauge (inside track width)
This gauge is half the size of 00 and therefore you should in theory be able to lay four times as much track.

2mm Scale
2mm to 1ft, 1:152.3 scale
9.42mm gauge (inside track width)
The purists of N gauge developed this scale. It is slightly more accurate than the mainstream scale of 1:148.

3mm Scales.

TT Gauge
3mm to 1ft, 1:101.6 scale
12mm gauge (inside track width)
This gauge originated in the USA, and was also produced at 2.5mm to 1ft, 1:120 scale. Enthusiasts using this scale need specialist support through the Three Millimetre Society.

4mm scales.

HO Gauge
3.5mm to 1ft, 1:87 scale
16.5mm gauge (inside track width)
This is the major gauge used outside the UK. At 3.5mm to 1ft, the track gauge at 16.5mm is virtually exact to scale for the standard gauge. When using this gauge it must not be confused with 00 gauge, HO gauge is almost 15% smaller. One can run HO gauge rolling stock on 00 gauge layouts, the track gauges both being 16.5mm, but the difference in scale will immediately become very obvious.

00 Gauge
4mm to 1ft, 1:76 scale
16.5mm gauge (inside track width)
This is the most popular scale for British modellers and is probably the best supported in the industry with a wide range of ready-to-run models, kits and accessories. However the track gauge is considered too narrow to be accurate by many. This makes this scale a bit of a compromise. Smaller track profiles make this incorrect scaling less noticeable, and increasing the sleeper spacings makes it even less noticeable.

EM Gauge
4mm to 1ft, 1:76 scale
18.2mm gauge (inside track width)
This scale is an attempt to make the 00 layout track gauge more realistic. At 18.2mm it still falls short of the ideal 18.83mm, but was felt by those involved to be near enough.

P4/S4 Gauge
4mm to 1ft, 1:76 scale
18.83mm gauge (inside track width)
As EM is still slightly under scale, P4 was established. Locomotive and rolling stock kits are available to fit this gauge.

009 Gauge
4mm to 1ft, 1:76 scale
9.00mm gauge (inside track width)
The most popular narrow gauge scale as this allows for the use of N gauge chassis and most 4mm accessories. Track and turnouts are available from a wide range of manufacturers.

00n3 Gauge
4mm to 1ft, 1:76 scale
12mm gauge (inside track width)
Used for models of the Isle of Man railways and the Irish 3ft gauge systems.

7mm Scales

0 Gauge
7mm to 1ft, 1:43.5 scale
32mm gauge (inside track width)
This scale has become more popular due to the availability of a large range of quality locomotive and rolling stock kits. Technically the inside track width of 32mm is 3% under scale.

7mm to 1ft, 1:45 scale
32mm gauge (inside track width)
Scale used mainly in Germany, Japan, Russia, Czech

7mm to 1ft, 1:48 scale
32mm gauge (inside track width)
This scale is commonly found in the USA.

Scale Seven
7mm to 1ft, 1:43.5 scale
33mm gauge (inside track width)
This is the scale track option for 7mm scale with a 33mm width between tracks.

0-16.5 Gauge
7mm to 1ft, 1:43.5 scale
Uses OO gauge spaced track allowing commercial OO gauge locomotive chassis to be used under narrow gauge 7mm kit.

Larger scales

Gauge 1
10mm to 1ft 1:32 scale
45mm gauge (inside track width)
This scale is mainly used outside for electric and live steam operation.

So now we have a little more understanding of scale and gauge, it comes down to the space you have allocated for the layout and your modelling skills.

As always, if you have any questions about weathering & detailing models for your layout, please feel free to email them to me and I will be pleased to assist you.

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