Selecting N Scale Model Trains

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model trains
by rino54

When making a small representation of a larger object, we use scales. Scales are used in maps, dioramas, graphics, and of course, model railroading.

The purpose of a scale is to make the representation’s dimensions equivalent to those of the object, so that the representations looks proportionate in every part. Scales are measured in ratios.

A ratio is composed of two numbers, separated by a colon. For example “1:20.” For representations that are smaller than the objects than they represent, the first number will always be 1, and it represents one measuring unit in the model, such as 1 inch, 1 foot or 1 centimeter. The second number is the factor by which the first number has to be multiplied in order to obtain the equivalent of the dimension on the real object.

If it sounds confusing to you, don’t worry. It’s much easier than what it sounds like. For example, let’s say that your model train has a scale of 1:30. If a window on the model scale is 1 inch long, then that window will measure 30 inches long on a real train. If a wheel’s diameter measures 2.5 inches long, then the real wheel’s diameter will measure 75 inches long.

Of course, scales can be used when making representations that are larger than the objects that they represent. For example, in pictures of insects or microorganisms. In those cases, the first number will represent how many times the picture or image has to be reduced in order to get the real dimensions. For example “1,000:1”

When it comes to model railroading, there are several scales that are used by the manufacturers. N scale model trains are trains that are designed and built using the N scale.

N scale model trains differ a bit from country to country, although all N scale model trains are small. For example, in Europe and the United States, N scale model trains are built at 1:160. In England, N scale model trains are built at 1:148. And in Japan, N scale model trains are built at 1:150.

Even within a country, some manufacturers may use a different scale for certain N scale model trains. For example, in Japan, N scale model trains that represent the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) are built at 1:160.

Therefore, when buying N scale model trains, you should confirm the scale before you get a train, and don’t rely only on the origin of the manufacturer to assume a certain scale. Specially if you are very strict about keeping a layout scale.

Dave Huffman enjoys model railroading and has developed several Model Train websites including

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