N gauge trains

Getting Started With
N Gauge Layouts...
Or, Should That Be
N Scale Model Trains?


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n gauge layouts

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There is often confusion between the terms N SCALE and N GAUGE layouts. The two terms are frequently used to refer to the same thing. N gauge layouts as they are known in the UK are called N scale layouts in the USA. So, if you see either of those terms used, then they are probably talking about the same thing.

N GAUGE actually refers to the measurement between the rails on a real or model train track. The letter “N” is short for “NINE”, which is the distance between the rails.

N SCALE refers to the sizing or ratio of the model when compared to a life-sized real object. Anything in the N-scale world will be 1/160th (1:160) the size of the real object. So, a locomotive or freight car would be proportioned at 1:160 to the prototype (real train) size. In the UK, it is fractionally different at 1/148 (1:148).


This makes N scale trains roughly 1/2 the size of HO or OO trains. The big advantage therefore; is you can get a lot more track, scenery (bridges, mountains, tunnels, roads etc), and structures into the same space as you would for an HO or OO railroad. However, being smaller, N gauge layouts take up less space so are ideal for those hobbyists who like running long trains across layouts with sweeping curves and wonderful open-space scenery.

Fortunately all N scale has a gauge separation of “nine” millimeters between the rails, so that's why the terms are somewhat interchangable.

Track and accessories are made by several companies including: Atlas, Micro Trains, Kato, Peco, Roco, Athearn, Bachmann, Con Cor, Marklin Trains, and Hornby. You can buy a selection of steam engines and diesel locomotives along with freight and passenger cars, tank cars, flatcars, grain hoppers, boxcars, cabooses, and reefers. N scale model railways can be set up for DC or DCC operation.

Working With N Scale Model Railroad Layouts

N scale is one of the smallest model railroad layouts. However, it does not compromise on the functionality of the layout. The small size of N scale layouts allows you to enjoy your hobby of building model train layouts within a confined space. N scale (N gauge) also demands precision and is suitable for model railroad enthusiasts who enjoy adding minute details to their train layouts.

As said earlier, using a smaller scale does not mean that you have to compromise on the functionality of the model train layout. Having a smaller scale does not mean that you won’t need to plan your track and layout. Since you are working with a smaller space make sure that you use the limited space wisely.

To wire up all the components of your layout, you need a transformer that will at least deliver 20 volt-amps. The locomotives on your track need the correct amount of electricity to run efficiently. Make sure not to share excessive power between the accessories and locomotives. Using multiple transformers can also help you in providing sufficient electricity for both your trains and accessories which is essential to ensure that your train runs smoothly.

Make sure that you build your layout on a strong base. This will ensure that nothing is destroyed in the process of building the layout. The last thing you want is all your hardwork going to waste because of an accident.
Working with small layouts means that the details you add in your model will also be small. Small structures could get ruined by dirt and dust in which case all the money that you spent on designing your layout will be wasted. To avoid such a situation many N scale model railroad enthusiasts add a cover to their layout which saves the layout from dust and damage. This option is more practical with a smaller N gauge setup than with larger scale setups.

Another factor to consider when you are working with N scale layouts is the lighting around your model and your work space. By comparison to HO scale everything is very small. You can use a magnifying headset that will assist you in adding details to your N scale model. Proper lighting will accentuate the details of your layout which is essential when you put your model on display. This will allow the viewers to enjoy the details that you added.

The possibilities of the amount of details that you can build into an N gauge model railroad layout are endless. You can build mountain ranges, rivers, valleys, farms, fields, buildings, people, billboards, and much more without making your layout look crowded. You will find accessories for any scene that you might want to depict in your model. You will find structures, buildings, bridges, farm house, roads, and much more that you can add in your model to add life in your model train layout.

It doesn’t matter if you are working with a smaller scale as long as you can turn in to a piece of realistic looking art. Adding a realistic backdrop, paying attention to details, adding model trains that run smoothly and a track that is nicely laid out around the expanse of the layout is what you will need to add life to your setup.