N Gauge Train Sets – What is Available
and Are They Worth Buying?
N gauge train sets have been around for over
half a century, entertaining children and adults alike thanks to their realistic appearance and
ease of handling. For many, the N gauge itself is a very popular scale in railroad modeling and
many have stayed with this particular size because of its versatility and popularity as
PLEASE NOTE :
This website is independent and does not sell N scale train sets or trains of any
kind. It is an information website only so has no affiliation with any model train
manufacturers or retailers. The purpose of this website is to provide useful
information and resources to help modelers to progress in the
However, for those who may be
entering the hobby, understanding what N gauge actually is, the different brands
that are available and the impact it has had in model railroads is very important.
A little insight into why N gauge train sets have maintained their popularity over
the years can provide insight into why.
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What is N Gauge?
N Gauge is one of the most popular scales in
model railroads. The gauge refers to the distance between the rails themselves. While different
countries have different measurements for N gauge, in the US the distance is 0.354” or 9mm. In
terms of scale, N gauge ranges from 1:148 to 1:160. This means that typical N gauge train sets are
1:148th to 1:160th scale versions of their normal size counterparts.
Click the above to view short N scale video.
As to where the term “N” comes
from, it’s actually a reduction of the word “Neun” which means “9”, the scale of
the gauge. While the rails may be 9mm apart, they do vary somewhat in height
depending on the manufacturer and country in which they are located. The most
accurate scale for N gauge would be 40mm high, but again this will depend on the
manufacturer, age and overall design of the railroad.
In the beginning, N gauge
railroads were considered rather toy-like by many enthusiasts, but that has changed
over the years thanks to great improvements in the quality and variety of the
trains, tracks and accessories available. Today, N gauge train sets are just as
respected as their larger, more detailed counterparts and can be found in many
homes around the world.
Different Brands of N Gauge Train Sets
There are certainly a number of different
brands available for N gauge train sets. Each of these brands brings their own advantages in terms
of price, details, variety and overall quality. What follows is just a short sampling of the
different brands which are available to the public; - Arnold - Atlas - Bachmann - BLMA - CJM - Kato
- Life-Like - Lionel - Williams & More.
There are a number of N gauge train set
manufactures in other countries as well as those who specialize in different sizes, but may offer N
gauge as a minor part of their catalog. However, you can always start with the companies listed and
work your way towards finding the type that is most suited to your needs.
Advantages of N Gauge
There are a number of advantages that N gauge
train sets, tracks and accompanying materials have in the model railroad hobby.
Scale: Because of their
smaller size on the scale, they take up basically half the room of the larger HO size, but are
still larger than the Z scale or T scale. N scale is considered by many to be the best compromise
of size and ease of handling, just small enough to fit into regular homes while just large enough
to be relatively easy to handle.
Variety: Thanks to N gauge
being one of the most popular sizes around, there are many different types of train sets, tracks,
and accessories to choose from for the hobbyist. For the beginner or those who have been at this
hobby for a long time, having the sheer variety that N gauge has to offer makes them quite
Wargaming: For those who enjoy
miniature wargaming, the 1:148th scale is very common and highly compatible with this hobby. This
means that actions that took place around a rail station or along the railroad can be recreated at
the proper scale.
Price Range of N gauge Train
Although prices of N gauge model train sets
vary, what is true is that the popularity of these sets makes them readily available with prices
that are generally quite low and affordable. This makes N gauge especially attractive to those just
entering the hobby.
The price will depend in large part on the
number of trains, tracks and accessories in the kits themselves. Since prices change rather
frequently, it can best be said that many N scale train sets are generally lower in price than
their HO equivalent. However, they are not necessarily that much higher than the smaller T or Z
For those getting into the hobby, the important
part is finding a small train set and enough tracks to meet your needs initially while expanding
later as the interest level grows. Diving in too soon and spending a great deal of money often
backfires as the learning curve is thrown out of whack and frustration soon sets
As an example of prices; these are what some of
the online model train stores where charging for N scale train sets at the time of writing this
article. Obviously prices and the availability of sets will vary depending on the country,
manufacturer, retailer etc. Readers can also purchase train sets and accessories at local hobby
stores and online from eBay, Amazon, and Craigs List among places.
This is a guide only of what was available in N scale at the time of writing:
- Bachmann Freight Master Train Set -
- Bachmann McKinley Explorer Set (Alaska
Railroad) - $94.99
- Bachmann Stallion N Scale Set (Norfolk
Southern) - $79.99
- Kato Zephyr Silver Streak Starter Set -
- Micro Trains Barnum Circus
Train Set - $172
- Micro Trains Weathered Set with Loco 3
Cars, and a Caboose - $149
- Kato Chicago Commuter Series Set (Chicago
Metra ) - $189.99
- Kato El Capitan 10 Car Set (Amtrak) -
- Bachmann Southern Belle Set includes E-Z
Track - $99.99
- Bachmann Thunder Valley N Scale Train Set
- Bachmann Durango and Silverton Set -
- Kato Mixed Freight Train Set (Union
Pacific) - $265
- Kato Intercity Express Set (Amtrak) -
So as you can see, at the time of writing most
N gauge starter train sets were priced under $300. You may get a bargain by shopping around and
searching train stockist websites and checking Craigs List and Ebay for new or secondhand trains.
Personally, I don’t buy used trains unless I can inspect them and see them working before I part
with any money. So buy on Ebay and Craiglist with care. Because I am reasonably experienced in
model railroading I personally avoid starter train sets as the quality is not usually up to the
standard of buying individual trains separately. However, starter train sets can be the perfect
entry level for someone getting started as it gives them a taste for the hobby without committing
too much cash up front.
Most sets come with a locomotive, some cars
(passenger carriages or wagons), and some track (usually enough for a small oval). Specifications
on what is included will vary from pack to pack and the contents are generally clearly described on
the box (or retailer’s website). As an example the Bachmann N scale Royal Blue Starter
Set advertised online at $195 includes: 34 inch x 24 inch E-Z track oval snap-together track, a
ready to run Baltimore & Ohio 4-4-0 USA steam locomotive with a tender, three cars, a speed
controller which has plug in wiring, an instruction manual with illustrations, and a “lifetime
warranty” whatever that means.
By comparison the $265 Kato Freight Set mentioned above includes:
a powerful six axle freight-hauling locomotive (choose from 5 color schemes), six freight cars (2
hoppers, 2 tanks cars, and 2 gondolas), a 3 foot x 4 foot oval track (Kato UNITRACK) with some
re-railing track, a power pack, and a user manual. So, as you will see you need to shop around to
decide what would suit you best. You’ll find there is a big range of N gauge sets to choose from
when you start looking. Take your time choosing as you might as well select something you really
want. These days ordering online is a safe option as long as deal with reputable
Why Choose N Gauge Train
There are many reasons to go with this
particular scale of model trains. They carry the advantages of being small enough to fit into most
households easily while not being all that expensive compared to their larger HO
In addition, the sheer variety of N gauge train
sets available makes them the perfect gift for youngsters who have a fledgling interest in the
hobby that they wish to expand. This also makes it easier on parents who do not have to fork over a
considerable amount of money early on in pursuit of this hobby as well. In addition, many of the
models for the surrounding countryside are easy to obtain and use in relation to the size of the N
gauge as well.
Most of all, N gauge train sets represent that
happy medium between the larger, more expensive HO sets and the smaller, less detailed Z sizes.
Quite often, those who are introduced to N gauge sets, particularly today, keep the love of the
hobby with them for the rest of their lives and rarely move up or down in terms of
N scale railroading
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