N gauge trains


A Short Guide on N Scale Scenery

Guest Contributor: Malcolm Abbott

If you have recently acquired an interest in making a model railroad and all its scenery from scratch, then you must know everything about the size and shapes that you intend to use. Before you randomly pick some scale for your model trains and its surrounding scenery, thoroughly research the possibilities. This way, you won’t have to face any difficulties in the middle of your project.

So what is N scale scenery? Here is a short guide for you.

N Scale Models

Considered to be one of the most popular model railway scale, N scale varies from size 1:148 to 1:160. Whatever the range maybe, the gauge or the distance between the rails is 0.354 inches or 9 mm. The reason so many people use N scale is that everything in it is smaller in size. The HO scale comparatively, takes up a lot more space. With N scale the tracks of the trains can be longer, but occupy same amount of space.

If you are among those who like long, curving trains with detailed terrains and miniature scenery, then N scale is the one for you. You can make lots and lots of surrounding structures like tunnels and bridges where your rails pass over or through. Making N scale scenery (as with all other model train scales) requires dedication and lots of creativity.

Making N Scale Scenery

As far as scenery is concerned, you have two options. Either buy readymade objects or make them yourself. Readymade scenery and structures is not only expensive, it can be relatively boring. You often don’t get to do anything except for inserting everything in its right place. Where’s the fun in that?! It’s much more exciting to come up with your own methods, experimenting with unique things to make your own, hard worked scenery. So how can you begin?

First determine your theme and buy trains and its tracks according to your chosen scale or theme. Then decide how detailed you want your model train layout to be. Will it involve many tunnels, backgrounds, stations, signboards, houses, mountain ranges, rivers and other features? Here are some easy tricks to make a few of these things:


One easy way to make grass is to collect sawdust and dye or add food colors to make it green or brown. You can color it brown, orange, or yellow in Autumn/Fall tones, or make it a light green to scatter it around lakes and ponds.


For tunnels, one of the easiest methods is to use beaded Styrofoam. You can cut it up according to N scale scenery size and then use it. When painting, use concrete-colored wash and then spray the inside with some gray or black paint to make it look more realistic. Depending on what era you display, you can add stains of smoke by spray painting the inside and tunnel entrance a dark gray or black color.

Telephone Poles

You can make telephone poles using match sticks. All you would have to do is paint them carefully. If you are going with a yesteryear theme, then you can even use thin wooden sticks as poles. Also, make sure when you add telephone poles to your layout, you also add wires to them. This gives a feeling or originality. You can use thin, flexible wires and cut them into as long or as short as need. The same can be done with electric poles.

The important thing is to thoroughly research the numerous possibilities when creating N scale scenery for your model railroad layout.

Model Train Resources

N scale book

Getting Started In
N Scale Model Railroading

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N scale Track Plans

Space Saving
From Plan To Performance

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 N scale scenery






N Scale Locomotives

N Gauge Railway Layouts

N Gauge Buildings

N Gauge Model Railway Layouts

N Scale Scenery

N Gauge Track Plans

Gauge or Scale?



One of the most confusing things encountered by the newcomer to model railroading is the terminology. Is this an HO-gauge layout, or an HO-scale layout? Is this locomotive N-gauge or N-scale? Does it matter?  



Well, yes, it does matter. Simply stated, gauge describes the actual distance between the rails, and scale refers to the ratio of the difference in size of all other details compared to real world items. Let’s talk about gauge for a minute in its exact context, and the difference should become clear. 



US railroads use a standard track gauge measurement of 4’ 8 1/2” between the rails. All rolling stock manufactured for the mainstream US railroad market will have wheel sets whose spacing will adhere to that gauge measurement. It’s what allows BNSF to take a load in a freight car to a transfer point, and for Union Pacific to take it the rest of the way to its destination without removing the cargo to a different car. It’s a standard, like 120 volt house wiring, that makes interoperation smooth and uncomplicated.



We are dealing with N-scale model railroading here, so what gauge is associated with that? Luckily, N-gauge will do the trick nicely, although there is at least one variant, Nn3, that we will also look at briefly. N-gauge track is manufactured by several companies in a lot of different configurations, but all will have a gauge separation of nine millimeters between the rails. Nine. Hence the term “N”-gauge. In our model world, nine millimeters represents four feet, eight and one half inches. 



If you do some quick multiplication and division, you will discover that 4’8.5” is 1435.1 millimeters (25.4 mm to the inch), and that the US standard gauge for trackage is 159.46 times our nine millimeter N-gauge track. We round that up to the next higher whole number, and come up with a ratio of 1:160, which is the ratio we mentioned in the second paragraph, and what we call “N-scale”. Anything in our N-scale world is going to be 1/160th the size of a real object if it is “to scale”. In the UK N-scale is slightly different at 1/148. 



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N-scale bridges