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HO Scale vs. N Scale

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HO Scale vs. N Scale
Posted by Hansel on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:02 AM

I have a small area for an "L" shaped layout; 4x8x4x7 in the corner of my room.  I would like to model a shortline and have 2 towns along with a hidden staging yard.  I would like to do it in HO but I don't think it will fit very well in this relative small area.  Now I am considering building the layout in N scale.  I have never done N scale but it looks like I can do a lot more in this small space.  Any thoughts?

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:12 AM

In either scale, you aren't going to want the layout to be wider than 24" except for "blobs" at either end to allow trains to turn around, if you choose to go for continous running vs. a switching layout.

In HO you'd be limited to 22" R curves if you have a max width of 4', fine for smaller engines and 40'-50' cars but too sharp for large steam or passenger cars...at least, to small for large equipment to look good, though you might get it to work. If you go to an HO switching layout, you could do a fair amount in that small space.

In N you could do more of course, and still have a continous run. Most N stuff will do an 11"R curve or sharper, but for passenger trains and big engines you'd want to do at least 15"R. You could do that by having the main part of the layout be 16"-24" wide, with two end "blobs" of around 36" to allow for the 15"curves, or around 42" if you go with 18"R curves. N scale will give you more space for scenery and structures.

I'd say if you're primarily interested in switching cars around, go HO; if you're primarily interested in setting up one or two trains (esp. passenger trains) and letting them run on the mainline, you'd want to do N.

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Posted by wm3798 on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:24 AM

Here we go!  Be prepared to be warned about manual dexterity, failing eyesight, terrible performance and bulky details...  N scale, afterall was spawned by Satan himself...

Of course I jest.  Lately these discussions have been very helpful and even civil!  I just thought I'd get that out of the way!Big Smile

Anyway, what would really be helpful would be a sketch of the area you're working in, not just the size of the table top.  It sounds like what you have is an L shaped space that's roughly 12' x 8'?

The main advantage you'll find with N scale is that you don't need your table to be a full 4' wide.  That makes it very difficult to reach the back, and in the corner of your L, you won't be able to reach that at all, unless you pull it away from the wall to be able to walk behind it.

N-Scale will give you more possibilities in your given space, as you can reduce the table width to 36", and still have a reasonable main line run, and plenty of room for scenery and structures.  To give you an idea, the area in the photo below occupies about the space that you describe...

Never mind the debris!

Now there are lines that extend around the room to support things like a yard and some staging, but the basic layout can stand alone, if need be.   Here's the track plan:

To dip your toes into N scale, I recommend you invest a little into an Atlas Trainman train set,  which includes a very good quality locomotive, a basic power pack and some track to get you started.

Rather than begin by planning out the whole space, start with a small, simple plan that uses the set track, and maybe go buy a couple of turnouts and some flex track to experiment with.

Then build out your small "test bed" layout with some scenery, structures, vehicles and trees, and see how you like working in N scale.  You'll end up spending about $200, so if it turns out you prefer HO, you're not out a whole lot.  Package the set back up, and you can probably sell it on ebay and get most of your money back to start over in HO.

If you like the way N scale looks and handles, then you have a good start underway, and you can start thinking about upgrading to a more scale looking track, adding to your fleet of rolling stock, and maybe picking up a few more locomotives.

At that point, we can go more in depth about planning your full layout.  There are some very thoughtful folks here on the forum (and elsewhere) who can help you through that process once the scale issue is settled.

Lee

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Posted by faraway on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:28 AM

 N scale provides more space to implemt whatever you dream of IF you can do it.

It depends on your capabilities. How good are your eyes, how good can your fingers handel small parts? Only you can know the answer.

I had to give up and go to H0 due to my limited capabilities.

My suggestion is to buy a low cost N scale boxcar and give is a real boost in quality. Add grab irons etc. Than buy a simple N scale building kit and assemble and paint it. Add all details you want to. How about the door knob?

 You know if N scale is your scale after that small test. Good luck!

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Posted by blownout cylinder on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:53 AM

wm3798
Here we go!  Be prepared to be warned about manual dexterity, failing eyesight, terrible performance and bulky details...  N scale, afterall was spawned by Satan himself...

You had to open that can with that opener didn't you?Smile,Wink, & Grin--LOL!!

But I can see that happening---Me? I have bifocals, floaters in the eyeballs, shakey hands and what all else--and I'm still in N scale---why? Because I love the detail work--I love the space saving and the fact that one can build up a large layout in a smaller area. There are many reasons I'd go for this scale----

Now, if you had those problems such that it becomes an issue---you could always go "O" scale---MischiefWhistling

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:19 AM

I'm an HO guy myself.  I had HO as a teen, and kept them for 40 years until I had the time and space to start again.  But, if I hadn't already started with a large collection of rolling stock, I'd have given N-scale a serious look.  Even then, I was tempted by the amount of layout you can put into your available space.

Of course, I love my HO trains, too.  I like sound engines, and that's something that's not there yet in N.  And, they don't make subway trains in N, but that's just one of my own personal passions.

By the way, my personal "reach limit" for layout width is 30 inches.  My layout is 60 inches wide, so the center line is just 30 inches from either edge.  I can work there, add scenery, ballast track and re-rail the occasional car, but it is not easy.  So, heed the warnings of layout width.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:37 AM

You can do any scale (except maybe G might need a little more than 4 ft) in the space you have.

The 1st question is: how much town do you want?  In O for each town you'll probably have the station, a couple of short sidings, and maybe a store all small.  In Z you could have several streets and multi story buildings.

2nd question is: can you mount the layout on wheels and roll it a little way out of the corner for building and maintenance?  Otherwise the 4 ft reach (5 1/2 to the corner) are a bit far.

3rd question:  Is watching the trains the goal or do you plan to do switching or other operating - run 2 trains at once.  For this space smaller scales are probably better for a railfan layout where watching the trains is the goal.  OTOH if switching and sound are your goal then a larger scale, even S or O, might be best.

4th question: do you like to build? Bigger scales are usually favored for the level of detail you can add.

Enjoy

Paul

 

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Posted by Sir Madog on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:40 AM

 I have been into just about every scale there is, from Z all the way up to G, including all sorts of narrow gauge. There is a lot to say about any scale, but which way to go is mainly a question of space available and  funds.

HO scale still offers the biggest variety in equipment and accessories, but N scale is not far behind any longer. The level of detail available in N scale is amazing when compared to the beginnings of this scale in the 1960´s. In addition to that, numerous companies offer parts to super-detail the locos. Sound is available, too, but don´t expect high fidelity sound out of these little speakers... N scale is also a little cheaper than HO scale...

If you don´t have the space to build the layout of your dreams in HO scale, then do it in N scale - it ´ll be a good choice!

Cheers!

Ulrich

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Posted by Hansel on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:46 AM

Thanks all for your comments and suggestions.  Love the can of worms pic.  I had to save that so I can use that at a later date.  I will be attending my first N scale opperating session sometime next month.  Hopefully this will give some direction on whether I like that scale or not.  I have operated on Dave Holl's layout, MR Oct 08, for a few months and like that scale, HO.  My club has both N and HO, but the N scale, and don't kill me, seems a bit "toyish", sorry.......

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:58 AM

Thinking outside the box...

What, if anything, do you have now?  If you already have some rolling stock, do a paper plan in the scale you have now.  If HO won't work, try planning in N.  Either way, you have an actual area smaller than you think.

If you don't have any rolling stock, your space could accept anything from a Z-scale empire to beautiful downtown Toonerville, complete with 4-wheel Birney, in G!

Given my personal likes and dislikes, I'd take your stated area and model the Kiso Forest Railway in HOn762, aka HOe - 1:87 scale, 9mm gauge.  The same scale is good for European tramways, or can stand in for 2 foot gauge (Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes in Maine, Gilpin County Tram in Colorado...)

I know it's comfortable to simply say standard gauge, ? scale.  Standard isn't the only gauge, and HO and N aren't the only scales.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - in twice-N 1:80 scale, aka HOj)

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Posted by Sir Madog on Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:00 AM

Hansel

 My club has both N and HO, but the N scale, and don't kill me, seems a bit "toyish", sorry.......

 

No, I am not going to kill you - N scale requires the "correct" viewing aspect even more than HO scale in order to avoid this toy-like appearance. Most layouts are built way to low to be viewed properly - a killer for N scale!

Cheers!

Ulrich

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Posted by Hansel on Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:10 AM

I currently have a switching layout in HO, 2'x8', and have been running that for the last year.  I am bored with that and would like to have a layout where I could operate trains.

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Posted by wm3798 on Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:53 AM

You're perfectly justified in describing some N scale as toyish.  I'm sure that without a lot of effort, we could also find examples of HO, O, TT, G, S or what have you that have a toyish quality.  Heck, there's even a 1:1 Thomas out there running around!

If you're looking for detailed rolling stock, and super fine scale details, you'll be hard pressed to achieve that in N scale.  It's not impossible, there are some real masters out there.  Like, you, I'm an operator, so my concern is mainly that the car "works" by staying coupled and on the track.  A little bit of weathering is all that's required for me to consider a car "done".

As for scenery and the overall look of a layout, that's going to be driven by the skill and vision of the builder, not by the scale itself.

The following are all N scale:

So you see, hopefully, that with the right products, and some care, you can get whatever results you're looking for both in terms of looks as well as operationally.

Lee

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Posted by BerkshireSteam on Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:26 AM

Sir Madog

Most layouts are built way to low to be viewed properly - a killer for N scale!

N scale can be more costly in terms of engines and rolling stock. There was an article (IIRC MRP '09) that was about a room sized plan where the person was debating between HO and N. He chose HO because he needed fewer engines (around 2-3) and fewer cars (20-30) compared to an equivalent sized (same area) N scale layout, which as he stated could use up to 35 engines and 100 or MORE cars. This was just freight handling too, he didn't factor in any additional cars and engines for passenger service.

In general what would be a good viewing/layout height for N scale then? I know there's a difference between a good viewing height (for N 50", or about mid neck) and a good working height. I have a little bit long arms so I can reach the back of a 30" shelf at 4 feet high no problem. I know this will show some stupidity, but at one point I tacked some N track (did this with HO too) down to a shelf board laying around, set some N scale rolling stock and an engine, and came up with a 54" viewing height (chin height on me). It would have been excellent for making me and any operators feel like they're in the layout, but veeeeeeeeery cruddy when trying to build the thing, or hand turn an engine, or rerail a derail, or pretty much every aspect of model RRing except for watching a train run around.

N scale does have sound available, but it's very limitid. Athearn makes there N F45 and FP45 with sound, Precision Metal Craft makes a 4-8-2 with sound, but they can be as expensive and in some cases more expensive than an HO train with sound. The speaker is small, so sound quality and volume lack, modifications will need to be made to the chassic, possibly the body as well, and this is with longer 6-axle diesels, forget smaller 4 axles. Shoot I think I might have just made an N-hater Confused

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Posted by R. T. POTEET on Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:39 AM

Ah Yes!!!!! The old "what-scale" question rears its head. I faced it about 27 years ago . . . . . . . . . . and I opted to change from HO-Scale to N-Scale.

For me the decision was made around the issue of curvature: the 18" radius curves I was forced to use in my space allocation just didn't feed the bulldog as far as my stable of Cary/Mantua and Bowser steam locomotives went. During the years that I had been building and detailing these die-cast locomotives I had hoped that when I retired from the Air Force in 1978 I would have had a space sufficient for 30" or better curves; such was not turning out to be the case -- at least in the short run. I suppose that I could have used a little bit better initiative in my track planning and come up with 24" -- "standard" curves -- or better; I had yet to discover the advantage of high benchwork which would have mediated the observation of my "large" steam engines. Better still I could have "stored" those "large" locomotives and built and superdetailed and operated smaller steamers a la MDC

These "deficiencies" led me to converting my modeling interest from HO-Scale steam locomotive to N-Scale diesel. N-Scale looks great on 18" radius curves. It also allows for "longer" trains than HO-Scale. Those issues may or may not be significant to you but they are matters worthy of consideration in your "what scale" debate.

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Posted by pcarrell on Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:48 AM

Philip
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Posted by csxns on Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:05 PM

So it looks like a scale bashing a comeing.

Russell

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Posted by Hansel on Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:11 PM

Very nice pics!

Not so start anything, but why do the rails on the N scale track look high, or said another way "out of proportion.

I think my best bet is to layout, no pun intended, my space on cardboard in my garage then use paper templates for turnouts tracks and curves along with the space needed for the sidings, inorder to see how things will fit or not fit using both N scale and HO scale track dimentionsSmile

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Posted by shayfan84325 on Thursday, August 27, 2009 12:43 PM

Interesting discussion so far. Here is my 2 worms... er... two cents:

First, you might give some consideration to an HO narrow gauge layout.  It offers a lot of the n-scale advantages while keeping most HO advantages.  Since you're thinking short line, you probably will be running small equipment anyway, so big locos and long passenger cars are probably not an issue.

Also, I've built my HO scale layout almost exclusively with vintage/used/new-old-stock locos, rolling stock, and structure kits.  In HO scale, 30-40 year old stuff is pretty good; in N scale, most of the products from that same era are problematic (note the diplomatic term for junk).  I modeled in N scale in the '70s and made a great looking layout, but my best loco only ran when there was a full moon on a Thursday.  Today's N-scale products seem to work great and look great, but you won't find much joy in the vintage market.

Finally, as a casual observer it appears that N scale costs about as much as HO, so all you really get is more stuff in the same size space.

PS:  The code 55 N scale track looks darned good, but code 40 would be more accurate in terms of rail height.  If you go N scale, I think it's best to avoid the "regular" n scale track; the rail is something like 16 scale inches tall.

Phil,
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Posted by fwright on Thursday, August 27, 2009 1:00 PM

Hansel

Very nice pics!

Not so start anything, but why do the rails on the N scale track look high, or said another way "out of proportion.

They look high because they are high (by scale ruler).  Wheel flanges are too deep, wheel treads are too wide, turnout flangeways are too wide, and couplers are generally oversize. The most common commercial track is oversize for what the prototype would use in the situation being modeled, regardless of scale.  N scale tends to have more disparity than other scales when it comes to track. Fortunately, the disparity is not as obvious in person as it is on the camera, again regardless of scale.

In all scales, scale size track is practical, but not readily available at the mass market and discount stores.  In N, Micro-Engineering makes code 40 flex track, which would be correct size rail for many situations.  Code 40 turnouts have to be built from kits (BK) or built by yourself or built by a custom builder.  HO is a similar situation once you get smaller than code 83 rail, which is correct only for transition era and later main lines.  Shinohara and ME do make HO code 70 track and turnouts, but it is not always easy to find.

my thoughts, your choices

Fred W

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Posted by wm3798 on Thursday, August 27, 2009 1:22 PM

RE:  Track.  This is a whole other can of worms unto itself.  The pictures I posted feature Atlas' code 55 track.  It is an excellent compromise between appearance, availability, and cost.  Can you get better looking track? Yes.  Do you pay a lot more for it? Yes.  The most common N scale track is still Code 80, which others have noted has a very unrealistic rail height.  This problem is not limited to N scale.  (Consider that typical #1 Gauge is code 332, and is way out of scale for G scale trains).

Yes, wheel treads are a little fatter, couplers are a little bigger yada yada.  What I see is a long train winding through a lot of scenery.  I see switching areas that are a reasonable distance apart.  I see a yard on a 6' x 2' platform that can handle over 200 cars during an operating session.

If I wanted to build a sleepy branch line from a junction to a couple of industries, I would probably choose HO scale, so I could achieve that higher level of detail.  Afterall, I'd only have to build a handful of rolling stock.

But what I want is to simulate a transportation system, with trains coming and going through a big terminal, locals that run out to a couple of different towns, and a good sized industry that requires a lot of switching.  In my available space, I couldn't do any one of them well in HO.

Yes, I have a lot more rolling stock and engines than I'd need with that branch line.  Heck, I have more than I need for my N scale layout!  But that's what I want.  If I had HO, and I know plenty of guys who do, I'd probably have the same buying bug, and would have spent just as much, only more of it would be in the box instead of on the layout.  It all comes down to what YOU want.

From my point of view, either scale is a viable option, it just depends on which compromises you are ready to make.

Lee

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Posted by Hansel on Thursday, August 27, 2009 2:09 PM

Thanks again for all of the advice.  I am like you Lee, I would rather run longer trains.  Given my space requirements I might just try N scale.  Couldn't hurt?  It is only money right?  It would still hone my modelling techniquecs.  Better than playing computer games.....

Thanks for the advice on the rails too.  Now I am off to buy my first issue of N Scale Magazine.....

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Posted by wm3798 on Thursday, August 27, 2009 2:46 PM

Aside from that bland article about the WM layout, it's a pretty good issue!Cool

Lee

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Posted by BRAKIE on Thursday, August 27, 2009 2:57 PM

wm3798

Aside from that bland article about the WM layout, it's a pretty good issue!Cool

Lee

Indeed that was a terribly bland layout..ShockLaughSmile,Wink, & GrinWhistling

 

Larry

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Posted by navygunner on Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:50 PM

Lee,

 You are shameless!

On topic though; an 80 car coal drag in N scale or a 15 - 20 car HO drag?  Optivisor or selective compression?  A set of Alco PA/B/A and CZ not chasing its tail or ummm I don't know what HO has to offer...  Er... um....  can you run an 11 car passenger train at home in HO?

 

Bob

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Posted by jmbjmb on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:26 PM

Might as well jump in too.  Worms make good fish bait.  I've been in N and HO.  Both are good, with pros and cons that are driven by your desires.  Currently I'm interested in small town, branch line railroading and want to get the feel of being the railroader on the ground.  For me HO suits that better (if I had the room, I'd go to O even).  On the other hand, if I wanted the feel of running a train through signaled or TT&O ops, N would provide more in the space.  But for now I've chosen to give up more trains to feel more like I'm on the train that watching from a distance.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:51 PM

Currently I'm interested in small town, branch line railroading and want to get the feel of being the railroader on the ground. 

-----------------------

You'll never get that in HO or N..

That only comes with 2 Rail O Scale built at eye level..

 

I switch primary scale from HO to N and then sold 80% of my HO..I closed 3 deals on the last of my excess HO over the last 2 weeks.

Why did I choose N ? I wanted a home layout but,have limited space..A 1' x 6' HO layout isn't worth building IMHO even tho' I had 2 such ISLs in the past

 

Do I regret it it?

Not at all.

Larry

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Posted by espeefoamer on Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:35 PM

I have a 4X2 layout in HO. All I have room for is a  glorified test track. It consists of a double track main with a crossover and an industrial spur. At one time I had both HO and N gauge equipment,But many years ago I sold off my N stuff. I could have built a complete loop in N but with my eyesight and being able to manipulate the rolling stock,I'm glad I stuck with HO.

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Posted by Marc_Magnus on Friday, August 28, 2009 12:43 AM

Hi from Belgium,

Anyway I would choice Nscale because......

Because of the more realistic train you could run in a given space

Because of the larger curves you can use in this space

Because the train are running trought the scenery and are, if I can say, lost in the scenery like the real ones

Because now, you can model any area from the 20's to today with the aviable models.

Because you need excellent lay track for bulletproof running

Because now you have good looking track in code 55 like Peco, ME and even yo could handlay your track with jig like BKS or Fastrack 

Because the price are a little bit cheaper than HO scale

Because you could acheive excellent details like other scale

Because we have now so good running equipment like their HO counterpart.

Because there are more standard than other scale like the couplers, the dcc plug,

Because Nscale at give me so many challenges, to have a good looking railroad; her are a few pics of my Maclau River in Nscale

So here are a few reasons, good or not, but the ones I beleive made Nscale a good choice.

 

More pics at www.Nscale.org , choice "Personnal Album", choice letter"M", search album "Marc Magnus".

Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by wedudler on Friday, August 28, 2009 2:28 AM

shayfan84325

First, you might give some consideration to an HO narrow gauge layout.  It offers a lot of the n-scale advantages while keeping most HO advantages.  Since you're thinking short line, you probably will be running small equipment anyway, so big locos and long passenger cars are probably not an issue.

PS:  The code 55 N scale track looks darned good, but code 40 would be more accurate in terms of rail height.  If you go N scale, I think it's best to avoid the "regular" n scale track; the rail is something like 16 scale inches tall.

 

With narrow gauge you can run short trains with two or three engines and steep grades. 4% or even a branch with 6% prototypically.

I've tested radii for narrow gauge engines and was surprised. 18' for H0n3 is no problem.

Wolfgang

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