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What scale?

  • Hello!  New to the forum and would like some opinions.  My son is 5 and a  train nut for years.  He is now getting interested in model railroading and we are loooking into starting ou r first layout.  I had HO as a kid and there are alot of trains in granmas basement to start us out, but my wife and I are having a debate.  She loves the idea of miniature modelling but wants to do a larger scale like O.  We have limited space in the basement and I think HO offers the best compromise between size and having the room to put in some detail and enough track to keep it interesting.  Plus we have some trains to start from, instead of financially starting from ground zero. I think O would limit us to a simple loop and be boring after a while.  Our space is around 12 x 18. Personally, I'd do N if it was just for me, b/c I can deal with the small size and like the ability to put complex track plans into a small space, but face it, the boys 5 and will want to handle the cars, etc. Any opinions?  Thanks!  Chris
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  • First, welcome to the forum!

    As a fellow modeler that has expeirience with helping quite a few young children with O & HO trains, I'd suggest O scale, as that's more durable, and impressive to a kid. HO, however could be used, as long as your son is careful, and has a lot of help.

    The question of what CSX stands for comes up frequently on these forums, so here you go. C=Chessie S=Seaboard, X=Many More/The RR's that Chessie and Seaboard were comprised of (L&N, C&O, SCL, etc)
  • I model in O scale and N scale.

    Lionel collector, stuck in an N scaler's modelling space.

  • Go with American Flyer - S gauge. American Models and S Helper (Showcase Line) also make American Flyer compatible trains which are more realistic looking.  S, at about halfway between HO and O, will be an easy size for your son to handle and the oversized flanges make it easier to put on the track. Get your son some operating accessories. 12x18 will make a fine S layout.

    See this site for what's available in S.



    If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
  • HO has more of-well, everthing. O- in fact is a little pricey if you're talking scale, even the 3-rail and the toy trains are expensive(depends). In fact, you might want to get N, since of the length of the mainline, yards, trains, etc. But if tou want to you the HO trains that you had are old (25+) Then sort through those and see which of the locos and cars are still good or bad. If they were top of the line, and nicely detailed, then some cleaning up and some fixing will make them new(sort of) Oh, and first you might want to use the HO, then later switch to N, because by then YOU"ll probably will have taken over the trains. Like Dad would buy a Lionel train set for his son, but is was really for him. But for me I've gone from HO to N when I was 9 or 8. But hey, it's your choice what you do!!Sign - Ditto [#ditto]
    -Michael It's baaaacccckkkk!!!!!!
  • O scale would probably be best with a child that small.

    Lionel collector, stuck in an N scaler's modelling space.

  • My son and I started out about 6 months ago, he'll be 6 in May.  He understands that these are not toys and has actually done extremely well with keeping hands off.  We have a 4'x8' double around with a spur off that of 2' x 16' or there abouts.  I have him with a seperate hand held controller that he can operate his own loco with, while Dad operates all the big stuff.  I've tried to make it so he can do his thing ( control his engine sounds ) giving him that freedom, but not uncontrolled freedom! 

    So really I'd say it what you feel most confortable with, and what you think your son can handle.

    Modeling the Boston and Maine in HO
  • I would definately go with the HO scale..

    the advantages are numerous:

    already have some trains

    can fit more layout into the available space

    lots more available in HO than O.


    better models. (HO is generally "scale"..while in O you get into the whole "toy train" thing..)

    and I think the size is fine for little kids..and they dont stay little for long.

    IMO there is abosolutely no reason to go with O scale..HO works so much better in your case.


  • I would recommend S scale. It is in between HO and O scale, and is very versatile. When kids are young, you can use hi-rail couplers and wheels, which are easier to handle and stay on the track, but when they get older or you want a more realistic experience, the wheels and couplers can be switched for scale, more realistic ones. There are several companies, such as S helper Service and American models, that offer products with a good amount of detail. There are also many brass manufactures. If space is a big concern, there are various narrow gauges such as SN3, SN2, and SN42. S scale is also a good size to work with, as it is large enough to see and detail with reasonable ease, but it small enough to have a decent sized layout in a fairly small space.
  • Wow, two votes for S scale. I think S is a great size, matchbox and Hotwheel cars fit right in. Used American Flyer can be had for a reasonable price. That being said if you are just starting out and already have some HO, I'd do a 4x8 layout and see how it goes. There are some really great ideas at this site for HO layouts.

    Alot has to do with your sons motor skills. Kids develop at different rates. I have two boys and they had no problem with N gauge when they were 5 yrs old. In fact they could put the cars on the track easier than i could. But N can be a little finnicky and frustrating.

    This is a simple N gauge layout I made and the kids loved it. Its just a starter set oval with a big mountain and bridge added to give it some interest.

    But when they are young I think they have the most fun running trains on temporary floor layouts. This is HO and O-27 on our living room floor.


  • I would suggest O scale. I have about 6 x 18 plus I might be adding a 3 x 7 off of the side and I can fit a lot of railroad into my space. Plus it would be better for small hands getting the trains on and off of the tracks.
    D & H - Gone but not forgotten