Ask any aspiring rail modeler what is keeping him from building his dream layout. The top reasons are budget, lack of time and lack of space. We can’t necessarily help you with those first two, but let’s talk about space.
First of all, imagine your dream layout; take a little time to build a clear mental picture. Now that you can see your model railroad in your mind, estimate how much space it will take up. Perhaps you are remembering Alec Baldwin’s layout from the 1988 classic Beetlejuice and wondering how you’ll convince your family to give up the attic or basement to make room for your build. If you’re starting to think it’d be simpler to just give up and move on to another hobby, you’re not alone. Don’t despair; we’ve got a solution for you!
N Scale Model Trains
It’s a given that most of us just don’t have an empty room in our homes we can devote to housing our model railroad. Of course, this assumes you need an entire room to build a complete layout. People tend to picture HO scale when they think of model railroads, but have you ever considered N scale? At 1:160, N scale is about half the size of HO (1:87) meaning an N scale layout takes up roughly one-quarter the area that the same HO scale layout would. N scale railroads lend themselves well to smaller spaces; they don’t call them Table-Top Trains for nothing. A 1:160 scale-mile circle has a radius of 3.24 feet, which you can easily set up on your kitchen or dining room table, though that might be inconvenient at mealtimes. On the other hand it could make passing the salt far more entertaining. For practical reasons, you’ll probably want to put your model railroad in an out of the way spot, perhaps in the corner of the family room or your hobby room. If you want to get really creative, you can build your layout on a bookcase shelf, in a dresser drawer, or even in a suitcase.
DID YOU KNOW?
“In countries like Japan, as well as many countries in Europe where living space is at a premium, N-Scale has actually become the preferred scale surpassing even the larger HO-Scale for popularity.” – source: The N-Scale Division
Speaking of putting your model railroad in a suitcase, N scale is definitely portable. Not everyone dreams of being able to take their layout with them when they travel but there are those of us who chose to exhibit our work at shows and conventions. Bringing a larger scale layout on the road can be problematic with set up, take down and transportation each creating its own set of challenges. While your HO (and larger) scale friends are renting trucks or borrowing trailers and enlisting volunteers to help them pack, unpack and recreate their display, you’ll be able to fit your masterpiece in the back of your car or van. As an added benefit, using less of your exhibitor’s space to house your layout leaves more room for admirers to gather round.
If you happen to be among the lucky modelers who have room for a full 4’x8’ layout, N scale can allow you to tackle some pretty ambitious projects. With everything taking up about 50% less space, you have the chance to put together accurately long trains, multi-line layouts with large yards, and realistic dioramas. Using N scale, versus HO or larger, gives you a much more generous scenery to train ratio, allowing you to create complex landscapes with more varied terrain. Imagine your model train leaving the center of town, traveling through the countryside past a couple of farms, and continuing on to stop at a rural outpost, and then looping around to return to the city. While only a lucky few will ever be able to assemble something this elaborate in HO or larger scale, N scale makes this more attainable for the rest of us.
DID YOU KNOW?
“Modern N scale locomotives have been available for purchase since 1962. In that year, N scale trains were launched and made commercially available by the Arnold Trains Company in Nuremberg, Germany. Today, the popularity of N gauge locomotives and train sets is unmatched among small scale model railroad and micro trains enthusiasts. They are currently the second most popular model train scale available.” – source: N Scale Locomotive
While it used to be difficult to find N scale, those days are behind us. With N scale’s rising popularity, 1:160 scale models are much easier to come by. As is always the case with standard scale models, the size is set, so there’s no need to worry if your cars from one manufacturer will connect with the locomotive from another. You can also purchase a variety of accessories including buildings, scenery and figures scaled to fit your layout. Now that you know you can have your very own model railroad, it’s time to start considering track layouts, landscaping and buildings.
Coming Soon: What to do when you can’t find a manufactured building model that fits your layout? We’ll walk you through kit-bashing and scratch-building.