- Games, Toys, and Hobbies
HO Scale Trains
Fun with HO Scale Trains
When I was a kid the best Christmas present I ever got was an HO Scale train set. HO Scale is the most popular scale for model railroading for a lot of good reasons. HO Scale trains are 1/87 the size of real trains, which is about halfway between N Scale trains (1/160) and S Scale trains (1/64). For a lot of people, HO Scale trains are the best compromise between being big enough to be easy to work with and small enough to fit a decent size layout into available space. Another advantage of HO Scale trains over other scales is that selection is great and prices tend to be lower than other scales (especially the larger scales). If you are new to model railroading, HO Scale is probably the easiest and cheapest way to get started.
A 4x8 table layout is probably the most common HO Scale train layout, especially for beginners. This is because 4 x 8 sheets of plywood are easy to use as a table to build your train layout on. Some people don't like the 4 x 8 layout and will tell you that an around the walls or shelf layout is a better choice for your HO Scale train. This might be true in some cases, but I think the 4 x 8 has a lot to offer. For one thing, a table built with a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood is very easy to build. It is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to get your HO scale trains off the floor and onto a more permanent base. Second, a 4 x 8 train layout almost always offers continuous running. This is important if you like to watch your trains run, and it's something not always offered by shelf type layouts. Finally, a 4 x 8 layout is to move out of the way when you're not using it. If you build your HO Scale layout in a garage, for example, it's easy to rig a block and tackle to lift your layout to the rafters when not in use.
If you have an entire room to devote to your model railroad, you might find an around-the-walls shelf layout makes better use of your space. Instead of a freestanding table in the middle of the room, the layout is built on shelves that line the room. Since the perimeter of a room is larger than the center, this lets you fit a longer main line or more sidings and yard tracks into a given room size. It also lets you use larger radius curves which look better and let you run longer equipment. The disadvantage of an around the walls layout is that the bench work is more complicated to build than a 4 x 8 table. If you want continuous running, you will need a lift out section or a duck under where the track crosses the door. Since the bench work is built along the walls, it also blocks any windows, closets, etc. in the room. It also tends to preclude the use of the room for anything other than your model railroad. If you have the space and are after maximum realism though, you will probably eventually end up with an around the walls layout or some variation of it.
If you have limited space for your model railroad, your only option may be a small shelf (or switching) layout. Excellent HO Scale switching layouts have been built in spaces as small as 1 x 6 feet. Building a layout in such a small space might seem restrictive, but if your space is limited then you "gotta do what you gotta do." Actually, a small switching layout isn't as restrictive as you might think. The small size allows you to spend more time detailing and perfecting your scenery techniques, and since you won't need as much equipment and "stuff" you'll save a lot of money too.
HO Scale Locomotives - Steam or Diesel, H0 has the best selection...
H0 Scale has the largest selection of locomotives by far. It doesn't matter what era you model from the 1880's to the present, there is probably an H0 Scale locomotive that is right for your layout. Current manufactures include Athearn, Atlas, Bachmann Trains, Broadway Limited, Walthers (Proto 2000) and others. Many of them offer a moderately priced line with simpler detailing and a more expensive line with better detailing, DCC control, and sometimes sound.