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HO Scale Trains

Updated on February 25, 2014

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...

MDC H0 Scale steam locomotive
MDC H0 Scale steam locomotive

(Photo Credit: slambo_42 under Creative Commons license)

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.

HO Scale Freight Cars - H0 Scale offers the biggest selection of frieght cars...

HO Scale freight cars
HO Scale freight cars

(Photo Credit: Coxsj under Creative Commons license)

HO Scale has the biggest selection of freight cars

HO Scale Passenger Trains - If you love passenger trains, you'll love H0 Scale...

HO Scale Passenger Train at Depot
HO Scale Passenger Train at Depot

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    • Tricia Deed profile image

      Tricia Deed 3 years ago from Orlando, Florida

      Trains are fun. We set ours up for the Christmas Holidays. We start assembling in November.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      I used to own an HO Train Set and love buying especially the neat old looking engines. As a kid, I grew up with the big Lionel Trains. Nice memories here, thank you.

    • tea lady 2 profile image

      Pat 5 years ago from Midwest, USA

      I've always loved trains, big ones and little ones!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      This looks to me as a perfect gift for a little boy, very informative lens.


    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 6 years ago from Connecticut

      Model railroading is a great hobby for kids of all ages. I liked model trains as a kid, and enjoy them ever more as an adult (though I guess I never really grew up). Nicely done!

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 6 years ago

      I'd sure like to own a set!

    • profile image

      MikeDeHaan 6 years ago

      My parents had given me a larger scale train set, but the HO world does seem to have the largest variety of additional pieces. Thanks for the lens.

    • blujeanmomma profile image

      blujeanmomma 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I remember when when my brother and I were young he had a great HO layout & we use to l love watching them go around all day and then when it got dark, all of the houses and lamp posts would light up - we got such a thrill out of it.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 7 years ago

      I like trains a lot. When my soon was a kid, he had a HO set and I had one too. There is a liquid I pour into the smokestack which created the fumes. It was so cool. Thanks for sharing.

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      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      I like trains. Thanks for your work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Nice lens - enjoyed visiting

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 7 years ago

      Always love a train lens

    • Arizona-Snow profile image

      Arizona-Snow 7 years ago

      Nice lens, I have given you a lensroll all 3 of my model railway lenses :)

    • grayth lm profile image

      grayth lm 7 years ago

      Incredibly detailed lens on such a fun hobby, I love digging into making terrain for these train sets, great lens

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 7 years ago

      Very cool lens!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 7 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens. I always wanted a decent train set and to build a layout, but never had the space, and the best I could manage was to lay it out on the living room carpet, and then pack it away again several hours later. Not the best situation, not to mention track pulling apart, fluff on the locomotives etc.

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      reasonablerobby 7 years ago

      Great info' and lensrolled to a fellow model train lens!

    • profile image

      Obscure_Treasures 7 years ago

      I found lots of useful information, great lens, Thanks!