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S Scale Trains

Updated on February 25, 2014

S Scale Trains - The Ideal Scale...

At 1/64 scale, S Scale trains are just the right size. S Scale is about halfway between HO Scale (1/87) and O Scale (1/48) trains. HO Scale trains are a little too small for my aging eyeballs and O Scale trains take up too much space, making S Scale just right. For me it really is the Ideal Scale. How does it compare to HO and O? An S Scale train measuring 5'-6" would be about 4'-1" long in HO Scale and 7'4" in O Scale. S Scale trains aren't as popular as HO or O Scales so locomotives, rolling stock, etc. are harder to find. That's the only down side I've found so far. On a positive note, most of the equipment that is available is very nice. If HO is too small for you to work with and O Scale takes up more space than you can spare, S Scale Model Railroading might be just what you've been looking for.

S Scale Christmas Layout - A nice change from the usual Lionel layout...

Size Comparison of different scales

Courtesy Kalmbach PublishingBoth HO (1/87) and O (1/48) scales are more popular than S scale, but I have found S scale trains to be just the right size. Some others agree, in fact S Scale is sometimes referred to as the "Ideal Scale."

If you wear reading glasses or read the Large Print versions of books and magazines, you'll find S Scale trains easier to work on (and easier to enjoy the detail on) than the smaller HO models. If you have young model railroaders in your life, the American Flyer and Hi Rail S scale trains also have a lot to offer. They're a lot sturdier (harder to break) than HO trains and a lot easier to get on the track and keep on the track.

As for O Scale trains, at 1/48 an O Scale layout takes up 33% percent more space than an equivalent S scale layout. If you're building a tin plate layout on a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, 1:64 trains running on 19" radius curves look more realistic than 1:48 trains on 13-1/2" radius curves. The S Scale 2 rail track (as opposed to O Scale 3 rail) helps here too. If scale model railroading is more your thing, S Scale's smaller size also helps with realism given equal size layouts.

American Flyer Trains In Action - Seven awesome American Flyer layouts showcased...

If you're looking for some inspiration for your S Scale American Flyer layout you'll enjoy this DVD. It features 7 American Flyer layouts ranging from classic style with all or mostly original Gilbert equipment to fully detailed layouts with scale buildings and realistic scenery. Even if you're not into S Gauge you'll likely enjoy these videos.

S Scale Layout, Christmas 2010 - Very nicely detailed S Scale layout...

A Variety of S Scale Trains - S Scale trains come in Tin Plate, Hi Rail, and Scale...

American Flyer Layout - 2 rail track looks so much better than 3 rail...

S Scale Tin Plate

The original American Flyer S Scale trains...

The first American Flyer trains are known as Tin Plate because many of the parts were made from tin plated steel. These model trains had minimal detail but were extremely rugged. This makes them a good choice for younger model railroaders. Unlike modern toy trains, these early designs ran on AC current. The track has rails formed from sheet metal with 4 ties on each track segment, which gives it a toy-like appearance. In spite of their toy-like appearance, the early American Flyer locomotives had advanced features like "chuff chuff" sound and smoke generators. The American Flyer line also included many animated buildings and rolling stock. Even though they're out of production it's easy to find American Flyer trains and accessories for sale on eBay. Some of the more rare or collectible pieces are expensive, but a lot of it is very affordable.

S Scale Hi Rail

American Models - American Flyer Compatible Trains...

S Scale Hi Rail trains are current production S Scale (or S Gauge) trains that are compatible with the original American Flyer S Gauge trains. Hi Rail locomotives and rolling stock are equipped with American Flyer compatible couplers and wheels so any Hi Rail rolling stock will run on an American Flyer layout and vice versa. Currently produced S Gauge Hi Rail locomotives are available with either AC or DC electric motors. If you want to run your new Hi Rail locomotive on an American Flyer AC-powered layout you must get one with an AC motor as the two methods are not compatible. If you don't need AC compatibility though, you can save money by buying a DC powered locomotive. Just remember to get the correct type of power pack as well. This is important so it's worth saying again: AC power packs and AC powered locomotives are NOT compatible with DC power packs and DC powered locomotives.

Even though Lionel holds the trademark to the American Flyer name, the company with the best selection of American Flyer compatible S Sgauge trains is American Models. They have a large selection of steam and diesel locomotives and both frieght and passenger cars, as well as complete sets. They also have a great track system that is compatible with the original American Flyer locomotives and rolling stock. Their locomotives are available in either AC or DC powered versions, with or without sound. They also offer both AC and DC power packs. Their trains retain the toy-like look of the original American Flyer trains, but they can also be detailed for a much more scale-like appearance if that's your thing. They would be great trains to share with children because they're easy to handle and pretty rugged.

Southern Pacific in S Scale - I think the 1st 2 steamers are from River Raisin Models...

S Helper Service

Bridging the gap between Hi Rail and Scale...

S Helper Service is another company offering S Scale trains that are compatible with American Flyer trains. Like American Models, S Helper offers their locomotives in both AC and DC versions. The S Helper locomotives can be ordered with either Hi Rail or "scale" wheel sets and come equipped with American Flyer compatible knuckle couplers. S Helper's rolling stock also comes equipped with American Flyer compatible couplers and Hi Rail wheels but includes a set of scale wheels and provisions for scale style couplers.

S Scale Buildings

Buildings for your S Scale train layout

S Scale Vehicles

Cars and trucks for your S Scale train layout

Narrow gauge Sn42 Critter
Narrow gauge Sn42 Critter

S Scale Narrow Gauge

If you'd like to model in S Scale but don't have room for a standard gauge layout, S Scale narrow gauge is a great alternative. S Scale narrow gauge equipment is about the same size as HO Scale standard gauge, so an S Scale narrow gauge layout can fit into about the same space as an HO Scale layout. The most common track for S Scale narrow gauge is 3 foot and is referred to as Sn3. A much more affordable alternative is to run on HO standard gauge track, which scales to 42 inches in S Scale. This is referred to as Sn42.



American Flyer Trains - 7 awesome S Gauge videos to inspire you...


I hope you enjoyed this lens. Please leave your feedback because I value all comments and suggestions. Thanks.

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    • Teacher Adez7 profile image

      Teacher Adez7 

      6 years ago

      Very nice lens, I love trains!

    • BuddyBink profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Kinda makes me want to get the old train set out and set it up. Thanks

    • bikerministry profile image


      6 years ago

      What is the special code in the black box below? Love your train lenses. Great work. Blessings.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens. I LOVE trains...

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      7 years ago from Connecticut

      The realism and size of S Scale Trains fits nicely between the smaller HO scale and the larger toy-like charm of Lionel's O Scale trains. Nicely done!

    • dustytoes profile image


      7 years ago

      My dad had a huge train set - I'm thinking it must have been the large size - and we would run the track all over the big porch / family room in our house. We had little white tablets we'd drop into the top to make "smoke" come out! Thanks for the memories!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      my old friend will like this lens. he like to hunt trains model.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This scale of model trains means you can create a great layout when you haven't got much space. The detail is amazing.


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