Why are N-gauge locomotives just as expensive as a full set?

model train

I received this question from one of our readers and thought it would be a great topic of conversation. Here is the email…

Hi Dan,

We have not purchased anything yet. I do not know how much longer I can hold back my grandson.

I have a simple question at this time.

Why are “N” gauge locomotives just as (if not more) expensive than a full set?

Are the locomotives in the set of lessor quality?

Looks like 2 questions…..

Sorry! Thank You! Peter

 Leave your comments below… Thanks in advance 🙂

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Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan fell in love with model trains at the age of six when he visited an NMRA Convention in Seattle with his father. Forty two years later, his passion remains just as strong. After achieving a successful career in architecture, Dan’s particular interest is within layouts and buildings. With a wealth of knowledge on the subject, Dan loves nothing more than sharing this with others and is delighted in the forum of members who are brought together over the hobby they have in common. Dan lives with his wife Helen in Washington. As a professional painter, Helen has learnt through Dan about Model Trains and they now enjoy working on projects together. The only member of the family who isn’t allowed to join in is their over-enthusiastic Labrador called William who has been strictly banned from the workshop! You can find Dan on Google here!

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Leave A Reply (224 comments so far)


  1. Dan Morgan
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter

    The sets are designed around price and they have a place in the market for the people (kids mostly) to have a go on their bedroom floor or the dining room table and see if they want to take the hobby further.

    So, yes the loco will be of a lower quality. However they still get you into the hobby and allow you to get a feel for model trains.

    Once you have run a higher quality loco you will see the significant difference, but obviously it comes with a higher price tag.



  2. Duane
    7 years ago

    A great way to get started in the hobby of trains.

  3. Joe
    7 years ago

    Dan I think you covered that about the best way anyone could with your explanation. The sets are cheaper because of less expensive locomotives and cars to get people interested in the hobby and are good especially for young children in case they happen do something to break them.

  4. Carl LeMier
    7 years ago

    N Scale does not have the market on how this system works, each scale has a price mark and it is set for just as Dan said to Wet Your Whistle so to speak.

    There are times that you look at an N scale loco and say that costs just as much as and HO loco. Yes and no. You need to compare the “extras” on each unit and you will see a difference ins both size and price.

    Check out the top of the HO engine and an N scale top of the line like unit and the prices are in line with what you get. Now, where is my check book????

  5. Brian
    7 years ago

    I disagree with your answer.

    It takes more effort to produce a real good performing N scale engine, with effective locomotive power, detailing, paint scheme, and decals, and numbering.

    Just compare a less expensive engine to a more expensive engine. There will be detailing differences. There will locomotion differences. I have noticed my more expensive engines start more smoothly (without jerks) stop more smoothly, and run better at very low speeds.

    Also look at the physical detailing-you will see a difference… Look at Kato engines, and Micro cars to see the differences.

  6. wellington stoddard
    7 years ago

    i side with you..a complete set is to get a person started(hooked) ??…a good quality engine will cost more.i found this from experence.n scale is to small for kids.

    7 years ago


  8. glenn
    7 years ago

    dan, I’ve run into this cost problem agin and agin. My grandson wanted N gauge and I couldn’t justify cost, so we went to HO. Now he saves up and buys a piece at a time

  9. bill schleich
    7 years ago

    Just as with any guage quality counts towards price. But it is also true on the higher priced ‘n’ trains that attention to detail costs more to produce. Small area equals small scale. But if you have the space HO, in my opinion, is the scale you want, in quality, selection and price.

  10. Marty Gregor
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter,

    Dan is absolutely right. The only exception to that is either a Kato set, an Atlas set, or a Microtrains set. They will be more expensive because they are much higher quality. These sets will only be available at a quality model railroad or hobby shop, or online. Many good model railroad shops have web sites, some give discounts.

    Kato, Atlas, and Intermountain are the best quality in locomotives. Athearn is also good. Walthers/Lifelike and bachmann are ok, but cannot hold a candle to the first three. Walthers and Bachmann do make some fairly nice steam engines. Bachmann’s quality is not as consistant as it needs to be, but most are very good.

    Hope this helps you make a decision.


  11. pete
    7 years ago

    I agree with you

  12. Russ
    7 years ago


    I would think the small size makes production a little more difficult to assemble than that of larger scale. Remember, you are attempting to get all the features of the larger scale into these smaller locomotives.

    Ratably to size I am not sure that the N scale locomotives would be of less quality. They may actually be better than the larger scale if the larger scales are producing a tremendous amount more of units. Of course in economies of scale one would think this would be contrary to supply and demand or that with less production the manufacturing equipment cost recovery would be higher per unit.

    You need to look for responses from modelers that have N scale and to those that may have experience with both N and a larger scale such as HO.

    Also, keep in mind the area that will be available for use, the user and a little bit of a plan as to what the layout will be. Additionally, if there will be adult supervision, a modular layout could be useful.

  13. Alan
    7 years ago


    I have to agree with Dans answer. I am more into the HO scale myself but the same principle is in effect. I have always purchased the sets because I figured I got the most for my money but I have recently just purchased just a locomotive and it is of higher quality and more features on it.

    I hope this has helped you.
    Feel free to ask more questions

    Happy railroading


  14. gerard
    7 years ago

    Well Peter, Dan’s right, the train set all depends on what it comes with i recommend that you get him the train set if it comes with track but if it does not come with track don’t get it… lol

    Its a rip off… lol. So if it comes with track get him it and the engines that come with it are probably red and silver diesel loco’s i would get him that, but i would also get him a engine that is a little higher than 40 dollars so you have a dependable locomotive k thx by

  15. Joel
    7 years ago

    As with anything that gets smaller, the cost of manufacturing goes up. Smaller locomotives need more precise tolerances which require more precise machinery and tools to build them. I think this is the reason why N is more expensive.

    Quality does make a difference. If you go to http://www.walthers.com and search for locomotives, you will find a large variety of locomotives. You will find N move expensive generally than HO. You will also find HO are varying prices. Pleae note that G scale is much large and requires a lot more materials and shipping costs, thus the much higher cost. If you opt for the less expensive locomotives, as Dan said, you will wish you had purchased the better quality ones.

  16. Dave
    7 years ago

    I’m into HO and just paid $1200 for one locomotive… a DC HO set with an engine, five cars, some track and a power pack can be had for $99.

    As Dan says “quality” is the difference. But a long time ago I started with $40 worth of used equipment, which, by the way, I still have on my display shelves.

    I’d start with say a Bachmann E-Z DCC set were I beginning today. You get everything you need to jump into modern digital model railroading, reasonable quality and not very much money spent. Plus you can add more to it as you go.

    Happy railroading! You and your grandson will have a great time I’m sure.

  17. tjmoes
    7 years ago

    trains sets are toys and expensive locomotive are for real modeling

  18. Ralph Scott
    7 years ago

    Marklin do this too. But their locos are the same as if purchased individually. The object is to get people started in the hobby. You will also find its a cheaper way to expand if you are just starting.

  19. crtabor
    7 years ago

    n scale is good i enjoy playing with the size. More layout in less space. i am not sure of ur question. i think it is to get u started.

    If u purchase a expensive engine what a difference in total control and performance, i have bought less expensive but improved. easier to maintain also.

    i do not know what else to say. hope this helped. u will buy more cheaper ones than 1 expensive one. buy a good one from good model rr shop. buy cars and accessories else where, make sure they r good condition.

    bye for now. enjoy the hobby. i have my granddaughters play with mine, i am there of course, two of them are teens 14, 17. they really look forward to playing almost as soon as they arrive. have to go . crt

  20. Anthony
    7 years ago

    HI” personally I am a HO fan from way back, and yes I have tried the N” gauge, but found them far to small, and there is the answer to the question regarding cost, as a furniture manufacturer I find the smaller the article the more time has to be spent on it due to its size, and lets face it, the N” gauge is very small to handle, saying that I wish my hands were smaller so that I could have a second layout in N” gauge,
    the best hobby there is, Model Railroading

  21. Terry Cummings
    7 years ago

    I worked in the hobby at the retail level for many years and I agree with Dan. It not just locomotives, I will spend as much as three times the price for a limited edition refrigerator car as one common mass produced item. I am a collector and currently have nearly 900 pieces of “N-SCALE” equipment. Note I use the word Scale. Gauge is the distance between rails.

    An Example Using # 1 Gauge track, Equipment in 4 proportions (Scale) are manufactured. 32 to 1, 24 to 1, 22.5 to 1 and 16 to 1. Depending on what you prototype you want to represent. Standard, 36″ gauge, meter gauge 24″ gauge.Another example Prototype Narrow gauge(36″)in HO scale 1/87th will use N “gauge track” (9MM).

    Quoting John Wayne “Don’t let your rails get rusty” Happy Model railroading

  22. john conti
    7 years ago

    I hate to sound like a wise ass but all of the comments are credible.I simply feel it’s just a matter of cost to do business in a market vs.the demand.

  23. George
    7 years ago


    I am just now plunging in the hobby myself, after yearning to do so for 60 years. I can’t give you an answer based on years of experience in model trains, but I can speak to it from a business point of view.

    As Dan mentions, these sets are used as “wedges” to bring new customers into the market. Costs are kept down through economies of scale (that’s quantities, not gauge) in production runs, more plastic and less metal with a lot less detail, cheaper cars, cabooses , transformers and track.

    I suspect they also have different approaches to marketing the sets with the focus being on Christmas or other holidays being the driving force for sales.

    Their stand-alone locomotives have to fight for the more sophisticated (experienced) consumer, who is looking for details and lots of realism in the bells and whistles, and who may very well want to do some personal modifications as well as get a lot of use from them as a showpiece in a layout that he has spent a lot of hours on.

    Sorry to run off at the keyboard, but I can’t help myself sometimes.

    I hope you and your grandson have as much fun as I plan to.


  24. Daniel
    7 years ago

    Dan is right. You get what you pay for. You want an engine that will pull long trains with no struggle it cost.

    Hey, Marty I agree with your list of trains and have some from just about every company out there. If you want a good engine with lots of pull than won’t cost an arm and a leg try Model Power/Mantua. You will be pleased. Daniel Z

  25. Bill Buvinger
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter, Dan has pretty much answered your question as to quality. Remember in a set you get a circle of track, a simple power pack, a Locomotive and several cars.

    This might be perfect for a starter set. However the Locomotive and the cars might not be the makers best quality. They may not have the detail the better ones might have.

    The major companies that do these starter sets are hoping you will get interested enough to buy more of their products. All of them produce several levels of quality just as automobile makers do. If your grandson is very young, a starter set might be a good choice, it can always be added to later. Hope this helps.


  26. Terry Cummings
    7 years ago

    Hey Anthony if you think N-scale (160:1) is small, Don’t look at Z 220:1, or CCC 300:1. 1 manufacture uses a under layout belt system to drive “TY 900:1.

    In TY scale an entire train is the length of your finger. I once saw A Nn3 locomotive, Prototype 36″gauge which runs on Z track hand made using Jewelers gold.

    The insurance is for $3000 dollars. not bad for a locomotive thst will fit inside a 1′ x 2” match box.

  27. Nelson Herwig
    7 years ago

    Another factor to consider in pricing of any commodity is the number being manufactured… If I can mass produce and market many N guage train sets, then I can do so more cheaply than if I only produce a smaller more limited number, regardless of whether they are of the same or lesser quality…

    The more units I can produce in a production run,then the cheaper I can afford to sell them for. A lot more train sets (of any guage) will sell than individual pieces of locomotives, thus I can afford to price sets lower.

  28. Jim Nerwbigin
    7 years ago

    Know very little with “N” guage, but being smaller needs more work on maitenance. Dan has the answer.

  29. Wayne Wiley
    7 years ago

    I like n scale because of space and I feel that because of the size that” N ” will cost more. For now I am ok with N scale.
    Wayne W. Wiley

  30. cory bosley
    7 years ago

    well dan, if he want to know when it all start, my couson mark told me once it was in the 1960’s when it went from n-gauge, now its know as n scale


  31. park
    7 years ago

    Russ’s answer is model answer.

  32. Walter Norman
    7 years ago

    First, train sets are for starters in the hobby, so the lowest quality engines & rolling stock are used, also a cheap power supply is also included.

    The reason the more expensive engines cost more is due to not only quality, but the cost of copyrights, planning, tooling & shipping.

  33. Bob Hancock
    7 years ago

    There isn’t really much to a train car other than the wheels and some metal for the body. But the engine must obviously contain some kind of engine, and those don’t come cheap.

    I would venture to say that probably more than half the cost of a train set is for the engine. So it just makes sense that an engine alone would cost considerably more.

  34. Donald Chavez
    7 years ago

    That is a great way to explane it so someone new can understand it.

  35. David
    7 years ago

    Peter, I have been exposed to pretty much all current scales of model train sets. I am 60 years young. My Grandfathers and father had large scale sets. I was allowed to participate ( at a very young age) to help build and run the Christmas display’s. I Loved the experience and have very fond Memories of those Times.

    To Your original question, prices of N scale loco’s… the smaller the scale, the more You will pay for Detail.

    I recently purchased an AT&SF GP38-2 Diesel at a cost of $51.00, by Lifelike (Wathers N scale). I am satisfied with it. Detail is not extensive, but it hauls 11 freight cars up an incline realistically. I currently have a 4×8 sheet of plywood as my layout space with 3 main tracks that I can switch at my whim. HO scale Will take up more room (about 2/3 more space).

    HO scale has more accessories to play with, but will consume more room overall, and is easier for Young hands to handle.

    All scales have their benefits and problems. I chose N scale for the benefit of room, but have given up sturdiness and detail, so as to get more action and satisfaction based upon the existing space available to me, I would Love to move to HO scale, but have to make sacrifices.

    On the whole, I believe that N scale is less expensive money wise, but more expensive time wise. Again, anyone that embraces Model Railroading, or any other Hobby, Must consider all factors involved. What works for You is of the utmost Importance.

    In my experience with Model Railroading, I believe that N scale is less expensive in cost, more expensive in effort, but just as gratifying in results as any scale You choose to model.

    Research and question any model railroader you can, and form you’re own decision.

    Take Care and May you enjoy Your Decisions,


  36. Carl Thuran
    7 years ago

    Had HO back in the very late 50’s!

    Went to the Navy, then got a job, married, got a life and forgot trains. Now I’m 68; all that’s now behind me and my love of 45 years still beside me.

    Got the bug again and just finished my first “N” scale railroad as far as track and turnouts. What turned me back to model railroading was a “starter” set that had a great little engine that pulls hard and runs dead slow.

    The products are better nowadays. Don’t know what’s more fun; the wife and I taking our restored ’54 Ford on a nice trip or workin’ on the railroad.

    But remember: “You get what you pay for!”

  37. Nick Marks
    7 years ago

    Another factor to consider is economics of scale, meaning that a manufacturer will not usually be able to sell as many units as say an HO unit, yet the design and setup costs are probably similar. This means the manufacturer must charge more to make money. And loco’s are more complex to make than the rest of the train.

  38. Robert Isberg
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter,

    If this is for your grandson, you need to consider his age if he is ready for electric train sets (is he 2 or 10 years old). Train sets have small parts (can be swallowed) and if the child is to young it will think it is Ok to drag it like Thomas the tank engine. So maybe it is better with Thomas than an electric train set.

    Regarding your question about N gauge train set. I have maybe the answers for you.

    1. First the store have a list about how much the item is going to sell from the company (buy cheap, sell expensive) usually 50% mark up. Oh well, they have expenses to.

    2. To get a customer interested, it is good idea to make a train set with power pack, loco, cars and tracks. A simple way to get started. A set is usually around $100 and up.

    Well you can get cheaper one, but they will fall apart.

    3. If you know the model train history the quality has improved thru the years. From simple “toy” like trains to advance DCC trains, computer run and sound.

    4. Depending were the train set are made from, you will pay for quality. So if you get a set from Bachmann you pay around $ 150 for Dc power set and a set from Fleischmann around $ 350 Dc power. Off course, it also make a different where you shop. So if you shop for a set by European company, it will be cheaper to buy it in Europe, and if you buy it from an American company it will be cheaper in America.

    5. So the answer to your question are it is lesser quality on the beginner set.

    6. Last but least try to buy second hand in a train show, the hobby shop has great deals on the show than in the store. And off course, if you have lots of question, a train store is great to find help what to choose than a big department store. Or you could contact your local train club and I am sure that they will be glad to help you out.

    Have fun and don’t take this hobby to serious.

    It is suppose to be fun and relaxing.

    Robert Isberg, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

  39. Mary Ellen Rotolo
    7 years ago

    I have noticed the price differences and wondered the same thing.

    I have several different sets from my Lionel 027 guage 1934 and 1942 sets, to KATO, N Gauge and Thomas Trains — I love them all, even with their different qualities.

  40. Grandpa Buck
    7 years ago

    WOW there are lots of comments. So here’s my 2 cents worth. I have 3 different layouts. O scale, HO scale and N scale. Each layout board is about the same size.

    By far N scale is my favorite. I can get so much more on the board. On the O scale I have about 8 buildings + scenery. HO scale has about 14 + scenery and N scale about 30 + sceanery.

    N scale is so much nicer.

    A friend of mine lives in an Apartment with his 2 boys. I helped him suspend his N scale from the ceiling with pulleys. When not working on or playing with it gets pulled to the ceiling. Completely out of the way. No muss or fuss.

    Hope this helped.

    Grandpa Buck

  41. Mikw
    7 years ago

    I had the opportunity to use a N scale setup for a while, and we had a lot of trouble keeping the cars on the track.

    That was 20 yrs ago and I am sure they are better now. Cost is compatable to quality. You want good quality, you will pay the price. Scale has nothing to do with quality.

    Also, I think maybe market share has more to do with cost than one might imagine. Buying a scale that has a bigger market means that you are probably buying something that is say “mass produced” as to something that is a one time run on production and then dropped for a while.

    All in all you will enjoy the hobby if you buy quality, no matter the scale.

  42. Gary Kornfield
    7 years ago

    Your comment was generally correct and pretty much applies across the board to all scales. Sets almost always come with a lower overall price point and are designed as an introductory tool.

    However, when comparing locomotive and rolling stock prices between scales, my experience has been that the smaller the scale, the more expensive the price.

    I have modeled HO, N, and Z scale and I currently only model Z scale. I can tell you that my Z scale engines cost considerably more than the equivalent in N or HO scale.

  43. Michael Forsythe
    7 years ago

    Dan is correct in what he says, but his answer only looks at a small part of pricing.

    I have been model railroading for over forty years, but worked in manufacturing for over thirty years. HO is more cost effective because the market for HO is greater than the market for N.

    The greater amount of material used in the larger scales contributes very little to pricing, as it is a small percentage of the total cost. This applies to all manufactured items.

    The market for HO is nearly four times what it is for N gauge. Tolerances are tight for both scales, but you are more likely to notice a flaw in the smaller scale item.

    Unfortunately, this only works to a point, as you need more details in larger scales (O and G) to look right and not look plain. Tooling is expensive for all scales (I worked as a machinist for five years making custom items for the space shuttle, the Mars rover, and other very limited types of manufacturing).

    The tools are custom, and have a limited life-span. The more units a manufacturer can spread the tooling costs over, the lower the price can be set and still make a profit.

    For many of us, model railroading is a passion. But model railroading is also a business, and the goal of all business is to make money.

    Please do not think that I dislike N gauge. Until recently, I had trains in scales from G to N. I became interested in N scale in 1970, and built several layouts in N scale, I still love to see the efforts of others in this scale, but with my failing eyesight, and less sure dexterity, I found it prudent to stick with a larger scale.

  44. Bill Thomas
    7 years ago

    I think trains are like everything else. You get what you pay for.

  45. Wayne Kilsby
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter,

    Well all the comments you have received from our members should be a great help.

    Being an authorized Dealer for Micro-Trains and a model railroader in N & HO scale for many years I can tell you that Dan has totally hit the mark with his answer to you.

    Don’t go and spend a lot of money on High Detailed, High Quality Prototypical cars or engines until you feel your Grandson is going to stick with the hobby. There
    is nothing wrong with a reasonably priced train set to get started.

    You should treat it as a reasonably priced experiment to see the longer term reaction of your Grandson. You know that if he does take to the
    hobby he will not be happy with his starter set for very long and will be looking for higher quality products and if he doesn’t then you have saved yourself quite a bit of money.

    Like previously mentioned, treat the set as a toy, not as a Model Train. And if you get caught up in this hobby with your Grandson remember you do get what you pay for.

    It always pays to buy quality. Good Luck and Happy Railroading.

  46. Gary
    7 years ago

    Plain and simple…. N or Ho starter sets are designed to do just that… Start someone in the hobby.

    Adding a real good quality loco and real good quality rolling stock to a set as a starter would most likely be cost prohibitive to the average dad starting his kid in the hobby.

    An exception to this would be in the older Lionel O27 sets of the 1950’s. It seems like my track wore out before the loco did!!!!…a black B&O switcher…I wish I still had it.

  47. Paul
    7 years ago

    Brian, Lonnie, Bill, Russ, Joel and others give you a good answer as to why N scale trains cost so much.

  48. Ron Stokes
    7 years ago

    Too many comments, didn’ read ’em all. Jus’ wanna say that it’s purely economics.

    My first foray into ‘N’ was the “Yard Boss” set. A Bachman 0-6-0 with Slope Tender pullin’ some rollin’ stock. Were I to buy the 0-6-0/Tender by itself, of course it would cost more… but it’s the same Bachmann product.

    I have seen no inferiority nor diff’rence ‘tween the locos of a set or those purchased solo. If Ya buy 5 Renoir paintin’s at one time it would be cheaper than buyin’ them one at a time. Simple.

  49. David A. Maynard
    7 years ago

    I think the subject has been covered pretty well. Generally the sets are of a lessor quality just to get people into the hobby, that doesn’t mean the sets are necessarily junk, just not top shelf. If you were to price the same exact locomotive you saw in the set separate from the set then probably you would see that the locomotive by itself probably isn’t more expensive then the set.

    I think you could be comparing the price of a better quality locomotive to a lessor quality set. Some of the higher quality equipment can also come in sets, I bought a nice Riverrossi set of locomotive and passenger cars years ago. The set did not have track and transformer and the price of the set was less then if I purchased the items separately. So not all “sets” are lessor quality, but most are, just to get people started in the hobby.

    The same can usually be said for the other items in the set, the rolling stock (cars) track and power supply (transformer). In N scale especially there is a difference in the running qualities of track, less expensive track can be a bear to keep clean and runnable where the better quality track just plain works better. The cars in the set may not have metal wheels and may have the (old style) Rapido couplers, both items you will want to upgrade once you get serious with the hobby.

    And the transformer in the sets will usually only comfortably run one train, I personally only use transformers from sets on my workbench to test things out. So while a set is a great way to get your feet wet, over time you will probably want to upgrade to better quality items.

    But another consideration is a locomotive, by itself, has its own packaging, shipping, handling and associated costs. Case in point, a Roundhouse HO Mogul runs about 75% or more the cost of the set with track transformer 3 passenger cars and the same locomotive.

    So buying a set can save you money IF the items in the set are what you really want.

  50. Thomas Hunziker
    7 years ago

    I have both N scale and ho I got mine off EBAY and they run real good you might look there to start with I found some real good engines there and have had no trouble with them but got a few to work on to learn how I have I have 20 n sale units and 7 ho units not counting what I sent to my brother and nephew to help them out with theirs.

    All the engines run real good I don’t think I have over $200 in all my trains hope this helps you out some or gives you another way to go.

  51. Ray
    7 years ago

    I have modeled in O Scale, HO Scale and N scale and I found the larger scales are more tolerant to rough handling, derailments etc.

    I have a Kato N scale Locomotive with built in sound and digital controls. It is a great engine but expensive. It is geared more to the serious modeler.

    Kato, Atlas and Intermountain are all fine products. I know Atlas does provide a reasonably good starter kit and it is like a middle of the road product that will adequately serve the New modeler and even some serious modelers.

    Some of the higher end products are capable of being upgraded to Digital control systems by adding a digital encoder in the locomotive which provides a much more realistic modeling experience. If your modeling goals are to build realistic consists or having multiple locomotives running on the same track with minimal wiring the I would recommend purchasing individual components that can be adapted to digital technology.

    Starter kits are generally analog sets and the Digital manufacturers tend to make products for the higher quality locomotives.

    That’s a big pill to swallow if your not sure how committed you are but if the commitment is there, the starter kits are almost a waste of money as you will find it difficult to upgrade them later on to a digital control system.

    I would not recommend such a configuration for very young children as most of this stuff really doesn’t like excessive handling. At some point in time you will want to spend more of your time managing and enjoying the train instead of trying to repair it or getting it to work. I find little things like momentum controls adds to the train experience. Real trains do not stop on a dime and model trains shouldn’t either.

    When making a purchase consider your long time ideas along with your short term needs. With the right foundation, you can build upon it, the wrong choice and your out of luck and end up with a lot engines and rolling stock that while they look nice they may not work well together.

    I found Higher quality locomotives whether they are N, HO or N tend to start smoother, run on dirty tracks much better and have really good pulling power with overheating. Bottom line as many of you mentioned, you get what you pay for.

    Just my thoughts.

  52. Mike
    7 years ago

    The real reason N-Scale cost as much if not more then HO Scale is because there are more HO Scale made then N-Scale at the moment, but it is catching up.

    When one is out selling the other it drive down the cost, but now that home are getting smaller and more people are living in apartment you will so find N-Scale costing less.

    Now there is also another factor to add to this and that is what is added to the engine, like sound or Dcc, all of these thing will add to the cost.


  53. Steve
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter

    When i started with trains my son was 7 years old and i went with HO starter set and we enjoyed it together and now my son has a son and he has it setup at his house.

    Now i run O scale and N scale, i like the N scale, the cars and engines have great details and with N scale you can have a good size layout. I have a O scale layout that my grandson plays with,O scale steam engine with sound & smoke.

    I bought my grandson a O scale Thomas Train for Christmas came with track, engine, two cars, power pack and he is going to be three years old this year and he has no problem putting engine and cars on track and off the track.

    But myself I enjoy my N scale, because my layout is going to be so much bigger than my O scale. Trains are great hobby, any scale is great as long as you and your grandson are together and enjoying the Trains (no price is to much when it comes to grand kids)

    Enjoy what ever scale you go with.

  54. Dale
    7 years ago

    good job on the part of everone I like ho have had ho for 28 years hard to beat, but everone has there own

  55. James Mantle
    7 years ago

    I agree with Dans comment as all starter sets seem to be of a price that most can afford, and the trains supplied with these sets are of the most basic standard so when it comes to get extra trains they do cost more but are of a lot better standard, hope this helps with your question.

  56. Alex
    7 years ago

    I have noticed that myself actually, and have come to the conclusion that the starter sets only start u off they do not come with a top quality engine/loco and most loco that u buy on their own are better quality, some steam engine puff smoke and have sound but most starter sets are basic.

    I have started my N gauge layout (at last) and have done some planning ahead for storage under the table (this is because i have built on an old kitchen table the legs anyway).

    I have planned (hopefully) to fit a smaller movable layout and if there is anymore space some storage for train controllers etc.

    I also want to be able to join the 2 boards together for a larger track but be able to unconnect them for storage (and if the case may be show at exhibitions) this storage and 2nd layout will not actually happen for a while as i would like to complete the 1st 1


  57. Nick Woodson
    7 years ago

    I agree with the comment about starter set prices. The only thing that I can think to add to that would be if budget is a concern on N scale you might consider sticking to used, better-quality equipment. Many times this can save you money over new, but you have to do some research into prices.

  58. John Crooks
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan & Peter,

    I think most of all the previous comments just about cover it. Like all scales there is a differenance in quality detailing in the cheaper and the premier sets. Sets are designed to get one started in the hobby without the big expense in cost if they don’t take the hobby up.

    As with prices of anything these days you do pay for the extra quality for the smaller N scale models. I think this is price difference is reflected in the manufacturing of the items and there details. N scale is more tricky to detail due to the small size and the higher cost of the tiny motors, gears, lighting parts etc to make. Because of the down sized parts, the motors have to be very highly reliable components to run as well as a 00/H0 scale motor, which is easier to handle than the N’s more fiddly & tiny components. So that is one reason that a loco of an N are nearly the same as 00 scale if not more.

    Then the production costs come into it too due to the size of the product being made and also the market for buying too. Remember N scale is still catching up in the sales market against the more popular 00/H0 models which have been around from the early 1900’s. So demand of a product in any scale comes into account as well.

    Anyway, you do pay for what you get, but if you hold off for a while before buying or shop around you do find items cheaper as retailers drop prices against the competition of other companies selling the same model.

    I myself started with the 00 Hornby Flying Scotsman set to see for myself and never looked back. I also have HO Bachman sets of the Layfette, John Bull, & Dewitt Clinton for something different and unsual to run at shows, which is a surprise to vistors and my club members.

    I have a small sellection of N scale Candian stock by Model Power for an alternative as I haven’t see any layouts here in the UK on that subject and am planning a small portable layout for it. Though it will be a dual purpose layout for my British Graham Farish stock too.

  59. Andrew Smith
    7 years ago

    I agree with Dan that you get what you pay for. The train sets are to get you started and hopefully you’ll take up the hobby. I have found that joining a club has helped me with my modeling and I would recommend this to anyone taking up the hobby.

  60. tom
    7 years ago

    hi dan the reason that N gauge is more costly than say 00 is that in fact N gauge is that there is more refined detail on N gauge locos and carriges, wagons e.t.c..
    also the motors in N gauge are a lot smaller that 00 or 0 gauge.
    i hope this clarifies the matter for you dan

  61. john brace
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan,
    In my experience here in England the Graham Farish (Bachmann) loco’s bought in a set or as an individual loco are of the same quality.
    I have also bought Union Mils loco’s in the past and found them to be very good, also that company was very helpful when I damaged one of the locomotives.
    This winter I’ve purchased a lot of Kato Unitrack in two seperate sets and I’m very impressed with the quality.

  62. GINO
    7 years ago

    they are built for price point to get you started on the road to fun. and for little hands, my grand son cant wait till i get mine done.(16x12x10x4 feet in depth) ho once you are hooked you will enjoy all the bells and whistles that come with ho mid to upper priced trains. you and your grandson will have many years of fun together. enjoy

  63. Lennon
    7 years ago

    I think the N gauge locomovites are more expensive than the full set is because the locomovite is more vaulable

  64. billie
    7 years ago

    n scale are more expensive because of the size and the detail that goes into them . the quality is the same. For a beginner they are more harder to work with though.

  65. I
    7 years ago

    I agree with the comments so far. The sets are a great way to get started in the hobby. They’re a little cheaper than buying each car or locomotive individually, but the time spent with your grandson will be priceless.

    I see him wanting to visit grandpa to play with the trains. and besides, He might take a liking to the hobby and keep it for the rest of his life. If he somehow doesn’t like the hobby, ( What kid doesn’t like playing with trains?) You’re not out as much money if you went for the more expensive stuff at first.

    That’s the way I started out, and now my collection is quite large. The key is… Enjoy the hobby! Phil

  66. Jacob
    7 years ago

    I agree with you I think thats correct.



  67. mike swonger
    7 years ago

    HI! Dan is right on what he said.But again you get what you pay for.Buy cheap dont cry when it will not work. Thats my two cents.Still working on N scale started 4yrs ago. May have to switch to HO because of eyes and hands just dont work as good as they did.retired from truckin after 30 yrs.

  68. Gary Walford
    7 years ago

    Dear Peter
    Bottom Line Is “You Get What You Pay For” In anything.
    What amazes me is the markup from, cost to manufacture, to wholesale then to retail. There are other cost’s like transportation passed on to the consumer as well. The barrel price of oil also has an impact.

  69. Kevin Brady
    7 years ago

    Hi all,
    Well the collective pretty much covered it and Peter it’s wonderful your grandson is into the hobby!Get him a starter set,set it up and then go from there.
    Some companies do make high quality starter sets,that do have all the bells&whistles.Have fun!

    Dr Dirt

  70. ray
    7 years ago


  71. TopCat James Clark
    7 years ago

    N-Scale doesn’t have the market share to warrent lower prices as the units produced and sold are less in quanity than what could be expected of an HO run of the same model. Check out the prices on Z-Scale loco and cars. Wowsers… they are really expensive due to an even smaller market needed to recover production costs!

  72. James
    7 years ago

    all answers are very well explained, when you purchase a set from a local retailer you don’t pay as much. but if one is truly wanting to get into the hobby then yes you have to pay the price for a better quality loco.

    My first set when I was a teen the set only cost about $20.00. I have spoke with many train enthusiasts and yes the better quality trains are assembled with the highest quality and they run so much better than a purchased set. the sets you buy at a store are considered a toy set.

  73. Hank
    7 years ago

    Due to the size relationship, N scale takes up one fourth the tabletop area required for HO – that’s a lot! A 4×8 layout in N (32 sq ft) would have to be 8×16 (128 sq ft) in HO to have the same modeling space. With today’s dwindling space, N scale provides a lot of railroading in a small space without breaking the budget.

    With all things considered (engine quality, detail desired, layout size, reliability, etc) I believe track reliability is key. Over the years I’ve met many model railroaders who lost interest because their trains wouldn’t run. This was almost always do to poor track or poor track laying. I always recommend Kato N Scale Unitrack (which comes with roadbed so it can be setup on a carpet) to start and you’ll never have track problems. It is sectional track, so it is very easy for the chief engineer of any age to redesign his layout as inspiration dictates. Further, with Kato’s range of radii in curved track, the designer can produce almost any serpentine curves envisioned. The March 2010 issue of Model Railroader magazine (the current issue on stands now) describes their 4×9 N scale layout track laying step and clearly explains the editor’s decision to use Unitrack.

    Therefore, I prefer the Kato sets because I like their Unitrack. They have sets with just track or complete sets with track, an engine, cars and power supply. As noted in above posts, if the track isn’t the best, your trains won’t run. No fun in that, regardless of the quality of the locos. Unfortunately, as sets go, the Kato sets are expensive.

    Therefore, when I set up a newcomer with a set, I put it together from parts in inventory. I recommend a Unitrack layout (since it’s sectional track, they can easily compliment the set with sections to make it as big as they have room for) and then offer engines and cars with a whole range of prices and quality. This approach provides a starter “set” that has great track and, with lower priced rolling stock, can start as low as $60 with a power supply, an engine and a few cars.

    Another plus for N scale is that all the engines, freight cars and passenger cars come in storable, stackable jewel cases. Until you have a real train room where you can keep the collection on display, you can establish a habit of putting the trains away when you disassemble the layout and store the rolling stock in their original boxes. Many used collections on the market come with the cars still stored in those boxes. This definitely helps the collection retain its value.

    My local club recently provided a Model Railroading introduction to the Cub Scouts. Although these boys ranged in age from 6 to 10, they clearly had little trouble rerailing the engines on the N scale layout provided. And the low priced diesel engine they were running had no fragile details so it easily survived the need to be constantly rerailed when it left the track due to excessive speed. Since N scale engines are much lighter (weight measured in ounces instead of pounds) and smaller (1/8 the size) than HO, I’ve seen them fall to a carpeted floor and go right back on the track and run fine. The fragile horns are usually press-fit, so they can be removed and kept in the jewel case the engine came in until the user learns more careful ways.

    Although there are some great bargains with track from other manufacturers, if you start with Kato Unitrack, you’ll have more fun running trains. And regardless of the cost of the engines you add, your trains will always run.

    As a last note, many NTrak modules come with Kato Unitrack sections to be used between the modules so they can be reconnected at a show and provide electrical reliability.

  74. Terry
    7 years ago

    N scale Vs HO, S, O, O27,& G scale As mentioned before the size of the unit has an affect on the price. Think about it as when you buy a watch the price will be compatable with the larger ones only more stuf can be added to the bigger units. Everything has to be scaled down to micro size to fit in a small space. If you think N scale is small try TT scale (1 X 2 Plywood Vs 4 X 8)
    The size depends on what area you have to work with. HO is the smallest you can build things for. N gage you have to buy the kits and a lots of time.

  75. Graham Owen
    7 years ago

    I think it’s down to the engineering required to make the models so small. I had N guage many years ago but changed to OO because there is so much good second-hand OO stuff about at exhibitions. Plus I too have a grandson who may want to get involved and i think it will be easier for ‘little hands’ to pick up OO guage stuff instead of N guage!

  76. Rit Doerkson
    7 years ago

    Dan has it right. You will notice quite a difference between the loco’s in sets and most of the loco’s that are purchased seperately. The quality differs in a very demonstrable way. I use N scale as a background for my HO scale. It gives the appearence of distance to some of my layout.

  77. Garry Gibbons
    7 years ago

    I agree with most comments made with the owning the N gage. I think most of the price increase is due to not as many are made compared to the HO. I am confined to a small space and to enjoy the hobby, I am willing to spend that extra. Not as much detail, I can live with that to get a feel for enjoyment and fulfillment of a great hobby. Garry.

  78. Jerry Fletcher
    7 years ago

    I agree with Dan. It is a start and it lets you get a feel at a small cost. And if you like it you go and buy the real thing. Like a sample you can hold it taste it and feel it and if you like it go for it. If you don’t like you did not lose a thing. Yes I tried it and liked it and yes I started with a set and yes it is of a lower quality but you get what you pay for, and I did not have to pay out a lot of money for a sample.
    The set I bought works just fine and I do not mined paying more for the quality.

    Jerry Fletcher

  79. Mike McGee
    7 years ago

    Ever since I was introduced to N scale 31 years ago, I haven’t looked back. There are as many answers to this question as there are people reading this.

    I have through the years have decided it all boils down to what quality you want to what your are trying to achieve on your layout or what have you. It’s like the age old question why N Scale instead of HO? In most cases, you get what you pay for if you are a careful shopper and do not be an impulse buyer. I agree with most of the answers above, it’s is what fits you situation the best.

    Northern Pacific & Stampede Railway (N Scale)
    Juliaetta, ID

  80. Bing
    7 years ago

    Not having much experience in “N” scale, just got back into the hobby, I can’t say much on pricing but I do know model RR’ing is not the only product to do this. A few years ago I went to buy a Victor ox/acet. torch set and was told by the dealer to buy the complete set, torch, hoses, gauges etc, instead of just the torch. When I asked why he stated it was the less expensive way to go and the torches were identical.
    Go figure! I guess nothing under the sun is new,

    Remember to let your dispatcher know where you are.

  81. Jim
    7 years ago

    I am Canadian who purchased an HO scale model train “set” for $99.99 from a popular manufacturer. Within a few weeks I had to send the locomotive back for warranty work.

    The loco had to be replaced, and the replacement value was $89.95. I know that the track, four other pieces of rolling stock, and a transformer have to be worth more that $10.04.

    I believe that the manufactures discount the “sets” to the “big box” stores in order to get the product out there!! Then when the public goes to buy a single item….A Locomotive…..they are surprised at the cost.

    There is also a difference in quality between manufacturers, and models! An item produced in one country can be much less expensive than a similar item produced in an other country…..you can read that as cheaper …..and will usually display a lesser quality…in appearance and performance! If we do a little comparison shopping using the internet, we can find what we need at a price that we are comfortable with.

    If our Grand Kids are “playing” with the train, will they be aware of the difference in performance of a $99 unit and a $999 unit?

  82. Athanasios
    7 years ago

    I also agree with Dan’s answer but at the end result is you get what you pay for,a loco that costs more than a complete starter set is because it’s a better quality product.

  83. Malcolm Boocock
    7 years ago

    I don’t know about the quality of N Gauge in the United States, but here in the UK firms like Bachmann and Dapol produce superb models as good as sometimes better then OO. As for cost, it probably cost the same to tool up for N as for OO/HO so that may explain the similarity in prices. Spacewise I sometime wish I had gone in to N, but my eyesight and dexterity is not what it used to be.

  84. Ernie
    7 years ago

    Cost are portion to the requirement of developing the parts that make up the overall assembly or equipment. The cost become greater when reducing the size to a smaller scale. These cost are portion over the production run. The smaller the production run (number produced) greater the cost of each unit.

  85. Ian
    7 years ago

    Dan, I agree with you that the sets are just a wedge to get you started and you get what you pay for in the quality. I myself are not interested in “N”gauge they do nothing for me , I’m a old OO/HO man from way back, but I have the room to just leave the lay out. I have mostly have shinohara,Flieshmann, Trix and Hornsby.But as I said before doesnt matter what gauge they are all good as the hobby is great, but you get what you pay for.

  86. Tom
    7 years ago

    I think the resion is that , they are harder to build.
    Not only that you can build 3 sets on one small board

  87. Robert
    7 years ago

    Everything revolves around three things, time, quality and cost. In order to do the very fine detail work you see in N scale, it takes time which equates to cost. The materials it takes are incidental. The labor costs.

  88. madjioner
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan
    Regards to question of cost n gauge The facters that control this are 1 cost of purchasing rights 2 jiging and tooling 3 material cost 4 profit required per unit As applies in all buisseness more commercial the cheaper the more ellaberat the dearer
    Like a car the bogg standed cost this ammount the delux costs this much more ?

  89. Sam Barr
    7 years ago

    Hi Alex
    Where you believe the starter sets are not as good as some loco’s bought seperately?????
    I purchased the Orient express in DCC and it is the best running loco I have and may I add I have over 30 loco’s on my layout although I must admit it is oo gauge.

  90. Ray
    7 years ago

    One of the great things about model Railroading is “Roll your own” capabilities.

    What I mean by that is, whether you choose, O, HO, N or Z scale the two constraints will be how much space can you allocate and what you want from that space that you do allocate and secondly is reliability.

    “If it doesn’t run, it won’t be fun”.

    Some folks can be perfectly happy with a simple oval with a siding or two, others will want to run multiple consists over elaborate track designs. I think the real costs for N scale are directly or indirectly tied to its market share.

    The only real difference in manufacturing a precision piece of equipment is material costs. The design and setup costs would be very similar but it is much easier to disperse those material costs when the market share is large. I don’t know if N gauge will ever assume a lot of market share from HO but it is probably safe to say, HO has stolen a considerable amount of market share from O scale.

    It would probably be fair to say that you can build a more elaborate HO layout than O scale in a given space. The interesting thing about this hobby is it seems like your never really satisfied.

    I have rebuilt my HO layouts multiple times and I finally decided to switch to N scale. It was not an easy choice as I knew I would not be able to reuse much and would be starting from scratch. I leaned enough from the HO experiences that if starting from scratch, I would purchase less but buy higher quality components.

    As someone mentioned above, Track and laying the track is not a place to take shortcuts. It gets back to “fun to run” as opposed to swearing at it.

    N scale has come a long way over the last 10years in terms of availability of buildings, figures, people, etc. and is probably gaining acceptance from new comers who may be restarting their hobby.

    Every scale at every level as strong and weak points.

    O scale is very reliable but consumes a ton of space

    HO seems to be a good compromise balancing costs and reliability with space and a host of add-on features and functions but depending on how elaborate you get you may find you need a lot of space. (I started with a single sheet 4×8 of plywood and ended up with 3 sheets) before I switched to N scale.

    N scale provides great space utilization but it is expensive and harder to see details and requires good eyes and steady hands to build. If you are into photography N scale is the Cat’s PJ’s.

    Its a great hobby and it doesn’t matter where you start. Just start and share the experiences with the young ones. My own teenage granddaughters enjoy looking at the details whether it be the little people climbing the side of a mountain or the hang gliders suspended on wires hidden in the trees or the canoes floating in the lake. They will surprise you with ideas you never thought about.

    Good luck and happy railroading.

  91. Ward DeWitt,Sr.
    7 years ago

    Dan,I concur. As I continue my research and planning your opinion rings true.

  92. steve Petty
    7 years ago


    Over here in the u/k I tend to think that n scale locos and stock are more expensive simply because they turn out far greater numbers of oo gauge as it is the most popular gauge and n gauge although on the up is still a less popular scale therfore they dont mass produce so many it even extends to accesories taake my local model shop — example a coaling stage plastic kit in oo gauge is retailing for £ 6.50 the same model but in n gauge is £ 9.50 its all down to demand and supply im afraid .

  93. Daryll
    7 years ago

    Maybe an illustration will help. Have you ever tried to thread a needle? If so the difference between O, HO, & N would be like a leather lacer needle, a yarn needle, and a sewing needle. That is the difference working on the parts of the three different size locomotives and cars.
    Hope that helps.
    In HIS Service,

  94. Jim
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan

    It’s about marketing. The Manufacturers make the same profit on a “set” as they would make on an individual locomotive! So it appears that the “loco” is more expensive when purchased individually!!!

    Keep it on the track


  95. gene
    7 years ago

    There are attributes and plus/minuses to all of the scales but I believe a major consideration is ease of operation, assembly and running. With any layout the cost will go up with the increase of detail and features.

    BUT IMHO, the questions to answer are:
    1) Room/Space available
    2) Operator skill level
    3) Funds available
    4) Preference
    5) Access

  96. Tom Bray
    7 years ago

    The price of a locomotive, or almost any potentially mass produced product is going to be controlled by several factors. The major factor, at least for now, is where it is made. Chinese products, even with some human involvement can be made fairly inexpensively and in large quantity. USA and European locomotives tend to be much more expensive due to labor and general manufacturing costs, not to mention governmental controls, EPA, taxes, health care, etc.

    The next is the level of artistic detail that can not be accomplished with a machine. Anything that can be built with a totally automated process ends up with a base price of the materials, and the cost to run the plant. If the quantities are not large enough, the engineering required to design the molds and manufacturing process must also be amortized over each unit built. If someone has to handle the each part, that person’s time and rate gets added to the cost.

    If you look around, there are very inexpensive locomotives in any scale to be found, they rival the quality found in the kits.

    Beyond the rock bottom prices, locomotives will cost more based on detail and their construction process. Plastic molded bodies cost the least to make while metal castings and hand applied details significantly add to the cost. The quality of the motors and gear train also play a factor in the operation and longevity of the locomotive. Finally there are the electronics such as DCC and sound modules, these can add more than cost of an entire kit to the price of a locomotive.

    A kit will provide you with a locomotive, a few cars, track, and a small power supply. Assuming the track compatible with the other track that is available, you can get started with the kit and add to it as the mood and wallet provides. You will find over time that the rolling stock will eventually be gathering dust because the replacement components will be much more interesting. But you have to start somewhere.

    One real advantage of the kit is that it allows you to try it out for size. You may decide that N is too small, that another size will suit you better. If you start out with a major investment, changing your mind gets costly.

  97. Thomas Hunziker
    7 years ago

    I don’t think the n-scale trains are that costly I buy all mine off EBAY and they are good trains and not that costly I have 18 different engines I got off EBAY and don’t have over 2oo in the whole lot.

    If you have the time to look you can find some real good deals on them. I also have 8 sets of HO scale and don’t have over 150 in all off them and I’m just a beginner in tryng building.

    Hope this will help you out and depends on how old your grandson is the HO might be better because they are easier to put on track and if he don’t like it your not out a lot off money on them and can always put them back on EBAY and resell them. Hope this gives you a little to work with.

  98. cory bosley
    7 years ago

    well if he’s into N scale like me, just look thangs up on the internet and try amazon.com and look under n scale, they have cheap prices, I have got my stuff from there and it’s easy to order stuff…

    thank you

  99. Brian Emmons
    7 years ago

    I model in “n”, “ho” and “o” scales and use basic ready to run to full kit built loco’s and wagons.

    I started “n” scale by using a Bachmann dc starter set, and found it to be a good runner, just lacking in fine detail.

    I now use DCC control, using a Digitrax empire builder set to run the loco’s.

    As my interest in “n” grew I started to buy premium loco’s and wagons and found they run better, and look a lot better due to the extra detail. A lot of my “n” wagons are still basic items, with micro train’s trucks fitted to improve performance. I have no plans to replace them with more expensive items.

    In “ho” i started with a Athearn full sound SD60M, which has full detail and beautiful running (on my third as circuit board’s failed in other two), and also use ready to roll engines, that have beautiful running from Athern, Bachmann, Broadway (blueline) and Kato. They all run the same, just have differant levels of detail.

    My “ho” wagons and coaches are mainly ready to run mid range items due to cost, and a few top range items. I also run a few basic kit built items that I super detail as required.
    All “o” scale are kit built, and super detailed.
    The only answer I can give is a set, although basic in detail, is a good way to get started in the hobby, and will give a good base to expand on as your interest grows. If i was starting now, I would choose a Dcc starter set, and just enjoy myself with the building and running of my layout, and expanding it as my modeling improves.

    Just starting my second “n” scale lay out as the bends are a bit sharp for longer high wagons. I also have an engine repair yard extension, that is being added to my “ho” layout.

  100. Peter Seelig
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan,

    There is only one suggestion that I can give, is that that due to the small size the manufacturer has to be more accurate when producing this small size in trying to keep it accurate. The larger the size there can be more lee way and is suitable for bringing additional features into the models themselves. It is true that the smaller the size you do gain more space but sacrifice has to be made somewhere so therefore it is limited on what can be done with this scale.

    I hope this answers the question to whoever needs such an answer.

    Yours truly Peter Seelig

  101. mark
    7 years ago

    I’m mainly into o scale, but I would say that the engines in a set are of lower quality than one purchased separately. I have friends that run N scale, and the same story seems to apply.

    In O scale, I deal with MTH, and their Railking sets use less detail than their Premier series. My friend bought a KATO GG1 that was over 100 dollars, whereas he could get a bachmann “Mckinely Explorer” set for about 40 bucks. Most sets are designed to get you into the hobby, ready to run, with just enough stuff to wet the appetite.

    My MTH Surfliner set had track, transformer, and an engine with 3 cars, for about 300 bucks. engines sold separately are more for those already into the hobby, who want more than the generic RTR sets offer. these are people that have a layout, or just want to have a model of a favorite locomotive. BTW, N scale is a bit too small for kids

  102. Art Craig
    7 years ago

    Well, after a few years in both HO and N, the problems in N are much more difficult to solve because of the size. The engine has to have more precise manufacture, even the tracks are subject to poor performance and difficult to troubleshoot. So the better product just costs more to produce, but performance gained is worth it. Pay for the quality in N equipment.

  103. Steven Hiller
    7 years ago

    The size of an item does effect the cost of the item. Whether it is by the amount of material involved or by the amount of manual work required. This is true in all aspects of merchandising. A XXL shirt will cost more than a Large, while a 0-3 month shirt may cost the same as an adult shirt. The same will hold true in model railroading.

    The question of price is only a small part of railroading. Few will buy everything at one time. I would be one to buy as I am able and to enjoy the recreation of adding a new item to a layout no matter if it was Z, N, Ho, O, or G. The only part price will play is to how much time in the dog house I will spend after the purchase.

  104. Erik Buck
    7 years ago

    I started with Lionel O at age three. By the time I was 10 I was building HO kits (Mantua, Varney, Silver Streak) with the help of my father. When I went in the military, I gave away my HO stuff, but when stationed in England, more than 40 years ago, I got started in N, because space was hard to come by and the European trains were quaint.

    My wife caught the bug and went wild with a credit card, G (on our deck) and HO (an 8×16 layout I built for her in the basement). I still like N, but at my age, with poor hand-eye coordination, HO is easier. I think N is too small for children, and HO has much more available, locos, rolling stock, accessories at more affordable prices. A train set can be a good start, but one grows out of them quickly.

  105. Terry R
    7 years ago

    I once modeled in “N” Scale and enjoyed crowding lots more detailing into a given amount of space. However, after many years of inactivity (a.k.a. “no trains running”) I switched back to “HO” for the simple reason that my hands shake too much now to do the tiny detailing I once enjoyed.

    The “N” Scale structures and accessories are now being used to provide “forced perspective” — it deepens the depth of view field, making the scenes look so much better.

    I’m no photographer, but think it adds appeal anyway.

  106. Jimbo
    7 years ago

    N gauge is more expensive because its costs a lot more to manafacture on such a small scale, but the good thing is that you can build a large layout in such a small space.

  107. wayne kempen
    7 years ago

    HI,i have all the answers and i agree with all of them thanks Wayne Kempen

  108. Jean
    7 years ago

    I operate in HO and have considered N gauge from time to time. As an engineer (aerospace) I surmise that the N gauge engines are more expensive for two reasons:
    – One, the fine detail of the parts requires more precise manufacturing,thus tooling investment,
    -Two, the number made of any one model is not as large, thus the cost of tooling is not spread over as many units

  109. David
    7 years ago

    Peter, I realize that all the responses previous to my response bring alot of info to digest. i am 60 yrs of age, My first experiences with model railroading started with large gauge equipment.

    When HO came out I delved into it, I like HO. More accessories available, easier to handle, good detail, etc…. however, I now model ‘N’ gauge.

    My reasoning is due to availability of space. Any gauge “starter” kit is to provide a ‘hook’ to pull an individual in to This Hobby. the Locos supplied are ok for beginning.I have priced quality units, track, structures, and Engines.

    It is true that if You seek detail, it is more expensive to own Detailin “N” gauge. If Detail ( Door Handle, Sight gauges, and such are of importance to You) I suggest HO or bigger.If, however You want more action, more loco’s runing,then consider ‘N’ gauge.

    Less space, less expense overall, As in any gauge You choose, their is cost’s that must be considered. an ‘N” gauge engine, as far as size and detail, will run as much as any other gauge you choose, depending on detail.

    I prefer Operation quality, the All operate quality wise depending opon the Cliche, “You get what you pay for”. Remember this Fact, the smaller the gauge, the more delicate the Unites. N gauge is more subject to mishandling, small Chidren, and Canyon Dives.

    N gauge requires Good eyesight, Less space to build, and a Delicate Touch. Just like any other gauge, the satisfaction of Your endeavors is Priceless.

    Dave Gandoff

  110. frank
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter
    First of all this sounds like your buying a train set for your grandson. if i may ask how old is your grand son, if he is younger then five yrs old i suggest a nice thomas the tank set, non powered some thing he can push around and have a blast, if hes eight yrs or older, buy him a nice lionel starter set comes with track transformer and all the instructions.

    now why you say lionel its big enough for him to handle and very tough, little boys can get rough.
    ” n gauge” is too small for his hands and too delicate
    give him something he can play with.
    and the best part is that if he likes playing with trains,that a good place to start

    a small 4 by 8 layout which grandpa can build for him and let him get involved show him how to connect track, how to hook up the wires etc.
    thats my opinon of course
    happy tracking
    the best frank

  111. Bob Maitland
    7 years ago

    All mytrains are in o and o27 and I have 1 in G scale . You can find difrences in both depending on the quality . Just compare some of the Lionel to MTH. I think some of the MTH lower quality locomotives cost as much if not more than some of the higher quality Lionel . I think some of the manufactuers have a lot to do with it too . Just my opinion .
    Bob .

  112. Larry Volzer
    7 years ago

    Dan’s answer is the best one. I am no expert in this size even though I did a great “N” layout. But now I am in 1/8th scale and my railhead is big enough to put N track on. At 72, I find it too hard to see. Probably will never try anything smaller. Larry

  113. Dave Yoder
    7 years ago

    I agree Dan. Sets have cheaper engines and cars.
    It is a good way to get started with kids.
    Later you can add the better stuff.

  114. Ken Borchert
    7 years ago

    As stated above for grandchildren – and the older you get- the hand has to be steady so HO is an asset when setting your loco and cars on the track. I had N scale layout with my father in law, great time small space but as his hands became less steady it took its toll on his patience. So if space is not an issue go with HO.

  115. Larry Bangle
    7 years ago

    I’ve been involved with trains since 1948. I’ve had and still have about every kind of model train made.

    My first train was a lionel 027 steam, as a kid I really enjoyed it. Then I graduated to a (2 rail) American flyer,(the latest fad). Then I discovered N Scale in 1963.

    I finally found an ABBA Santa-Fe passenger train that I could afford in N Scale. The earlier N Scale did not run very well but they were neat. In the beginning Lone Star had rubber band drives, Then aurora came out with three pole motors and rubber band tires for traction. Later they added lead weights.

    Then Kato, Atlas, etc. replaced the three pole motors with five pole motors, and added as much lead as would fit in the shell,making them run ever bit as well as HO.

    Today as a collector I have all scales and brands on the walls and a Garden Railroad outside, but stayed with a 14’X 27′ N scale layout. If I had to choose today at the young age of 73 it would still be N Scale.

    The starter sets have three pole motors, usually cheep metal track,(not nickel silver)and a very cheap toy transformer. As I’m not a (rivet counter) I buy cheap stock cars for the metal wheels and replace the newer plastic wheels on todays cars to make the N Scale ride better.

    For a young boy I would recommend an 027 or HO scale starter set because they are sturdier and you would have a minimum investment. You could always upgrade your running stock if you find out he or she really likes trains.

    I also think all model trains are becoming so prototypically correct that only rivet counting collectors will maybe be able to afford them for the detail that one cannot see. They are toys and should be enjoyed!

  116. Richard Otte
    7 years ago

    Dan,This is not something that is new, I noticed back in the 80s. The manufacturer will put a set together with 2 locomotives ( Fs,GP-38s,and such with one powered and one dummy)With the mistakes that can be made in model railroading I don’t need to by a dummy.

    But what they are doing is selling off over stock of product. You can also look at the cars they sell with the set, they are car that you don’t see on the shelf being alone. The reason is who wants those road names.

    So they are making up for lost money and moving stock no one wants too buy and they need it off their shelves. The pricing is nuts, I what you pay for the locomotive alone I’d rather be able to see my unit test run and put the cars behind it I want for my trade,not have a stock pile of power packs I’ll never use and track that my not fit into my layout.

    Our manufacturers are making purchasing equipment a bigger cost than is needed and when you have manufactures just as much as forcing you to use their equip to operate their product it makes the hobby a chore not a hobby that is meant to enjoy and relax.

    Yes I model in n-scale,have since 1970 and when you almost have heart failure when you look at the cost of a set now, something is extremely wrong. Buy a set used to be the way to get new modelers into our hobby.

  117. Jim M
    7 years ago

    Hi Dan. Have to ask how old is the “kid”. N scale is not for kids. Too small and delicate. If a kid or anyone else is interested or think they might be don’t buy a set. All will be disappointed in short order. Most of the time with those sets they break down or don’t run very well. This is usually due to lack of weight and just plain poor quality. This translates into another lost Model Railroader. In the long run just buy a good engine (no sound), a couple of cars a decent power pack and some track. A switch or two will make a big difference in the enjoyment of running a railroad. More expensive? You bet. However if things don’t work out they could sell what they have on E-BAY or maybe a train show. They would at least recoup some of the monies spent. I doubt you could do that with a cheap set.

    Never run on a carpet. That is asking for more trouble. 1/4 inch or 3/8th plywood will do. Put four wheels on bottom and the layout can be slide under the bed. Mom would like that.

    Why is N-scale just as expensive as HO? Because of the size mostly. The smaller the item the more difficult it is to make the molds and have them to scale. My uncle was a sculptor and when I showed him an HO 0-8-0 steam engine he asked what I paid for it. He was shocked at the price. He figured it should have been much more given all the detail and the fact that these trains are made for a limited number of people world wide.

    Have a great day!


  118. Leslie Howe
    7 years ago

    In general Dan, I agree with you, and with most of the commentary I’ve read concerning the questions of expense and quality of “N” gauge engines.

    I also agree that this also applies to all other scales of trains. A few years ago I discussed this very topic with the owner of one of the several hobby shops an suppliers I was buying from at the time. Yes, a starter set does have a lower quality engine included in the set. The cars included are also of a lower quality.

    They are not considered as “junk” trains, although there are some of these on the market that should be avoided, as this could actually discourage people from buying more trains because of poor quality and performance. The trains I’m talking about are considered “entry level” trains, in the hopes that the user would get further involved in the hobby, and buy higher quality trains later on.

    I was told that when you buy a starter set, you are (in essence) getting most of the set for free because the price you pay for the set goes mostly toward the cost of the engine and the power supply. Much of the rest of the item in the set are sold by the manufacturer for a reduced price.

    This is based on the cost of the individual items in the set, had they been sold as “separate sale items”. Also, most of the items available for “separate sale” are usually of better quality, and also get a better mark-up that benefits the supplier and the retailer.

    As far as the starter sets go, some times it’s almost like having some of these items in the set thrown in for free, to complete the set. The manufacturers usually feel that its worth getting a little less profit on a starter set, if it will interest people in buying bigger, more expensive sets, and other “high end” items later on.

  119. mike
    7 years ago

    N Scale I believe it is expensive. It also requires less space. I can run on a 4×4 foot piece of plywood with N scale what I couldn’t with HO. I’ve bought DCC on Ebay for less in N what I couldn’t in HO. The controlers are the same, and the chips are too. The actual engines and tracks cost less though.

  120. ldsvalley
    7 years ago

    slide scale economics also plays a part. The larger a production run of a product the lower the cost per unit to produce. Also the larger the sales force (points of sales contact not people)the larger the market potential. If you check the larger scales and smaller scales are more expensive then HO. HO commands the largest market share so they have the biggest production runs and thus lowest production costs.

    I started in HO, when I got married I switched to N, then my wife got interested so switched back to HO. During my period in N I watched the prices of engines etc drop in relation to HO as it’s market share increased.

    DCC is increasing the cost of N over HO due to the difficulty in fitting decoders into smaller shells, if you price the N cars vs HO cars they are comparable in price but engines N has gotten costlier by ratio then they had been a decade ago for comparable prices.

    Let me add two last thoughts for you. Depending on your grandson’s age and your space limits HO is a more forgiving scale for small young and for older hands and eyes. They can handle more “oops” events and less frustrating to get on track couple etc.

    Last with the decrease in numbers of beginners getting into trains through the cheap train sets the cost of them has risen in comparison to going to a hobby store and buying better quality. I would suggest you price the two routes before buying. Around here for example you can buy a cheap set, loop of track, 1 engine and 4 cars for $100.00. That’s the price of a half decent engine, add 40 for 4 cheap cars or check out second hand ones, a loop of bigger size track another 40 and a cheap power pack around 20. So a much better engine and track same size power pack and cars will cost you 200 but gives you a solid base to expand.

    My best Christmas present as a kid was a train set. It was also the worst, the engine was so bad I gave up after about a month of trying to get it to run, packed it away, and lost all interest in trains for 13 years. I still have the set however and a book got me back into Model Railroading 20 years ago.

    Hope this looooooonnnnnggggg reply help;s.

  121. Craig L Giovinazzi
    7 years ago

    I don’t model N , but if you look at them , they are petty well detailed for there size. That might be the reason for there high price

  122. dlfehmel
    7 years ago

    Just like shoes, you pay the same for a size two as you would a size nine. “N” Gauge requires a lot more precision to allow it to perform and look like a comparable HO or O gauge locomotive. I believe that “N” Gauge manufacturers can easily justify the high prices that they charge, even though you would only be getting half the merchandise.

  123. David F. Harrison
    7 years ago

    Dan, et al;

    This question pops up again and again. It is actually two questions:
    1) Why does a single item cost more than a set? and
    2) Why do they cost so much anyway?

    The answer is Basic Economics; The Set costs x$ to produce, package and market. Without the item (Loco), the set costs cannot be offset, and therefore costs more, vs. loco cost.
    Manufacturers of sets often price them as including the loco. When sold separately,the loco represents a larger portion if the total cost, which the manufacturer needs to recover.

  124. Roger Pipkin
    7 years ago


    What a great lot of thoughtful responses! I suspect every aspect of the question has been covered at least twice.
    No matter which manufacturer you choose or which scale you like, you must balance Quality, Reliability and Value. How you do this is a matter of judgment and experience.
    If you don’t have a lot of experience, you’re a great candidate for a local club. Or a Mentor with experience. Yes, many do go it alone but I think they miss a lot of the fun in the Hobby.
    However you choose to join in the Hobby, remember that the primary goal is to have fun. Good Luck!

  125. bob estep
    7 years ago

    i really don’t know but i wish they were cheaper that is what i would like to do.but i feel you are getting cheated for such little materail. in them.and they need to make more acc. for n .

  126. TopCat James Clark
    7 years ago

    Kinda off the mark here… but… N-scale appeals to me because the size of HO (rolling stock, buildings, etc.) demands a greater attention to detail in order to look “correct”.

    N-scale, being smaller, looks great out of the box; with respect to quality products. I can spend more of my time building my layout and not sink many hours detailing a few boxcars that in turn will make my other rolling stock, buildings, etc., look “unrealistic” (until detailed).

    This applies to all aspects of building up an HO scale pike. Even “cheap” stuff in N-scale only needs some paint and weathering to look great. No one misses the super fine detail that is actually too small to be seen anyway… not so with HO stuff.

    The quality of N-scale products closes the “detail” gap with every passing year!

  127. Harlan Warden
    7 years ago

    Several good answers have been offered. If you are planing to produce new-production locomotives and cars, you are paying a lot up front for the manufacturer to recover their mold and design costs, not to mention instructions, scheduling of a production run at one of the large factories that do production for the primary manufacturers, packaging, and worldwide shipping.

    True, young kids have yet to each a coordination level where they ca easily re-rail or just put the cars on to the track. A friend built a demo layout to demonstrate scenery techniques for a group of friends, an also get his son started playing with trains. No electricity unless Dad was involved, but the boy (around 3) was able to use dummy locomotives and cars to play on his own.

    Getting started with a young does not need to be expensive. They don’t really understand the details until teen years. Start with a train set from a good manufacturer, add some track components for the layout, and watch for some used or cheap older car models. The little ones notice color, as opposed to road names or accurate models. Save the detailed models for later addition as excitement and experience build.

  128. malcolm
    7 years ago

    The price of N gauge is goverend by enginering, The smaller it is the more precise the tools to make them,so the smaller the loco the bigger the cost.

  129. Toni Olivar
    7 years ago

    From what I have seen there is not much difference between HO and N scale prices, they both run about the same for low-end detailed engines and cars. The higher prices that I do see are generally for highly detailed engines, and they usually have better electric motors. I have also noticed that the engines and cars are made of metal instead of plastic. Another point of higher prices comes from taxes and import fees placed on hardware that are imported from places like Japan, Germany or England.

    I’m sure prices would be somewhat lower if there were more companies in the U.S. producing the smaller scale hardware here instead of outsourcing the work to other countries, because they would not have to pay for the import taxes and fees.

    Companies are out to make money, so they charge higher prices that they think the customer will pay, and charge the higher cost on to the customers who do buy.

  130. Carman
    7 years ago

    In the world of micronization I do not believe the scale really makes a difference to cost.
    It is craftsmanship, quality and components.

    Set trains have much cheaper engines and rolling stock, usually single drivers, unbalance rolling stock. They are there to look pretty and appeal to the kids, the prices are set to accomodate that factor.

    True scale models are better weighted, have the proper number of drivers, more accurate detail and balanced and proportioned rolling stock. Not only are the engines more expensive but the have better components and more durable parts. Even the rolling stock is better designed and better quality, being properly weighted and balanced.

    Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking too it. Model railroading in any scale is down right pricy. To expensive to be making a bunch of mistakes that have to be redone. But there are cheap ways to cover some of the other costs.

    Hope that helped

  131. Alan
    7 years ago

    The Smaller a loco gets and the more detailed it gets the higher ther cost. Engines with more windings, thus more power the higher that cost will be.

  132. Nick
    7 years ago

    thats funy i was planing the layout and noticed i could get track, a locomotive, 3 cars and a power pack for $110 . then i found the cheapest locomotive for $120. this is very wreid!

  133. billie
    7 years ago

    N scale are more expensive because of the size of the parts that go into them and the workman ship and the detailing great way to get started . But consider the age of your grandson and how much room you have, you might want too go a size bigger.

  134. chance
    7 years ago

    there so expensive because of there size and amount of detail. you can get standard dc diesels at walthers on sale for 18-25 dallars.

  135. Peter Lorton
    7 years ago

    I can’t add to whats already been offered, especialy as I don’t know the U S market, but I’ve had some great deals on Ebay for the 00 guage layout I’m building. It’s on a shelf round what was was my Office, with a drop-in section crossing the doorway

    Peter Lorton

  136. Richard
    7 years ago

    I have to agree with Wellington Stoddard. The smaller the size, the more expensive the article. This pertains to almost everything , not just model trains.

    The more you want in an engine or a complete train set, the pricer it gets.

    Because of very limited space, I started with “Z” guage. Do to the very high price of engines and rolling stock, I had to settle for a set with a switch engine, a couple of cars and some track.

    Again, the very small size put the price up a lot higher. I am now a beginner with “HO” guage and I am a lot more comfortable with the price of everything.

  137. Dick Roberts
    7 years ago


    His question was “Why is an engine the same price or more than a set”. Being a retired retailer of 40 plus years and being in the model business for a time, the answer I would give is; sets are produced by a manufacturer to announce a new product or line of merchandise, or to stimulate the sales of a current line.

    It’s true the accessories in the set are usually of a lessor quality but the main item is normally the same quality as is produced by that manufacturer.

    I would buy 50 to 100 sets on quantity discounts so I could actually sell the set cheaper than the engine itself. It doesn’t matter what scale it is, it’s all relative. It’s not always you get what you pay for-you pay for what you want. Hope this helps.

  138. Mike
    7 years ago

    I agree with those of you that say the smaller locos are more expensive because they are more difficult to make. Think of a very expensive thin wristwatch and compare it to a cheap chunky one.

    If you are thinking of the trains for a child I would recommend a larger size. My own grandson enjoyed my ‘oo’ trains from an early age and used to enjoy pushing an engine without a motor round the track. Small hands could not easily manage ‘n’ gauge.

  139. max
    7 years ago

    It takes just as much effort or cost to manufacture N scale as HO. I think it’s the old supply and demand system that dictates the cost of the different scales.

    HO has been sold for so many years theirs a large supply and, N scale the demand is growing and the supply is not as as great as HO. I like to build Z scale/gauge and the supply is so small that any demand for Z scale is great, therefor the cost more than ether HO or N.


  140. Glenn
    7 years ago

    The territory has been covered more than once so there is nothing I can add of any use.
    But…. I do agree that O gauge makes sense for a small child.

    Good luck.

  141. Sam Barr
    7 years ago

    As you all have seen there are many points of view as to why modelling N is more costly.
    However I model in OO due to more realism and smoother, more realistic running speeds.

  142. cory bosley
    7 years ago

    ya dan, I don’t know eather, but it’s always been that way

    besides I will send you a new photo of my layout, I now know that I will put a grass mat on my layout and move things around

    see ya

    p.s keep on smiling 🙂

  143. Glenn E
    7 years ago

    It is great to read that your grandson wants to get into model RR , But first the age of your grandson is one of the main things.

    My dad bought a trainset when me and my brother was born. We didn’t do the layout thing but it came out at Christmas for our layout under the tree. But of course when we got to be a toddler when we went over and picked it up when it was running around, it went into the box till we were older.


  144. Micky
    7 years ago

    The reason behind this question is becasue these locomotives might be more expensive out of a set as they are different from the loco that came in the set because they may be dcc ready or have a silent motor with brilliant slow speed sontrol

  145. Mike
    7 years ago

    Sorry Dan,
    That my father Mike could not answer the question for you. He passed away just this past October. So I hope you were able to help someone with the reason why N gauge is more costly than the other. I wish you the best and thank you for giving my dad pleasure in taking part of your site.

    Katie Horne

  146. Richard
    7 years ago

    Even in HO the set locomotive is usually just the basic and lower end from the manufacturer. The more you pay for the locomotive the smoother running it might be and will probably be more reliable. The sets are designed to get one into the hobby, but I still consider purchasing one every now and then, but mostly now I opt for the various pieces I need or want rather than the complete set.

  147. Hostler
    7 years ago

    Usually the quality of the equipment in a simple train set is lower than the individual equipment from the manufacturers. Let’s use Bachmann as an example. They are going to use their lowest quality locomotive in the train sets that they sell because the train set is designed for play value and will most likely take a lot of abuse. The other side of this coin would be the Bachmann Spectrum line of locomotives are are outstanding in both performance and detail. One Spectrum engine such as the 2-8-0 might cost more than the train set. But the higher end merchandise is directed toward the serious modeler where the set is to the beginer or children. Both have their places in the hobby and they both serve their purpose very well. Most Model Railroaders, no matter how skilled they are in this hobby, will tell you that they got started in the hobby with a train set that they received as a Christmas gift or saved their money as a youngster to purchase.

  148. Rob
    7 years ago

    First, if you’re going to really enjoy the hobby with a young one, especially younger than about 8 or so, I strongly recommend HO scale and not N scale simply due to the size and general fragility of the N scale stuff. That being said there are many factors at play with N scale cost. The tooling is of higher accuracy and lower tolerances, thus more expensive to develop. Second, the technology of the motors and electronics is finer and size and cost ALWAYS have an inverse relationship. Lastly, simple supply and demand drives much of the costs. HO scale is far and away the most popular scale, thus manufacturers can take advantage of greater economies of scale (pun intended?) and produce more units at a lower cost. Z scale is yet more expensive than N. With O scale and larger, the trend seems to reverse again as the sheer amount of materials going into each model, and the lower popularity, again drives prices up past HO. I am an N scaler and have been for 25 years. I accept the higher price and lower performance for the compact size.

  149. Alan
    7 years ago

    If I read the question correctly; it isn’t comparing N gauge to other gauges but rather the cost of a single locomotive versus a packaged train set.

    The answer is two fold. A train set is designed to get you up and running and yes the engine may lack the power or smooth operation of the packaged engine. Often people who buy just an engine are looking for something better. But if it is the same manufacturer and model then look for another reason.

    Another factor; suppose that the engines are the same manufacturer and engine. Train sets generally do sell better than single engines and the engine is the workhorse and most expensive component of the set. Mass marketing of the set allows a lower price tag. But only for a limited time.

    If you want the engine and it is the same one with or without the set, and it is priced cheaper, then buy it. The extra track, rolling stock, and transformer may be crap but useful for secondary or background.

  150. Rampage1955
    7 years ago

    Ok, first, size….. the smaller something is the harder to make and the cost goes up. Second, “Set’s” have a lower quality engine, power pack and rolling stock.

    Also the “Set” is the hook, this is what is going to get you started in the hobby, whatever it is. So the company will take a loss on the profit margin to get you involved. Mind you still a profit, but less. They win in the long run. Even if you decide not to build past the “Set” that have still made money, make no mistake about that.

    Train quality is very much like automobiles, price range for a new car $7,000.00 to well over a Million dollars. Both get you from point A to B, it’s the quality and attention to detail as well as the bells and whistles that make all of the difference.


  151. PAUL
    7 years ago

    In my opinion the engines and rolling stock one gets in the “sets” are good but the better quality ones need to be bought separately.

    My suggestion buy your grandson the set and add on more, later,.

    Not sure of your space and budget but a bigger scale ( HO , 027) might be easier to work with.

  152. evan
    7 years ago

    N gauge is the same cost as any other scale because they both have the same parts.

  153. mike
    7 years ago

    the locomotives sold in “sets”, are not usually very good runners, so you need to compare “apples with apples”. ie. a Kato set, will be dearer than a Kato loco.
    In other words, if you want something that will run well, & last, don’t buy a set, based on price.
    Look for reputable names eg. Kato, Atlas, Intermountain, Athearn, in N scale.
    In HO scale, Atlas make some locos, that are cheaper, because they havn’t got all the detail on them, but still have tha same mechanism, (Trainman range) which makes them ideal for starting out. In fact, I believe they sell these locos in their sets, as well. Atlas is one of the better makes, along with Athearn, Kato, Proto 2000.

  154. Walter Norman
    7 years ago

    Quality is everything when it comes to products. Better performance means more expensive. That’s the way it is.

    Train sets always use the least quality items. They are only for starter sets to get into the hobby & also for kids to get started with.

    As you get further into the hobby, better quality will be wanted & also performance. Prices will also go up.

  155. Richard
    7 years ago

    I am looking for a program to automate my O scale layout, something that will control switches as well as speed. Any suggestions?

  156. Dan Morgan
    7 years ago

    Richard, ask in the forum at http://modeltrainsforbeginners.com/members/community

    Someone there is guaranteed to know.



  157. Kaz
    7 years ago

    Hi! I would say HO is better for a first timer. Parts not so intricate and easier to handle. HO is more mass produced because it is the most common scale used, therefore, it is cheaper! I was thinking of doing N scale this time because I have a smaller space to work in, but apart from the cost, it is harder to find sets and accessories in this scale. I was given my first Hornby HO clockwork set when I was 8. 40 years later (and female), I am still working with HO! Happy Railroading!

  158. Edward
    7 years ago

    I’m sure why N scale locomotives cost as much as a train set (?), if not more, but it’s probably due to the smaller size. I heard somewhere that when something is miniturized, it costs more. I do not know if that’s true or not. But as for a train set, HO scale would be better. You spend a little or a lot, but there will a lot less frustration with an HO scale set than an N scale set. And we need not mention variety in locomotives, rolling stock, structures, etc.

  159. Bob
    7 years ago

    Over the years, when I was younger (and probably smarter) I bought various manufacturers of “N” gauge model trains. I built up a collection of some 20 diesel locomotives and approximately 75 cars of various rolling stock.The engines are of SOUTHERN RAILROAD and CSX livery, and the rolling stock, is from all over. I also have at least 200 feet of track. I realize that my trains are not of the latest type which has horns and/or whistles, and all of that other electronic stuff they are putting in models today.

    What am asking (I realize that it impossible to give a price unless it is described in detail and with photos) is to get some idea of this model equipment is worth. I do not have the time nor the space to fool around with it, as much as I would like too. I have too many other hobbies that has drawn my attention over the years.

    Could someone give me an approximent value of what these trains would bring in todays market.



  160. Dan Morgan
    7 years ago

    Hi Bob, if you ask in the forum at http://modeltrainsforbeginners.com/members/community you will get a great response.


  161. Gerry
    7 years ago

    I agree with what Rob said about HO vs N scale. Modeled in Ho for years and never had a problem in finding product I wanted. This alone removed frustrations when looking for parts. My boys beat these little Ho guys up but still work today. I just finished fixing a Santa Fe 4-6-2. My sons first railroad. It was great to see that loco chugging around again. Best regards.

  162. Gerry
    7 years ago

    Bob regarding N prices I usually go to ebay to get an idea what the shops are asking for new.

  163. gman
    7 years ago

    it take a lot of work to build so small. just look a “Z” is lot more expenive.small the part are more it gone to cost (look at food) more bigger your buy cheap it is??

  164. Steve
    7 years ago

    There is not one thing I could add to all these worthy comments except have fun!

  165. Steve
    7 years ago

    Dear Dan
    I think N gauge is a little expensive because of the tooling I started with Lionel went to Ho than Gave all my Ho things to my grand son to get him started at 8years old Hie has i layout I went back to Lionel and wblonged to Kline collectors club foro there day till the end As I mentioned before I am re doing my basement layoue Doing the baisic sceneey and re laying all my tracks No problems at this time Keep the news letters comming they rar good and helpful I share them with my Grand son

    Steve @ klegathh21@rcncom

  166. Sam
    7 years ago

    First, N scale isn’t very popular. Lionel O (three rail) is better than Athearn N. Plus, all though HO might be more practical, most of the best layouts use O (also three rail) because the people who built them usually can’t see very well(if you can’t see well, the bigger, the better) and because it’s three rail, it’s less frustrating to wire, which is also important if you can’t see well. So, for the sake of you and your grandson, get Lionel O instead Athearn N!

  167. Gary
    7 years ago

    I just love it when people who have never been in the business try to answer a question, it really does have more to do with the business end of things, for instance, if your looking at a Micro Trains train set, ( they do have those in N scale, but they are rare), you will pay every bit as much for that set as you would for the separate components, simply because whether you buy the set, or buy the components of that same set, you are getting a quality product.

    On the other hand, most, let me re-itterate! “MOST”, train sets are of much lower quality than the single units, even in many cases from the same manufacturer, such as Bachman, if you want quality, get your self a good quality steam or diesel engine, say from Kato or Atlas, and for great quality rolling stock, buy Micro Trains, now you did mention that this is for your grandson, N scale and even HO scale might be a little delicate for the ham fisted youngin’s, may I suggest you go with something a little more stout, such as Lionel or MTH in O gauge!

  168. Paul R.
    7 years ago

    I think it is because N scale being smaller that the minuturization makes things more expensive.

  169. the locomotive carafologist
    7 years ago

    As one who builds locomotives in bottles I can tell you the small the tuffer it is to make, also heat become very critical in smaller motors. Think of the heat differance between a desk top computer and a lap top or the price of a desk top and a lap top with same speed and equipment. So the N scale should be no suprise

  170. dave
    7 years ago

    I think several people hit the nail on the head; N and Z are more expensive because of its size (or lack thereof, lol). While it is true that in the past, sets were not as good as individual pieces, that is changing. Atlas, Athearn, and Kato are all putting out sets that are top-quality. For the most part, though, train sets are mostly for beginners, to get them started in the hobby, and thus are not the highest in price or quality. But, it is more or less expected that you’ll “upgrade,” as it were, to more pricey stuff. Now, you’ll pay more for Atlas or Kato than you would for Bachman, Model Power, or Life Like anyway, so if you’re basing your question on that, well, there you go. I get most of my stuff used at train shows (you can get some great deals if you look hard!)

    I personally don’t think any scale is any better or worse than the other; just get what you like and make the most out of it. If you have lots of space, go for O, S, or HO; if you don’t, go for N or Z. It’s all a matter of personal preference, and how much your wife will let you spend (ha, ha).

    7 years ago


  172. Doug
    7 years ago

    Smaller equals the more intricut cut parts and the more time it takes to make these size trains. Imagine an ant farm. The bigger the ant, the bigger the hill and the particles of dirt. The smaller the ant, the smaller the hill. Same amount of particles, different sizes. More work on the small to equal the size of the hill of the larger. To trains the same applies. Smaller means more time, and time equals money. When individually built, more time more money, more consentration on doing something therefore not rushed, better quality. All trains are like this regardless of size. As with life itself, more time with grandkids, more quality the child will have. I have 13 grandbabies. O27 is the only way to go with children of this age. They can handle them with Both hands better than the smaller size. Also, I have a G gauge, HO gauge, and couple of N gauge sets, to watch them hold each tells the tail. If room allows, go bigger, in the long runs it will be better. Grandson 8 yrs old is building his own buildings, and landscape to match size, he couldn’t do this with a smaller gauge due to handling of materials. Have fun with him and Happy Trains to you,,,,, Doug

  173. Fred
    7 years ago

    As a former shop owner and active N scaler this was a question I was asked often. The typical locomotive packed in a set is usually a low priced model, without good speed regulation and only a so-so amount of detail. Thinking of eventually going to DCC, well forget it with most train set locomotives because they don’t have split frames, which is absolutely required down the road.

    The typical locomotive sold separately is either DCC ready or DCC equipped, has better detail or at worse has the split frame needed to eventually go to DCC. However, if you go to the major discounters, you will likely find some of these cheap locomotives and almost any shop will get you one on special order.

    That being said, if you decide to take the contents of a set apart and price each item, you will pay less for the set. That’s just good marketing. The manufacturers know that if you buy a set, you’ll be back for more track, probably a better power pack, buildings, accessory items and scenery supplies.

    Now there are exceptions to all of this. When you purchase a set from the higher end manufacturers like Kato, Atlas or Athearn, you will get one of their stock locomotives
    that has all the features of those sold separately and the set will be priced higher than just the price of the locomotive, but still not as much as the parts sold separately.

    There is a downside to some of these higher end sets. For example, Kato sets come with Kato Unitrack, which is great track but does not match up with Atlas or Bachmann. My personal large layout is about 95% Unitrack and I love it. Athearn sets come with Atlas Tru Track, which is actually Atlas track on special roadbed. Either you continue with this track or be prepared to toss out part of your set.

    Therefore, if you truly compare apples to apples, a locomotive that is like one exactly equal to what is packed in a set is not as expensive as that set. One more thing and that is that some manufacturers offer shops deep discounts on some sets for various reasons such as over manufacturing of the contents.

    Check out this example from Kato back around 2003. They put out a set with one RDC (powered passenger car/locomotive) and an oval of Unitrack, which would list for about $160.00 and they sold it to my shop for $20.00. Enclosed in the set was a coupon, which you could send in with $7.95 postage & handling and they would send you a second powered RDC. I sold those sets for $40.00 (100% profit), but about 25% of list. Eventually, Kato even sweetened the deal by sending me a load of powered RDC’s for free so I could give the customer their second RDC with no coupon and no shipping & handling fee (and of course no wait for the second unit). Deals like that only happen when the manufacturer screws up, which isn’t often. My suggestion to Peter is to keep checking websites of major discounters because you never know when a deal like I just described happens.

    Fred Miller
    Portland, Maine USA
    Former owner of Miller’s Model Trains, Biddeford, Maine USA

  174. Bobmat48
    7 years ago

    Regardless of gauge/scale, an engine in a set is almost always going to be very basic but adequate for starter purposes. Having worked in a hobby shop in the past, it is almost 100% certain that buying everything in a starter set is the way to go. As you progresses from the basic set then you start to appreciate the additional features of engines purchased separately. Especially in N-gauge, the amount of detail and operating features (sound and DCC installed) is mind-blowing, but a manufacturer would never put one of those gems in starter set. The set is just the “teaser” to get you hooked on this wonderful hobby.

    Also, as some of the writers have pointed out, smaller size does not mean lower price. In fact it is usually the reverse. I had to explain this many times to dads coming into the hobby shop thinking, “well it’s smaller so it must cost less, huh?” All you need to do is show them how much detail has been packed into those tiny engines, especially steam locomotives, and ask them what they think the development and manufacturing costs must be – even for Chinese or Japanese production!

  175. yakov from israel haifa
    7 years ago

    dan hi i so the qestion wy n scale is more expencive that ho scale well i can tale you a feu things 1 an n locomotive is small the parts inside is expensive its a special made 2 if its a digitaly the price go more higer some of the ingens take price like full set 3 its wort to ceck out in you locol dealer 4about the ho scale its a difrent parts and motor is biger and to repar an ingen ho its not expensive like n scale 5 before you take a step to repear an scale se if its wort the money 6 to repaer a ho locomotive is easy and also digitaly you dont have to pay like for a holl set

  176. TERRY
    7 years ago

    Answer to question. GREED

  177. rafmtd
    7 years ago

    The small the loco the more complicatd to make and harder to work on where as the larger scale have more materials so that is why the cost is about the same for all gauges . locos in packsets are normall basic one and on there own are more detailed and have lots of extras so by a pack set loco and detail it your self

  178. Ron
    7 years ago

    The cost of N Scale vs HO is analogous to the cost of a lap top vs a desk top. The smaller the more expensive.

    The only actual lower cost of N Scale to the manufacturer vs HO is the amount of material, steel plastic etc that goes into the model. But as one response put it, the detailing in the smaller scale increases the tooling costs which probably more than offset the smaller amount of material.

    I work in N Scale and agree that for a young beginner the larger HO Scale might be a better starting point unless space is an issue.

    I have no experience with sets.

  179. Mitch
    7 years ago

    Hi Peter: All the comments above are saying the same thing and all are mostly correct. But lets be honest here. Areyou looking for a layout for you or your grand son? If you are honestly looking for your grandson than go with “O”. I my self have modeled in most of the scales and I am 77 years old and have chosen “N” as my preference. Don” be fooled Size does matter! As for qualiy stick with a known manufacter for the quality you should start with. If you start with cheaper stuff and it does not perform like you think it should you and your grandson will soon lose interest and that would be a shame to deprive him of the chance to really enjoy model railroading. “MitcH” Happy modeling

  180. Steve
    7 years ago

    Frequently the locomotives are better quality than those in a set. If your grandson is impatient, pruchase a small trolley he can run til the wheels fall off. I built my roster 10 years ago by buying large lots of HO, using what I wanted, either as rolling stock or static in progress pieces. I’m not usually an advocate of E-bay, you might be able to find a set for a reasonable price. Encourage him as you will. My grandson is always after me to get the trains runnin. He’s 8 and almost as impatient as any grown up!

  181. Ashley
    7 years ago

    I agree with Mitch, N scale is way to small for a youngster. Even HO is to small for someone under 10 years of age. Go with “O” gauge for a minor, as he grows progress to the smaller gauges.
    As too cost most train sets”all gauges” are massed produced for the general public and sold in most stores, Dept and toy stores to name a couple. Single locos and cars are better quality, cost more to make thuss higher cost.

  182. Hank
    6 years ago

    I believe all these answers are correct plus you wouldn’t start out with an engine and no track. Anyway, as for an 8 year old and N scale can be ok. I am running n Scale with my grandson who is 7 years old and he’s pretty good with them. I did n because of room but would have gone to ho if I could have. Ho has more to offer and easier to handle.

  183. Bill Reschke
    6 years ago

    If we read the question correctly; it isn’t comparing N gauge to other gauges but rather the cost of a single locomotive versus a packaged train set.
    (1) A train set is designed to get you up and running and the engine may lack some power or smooth operation that the single packaged engine. Often people who buy just an engine are looking for something better. Mostly better operation and finer detail.
    (2) Another factor- suppose that the engines are the same manufacturer and model. Starter train sets generally do sell better than single engines. The engine is the workhorse and most expensive component of the set. Mass marketing of the set allows a lower price tag. But only for a limited time or limited quantity.
    Remember to enjoy the “hobby” and have fun !!!

  184. Peter the Mackem
    6 years ago

    I agree with Rob, if you are choosing a scale to enjoy with the Grandson, OO/HO might be best as he can see the detailing better. N is really small for youngsters to get hold of and from experience with my lads a hands on approach seeing bigger engines etc is best. However if you are restricted for space this might sway your choice.

  185. ray
    6 years ago

    the price of items in U.K. include,s seat price in 1st class, on aircraft from china, of individual items.priceing them out of my reach.but i am in 00.it feels good to get that out of my system.R.

  186. aussie mick
    6 years ago

    I agree with Rob. The devil is in the detail. HO is a great place to start (and continue). N is smaller and more difficult to get the detailling right and Z, oh Lord, Z is a right pain in the caboose!! Both constructing and managing, and in the wallet!! I went to N for a while, but hurried back to HO with my tail between my legs. I have been modelling for 31 years since. Granted the smaller scale of N is a fine product when finished and great for those with layout size limitations…..and all power to those that model N scale, I do admire their achievements, but too hard for these fat fingers and limited patience!!

  187. john
    6 years ago

    it comes down to the tooling of the machines needed to produce such a small scale product/ that makes the cost of a single piece of N scale train more expensive than buying a set of the same scale.

  188. Jack
    6 years ago

    Hi Dan

    I believe like you do and that is if you have a younger person helpping you with you program you will fine that a younger person can’t handle to N Scale like they can the HO Scale. The price is pretty much the same has HO, but you find that the items are a lot smaller and hard to handle.

    See ya,


  189. david
    6 years ago

    i use n gauge,you get what you pay for,i would never use second hand engines, you need a good engine. most of my locos are good quality,as for price you pay you get a guarantee,so enjoy.i was thinking about buying a train set,but after reading about the quality of the sets,im not so sure

  190. Matt
    6 years ago

    Basically, the starter sets are usually made with entry-level components. This keeps the costs down just in case the starter set is as far as it goes. This has been the marketing model for toy/model trans for nearly a century. A good example of this is O gauge/O scale. Your basic starter sets can be had for under $200 (U.S.) for a locomotive, a few cars, track and small transformer (no sound or inexpensive whistle/horn system and no command control.) MTH took a slightly different approach and made a more expensive starter set (about $300) but included full sound and command control to pull people into both the full command control system and the higher-end products. Higher end locomotives, however, sell for $450-$600 for a diesel and about $1,000-1,600 for steam — serious modeler territory (modernly, these locomotives are available in 2-rail and 3-rail,) the command control hand-held remote and track interface sell for $300, and a high-powered transformer sells for $400 — serious hobbyist/modeler territory.

    Even when I dabbled in N scale almost 40 years ago, I found starter sets for under $25, but locomotives wee about $15-$25 each. I noticed, though, that they had more detail, more weight, and smoother drive trains than the ones in the starter sets. That’s where the costs come in. This pre-dates all of the command-control features built into locomotives now.

    It’s difficult to hold your grandson back, so the best bet is to steer him in the right direction — patience, choosing equipment wisely, shopping around (Internet) and focusing on scenery/layout design instead of equipment acquisition. This will keep the costs down. Hope this helps.

    Matt Jackson
    Angels Gate Hi-Railers Model Railroad Club
    San Pedro, California

  191. Thomas Everest
    6 years ago

    Hi Dan and Friends

    its probably more expensive because its smaller and mor expensive to make

  192. sooty
    6 years ago

    I have to agree that the smaller the item the more costly it will be because of the extra work involved in perfecting the tooling,with the detailing being smaller it takes a lot more time to bring the mould to a satisfactory finish (I am a toolmakers assistant by the way).

  193. Al
    6 years ago

    N gauge scale are so expensive for their size because of the great amount of detail on such a small scale that goes into each car.

  194. Paco Gayon
    6 years ago

    Am new in the hobby, but I have not find a noticiable difference. I have purchase some engines for about $ 65.00 and of course, some with the oldeer couples, fro half that price. I seen HO locomotives for about the same price. Of course there are highr quality like in everylthing.
    shop at the shows.

  195. Gary Nicholas
    6 years ago

    Hi Dan
    As for N scale model being as costly as full scale models .
    I think its becase N scale still has a lot of detail put into it more costly for any
    miniature model .
    You pay for the life like details .
    I hope this will help.
    Take care Dan
    Gary Nicholas

  196. Gary Nicholas
    6 years ago

    Can anyone tell me where to look for more structures and backgrounds
    on the 50s and 60s era.
    towns, homes, trucks,
    Thank you for your time.
    Gary Nicholas

  197. Ray Howard
    5 years ago

    I do not think that the loco’s are of a lesser quality, certainly Graham Farish make superb engines and rolling stock. As for expense, not sure I can answer that but as I have said here before it depends on the amount of room you have to build a decent layout. If you really get into the hobby then you will find that you go all out to make the layout as detailed as possible, sometimes to the detriment of the actual trains and it is the scenic side that takes over. N is fiddly but satisfying where space is at a premium, but without a doubt 00 is the king. Make sure however that you have the space to expand an 00.

  198. Matthew Gilbert
    5 years ago

    Well I model in HO scale but it depends on the quality of the single locomotive. Some manufacturers make low quality locomotives. The loco’s you may be looking at may be one of two things or both: 1) they are low quality locomotives 2) They are the standard or budget line of locomotives from a certain manufacturer. I hope that this has helped.


  199. Bill Kral
    5 years ago

    Hi Peter and Grandson,
    You didn’t tell us what brand or make of N scale sets you have checked out but I’m not familiar with makers of N besides Kato but a train set probably has a loco that was not made by any of the American or European makers.And like everybody else here said a set is less expensive than a single loco to get the younger first timers interested. T he high end companies don’t throw a bunch of things into a box as sets for the kids to play with.Bill

  200. Larry
    5 years ago

    The train sets or starter sets have cheaper engines included for promotional packs. They have 4 pole motors and do not run as well as the individual engines that have 5 pole motors and run lots smoother.

  201. Rod Powell
    5 years ago

    Dan, a very good question. I have modelled in N and have become aware of the high cost.To get a detailed loco at this scale that pleases the eye is very cost intensive for tooling the moulds for manufacture. Also the working parts are very small and require great skill in assembly. Should you damage such a model by dropping then be sure that some parts will never work properly again. Not a gauge I would reccomend for children or beginners. To start i suggest oo or Ho as a good safe size. Now I model in O which for me is the perfect size, though again very expensive, but you end up with models that are highly detailed. Hope I have been able to help in some way. Rod

  202. RAY SEAY
    5 years ago

    Well, the question applies to all scales actually. The set exist as the entry point of the hobby.The Locomotives in the sets are the basic units model that will run and pull rolling stock. The in this case “N” locos in the hobby shops & Catalogs are the best, with better engines and those listed as DCC, gets it’s sound card which is often more money than the actual engine, just as a better sound card on your PC will be more cash than the one installed.. .

  203. Chuck
    5 years ago

    Sets and locos are worlds apart regarding their value. An inexpensive set gives you the whole train setup minus landscaping. What it does though for kids especially is the joy of putting together all the pieces and watching the first time the engine tugs the cars around. For the first time I dont think there’s anything like it. Okay so one or two things but still it’s a heck of a lot of fun in a box. Once you’re hooked on model trains which the train set is designed to do you will gladly pay the price for that exquisite loco of your desires. That is unless you’re on a tight budget and then you just hang pictures. You should see my wall!

  204. Pedro de Barros
    5 years ago

    The explanation I got when I asked the same questions was:Especially on steam engine,and it would apply to other diesel ans electric,was that the amount of precision detailed worked that as to be done in the manufacturing such a small scale,is more difficult than the other scales/gauges-OO/HO etc.

  205. Max Thompson
    5 years ago

    I too feel that N gauge is far too expensive for what you receive.

  206. Raymond Noble jr.
    5 years ago

    If you think that cost a lot, Try O scale, I never thought the trains I played with would ever cost this much and now that I have my grandson into it, It leaves me looking at flea markets and ebay for the things we want to do.

  207. Tom
    5 years ago


    Yes Dan I agree with what you said. However, if one is willing to shop around (online) one can usually find what they want at a reasonsble and far price. Whether it be purchasing a train set or purhasing individual items. The important thing is to stay within your means and the size available. That is most important. One can be proud of their model railroad no matter what the size or the cost.


  208. craftypeter
    5 years ago

    Hello Peter;
    The answer to your question is encompessed in several different areas; design, tooling, production,materials, marketing, and, profitability.
    While the N scale is smaller, the same number of parts (materials),go into each locomotive. These must be stamped or moulded using the same processes as their larger counterparts. While, due to size, their manufacture may use a slightly smaller amount of materials, the other costs remain about the same. Additionally, any hand work, (assembly and/or detailing), will be more labor intensive, due to size. The fact that the smaller units are priced around the same as the larger sets is indicitive of a marketing strategy, as is mentioned by Dan, and several others.
    I hope this gives you the answer you are looking for

  209. BigBoy Jeff
    5 years ago

    As in all things, the smaller the object with intricate detail, the higher the price. As for the quality of the locos in sets, the Atlas and Bachman sets could be said to be of lesser quality when compared to a KATO set. I have 5 KATO engines and the detail on them and their performance is superb.

  210. Bud
    5 years ago

    Dan, that was a good answer.

  211. Bill Cantrell
    4 years ago

    The smaller scale might be more costly to make because of the size, quality being comparable. Biggest factor is HO is much much larger volume compared to N or O. High volume normally means lower cost.

  212. fluro
    4 years ago

    i had no idea that n scale trains were dearer than ho i suppose you get what you pay for my train is super cheap a chassis and a series of plates a light and wiring very basic and cheap cheap one day i will buy myself a good quality train and be blown away with the difference cheers fluro

  213. Ron Inman
    4 years ago

    n and z scale may be higher in price because the smaller the parts are ( the gears, motor, and other precision parts) the more precise and the harder the parts are to make. It takes more skill to make these parts.

  214. Kevin
    4 years ago

    Thats because a lot of the equipment sold in sets is at the bottom end of the manufacturer’s range. The manufacturer also discounts sets quite heavily, knowing that he will make the money back on all the future add on sales.

    Better quality equipment costs more money, simple.

  215. builder Kim
    3 years ago

    True what Dan said.The smaller the more detail is in need.more expensive for any decoder if any.I find Ho scale has more option’s than N scale.Easier to make your own builds with Ho scale.The smaller the scale more cost is needed to reach that fine quality.I thought of N scale.And im a scratch builder.But building for N scale is taxing my eye sight and hand tremors lol.Guess it all depends on how much space you have.Not even sure they make decoders for N scale.I did a build for a friend who has N scale.He asked me if I would build him a tardas like in doctor who.I did but lost the tardas was so small.I found it 2 days later.I was wondering what the heck is that blue thing stuck to my dogs butt.I untangled it and found it was that tardas I had built for my friend stuck to my dogs butt.No he didn’t get the tardas was flattened by my dogs rump.I know this has nothing to do with N scale but thought it may give a laugh.

  216. Rangeryder
    3 years ago

    Question: Why are “N” gauge locomotives just as (if not more) expensive than a full set?

    In today’s world, it is a matter of economics. While I can not post here a chart showing the number of “users” who are engaged in the various types of trains (whether you select scale or gauge), it would be evident the “n” gauge has a smaller community.

    Looking at this realistically, some one engaging in a N gauge set up generally falls in to a limited space environment, an possibly an economic one too.

    Manufacturers wanting to sell there product (N gauge trains) will market a starter set with a “good quality” engine, and a set of appropriate cars, tracks, controller and some scenery. This “cheap” set is just that; low cost to manufacture and sell to the public. While the cars and track, controller and scenery are probably of standard quality, the Engine is not.

    If we disassemble the engine and compare it with a moderately prices engine, we might fine difference in motor windings, bearings, actual construction of the drive train, etc. Another factor introduced (and generally overlooked by the buyer) is an understanding of the controller – basically Analog drive vs. (more expensive) Digital drive. So UNDERSTANDING this hobby and your desires becomes a financial choice and also determines the longevity of the hobby.

    Personally, I like N scale. One of my biggest gripes is in visually display of layout’s on web sites.
    Unless there is a point of reference, it is difficult for a viewer to tell what scale you are looking at.
    And the larger the scale (or gauge) the easier it is to create the display.

    Contrary to belief, it does cost more to create a miniature version of something. Tooling for that small engine, requires special tools, thus added cost. In addition, the ability to give the engine the power to do the job, and space to pack the “electronics,” etc. While the engines are expensive, shopping for DEALs, can be a cost saver.

    That engine that came with the started set might be able to pull 8 or ten cars, hopefully keep them on the track, The expensive engine, probable pull 25+ cars and keep them on the track (hopefully using a DCC.)

    Lastly: many comments are noted… buying the train sets for kids….. lets be real; there’s going to be a big kid here (mom or dad) and they will determine whether its a toy, or a hobby. Little kids do not have the dexterity to handle trains in the N gauge or smaller (maybe the HO scale too.) That’s why REAL trains are a hobby and not a toy.

    3 years ago


  218. Roger
    3 years ago

    I am not sure about the question, myself.
    But, I think, it is because the “N” scale is smaller and more intricate to work on. I have wondered the same question, but this is my thoughts. I model both “N” and “HO” scale. More “HO” than “N” because of the cost, but I tike both of them
    I, do, enjoy your Newsletter.
    Very interesting, and helpful.

    Thank you,
    Roger Phillips

  219. Keith Ranker
    3 years ago

    Dan, you are right. Most train sets I’ve seen these days are by Bachman. They used to be on the cheap end of quaulity, but judging by the most recent prices I’ve seen, they seem to have increased their quality. Like you said in your book, you get what you pay for.

  220. Marlin L. Stevens,Sr.
    2 years ago

    N scale is to intricate, machine, put together, repair, host of other problems, along with time setting up, go Ho, marlin

  221. Miniaturisation is expensive (‘N’ Guage) and the Locomotives in the SETS are definitely NOT of the quality of the individual items, but are ideal for beginners o get them going in a fantastic hobby, and the sets are usually aimed at youngsters, so I agree with you totally Dan!!

model trains for beginners