What is HO Scale in Model Trains?

model train
We’ve all said it at least once in our life, “I need to get a hobby”.
There are many people who actually do more than just think about it.
One hobby that continues to create enormous interest involves HO scale model trains.
These small locomotives have fascinated hobbyists for years and many families lovingly hand their train sets down from one generation to the next.
You can find everything you need at your local hobby store, or in today’s age, the internet is a great source for finding everything you need to design and build a very realistic HO layout.
HO scale is the most popular size for a model train layout.
The term actually stands for half of an O and is a reference to the O models that are 1/48 the size of a real locomotive.
This means HO scale is 1/87th the size of real trains.
This makes it twice the size of the 2nd most popular scale model, the N scale.
Since HO scale model trains and accessories have the most appeal this makes them the series that has the widest variety of parts and accessories.
When you start your new hobby, the locomotive is considered by many people to be the most important purchase.
These HO trains run on standard tracks with a gauge of 16.5 mm.
Electricity runs through these tracks, and this is picked up and transmitted through the wheels on the locomotive. This means that the construction and undercarriage design of the locomotive should be of a high quality.
Some locomotives only use their front 2 wheels to do this, while those that are of better quality use all of their wheels to pick up the electricity.
If you plan for your HO scale model trains to be pulling many cars, or if you are building a large layout, you will have less trouble with locomotives of higher quality. You will also need a power pack that can supply enough electricity all the way around your layout. This purchase is another important factor to consider.
The HO model trains have a track that can be purchased either with or without a base.
The tracks with bases are easier to put together, but the track without bases look more realistic.
Most HO model train enthusiasts eventually will end up using a track that has no base. This is because with HO scale hobbyists the realism of their layout and accessories always becomes their main priority.
When it comes to accessories for your HO model trains the sky is indeed the limit.
Adding landscaping, tunnels, roads, cars, buildings, and scenery will add realism and visual appeal to your layouts and they are all widely available in this scale. It is important to spend some time designing the HO layout that you want, before you dive head on into the project.
Take your time and plan each step of the process.
You can purchase buildings and other accessories that light up, create sounds, effects and more. This is why wiring the electricity throughout your HO layout is an important factor to consider. Regardless of how you style your HO scale layout, you are going to have a great time wearing that train engineer’s hat.

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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 (1 comment So Far)


  1. Mel Abrams
    7 years ago

    Dan, Sorry I have not answered. I like n scale, have been collecting since mid 1970. Am just about to get a room 8×19 for a modelroom. So far have cleaned it out and painted the walls. Need to paint the floor then start bench work. Mel

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