Large scale modeling is awash in many different scale trains that all run on G-Gauge track. Early on I was always confused about who made what scale and occasionally purchased something that did not look right when placed next to my other pieces. So I created this article to act as a cheat sheet on different Scales.
Here is a graphic I’ve run across on numerous pages so I cannot provide proper attribution to the source. It goes along way to provide context to the scale issues we have in G-Gauge modeling.
Remember, the distance between the rails is the “gauge” and the size of the model compared to the real-life prototype is the “scale”. It’s unfortunate but you will have to get used to these terms being used (however incorrectly) interchangeably.
Now I mentioned that sometimes mixing scales can look a bit odd. But the next time you see a passing freight train notice how different some of the cars look in terms of size. One size does not fit all in the real world and that can easily extend to our model layouts. As long as it looks good to you, go with it!
Here is a list of the scales in model trains (right up the real thing):
1/160 – N scale, teeny tiny
1/87 – HO scale – 2nd number getting smaller, trains getting larger.
1/48 – O scale – larger still. The three rail Lionel trains are O scale.
1/32 – larger than “O” and the smallest of “large scale” trains.
1/29 – more popular than you might think.
1/22.5 – larger than 1/32 scale, smaller than 1/20.
1/20.3 – this is the sweet spot for me, largest of the “large scale” trains.
1/10 scale – the train is 1/10 the size of the real thing…big!
1/8 scale – also called “1.5 inch scale”… the “ride on” size live steamers…bigger!
1/2 scale – half the size of the real deal, REALLY big!
1/1 scale – full size – as big as it gets.
Now, as to which Large Scale manufacturers make stuff in what scale:
AristoCraft: everything Aristo is 1:29, except their Delton/Classic line, which is 1:24.
Bachmann: rolling stock generally is 1:22.5, except for one V-dumper, and the 20-foot cars which are allegedly 1:20, but aren’t really. Bachmann also has their Spectrum line of engines and rolling stock that I’m told is kinda, pretty much, 1:20.
Hartland: is generally 1:24.
LGB: started as 1:22.5, then just started calling their stuff “suitable for large scale”.
MTH: is all 1:32.
USA: all recent USA new stuff for sale is 1:29.
If I’ve left out your favorite manufacturer just drop me a line and I’ll update the list. Ditto for any scale I’ve omitted that you think deserves mention.
8/6/2011 – Dan points out that MDC is always 1/32 even though they sold the business.
USA work cars/maintenance are 1/24 to the best of Dan’s knowledge.
(Originally posted 6/17/2011, revised 3/8/2013)