N Scale Model Trains - Advantages and Disadvantages

Published: 09th February 2011
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Model trains come in a variety of sizes or scales. One of the most popular is the N scale which ranges from 1/148 to 1/160 the size of a real train. Putting it in perspective, a 70 foot locomotive would be about 5-1/4" to 5-5/8" long.



With small size, there are both advantages and disadvantages. Let's start with what people like about N scale trains.



First, N scale model trains can fit just about anywhere. A simple oval loop setup could be placed on a 2'x8' or even a 3'x5' piece of plywood. In fact, N scale model trains have been referred to as "Table-top Trains" because they can fit on top of a kitchen or dining room table. This makes model trains much more accessible for those people who don't have a lot of space -- you won't need a spare room or basement to have a nice set-up when using N scale.



The second advantage is that because of the size, you can develop a more elaborate setup in the same amount of space than you could with the larger scale trains. Whereas a 4'x8' setup for the next larger size, the HO scale, would not be much more than a loop or figure 8, an N scale could have one or even two relatively complete scenes with spiraling tracks and multiple levels. Because of this, model train hobbyists with limited space can really fall in love with N scale model trains. N scale lets them really create a full, complicated world.



A final reason that people enjoy N scale trains is precisely because they are so small. It's the same reason people like miniature toys of any type. It's fascinating that these small machines actually work and hard to believe that such a small world actually exists and can be so beautiful.



There are some drawbacks to N Scale model railroads though:



First, they are just too small for some people. Whereas some people like miniatures, others prefer to be able to feel weight and heft of the larger scale trains. Additionally, the actual sounds made by N scale trains on the tracks is higher pitched than those of the larger and heavier trains scales. N scales just don't have the same "feel" of weight, that many enthusiasts want from their models as they try to re-create real life trains.



Another disadvantage is one that points to the pride of workmanship. Many modelers justifiably take pride in their work - they can spend many hours over many months or even years trying to develop a layout. Unfortunately, because N scale train setups are oftentimes in such small areas, the amount of work that went into creating that scene, easily equivalent to the larger layouts, is just not appreciated by others who may come to see it. At model train shows, smaller N scale layouts are easy to overlook if they're near a larger one.



An aspect of N scale trains that gets overlooked is that they are hard to detail once you get them home. If, for example, you're a person who likes to weather trains, it's more difficult to make that weathering realistic on an N scale than on even the next size up, the HO scale train.



N scale models are probably too small for many smaller children to play with as they may not have the fine motor skills needed to work with them yet and, for even younger children, are possible choking hazards. On the other hand, adults with large hands may find them too difficult to work with simply because they're too small.



Finally, N scale model trains, although popular, aren't as common as HO. Because of this, the selection is smaller and there are fewer resources directed specifically to N scale trains.



All in all, N scale trains definitely belong in the train modeling community. For many model railroad enthusiasts, the advantages outweigh any disadvantage and they enjoy these beauties for hours on end.



Dave Staples is a railroad model enthusiast. To learn more valuable information and tips about Model Railroads, visit his site at www.ModelRailroadInfo.com

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