We all know that guage and scale are not the same thing. You can run different scales of trains on different guages of rail. The 'realness' of any given scale on any given guage depends on who you talk to.
Full size railroads run on 56 1/2 inch guage track. The scale is, by definition 1:1 or 12 inch scale. Engines weigh many tons and cost big bucks and I don't have room for a full size train layout in my back yard. There are lots and lots of sites dedicated to full size railroads. This is not one of them.
Narrow guage railroads run on smaller track with typical guages of 48 inch, 36 inch and 24 inch. I will post links on narrow guage railroads if I ever research them. Even so, engines are big and expensive and I don't have room for a narrow guage train layout in my back yard.
Amusement park railroads typically run on 15 inch guage, 18 inch guage or 24 inch guage rail. Scales vary if used at all, but I have seen references to people building half scale (or 6 inch scale) narrow guage layouts on 18 inch guage track. Some commercial trains use 3 inch scale on the same 18 inch guage track. Prototypical scale for a standard enging on 18 inch guage would be about 4 inch scale. A flyer for commercial amusement park equipment built long ago had an engine for a 15 inch guage track weighing in just over 2000 pounds and selling for $5000. Their engine for 24 inch track weighed in just over 7000 pounds and sold for $12000. Thus, even a layout on a 15 inch guage track seems to be a bit large for my back yard.
A magazine dedicated to "grand scale" (> 12 inch) railroads is Grand Scales Quarterly which may be of some interest.
I saw a few references to some 10 1/4 inch guage systems in the UK. These look kinda interesting. I will have to follow up on them some time.
Many people are investing in what is known as 1 1/2 inch scale or 1.6 inch scale equipment that runs on either 7 1/4 or 7 1/2 inch guage track depending on which part of the country you live. This is sometimes called "live steam" trains even though you can get live steam on track as small as Guage 1 and many of the 1 1/2 inch scale equipment is gasoline or electric. This section will get more work as I continue my investigation. The worst part about this size is that there are so many different variations and no standard name for it. Does it run on 7 1/4 inch guage track or 7 1/2 inch guage track? Should the scale be 1.5 inches per foot or 1.6? It is even worse than the misnamed "G guage" where at least the guage is standardized even though the scale is not. In any event, size 7 as I will call it engines can be purchased for as little as several thousand dollars new (typically 4-8k for basic items) with rolling stock going for a thousand or so per car with trucks and couplers. Highly detailed scale models will often cost far more. An engine will weigh hundreds of pounds and can be handled by several strong people. Track goes for 5-10 dollars a foot in 10 foot sections. Small trains can navigate turns as tight as 15 ft radius with 30-40 ft radius considered comfortable. Size 7 trains can comfortably transport people or equipment. People can sit on 18 inch benches with little difficulty. One periodical of interest might be The 7+ Railroader.
One inch scale is considered the smallest you can reasonably ride. People ride one inch scale trains much as you would ride a horse. One inch scale trains run on 4 3/4 track and common 1:12 models found in most hobby shops make pretty good scenery. Places to look for one inch scale include Riding Railkits and 1 " Scale Railroad Supply.
Guage 1 is 45 mm or just under 2 inches between rails. You "can" get real motors (not electric) on that spacing. You can read about my Guage 1 system on my guage 1 page.
Guage 0 - ... tbd
Smaller stuff - I had some N as a kid, my brother had HO. It gets even smaller. It is good for under the bed or in the garage systems. There are MANY sites dedicated to model railroading, and these are the sizes that most cover.
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Last updated on 03 October 2001.
Copyright © 1998-2001 by Michael Spann.