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Guide to N Scale Model Railroads

There are many reasons to choose N Scale as your preferred scale for a Model Railroad Layout, space limitations being an obvious decision maker..

N Scale trains are considerably smaller than their HO scale equivalents but are larger than Z- Scale as shown in the following picture:



The important thing to realize right from the start, is that N Scale trains require more subtle and careful handling to avoid damage to the delicate detail parts.


This Article has been written with the idea to provide you with some general guidelines and tips for making the best of your investment in N Scale trains.

One of the less obvious issues when starting out with N Scale relates to some minor differences in physical sizes, which occurs due to differences in manufacturing standards used in various countries. While this should not be considered as a distractor from the scale, it is nether less good to be aware of this.

The following chart outlines Known differences:

USA / Europe / South Africa

Most products are manufactured and supplied to the 1:160 scale.This is the most common size available.


While there are several sizes used in Australia, the majority of tracks are 9mm gauge.Some collectors have used Z gauge tracks for Queensland Railways’ Nn3 models.

United Kingdom

In the UK, N scale is commercially manufactured to a scale of 1:148.The 2mm track gauge is commonly used in the United Kingdom. Keep in mind this does not reflect the track’s actual measurements, but means “2mm per foot”, which would be 1:152. An older scale used in this country was referred to as the “Treble-O” or “OOO,” which also resulted in a 1:152 proportion.


N Scale trains manufactured for the Japanese market measure 1:150 for trains that are between 1,067mm and 1,372 mm.Interestingly the Japanese use the 1:160 scale for bullet train models.

It is usually possible to make a train from one variant scale work with pieces from another variant or the standard scale. However, some collectors wish to purchase only pieces from the standard scale or only pieces from a specific variant of the N scale. Before making any final decisions about scale variants or before making any purchases, it is important to research what is available. Pieces for certain variant scales may be difficult to find in some countries, so it would cost more to have them shipped from the countries where they are more common.
Now that you have a basic understanding of some differences in N Scale, we will continue this Article by presenting some general guidelines for Getting started in N Scale:


1. Railroad Layout Preparation

  • You should be aware that some layout setups are more complex, than others, which may require more time and greater skill.
  • SO for example will a railroad set with multiple tracks, loops, and crossings be more difficult to assemble than a single oval track layout – but this makes sense in any scale, right?
  • The point being that as with any scale, N Scale layout should be similar to HO, with the primary difference being the size! As with an y scale, you will find that one incorrect placement may result in a time-consuming troubleshooting process.
  • If you are unsure how to continue, you can refer to any of the available books, magazines, articles and even videos on the topic.


2. Secure the N Scale Model Railroad Base

  • Since N Scale is well, lightweight, it is important to have a sturdy/secure base.
  • Any table or stands that wobble or are not very heavy should not be used.
  • It is helpful to choose an area where there is not a large amount of foot traffic. This is especially important if the train will be set up close to the floor.
  • If a covering is used, there should not be any loose fibers that could get caught in the train’s mechanical parts. Many model railroad enthusiasts recommend using Tyvek sheets for top covers. This durable material is free of fibers and will not tear.
  • When a base is already set up, it is easier to determine how much space is available for building a railroad set. Keep the base’s measurements in mind when choosing accessories and track pieces.
  • For those who plan to expand their setups in the future, it is important to use a table that can be drilled.
  • It is usually necessary to make multiple holes for connecting wires when building a larger railroad.


3.  Your first N Scale Model Railroad

Here is another Article on this topic to help you get started

  • First time buyers who “blindly” purchase multiple intersections and loops often regret their decision. Some may even become frustrated enough to give up. To avoid frustration, start with a simple setup.
  • It is still possible to purchase the desired items for the railroad, but any items that make the setup more complex should be set aside for later use.
  • The most important pieces to start with are a locomotive, simple track links, and a power supply.
  • Alternately, why not start with a “starter kit”
  • Start by following the directions for setting up the track. Before connecting it to the power supply, make sure all of the wires are attached correctly.
  • In addition to this, it is helpful to wipe off the track pieces with a fiber-free cloth that will not scratch the surface.
  • The locomotive should also be gently wiped with the cloth. This will help remove any debris or dirt left over from the packaging process.
  • If you have used locomotives and tracks, you may need to clean them more thoroughly. To do this, a simple technique is to use a rubber eraser and rubbing alcohol for removing corrosion or discolored spots on the tracks.
  • Make sure the locomotive’s wheels are clean and free of dirt before placing it on the tracks.

4.  Model Railroad Test Run

  • After setting up a simple railroad, put the locomotive on the tracks.
  • Make sure its wheels are aligned correctly. Gently move it forward and backward a few times. If it does not move easily, it is not properly aligned.
  • Once it is aligned, plug in the power supply and Turn the track on to see if it works. If it does not work properly, retrace the setup steps.
  • Once you have set up your tracks and have verified that they work, it is possible to move on to more advanced steps.


5. Design your Model Train Track Plan

  • Once you have learned how to set up basic track and can verify that it works, the next step is developing plans for your bigger railroad.
  • You should spend time researching scenery and track plans to decide which ones fit individual preferences and abilities. During the process, it is important to regularly compare possible pieces to the available table space.
  • All track layouts should be marked on the table to ensure they will work.
  • It is better to plan the track layout before planning the scenery. Since most scenery pieces can be moved easier, they should always be the last concern. However, some builders who are concerned equally about scenery and have complex plans that would require reaching too far over the track may need to add some scenery pieces first.
  • Once the plans have been checked to fit the table, the building process can begin.

6. Building N Scale Model Railroads

  • During the building process, it is important to test the track as it is being expanded. This will make it easier to identify problems. For example, a person who sets up a track without testing all of the pieces may find that it does not work when the power switch is flipped. However, a person who tests the track will be able to identify a faulty joint or pieces that should not be touching much faster with diligent testing.
  • It is important to keep safety a priority by remembering to unplug the power supply between testing sessions. Any time wires or pieces are touched, the power should be off for personal safety.
  • You should keep your working spaces free of dirt during the building process.
  • It is always best to build slowly and avoid rushing through any steps.
  • Remember to refer to books, magazines, online tutorials, or any accompanying manuals to ensure that you are constructing your railroad properly.



Since there are a wide variety of trains and accessories to choose from, the process of building a model train track will vary for every person.

Taking the time to research building plans and item options will pay off in the end for large-scale projects.

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