Scale and Gauge Explained in Plain English
The first thing that any model train hobbyist should know is about scale, and gauge. Scale refers to the actual size of the train engine, cars, and accessories.
They can be small enough to easily fit on a office desk top, or large enough for a garden railway. Scale is also referred to in letter form.
For example, 'G' scale train models are 1:24 scale, which means it is just one twenty-fourth the size of a real locomotive. These are often found with train hobbyists who lay out their model trains in a back yard setting, such as interwoven through gardens, and other landscaping.
HO scale is 1:87, and is ideal for many new beginners, as well as many other hobbyists. It is small enough to fit well with many different layouts, yet big enough for the average person to handle, and they show well.
This is the most commonly used scale in the model train world not only because of its versatility, but also because parts and accessories are easy to find. The detail ability is perfect and there is a large range od products available across the world.
The 'Z' scale is a mere 1:220, meaning it is 220 times smaller than a real train. As mentioned earlier, this size is ideal for a desk top lay out, but it is so small in size that they are difficult to work with, and are not in wide use.
'N' scale ranges from 1:148 to 1:160. In all cases, the gauge (the distance between the rails) is 9 mm (0.354 in). The term N gauge refers to the track dimensions, but in the UK in particular N gauge refers to a 1:148 scale with 9 mm (0.354 in) track gauge modeling. The terms N scale and N gauge are often used interchangeably. An advantage of N scale is that it allows hobbyists to build layouts that take up less space than HO scale, or put longer track runs into the same amount of space, because the models are smaller (by nearly a half) than they are in HO scale (1:87). But N scale is quite small and so what you gain in layout length you can lose out on the fine details of the bigger scales.
T scale is 1:450 and is the smallest available scale of them all.
The next part about model trains is gauge. While this is often confused with scale by many beginners, it is NOT the same as scale, and mixing up the two will definitely anger experienced train buffs.
What gauge measures is the distance between the trail track rails. For a simple example, if you have a 9gauge train track, this means that there is nine millimeters of space between the inside of the rails.
In this case, the bigger the gauge, the bigger the space. Now while this may seem confusing, don't worry.
00 gauge or 00 scale (also spelled OO gauge and OO scale) model railways are the most popular standard-gauge model railway tracks in the U.K. This track gauge is one of several 4mm-scale standards (4 mm:foot / 304.8 mm or 1:76.2) used, but it is the only one to be served by the major manufacturers. Despite this, the 00 track gauge of 16.5 mm (0.650 in) is notoriously inaccurate for 4mm scale, and other gauges of the same scale have arisen to better serve the desires of some modellers for greater scale accuracy
Having model trains would be really boring if all it entailed was a train engine moving along a track. That is why a model train can include many different train cars, passenger cars, hoppers, and tank containers, just to name a few.
Then there are all the layout accessories, trestles, miniature people and vehicles, as well as buildings and scenery. The possibilities are really only limited to your imagination.
You can even create your own landscaping ideas, with plastic plants torn apart for trees, shrubs, and other plants. You could also use old cleaned out tin cans, painted, for things like grain silos, or oil refinery tanks.