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What Scale For New Model Train Layout?

Andy sent in this question:

“I’m in the very early stages of planning a layout which won’t be started for at least 12 months. The absolute max area will 12 x 5 feet. Probably a bit smaller than that. Based on the logging and mining operations on Vancouver Island pre 1950s, I will include, a logging camp, a coal mine, and a small port. I was thinking of using N scale but there aren’t as many detailed accessories as available in HO. Any suggestions, please? Thanks.”

6 Responses to What Scale For New Model Train Layout?

  • Jay Rosssays:

    12×5′ is not too small for HO, but if you are to feature mining and logging, Hon3 might be better, (if that’s what they had in Vacouver), but HO should be ok. As for the N scale, that would allow for more scenery, and wider radius track and more travel distance. You will most likely have to scratch build the detailed accessories, but that’s all part of this hobby.

  • Dalesays:

    With those area dimensions and your planned type and era for the layout, you can go with either HO or N. The main restriction, that I can think of, is the minimum radius for the track plan. A logging environment typically would run shorter cars, 68 foot or less, and probably no long passenger cars. That means you could get away with 18 inch radius (HO) so a complete loop or helix could fit in 38-40 inches, well within your 60 inch depth. In HO the models are generally more available while in N scale you can fit more scenic points in a given space.

    So, ultimately, the deciding factors are 1) the availability of models you want to use (or scratch-build) and 2) how good your eyesight and manual dexterity is.

  • Michael Fostersays:


    Not sure where you are on Vancouver Island, we have a few hobby shops that specialize in RR, There is one in Campbell River, another in Duncan and one in Victoria. There are quite a few clubs that offer help, the one in Parksville also have access to a 3d printer

  • Andy Matherssays:

    Thanks Guys for your helpful comments. The space will be made available by the sale of my MGB which is unfortunately not getting as much use as it deserves. Will be selling it in about 12 months.
    Michael, Unfortunately I am a long way from Vancouver Island (Bribie Island near Brisbane Australia), although we did visit Vancouver Is. in 2007. I have always been interested in RR logging and that area fits the bill nicely as an example of the industry. I will look up the shops online though. Thanks again, Andy.

  • Peter Jonessays:

    Hi Andy,
    Why not have a mix. N gauge around the mine/logging plant feeding to HO gauge for distribution.

  • David Stokessays:

    Andy, If your layout can be approached from all sides 12 x 5 is a good size. However if against a wall, remember your reach is less than 30″, less than half way.

    Can I suggest you research plans whereby you can take your layout around 2 sides of a room, just to see what is possible. Many beginners start with a sheet of ply or a ping-pong table stuck in the middle of the room, when with a little imagination a far more satisfactory solution might be hiding in the corner.

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