HO or N?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Mike 86, Dec 19, 2000.

  1. Mike 86

    Mike 86 New Member

    I am new in the hobby of model railroading and I am debated what scale to start with HO or N. I have heard good things about both, but still don't know which one to choose. So feel free to give me some advice on which gauge to use, Thanks.

    [This message has been edited by Mike (edited 12-18-2000).]
  2. PRSLou

    PRSLou Member

    How about 3 rail "O" scale...that is what I model.

  3. Mike 86

    Mike 86 New Member

    Thanks for the reply Lou, I haven't really thought about O scale, but I guess I could look into it, Thanks.

  4. watash

    watash New Member

    Hey Mike, I am presently running HO,(since 1937), and have run 1=1 scale and all the way down to N gauge. The full size was the very best. You would need to enlarge your garage a mile or so, for that one! It all depends on what YOU want your rail empire to be, not us. If you want modern yard activities, then you choose to build to prototype standards, or free-lance, or you can run toy trains. Lionel and others make well detailed looking rolling stock. How many cars do you want to pull, switch around in your yars, and then figure out how long a train can you run around in the space that's left? Don't forget the radius of the track your largest engine, or longest car will require, then check that for each gauge. Its your choice, you might not like what we like, and there may be some who throw rocks at what you like. The thing to do, is first, get a can of rocks, then build what MIKE wants! [​IMG]
  5. Mike 86

    Mike 86 New Member

    Oh yeah, PrsLou, I did look into O scale trains. Unfortunately it's probably not the size I would choose. O scale is too big, and N scale is too small, that is why I am choosing to go with HO scale. Thanks anyway for the advice. [​IMG]

  6. Sparky

    Sparky New Member


    I'm currently a collector of N-Scale equipment, which is to say I don't have any scenery or anything running yet. I don't claim to be an expert, but I'll give you a few beginner's observations and I hope they help.

    Is it operation, painting & detailing, photography or something else that got you excited about the hobby?

    N scale is the choice if you like the N-trak "pit" that forms at the model RR shows. If you have lots of space and bucks, and love watching long trains, N can be very rewarding. Also, if your space is extremely limited, N shines here, too. To me, mainline operation is N's forte.

    HO has one significant advantage, in that whatever you can find in N, there is bound to be 3-10 times as much of the same thing in HO. Athearn makes those wonderful, photogenic diesels of nearly every variety and at usually half the cost of a ~comparable~ Kato N scale loco. If you like modern autos and intermodal equipment, HO offers far greater variety and value. Also, if you intend to superdetail or photograph any of your locos, be aware that HO wins this battle hands down. You may even wish to move to S or O (Proto 48 is something you may want to look into) if photography appeals to you, as it is extremely tricky to make N look "massive".

    Ultimately, it depends on your interests, what you intend to model, what you want to do.

  7. Drew

    Drew New Member

    Hey Mike, I think HO is a good choice for beginners. The availability of products enables you to get a feel for what you want to do with the hobby. Just remember, nothing's ever carved in stone, if you don't like something, change it. The best piece of advice I can give you though, is no matter what you decide to do, keep it simple. You'll be a lot happier.

    [This message has been edited by Drew (edited 12-28-2000).]
  8. George

    George Member


    You are talking a sizeable investment no matter which way you go. If you are an urbanite, go "N", but frankly I do not like it because I consider it too small. The wheels look to large and the gaps among the freight cars are ridiculous. Even during my urban dwelling days, I had a 4X6 "HO" layout, but that was because I already had a large collection from living in my parents house growing up, and it was all that I could fit into the space I had.

    If I had the money to shovel into the oven, I would switch to "S" scale. Why? The detailing is superior to "HO", and the space required compared with "HO" is marginal. In a nutshell, it just looks really neat if you check it out. It's grounds for becoming an orthodontist!

    I think "O" is too expensive and toy like, unless you have a seventy foot long basement, and inherited a lot of classic Lionel gear from between the 30's & 60's.

    I like "HO" best as it's not to large, not too small and there's greater availability of rolling stock in correct scale length. Then there's the advantage of not going permanently crosseyed from putting "N" gauge wheels on the track, and finding figures dropped on the pile carpeting.

    One editorial footnote I would like to throw out to all readers in general......And I am compelled to cast light on this sad element of our hobby. I call attention to this as most people on the verge of building something beyond the classic 4X6 we all started with, usually have just come into their first steady incomes of their lives, sometimes not.

    If you are over 25,30,35 or sadly 40+,single, educated, employed full time with benefits and living at home with parents who are NOT debilitated, you have no business building a rail empire. Save the money, move out to your own place... And get a life. Believe it or not, your parents will be elated at the event.

    I say this because I have met TOO MANY of you out there in clubs and meets who claim they can't afford rent, or downpayments on a condo or a home. Then, you open the trunk of your high end auto and pull out your latest brass purchase to show off!

    Wake up and GROW UP!

    Get your own place so you can build the railroad of your dreams and not have to move it, or worse, destroy it when your parents die and your adult siblings decide to SELL the house. From what I have witnessed, too many times, that's usually the end of this pathetic scenario.

    Be an asset to your parents, not a burden.

    Thank You, and remember, "HO" RULES!

  9. Mighty Joe Young

    Mighty Joe Young New Member

    NScale! How else can you model the Waterlevel Route without building a barn?!? [​IMG]

    Mighty Joe Young
    The Swingingest N-Traker Around
    Bring Back the New York Central!
  10. George

    George Member

    Mighty Joe!

    What do you have against a barn full of trains?? With multiple floors added, drop cielings to help keep the place warm and a massive helix to access the levels, you could do the Trans Siberia in any scale!

    A few years ago, I nearly purchased a place with a LARGE finished, heated barn just for a railroad, but I had a lapse of sanity and decided it was too far from work. Now there's an interesting forum topic - Pikes in outbuildings. Heating, security, etc.

    I still contend "N" is too small, at least for me it is. Mighty Joe, I have to ask.....Do you have to wear glasses? I have always believed that effective "N" scalers require better vision and eye-hand coordination. How else can you align decals on anything that small? Vision and motor skills should be a major consideration when selecting a scale. For example; If you have trouble locating a Kadee spring on the carpet, or any difficulty in mounting a Kadee spring on an "HO" coupler, what makes one think they will not have a greater multitude of similar problems when adapting to an even smaller scale? I'm convinced that "Z" was invented by some poor fool who made a living by smuggling trains from Europe to North America in his underwear. Go smaller, bigger profit!

    Joe, you mentioned N-Trak. I have a big problem with the modular concept as it has unfortunately evolved. Three tracks? First, for my taste, the tracks are too far apart for anything even remotely resembling a convincing appearance. Secondly, most lines I've seen in my travels are one, two or four tracks. What's this three track business? A long passing siding on one side? Very few places do you see a line that's three tracks, except for the downsized Horseshoe Curve. You want to do The Water Level Route? Do you and your local N-Trakers make your modules with four tracks? That's what The Water Level Route was years ago before it was downsized.

    Sparky hits the nail right on the head. Greater variety and investment value in "HO". Most "N" scalers have the same common lack of space problem. I don't think that space should let anyone be deterred from modelling in any scale. True, with N-Trak you can make a long run with your friends, or even larger if you load your offerings into a vehicle and head out for a convention. Yes, these modules can easily be stored the on a rack in the garage. But benchwork is benchwork. Any scale can be run on it, and the more visible the detail, the more appealing it is to people. You know, there doesn't have to be a lot of nitty gritty over detailing as George Sellios suffers from. What's there just should be well done, and of some interest.

    Detail, detail, detail. When non-modellers see my layout, they all say the same thing; "Oh, I never noticed that before. Everytime I visit, even though I've seen this scene before, I notice something different."
    The funny thing is, I don't think I have a lot of detail, and I always believe there's room for improvement - In everything. I add more here and there, but I'm always careful unlike some of us about overkill.

    Unless you're a true artist with a lot of time and patience, "N" is a buggar to detail. Yes, you can achieve a long train gliding through a sweeping panoramic vista in "N", but there should be more to the experience for the visitor than getting an idea of what it would be like to be the Jolly Green Giant.

    "N-Trak modules are too low. If you raise those module heights to four feet to utilize the "forced perspective" technique as with most "HO" scalers these days, the viewer would probably find the same "N" view less interesting and toylike.

    Whatever scale any of you end up with, it will be the correct choice, provided YOU are happy with the outcome. I suppose the bottom line to success in any scale is the viewers reaction, the operators pleasure and most of all, the effort put into each scene to create a convincing animated diorama.
  11. Mighty Joe Young

    Mighty Joe Young New Member

    GEEZ! Lighten up!
    Two things...
    1: I can't afford a barn. [​IMG]

    2: I used to model in the Horribly Oversized [​IMG] scale, I grew up and model more realistic lenghts of trains and let the sceanery rule the layout. Just like the real world does. [​IMG]

    And here's a little more...
    I don't live at my Mom and Dad's house, I have my own place, my own job, and my own money. N-Scale doesn't cost more than HO, they're the same. Please, act a little more like watash, he's a real gent and loves the hobby, not the scale. You need to go back to your cave and evolve some more or quit taking testostorne.
    I realize the Waterlevel Route was a four track main, anyone who models or follows the NYC knows that, I wasn't born yesterday. So, when I build my layout, it WILL have a four track main.

    It also will have GP60-60M's SD60-60M's SD70MACS, CW44-9's and Genisis Loco's, ALL IN LIGHTNING STRIPES! CAN YOU DIG IT? [​IMG]

    Oh yeah, one more thing...HO's time has come

    Mighty Joe Young
    The Swingingest N-Traker Around
    Bring Back the New York Central!

    [This message has been edited by Mighty Joe Young (edited 01-04-2001).]
  12. darktides

    darktides New Member

    I am 20 years old and I live at home still with my parents, I have a small N-scale layout in a spare bedroom and I think that for my current situation N-scale is fine... When I graduate college I will move out and move into my own house. I am a computer science major and I think that there is nothing wrong with having a layout at home it is totally absurd to assume that people like me are no life losers. Stick with N-scale if you have minimal space. When I move out my next layout will be in HO scale because of the availability. That's my opinion anyway!

  13. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    Ah, the religious wars. Come on, guys. We're all on the same side here--railroads! I respect each of you, and I hope you can all show respect for each other. Just because someone else picks another scale doesn't mean one of you has to be right and the other one wrong. Perhaps the ultimate irony of this forum is that there isn't ANY gauge worthy of being called THE gauge, which in my view makes the forum's name clever.

    My first 16 years of model railroading were at my parents' house (I couldn't afford to move out at age 4). That didn't make me less enthusiastic or my ideas and curiosity less deserving. Nor did my efforts to model while living in condos, apartments, and houses make me any more or any less of a model railroader.

    I'm considering converting from HO to O (see another topic on this forum for details). What that decision process really brings out is that EACH scale has good points and drawbacks, and the equation comes out differently for many of us. I ADMIRE someone who produces an interesting pike in 1:12, 1:120, or no consistent scale, and ANY prototype or no prototype. This is just a hobby for most of us, and it's for FUN. Each of us cares about railroading or we wouldn't be here, so I'm interested in everyone's views. There's enough conflict in the real world for each of us--we don't have to create more here.

    Sorry, I'll step off my soapbox now.

  14. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Okay friends
    Just for a bit of fun this is.
    What scale do you think this is HO or N? and why.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 01-05-2001).]
  15. George

    George Member

    Relax! If you read the posting, you'd realize you're not in the demographic group. You are too young, and lucky for you, you're a student. Home layout? I never implied there 's anything wrong with it. Wait a few years and you will understand what I'm talking about, and good for you that you want your independence. In your own place, there's nobody to tell you the pike is too big:) A term I should have used in the litany was "compulsive spending" which is pretty bad with some folks, and you will see it quite a bit in this hobby. Some women toss it all on jewelry which we guys don't understand. Likewise,there's a lot of guys who spend their last dime on a brass engine, even when faced with family responsibility and mounting debt. Chicks don't understand that either!

    Keep up with your layout as it's the only way your skills will grow.

    For a model railroader, you should know the difference between testosterone and steam! Relax! I can't afford a barn either! I'd love to see some shots of your roster, but why no cigarbands in there?

    Get back on your soapbox, I value your opinion too! I feel for you, as I did HO in three apartments over a 16 year period.

    Shamus -

    You always know how to calm the masses! Your picture is great. The couplers are difficult to ID, but whatever the scale, someone is pretty handy to have around the layout with a dentists pick on plaster ;-)

    Have a nice weekend you guys!

  16. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    George, it's N-scale, It was a layout I built years ago. [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 01-06-2001).]
  17. Mighty Joe Young

    Mighty Joe Young New Member

    If that's the case, then you need to stop tying your poppit valves down!
    When I get the fleet assembled and painted, I'll post pictures. The Cigarebands are off limits, looks to much like "We can't wait to be the PC!" It's the NEWYork Central. We'll even have a 21st Century Limited, a Kato Superliner Set in "NYC Dress Grays". It will be pulled by three Kato Genisis Loco's in Lightningstripes. This will be my first project. I can't wait! [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by Mighty Joe Young (edited 01-05-2001).]
  18. Mighty Joe Young

    Mighty Joe Young New Member

    Woops! I'll get the hang of this soon!
    Mighty Joe Young
    The Swingingest N-Traker Around
    Bring Back the New York Central!

    [This message has been edited by Mighty Joe Young (edited 01-05-2001).]
  19. Drew

    Drew New Member

    I know this is being done to death, but I just had to add my little piece here.
    I've dabbled in O, HO, & N scale modeling. To me, they each have their own quality. They're simply different mediums for expressing the same thing.
    Shamus, your photo posted above is a good example of what I'm trying to say. That scene is a work of art. And I would venture to say many of us would be proud to say we created something like that. From a pile of raw material to a finished photo, it took time, creativity, & craftsmanship to reach that end. Isn't that "end" what we're all striving for as model railroaders? What scale is it? Who cares? Besides, I've always heard that size doesn't matter [​IMG]
  20. Steamnut

    Steamnut New Member

    If I had to start all over again, I think I would seriously consider O-scale, narrow gauge... The stuff that Bachmann is putting out now in On30 is simply fantastic (even if the B&O didn't really have any NG), and the price is reasonable too.
    This stuff mixes the best of two worlds, the flexibility of off the shelf HO track, and the greater superdetailing possibilities of O.
    Narrow Gauge modelling means you can run prototypically short trains through spectacular scenery (like the Maine or Oregon woods, the high Rockies, the Alaskan wilderness, rock quarries, or even a tropical island!). Winding single track mains, short sidings, stiff grades, and interesting small trackside industries (sawmills, oil storage tanks, mines, etc) were the rule, so it lends itself very well to an around the room shelf layout.

    As another plus, If the garden scale bug bites, you can always recycle the thing as an amusement park sized train with a little modification. [​IMG]

    I kinda wish I didn't already have so much time, money and space tied up in other scales... [​IMG]

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