HO vs. N

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by dmcgeoch, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Sumpter, I think the misconception is on your part. TT scale (1:120), is 72.5% the size of HO. N scale (1:160) is nearly half (54.4% ) the size of HO. So your 8' train is actually a scale 1/4 mile long.

    I think now the big deciding issues are likely a) sound - you can get sound in N, but from what I've heard it's a little thin and tinny; and b) availability - while there's more available in N, especially steam these days, there's still less choice (locos, rolling stock, structures, details) in N than in HO.
  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I am remiss, Rector, welcome to the gauge !:wave: :wave:
    I used to spend time visiting my Grandmother in Bridgehampton, and my parents lived in Sagaponack, from 1961 to 1972, before moving to Noyac. We had a cottage on Noyac Bay, for many years. I am assuming that the "Wainscott" you refer to is the Wainscott just east of Sagaponack, hiding quietly in the midst of "The Hamptons".
  3. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    :curse: "Halfzheimers".....it isn't "all"....YET:oops: . Too many scales, too little time. :D Still, one can very quickly fill up the real estate in N scale.

    We're working on the structures part, at GCLaser.
  4. Rector

    Rector New Member

    Thanks for the welcome, Sumpter250. You've got the right Wainscott! We moved here six years ago from the UK and are loving it! I've taken up model railroading again after a gap of 35 years - and my young daughter loves it.

    The Guage forum is going to teach me a lot!:)

  5. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    The reason I say N scale is suited better for the modern era is partially self evident and partially not. Much more is available in N for the modern era; yes steam has progressed in N but it hasn't even come close, not even a little bit, to what is available to HO modellers in steam. Try and purchase the Royal Hudson in N, it wouldn't be available in this century maybe the next, but it is available in HO; I use this example since the Royal Hudson isn't that well known in some circles, thus a lesser known steam engine is produced in HO but not N.

    With the size of modern era equipment - this is the not so evident part of the argument - N is almost approaching HO is size. Don't believe me, put an N SD90 beside an HO F unit and you will see it is as long as the F unit, not as high and wide however. The longer rolling stock also approaches HO in size, put a modern auto wrack N car beside an HO 40 foot box car and again you will see it about the same length, not just as high or wide.

    So if you want to run today's equipment on a layout, lets say a couple of SD90's lashed up to contemporary long cars, N scale is actually the way to go unless you have an incredibly large basement for the size of HO layout that would be required to run modern long trains and equipment.

    I personally found N scale too small with the older equipment, when I went completely modern, no more HO scale envy.
  6. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    If you want to run actual scale-length trains, they'll be impractically long even in Z. There is always the issue of how much selective compression you can accept. For example, an 8' train with two SD90s in N looks too short to me.
  7. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    :D :D :D Ahh, the joys of modular railroading. We can set up 44' X 52' in an L shape layout, and a 20' train looks good on that layout. :D
  8. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    Triplex, most folks don't run "scale" trains that I have seen here in Vancouver and I've been to around 50 layouts on tours and visits. I would say the average HO train length I've seen here is around 10 to 12 feet long. Of the basement N scale layouts I've seen, they've run substantially longer ones. Heck look at the length of trains they run at the exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry; they aren't that long. Most things we do aren't to scale, but "representative" of the modelled subject. For examples, our model mountains, if scaled out are just small hills. I think the highest mountain I've seen in HO land has been about 4 or 5 feet high; at five feet high thats a 435 foot hill. I live in Vancouver BC and we consider the 5000 foot mountains around here small; the biggies are in the rockies.

    I have a friend who has an incredible layout of a fictional line in Montana set in 1932. The layout features way freight only and the length of his trains never go beyound 6 cars. Its amazing how much operations can be squeezed in with just 6 cars, but it takes the average engineer around one and a half hours to get around his layout with the switching involved. For a guy with less room, the way freight is his saviour if he wants to have fun in limited space.

    By the way, I just grapped 8 feet out of the thin air in my examples further up this thread. In my own study layout, double decked with a "nolix" I run 11 foot trains and I wouldn't hesitate to double head SD90's to take them through my "Frasier" canyon.
  9. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    My point exactly.
    Two modern 6-axle units on an 11' train happens to be exactly the degree of compression I want.
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    An interesting thesis put forth by Iain Rice is that at a certain point, a train is perceived as "long" and adding a lot more cars doesn't make it appear to be much longer. Iain says that that point comes when both ends of the train are past our peripheral vision. At normal viewing angles - about 3 ft from the track - that distance turns out to be about 13ft.

    The 13ft comes to about 23 cars (40ft), engine, and caboose in HO. In N, the same train is about 40 cars, engine(s), and caboose. But in N, you are typically not standing as far back from the track, so the train can be shortened to about 35 cars and still be perceived as a "long" train.

    Which brings up the other point - if you can mask or block the view of both ends of the train from every viewpoint at less than the 13ft intervals, you only need a train long enough to span the view blocks to make it appear "long".

    This visual trick allows us to successfully use more reasonable length trains, and still have them perceived as long. Remember, for decent operations train length determines the following:

    - a passing track has to be at least as long as the shorter of the 2 meeting trains or it becomes an operational bottleneck

    - towns need to be at least 1.5 train lenghts apart to avoid having the train in 2 towns at the same time

    - the yard arrival/departure track has to be as long as your normal longest train, or the yard becomes an operational bottleneck. The same is true for the yard lead, and at least one classification track.

    - staging tracks need to be as long as the trains be operated to/from them.

    my thoughts, your choices
  11. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    To come back to dmcgeoch's question, I always cheer for N scale if a guy has limited space, almost too restrictive in HO, and wants to run modern equipment. I went through the same dilemma using my study; I don't know how many track and bench plans I drew up in HO before accepting I wasn't going to get my "Empire;" now that same space in N has given me the layout size of my dreams.

    If I have any limitations now that I have to live with is this; I can't have the number of engineer/operators I would like to have. The study, now train room, will only hold 3 comfortably however the layout could handle more.

    I have used an open helix (not shaped like a circular helix but is L shaped) to have about 65% of the track visible in my "nolix" area. The term nolix was a name John Armstrong gave to an area which was a peninsula, used as an open helix so that trains could gain elevation in a believable manner, yet the majority of the track was visible. The first plan John A drew up for the client had three helix's and the client didn't want "no helix's" hence the word "nolix."

    I have two decks separated by 20 inches, and I plan to install another deck underneath the first deck for staging only. I will probably semi-scenic the visible areas as a desert region just to make the staging look more believable.

    I have something like 120 feet of main line running in a study that is probably smaller than dmcgeoch's area. To get 120 feet of main line running in an HO layout, you'd need substantially more room.

    If I was into HO and had dmcgeoch's room, I'd probably do a switching layout with the main line running through the switching area. I'd have it built with a "ports" theme, with a rail barge, interchange track, and a bulk transfer station (modern term for "team track"). I'd probably have a helix with less than 30 inch curves to either access a second deck beneath for staging; or I'd use the helix solely for staging as a friend of my does, double tracked; I'd probably triple track it.

    Dmcgeoch's question is an excellent one. Most of us start out with a scale then fit - or try to fit - the scale into the area we have. The smarter approach would be to start with the area we have, then chose the scale to fit the area.

    I have another version of Ian Rice's perspective: reduce visibility and the train will seem longer. My observation is this: when running trains realistically (or trying to approach it), the imagination plays a larger role in realism than the layout. Since this is true, it doesn't really matter the scale size, because the imagination is larger. Let me explain; I learned this lesson running a light "op's session" on a friends G scale "garden" layout. I say garden layout because technically that is correct, but his is more a "forest" layout with no garden at all; this makes a great layout by the way and way more believable.

    My friend invited me and my son because he knew we would be the most likely to run his layout in a realistic manner, unlike the beer and barbecue running manner of many G scale layouts. So the three of us ran our trains, switching cars in and out of the train pool, etc. Most of his layout, like many of ours wasn't completed, so we had to use our imagination in fixing locations or industries or stations. Running on his layout reminded me of my son's and I's first 4 by 6 plywood central RR; our imagination was larger than the layout. Subsequently on other's layouts, I've found that a healthy dose of child like imagination increases quality time in "ops sessions." In fact, I've found the main ingredient for running on anyone's layout turned out to be the "inner child."

    Now to N scale structures: I've found a great deal of myth in this area, usually perpetrated by experts who have never "worked the field." I remember attending a clinic at the N scale convention in the state of Washington put on by a well known chap whom I unfortunately can not recall his name, but he had a number of published articles in the N scale rag about scratch building. His "thing" was to encourage folks to scratch build and scratch build prototypically using the correct scale of "lumber" or whatever the building material was. Now the myth is that if you want to scratch build a lot, HO is the better scale. Horse Hockey! I, who have never scratch built a scratching post, attempted to build a modern Alberta granary whose plan was in an MR about 6 years ago after this chaps clinic. I was surprised at how easy it was; maybe easy isn't the right word but I thought if I can do this anyone can; when I built my first bird house for cubs when I was but a cub, they asked what it was I was submitting for the contest. I still can't cut a straight line with a circular saw, or hand saw for that matter.

    Now to buildings in N scale: they should be much higher than commercially available. We need a certain size for something to make an impact on us humans. HO structures are generally one or two stories high; maybe 4 - 6 stories if modelling a town. You need to double these sizes for the same impact in N scale. Small structures are really small in N scale, so why model those? Companies like Walther's put out a structure in HO which makes sense, usually one or two stories high; and then they make an N scale copy of this structure for the N scale market; often too small in my opinion. If your building a yard office, why not build it up to 4 stories, prototypical in larger cities, rather than a smaller pathetic one story structures.

    In urban areas for N scale, visually having 8 to 12 story building will really enhance the impact of the buildings - heck why not a 20 story structure. Getting these kinds of buildings for the modern era is really difficult in N scale as again the structures available are really made for the "transition era" HO layout. Heck if I never see a red brick structure on a layout, it will be too soon. So most of the buildings have to be scratch built, but after doing one or two, the N scale hobbyist will find it really isn't that challenging; and Hey!, you HO friends will be impressed. I like to tease my HO brethren by saying - "Heck any wimp can solder track in HO, try in it N! - actually, it really isn't difficult but I'm not going to let them know that.

    Good luck on the layout, dmcgeoch!
  12. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    OK, but I need to build SHS&D #1, an outside frame, 3' gauge, 2-4-4-2, in N scale. I got the easy part done, laying the track. :D :D :D
  13. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    As far as I can see, towns have to be farther apart than that. If there's a passing track in each town, that track should be long enough to handle your trains. Then the space between passing tracks should also be long enough for trains. Therefore, towns will be at intervals of more than twice train length. In practice, benchwork arrangements will force towns into different positions, spreading them farther apart (since you don't want them too close). This is, of course, ideal. If a town lacks a passing track, I would be willing to give it less space, but there would still have to be room to fit a train between the town and the next town's passing track. But if you want passing tracks between towns, you'll need a lot of space.
  14. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member

    I know I said this before. why are the prices the same? Sometimes N even cost more. What's up with that. I guess it matters about the space you have. Not the money:p

  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Andy: model railroad prices are usually related to cost of manufacture. The effort (man-hours) required to assemble an N scale locomotive is about the same as an HO locomotive -- number of parts and all. The saving because of the smaller amout of material is pretty slight.
  16. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    Plus, you "economy of scale;" basically the more of them out there the cheaper it is to produce, less N scale purchasers, less N scale engines sold, higher cost to produce less engines; more HO purchasers, more HO engines sold, the less the cost.
  17. billgee-n-scale

    billgee-n-scale New Member

    For any given radii, n gauge will have a better looking apperance.
  18. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    You are quite right. I was only citing the simplest case with no passing siding at either town. In an ideal world, you would have a minimum of about 3 train lengths between towns. That would give a little bit of a run, as well as ensuring adequate spacing between passing sidings.
  19. CAS

    CAS Member

    I too was in the same boat, undecided of what scale to go with, N scale or HO scale. I started out thinking of N scale. Started buying N scale equipment. Coming up with different designs. Read more post on the guage of both N scale and HO scale. After a few months, of going back and forth between the 2 scales. I then switched to HO.

    I then went out and started buying things in HO. Started to put together some buildings. The detailing seem to be alot easier. More items are available in HO scale, then they are in N scale. Came up with a few plans for HO which i liked. After looking at the plans, and the space i had. HO didn't seem to look like what i realy wanted my layout to be. So after a few more months thinking HO scale was for me. I was wrong, for now. I am keeping my HO equipment for a later date, when i do have the room for a larger size layout.

    I then got out some paper. Made a few columns for N scale, and a few columns for HO. I wrote down what i liked, and disliked of the 2 scales. What i wanted to do with my layout. How much space i have for each one. After doing this, have decided to go with a 7'x 12' U shaped N scale layout.

    The last few days, i went out and purchased some pink foam, and lumber for my new N scale layout.

    It took me a while to decide to go with n scale. I think it's gonna be a little harder to work with, because of my big hands. My good sight(for now). It has to be your choice of what you want to do. There is a lot of good advice here, that was given to you. But, you, and only you can make the right choice for you. Good luck on your decision.


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