How Did The Different Scales Get Their Names?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Cannonball, Aug 23, 2008.

  1. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    How did the different scales of model trains get their letter names?

    I know HO is Half O Scale but how did they decide to call it O scale?
    G is for Garden scale I suppose and S is for Standard.... but what makes it standard? Why N and Z?
  2. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think there was originally a #1,#2, & #3 gauge. All were large scale and the bigger the number, the bigger the size. The smallest gauge was then "O" gauge which was actually "zero" rather than the letter "O". When ho came out it got the designation as an acronym for "half O". About the same time the British made trains of a similar size using the same track as ho but scaled at 4.00mm to the foot instead of 3.5mm and it was called "00". I don't know where n-scale or z scale got their designations from. TT was slightly bigger than n-scale and the "TT" stood for "table top". It was small enough to build a layout on a coffee table. TT remained popular in Eastern Europe, but since n-scale was slightly smaller, it eclipsed tt in the West. I'm also not sure what the significance of "S" gauge was except it is about half way between O scale and HO scale. If I remember correctly "Standard Gauge" is not "S" it is actually what was also called #1 gauge. "G" gauge stands for garden as you surmised, but is actually not a scale in that it is made up of various scales that all run on standard gauge track. LGB G scale is actually the European meter gauge on standard track which means it is built at a scale of 1 meter between the rails. LGB American prototype locomotives are modeled after narrow gauge, but the actual spacing of the rails is 1 meter between the rails rather than 3 feet. Bachmann Big Trains are built to a 3 foot scale rather than meter gauge so they are slightly bigger than LGB. To add to the confusion, Charles Ro, the aborted Lionel large scale, and others are making standard gauge trains that also run on the same LGB track, but are built to a smaller scale than LGB since the actual scale distance between the rails on these trains is 4 feet 8 inches.
  3. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    N stands for "nine" as in 9mm, the spacing between the rails.

  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    O and OO were originally 0 and 00 (numeric), but you know what happens when people start to talk numbers.
    Apparently the printers thought H0 looked awkward and set it as HO.
    S was once called CD (or C-D) scale by the ClevelanD Model Shop. That was not popular with other manufacturers. so Al Kalmbach (I think) suggested S for sixty-four, seven-eighths and sixteenths (three of them).
    I think Linn Westcott suggested N for nine, neun, neuf, novem, nino, etc. Previously the scale was being called OOO (treble-O). There were also variations like HOO and HHO.
    G was named by Lehman GrossBahn, who popularized it again.
    Z was named because they thought it was the end of the line.
    and TT was table-top.
    Back when they were l numbers, there was also a number 4. There was disagreement about eactly what some of the numbers meant. (Sorry, I'm at the campground and don't have my library handy!)
  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    S stands for Scale (as compared to Lionel O/O27), for Sixty four, as in 1/64 scale, for Seven-eighths (the track gauge), and for 3 Sixteenths (= 1ft). American Flyer used S after World War 2 to build "scale" 2 rail toys, as compared to Lionel. Gilbert probably would have hoped the S would someday stand for Standard, too.
  6. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Westcott and Model Railroader finally gave in to N, which was the name being pushed by users. At one point (I think I have the issue), Model Railroader suggested calling the scale AA for All-American. This was really insulting when virtually all the manufacturing was being done in Europe in those days (1964-1965).

    I also remember that Cleveland (CD) being the forerunner to S. Gilbert (American Flyer) was only too happy to see the name changed.
  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    G is a scale. G scale is 1:22.5. The problem with large scales is that they are a variety of scales which use same track. It really should be Gm. Further, while Americans have traditionally made the distinction between different narrow gauges...such as Gn18, On2, and HOn3...Europeans typically just use HOe and HOm...which are ranges of various gauges modeled on the same LGB producing 30" gauge Zillertalbahn prototypes on their meter gauge track.

    So, we have true American 3' gauge...F scale, which I presume received its name from being slightly larger than G...1:20.3. We then also have the 1:24 which was previously popular for its simplicity. Then there is the Aristo Craft scale of 1:29 and the correct 1:32.

    For simplicity, many people refer to it as G scale.
  8. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Wow... Lots of information. It's amazing what the collective mind of the internet knows! Thanks, guys! :)
  9. TCH

    TCH Member

    I recall hearing that N stood for the N`th degree, meaning it was considered to be as small as they could go.

    however I think it more likely to be for Nine

    Z was/is as small as they can go, although I suppose
    someday someone will have a train on a pin head
  10. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I had read that "O", or "Zero" scale was a little bigger than 1/48th,(1/50th I think) which is what the old tin plate Lionels and American Flyers were. Of course these being made for the "toy" train market, didn't appeal to the prototype modeller, so "S" scale , or standard scale models were developed for those wishing "protypical scale" models of
  11. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The problem is compounded by the various manufactuurers and modelers wanting "smaller but larger".

    O is allegedly 1:48 scale, so "hal-O would be 1:96, but it's actually 1:87.

    N should be 1:192, half of what HO is supposed to be, but again it's larger, and so it goes.

    The plastic model outfits got it right more tham most anyone, with models set to standard scales ranging from 1:12 down through 1:24 to 1:48 and so forth to 1:72. For some strange reason, however, they got to 1;36 and couldn't handle the strain - it became 1:35 scale and the most popular of the military scales.

    The naval model companies, however, went for the "visual balance" approach - I aasume they knew the MMR folks - and picks scales that compressed huge ships to something managable but still visually appealing and allowing some room for detailing: thus 1:122, 1:300 or any arbitrary scale that reduced giant ships to roughly three feet long or so.

    Not too surprising - if you go online and visit the site of the Japanese Battleship IJN Yamato, you will encounter an incredible model that fills an entire building. There is also a military modelling group in Britain that models the German WWII railway - plus military figures, equipment, armor and everything, in 1:8 scale. They set up everything twice a year in a special outdoor setting complete with track and hold open house and photography sessions. It's static modelling, of course - a gigantic and highly detailed diorama, but it's pretty incredible.

    The trouble with humans, especially males, is that we just can't break out of that "bigger is better" mold. :cool:
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Z scale is so last week...T scale is more than twice as small!

    Other micro scales have been privately used by various engineering professor types with the tools & skills to produce smaller stuff.

    European O-scale is 1:43 and 1:45. Scales such as 1.25", 1/2", 1/4" (american O) and 3/16" (S scale) are based on the convenience of Americans being able to use a normal yardstick to produce models (I typically use an architects scale instead of a scale ruler...1/4" is there for my On3 needs and 3/16" is there since most narrow gauge passenger cars are drawn in S scale). I love being able to use normal rulers for the longer dimensions since my O scale ruler is only a scale 24' long.

    EDIT: It is very important to remember that model railroading was once a craftsmen only hobby. Scales which could be modeled using common tools...such as a ruler...were essential to it being successful.
  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    When did that change?
  14. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    When we changed the "Scales" of the rulers to the inch, by kitbashing :eek: :eek: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
  15. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

  16. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I forgot to mention that the people in the Yamato image are real. That is a 1:10 scale model. :cool:

    however, I realize that this is a model railway forum, and you are therefore interested in model trains, the larger the better. Is 1:6 scale large enough for everyone? 2006/index.html
  17. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    I fixed the link :D

    Do you mean "Carried away' as in Being enthusiastic???

    Or "Carried Away" as in straight jackets from the stress of building such a highly detailed HUGE model??? :thumb::thumb: :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:
  18. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The scales are more logical than it appears. In the beginning, gauge was more important than scale. Back then, trains were more toys than models. So getting the gauge standardized was more important for than scale any hope of interoperability.

    0 (now "O") gauge - a German gauge naming convention - was 32mm, very close to the 1.25" adopted by Lionel and other American manufacturers. The British, in the meantime, came up with a 7mm/ft scale (1:43.5) to fit O gauge track, which is fairly close. HO became Half O at 3.5 mm/ft - which it still is today (1:87.1).

    In non-metric America (this is the '30s), 1/4" per foot was deemed close enough, and became O scale - 1:48. Thus, the mismatch in American O between scale and gauge. There have been attempts to create an "American" HO at 1/8" to the foot - which would be half of American O. Europe and the metric world use the more correct 7mm/ft for O.

    The Brits perpetuated this nonsense with OO/HO. Because British loading gauge is small, and tiny electric motors were not available, 4mm/ft was used for HO gauge track in Britain. When OO was brought to America, Americans would have no more of the mismatch, and insisted on a corrected gauge for OO (which probably doomed it to commerical failure, as it was too close to HO in size, but wasn't interchangeable).

    S and TT were US-invented logical scales based on inches and feet, with no metric influence.

    A British manufacturer, Lone Star, started making OOO equipment using 2mm/ft scale, the next logical step down from OO. I dont' recall if Lone Star actually used 9mm track, but it was at least close. At the same time ('63-'64), German firm Arnold Rapido started a new scale which also used a gauge close to 9mm. Cooler heads prevailed, and a correct scale and track gauge were standardized on, using 9mm track to represent 56.5" prototype. There still is a British 2mm/ft group of modelers, some using N gauge track. Note that other than the rather indirect connection via British OO, N has no relationship to HO.

    Z was another German initiative.

    trying to clear the air
  19. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    IIRC, a little-known fact of model railroading history is that the use of Gauge 1 track as metre gauge was introduced before it was called G in the 70s. In the late 60s, 1/22.5 was introduced as K, for king-size. I can't remember if this was LGB, some predecessor thereof, or a company from which they bought the product line.

Share This Page