model railroads resources

HO Model Trains - Why HO Scale
Is The Most Popular Sizes Worldwide

HO scale is 1:87 size with 16.5mm track gauge and a minimum radius of 15 inches. HO model trains are an excellent size to appreciate the detail and running performance without being too cramped. Also, many HO model train enthusiasts say that ho trains are ideal for running using a digital setup. And, if you’re looking for model trains that require lots of switching operations then HO model trains are well worth considering.

HO model trains at train station platforms

About N Scale Model Trains

N scale model trains have the advantage of taking up less space than the HO model trains. N scale model trains are in fact 54.5 percent the size of equivalent HO model trains. This means that you can build an N scale model train layout in an area about 30% of that area needed to build a similar HO model train layout.

If space is an issue then an N scale model trains could be the answer. N Scale model trains allow for more complex and realistic model train layouts in limited space. Curves can be made much more gradual with N scale model trains. The smaller size of N scale greatly reduces the need to utilize unrealistically sharp curves to reverse the direction of the train on a layout.

Scale And Gauge Explained

The terms scale and gauge are two of the most confused terms in the model railroad hobby. The SCALE proportion is expressed as a fraction of a real life- sized train. As an example, HO scale model trains are 1/87 the size of real life- sized trains.

For model trains, track GAUGE is the width between the inside running edge of the rails. For toy trains, gauge is the measurement from the center of the two outside rails.

Do train tracks have the same gauge?

No they don't, but there are two main types: standard gauge and narrow gauge. In the US, Canada and most European countries, trains run on “standard gauge.”

Narrow Gauge Track On Model Railroads

Narrow gauge equipment maintains the scale, but runs on a smaller gauge of track. Narrow gauge track is seldom used on main line railroads. Narrow Gauge track was generally laid in areas where rail traffic was light, curves may have needed to be tight, and cost was a major issue. Most popular in mining spurs, logging spurs, and scenic tourist rails where low speeds were usual.


Model Trains And Those Narrow Gauge Numbers

In model railroading, narrow gauge models use the lower case letter "n" to follow the scale and then the track gauge in scale feet. Example: HOn3 means HO scale (1:87 proportion narrow gauge 3 feet between the tracks.). HOn2 would be HO scale narrow gauge 2 feet between the tracks.

There are few narrow gauge railroads still in operation. Some have been converted to the standard railroad system. Others have been dismantled and turned into scrap. Even though narrow gauge railroads were inexpensive to build, off loading and on loading became too much of an expense. Each time a narrow gauge railroad met a standard gauge railroad, shipments would have to be unloaded and reloaded.

The Workings Of Model Train Power Supply

Most model trains run on low voltage. Unlike the AC electrical circuit in your house, the electricity that moves your locos is DC, ie. Direct Current. The supply to your model railroad layout comes by plugging a power pack (also called a transformer) into a wall socket that takes the AC supply, steps it down to the 12- 15 volts needed to run the trains and up to 18 volts for the accessories.

The model train transformer converts the output to DC, filters the DC to purify it, then outputs the supply from the terminals on the back of your controller, along a couple of wires to the tracks where it is picked up by your locomotives wheels, turning the motor within. The throttle control varies the voltage to the rails, changing the speed of the motor and consequently the rate your locomotive moves down the track.

DC electricity is directional, so the electricity flows along the wires in a certain direction, and the locomotive moves in the direction set by the directional switch on your controller (or left and right if your controller has a centre off type control knob).

There are, however, exceptions to using DC for trains - if you have Lionel or Marklin, they operate on controlled AC power with 3 rail track.


Importance Of Model Train Transformers

There is a big choice when it comes to model train transformers. They come in all shapes and sizes depending on your requirements. All model train set transformers contain a few basic components, including a transformer to provide the 12 volts, a throttle to vary tile output voltage, and a direction switch to control the polarity of the circuit. Model train set transformers also have screw terminals for the track (which is DC) and AC accessory connections.

Larger units may include a larger power supply as well as additional electronic features such as: operating modes, pilot lights and meters, and multiple terminals for accessories such as add-on walkaround throttle units. These units make it easier to operate your train, enabling you to follow it as it moves around the track, rather than standing in one spot and watching it.

How To Get A Long Life From A Transformer

A quality model train transformer, when treated properly, should have a lifespan of 30+ years.

The golden rule is to ALWAYS operate the model train transformer within its rating. It is also important to keep the transformer dry and avoid damp areas (take particular care in basement locations).

When not using your model train layout unplug the transformer. Don't walk away and leave it plugged in and unattended as it could start a fire. If a transformer gives off a burning odor, or expels smoke, heed these warning signs and immediately replace it or take it in for servicing.

A loud BUZZING noise coming from a transformer could be due to the transformer's core laminations moving. Servicing would be needed as this vibration can cause damage to insulation in contact with the moving metal.

A transformer's circuit breaker can trip occasionally. If this happens simply unplug the transformer and let it cool off. The transformer will usually work again after it has cooled down. However, if the transformer continues to trip without a load, it will need servicing to fix the problem.

One more thing; NEVER use a transformer with a damaged, split, or cracked power cord. If in doubt have the transformer serviced immediately.

Analog Model Train Layouts Explained

An Analog model railroad layout is simply a conventional model railroad with conventional analog controls [DC or AC] to provide a power feed to a piece of track. Any locomotive that is on that piece of track will respond by moving forwards or backwards. The speed and direction of a model train is controlled by varying the voltage and polarity on the rails. The higher the voltage , the faster the locomotive moves, the lower the voltage, the slower the locomotive moves.

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