N Scale vs. HO Scale Model Trains: What’s the Difference?
The two most popular scales for model trains worldwide are HO scale and N scale. To those unfamiliar with the two, HO scale and N scale locomotives may look the same because they’re both small and practical for table-sized layouts. To help you better understand, here is the difference between N scale versus HO scale model trains.
The foremost difference on your mind is likely how the cost differs between N and HO scale models. Getting started with either model is generally inexpensive, but N scale models have historically been the cheaper of the two. Although, this only applies to buying the trains themselves. Creating the railroad layout is no cheaper or more expensive than an HO scale layout.
If you intend to look for secondhand models and supplies, however, then you’ll likely have better luck with HO scale models. While both scales are popular, HO scales are just a bit more popular and, therefore, more common on a secondhand market.
The biggest difference between N scale and HO scale model trains is their size. N scale models are half the size of HO scale models. This makes N scale great if space is tight and you want to fit more track into a small layout. That said, it should be noted that because they’re half the size, N scale models may not be as detailed as HO scale train models. Furthermore, the larger size of HO scale trains allows you to more easily install circuit boards for extra features like bells, whistles, and lights.
If you’ve ever visited a hobby shop, you know that finding specific trains, supplies, and layout materials can be difficult if the store is unorganized. And while we talked about how HO scale models are common on the secondhand market, secondhand rarely has the same quality as something brand new. Online retailers like Midwest Model Railroad offer an expansive inventory of models and materials to choose from, whether you’re looking for HO scale or N scale models. Just know that once a model has sold out, the manufacturer will not restock.
Choosing a Scale
So, which should you choose? It depends on your circumstances. Many beginners choose N scale trains because they require less space. They’re often cheaper, so you won’t lose as much if you decide not to pursue the hobby. However, most veterans prefer HO scale trains because they’re bigger and allow for more details and features.