When it comes to model trains, we have to consider several main factors. Size of the model, what our layout will look like, and details such as specific locomotives that we want to run.
If you’re unsure, model trains come in a whole host of sizes, but the most popular are; N scale Vs HO scale.
Which one should you pick? Which one is better? Let’s find out!
N scale vs ho scale; what are they?
N scale and HO scale are two of the most popular sizes available for model trains. Essentially, what you need to know is that N scales model trains are significantly smaller than HO scale model trains.
Depending on the country of origin, N scale model trains can be in between 1:148 and 1:160. But the gauge (or track width) is fixed at 9mm.
On the other hand, a HO scale model train has a scale ratio of 1:87. The gauge of the HO scale is 16.5 mm.
So a HO train is a little less than double the size of an N scale train.
Which scale is better?
We can’t directly say that one scale is better than the other, objectively because both have their purpose of being better at separate things.
So, depending on what you are looking for in a model train, your choices might differ from other people. So let’s dive into some of the n scale vs ho scale key topics so you can decide for yourself!
The HO scale is bigger than the N scale – o obviously it will take a bigger area to set it up than the N scale trains. Now, it doesn’t need to be a massive area, but a ho scale layout is going to sit pretty snugly on a 4×8 piece of plywood, so that’s probably your minimum.
On the other hand, the same result can be achieved for N scale model trains in a smaller space. Same rules apply as above, so you can get away with a 2×4 foot layout as roughly the minimum.
Anything extra for both of those and you can start to come up with some nice details.
So, if you have a problem with space, N scale model trains will be better for you.
One of the biggest arguments in the N scale vs HO scale debate is that because HO is bigger, it just holds more detail.
In this instance, it’s technically true. Because the HO is bigger, they can get a lot of the smaller, more minute details in the train that you wouldn’t otherwise get with an N scale locomotive.
In the last decade, the ability for N scale to hold a lot of the same details as HO has really stepped up, but you’re still left with the overall size problem, where things like rivets and bolts might just be too small to actually show up at scale.
So if you are focusing on details, then go with the HO scale model trains.
Chances are good you’re not just going to set up the little circle track that comes in the box and leave it on the table. Half the fun of model trains is building your own layout!
This means that you will need more rail track, more terrain, and buildings to complement your layout.
Unfortunately, with N scale models, it is a little harder to parts. Although they were both invented within a 5-year span of each other, HO has been a lot more popular for a lot longer, and it’s only been in the last decade that N scale has really started to find more mainstream popularity. So in this instance, HO scale is better for finding a wider variety of components, but that doesn’t mean that expansion is impossible with N scale.
How do you convert HO scale to N scale?
To convert the HO scale into N scale, simply multiply the dimension of any HO scale object by 0.54.
In the reverse, you can multiple N scale by 1.70 to convert it up into HO scale.
This works great if you have anything like 3d models or some sort of decal you want to apply that’s in the others’ scale.
Is N scale cheaper than HO scale?
When we talk about ho scale vs n scale, price is definitely a big factor!
N scale model trains are cheaper than HO scales. Because they are small in size and cost fewer resources to make they’re always at the least a little bit cheaper. N scale mostly averages around $100-200 while HO has a bigger range; anywhere from about $120-400.
So in this case, you can definitely find something around the $150-200 mark from both scales.
Which one is more readily available?
HO scale is the common model and it is the most available train size today. So in this instance, HO wins out by a large margin. It’s not just the range of locomotives, but also the other detailing accessories that are more abundant.
While HO wins out here, don’t be stressed too much if you opt for N scale. There are still a lot of great accessories out there!
So that’s all there is to it!
At the end of the day, it really just depends on what you’re looking for in a model train layout.
If you’re dealing with limited space – the corner of a room or a small apartment, then N scale is easily the winner here for you.
If you’ve got a bit more room, and you’re after something with a little more detail than we wholly recommend going the HO scale route.
Honestly, with a lot of the bigger brands really putting their money behind N scale trains in the last decade, they’re quickly closing the gap between cost, availability and detail, so you’ll be safe no matter what you choose!
Peter has been building model trains for longer than he can remember. An avid fan of HO and O scale this blog is a creative outlet to allow him to dive further into other scales and aspects of the model train community and hobby.