S Scale vs O Scale

Model trains are fascinating, to say the least. Everything from the well-designed accurate bodies to the static of these miniatures is attractive to a train enthusiast.

But how do you determine which model train scale and size is the one you want? In this article, we are going to be talking about the more common S scale and the O scale model trains.

By the end, you should have a better knowledge of the two and can decide which scale is better. 

What are S scale model trains and O scale model trains?

The S scale or S gauge model train is one of the oldest scales available.

It is modelled at a 1:64 scale making it 36% larger than the standard HO scale. This model has a track gauge, which is the space between the rails of 22,48 (22,5) mm, 0.855 in.

S scale trains are found in both DC and AC powered options. The reason behind the popularity of this scale model train is because of how realistic its two-track system looks.

While the American Flyer Trains are the most prominent and popular manufacturer of S scale trains, there are other manufacturers who offer modern model train options. American Flyer and S-Helper Service provide both vintage and modern model trains as well. 

On the other hand, unlike S scale model trains, O scale model trains have a three-track system.

O scale trains gained popularity after the first world war, and are mostly used for rail transport modelling and toy trains. It is modelled at a 1:48 scale and has complex track layouts.

This is because the size of O is much larger than the OO or HO layouts. O scale model trains are ideal for pre-adults because of their ease of use, durability, and cost.

During its initial days, not much emphasis on accuracy was given. However, after development in recent years, concerns about details and realism were addressed, making them popular among fine-scale modellers as well. 

Brief History of S scale and O scale model trains 

We have already mentioned that the S scale is one of the oldest scales to exist. It was built in 1896 from card stock and formalized by the National Model Railroad Association in 1943.

In 1946, A.C. Gilbert began to build two-rail S scale S gauge trains under the American Flyer brand. It is these improvements in the design along with promotion that largely shaped the world of 1:64 modelling.

With an increase in manufacturers of S scale model trains, there is a larger selection of accessories of high quality. You will find anything from rolling stock, locomotives, tracks, figures, bridges, and much more. 

As for the O scale model trains, it was originally introduced by Märklin, a German toy manufacturer around 1900.

It gained popularity by the 1930s, after The Great Depression as demand for expensive larger trains diminished. After the second world war, more attention was paid to scale, locomotives, and rolling stock and the name was changed from O gauge to O scale.

More emphasis is placed on realism and details with an intention to regain popularity since the 1990s.

Some of the prominent manufacturers of O scale model trains are American Flyer, Williams, Atlas O, MTH, and Weaver. 

Which scale is better; S Scale vs O Scale?

Now that you have a better understanding of both the S scale and O scale we can finally determine which is better.

Coming to the conclusion as to which scale is better is almost impossible. This is because each size has its own set of pros and cons.

However, keeping a few factors in mind, like age, space, goals, and budget will help you decide which scale is better for you. 

When we talk about age, it is believed that larger scales are better suited for younger modellers. However, there are many older modellers who prefer larger scales as well as it is more comfortable to work with.

While the O scale model trains are larger than the S scale, they are widely popular as toy trains. As such, it is best for younger modellers to opt for O scale model trains.

However, bigger is not always better. If there is a lack of space for a larger layout, there are smaller options available. In that case, choosing S scale model trains is better. Once you have that sorted, it is time to move on to your budget.

There are both expensive and cheap models for the scales. Out of the two, O scale model trains are more affordable than the S scale.

It all depends on how many model trains you need to fill up your layout. Your budget and space should align with the ultimate goal.

What do you envision the perfect layout to be? Do you prefer more detailing or ready-to-run models? 

Which scale is more readily available? 

In today’s global age, almost everything is available anywhere. As such, both O scales and S scales can be found easily.

However, compared to O scales, S scale model trains are less easily available. You will find that many manufacturers like Lionel, Atlas O, MTH, and Williams are still making O scale model trains.

Not only the trains but there are also other accessories for the trains found in the market to complete this complex layout.

Comparatively, the selection of trains and accessories for S scale model trains is much more limited. 

The popularity of model railroading has been on the rise for decades now. The wide variety of scales, sizes, and accessories makes it more interesting for modellers to live out their goals.

We hope our article was helpful for you to understand the difference between the S scale and the O scale model train. Have fun choosing the right model scale! 

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