Is N-Scale the New "Big Dog"?

Maxwell Plant Mar 19, 2000

  1. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    20 years ago, I had an HO scale layout, but I can't really say I was very active on it. Since the mid-'90s, my 4x12' HO layout had largely gathered dust most of the time, mainly due to my disappointment in not being able to run the long autoracks and TOFC flats on my 18" radius curves.

    I quit HO in 2006 and sold nearly all of it to switch to N scale, which I've been into since. In HO, there would be years of inactivity in the hobby, but as an N scaler, the inactivity hardly lasts mote than 2 months max. Though my N layout is smaller (4x8'), I have more trains than I did in HO and enjoy the hobby much more thanks to the radius no longer being an issue (still 18" radius, but it's a different story in N). Also, DCC and more room for scenery has made it more of a joy.

    HO is still king, but I believe even the notoriously HO-centric Model Railroader magazine acknowledged in an article on the industry a couple years ago that N scale is the fastest-growing scale.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2021
    Moose2013, BarstowRick and eposte12 like this.
  2. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    A few years ago, the editor of MRR magazine mentioned in his column that, if any scale's market is growing, it was N. Not that it has altered their ratio of coverage (which is probably 4:1 or more in favor of HO and larger scales). Of course many articles are adaptable/applicable to other scales.
    Metro Red Line and BarstowRick like this.
  3. Martin Station

    Martin Station TrainBoard Member

    N scale has come a long way, but it still seems to follow HO at a distance. ScaleTrains has brought out some nicely detailed locomotives and freight cars in N and other companies like Rapido has also but we are still not keeping up with HO as much with new products. I would love to see ST do their SD40-2 and SD40T-2 in N scale. And it would be nice to see Atlas "refresh" or update some of their locomotives like they are doing with freight cars. It seems that their GP39-2 shell was really ment for the Trainman line with lack of details and they are not even adding any extra details like on the last release of the GP38s.
    I really wonder if we are going to see anything new from Fox Valley or Intermountain again either. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to have what I got and it's still a good time to be in N, but by this time I was hoping to see more new locomotives with details added like the ST Dash 9 and Tier 4 Gevos as well as Rapido's latest GE and F unit offerings.
    I will say that there are a lot of companies that have updated and released rolling stock that is just fantastic, too many to even list here. I just wish everything or at least most of what's pulling it looked as good. Even the newer cabooses are outstanding. I was really sorry to see us lose Arnold,
    I thought their switchers and U25C locomotives were nice.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021
  4. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

    Catching up and caught are two different things...

    It will be quite a while before N is as big a market as HO is (or perhaps HO is as small as N).

    But the increased ability to manufacture detailed models in ever smaller sizes, somewhat like electronics, will continue; meanwhile real-estate is getting more expensive.

    The main limitation seems to me to be sound decoders (and not really the decoder, but the limited size of the speaker that can fit in and N scale locomotive (or even a sound car behind it).

    Perhaps transmitting the sound from the locomotive to headphones worn by the modelers, which can sense the relative direction and distance of the locomotive (the source of the transmission) to reproduce the sound image correctly, will eliminate the need to put a speaker in the locomotive. Or the sound could be transmitted to a three-dimensional sound stage over/under the layout. After all, electronic technology is advancing faster than mechanical technology, and the above is within the realm of possibilities even today.
    308GTSi likes this.
  5. NorsemanJack

    NorsemanJack TrainBoard Member

    Why can’t you run modern Amtrak?
  6. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    I like to think of the Atlas and Kato lines as the Athearn blue box of today, they make decent times, however they have basic details, you want correct, either get ST, or like the blue boxes, strip and add your own details and paint/decal.

    As for the original question of is N the new big dog, I don't think so, its growing, but I just think N scalers are more vocal online and in social media, and I feel that has a lot to do with the age demographics of it. My dad, who will turn 60 this year is an HO guy, where I am at 36 an N scaler. He's not really online, and has no social media presence. Where I am on multiple train forums and social media platforms. It just seems the "younger" generation is siding with N as we are looking to do spare bedroom empires versus the basement empires of our parents generation, and being online more, we just seem louder.

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    That post was in March 2000 (21 years ago) and while it wasn't impossible back then, it was a bit harder back then. Only ConCor Superliners and F40's from Life Like. No P42's then. Now thanks to Kato, we have some awesome modern Amtrak!

    Fun to see these super old post brought back to life.
    Metro Red Line likes this.
  8. sd90ns

    sd90ns TrainBoard Member

    If you were starting a big layout today; what, in your opinion, is the biggest limiting factor with regards to making the decision to build in N-Scale?
    Track? The scale looking stuff always seems to be in limited quantity and there's not much available in the way of switches and crossing.
    Locomotives? I want to model in XXXXXXX but it could take decades to build up a decent size fleet unless I paint my own.
    Rolling stock? Here today and gone tomorrow unless you play the e-bay game.
    Anything I missed?
  9. James Fitch

    James Fitch TrainBoard Member

    That proves nothing and is local only to this forum. I frequent a number of forums and this is probably the busiest N scale forum I've noticed. It just happens that the N scale forum here has reached a critical mass. Over at AtlasRescueForums there is an N scale section and gets very little activity where as the HO is very active.

    So it's fine to have a self-love discussion, but what's going on out in the wider world may not reflect what you see here.

    That said, I'm not anti N scale. I've been building up quite a roster of it as I expect I'll eventually have to down size as I get older and won't have as much space as I presently have. Even in my 15x33 foot room, HO fills it up easily and N scale could do alot more with that space.

    As for what is available. I was an N-scaler back in the early 1980's but the kinds of trains I was interested in were simply not available, mainly engines and rolling stock that was correct for D&RGW. I started noticing about 15 years ago that Trainworx and Intermountain began changing that. I know Microtrains has historically main some of the most finely detailed rolling stock for a long time, but Trainworx came onto the scene and IMHO has blown Microtrains out of the water, at least as far as I think as a 70's D&RGW fan. They are great for modern folks too as far as the trucks go. Wheels of Time is also a favorite of mine with their PC&F boxcars and flatcars.

    There are still some holes in what I would like but it's much better than the 80's and 90's.

    I only wish I hadn't missed out on the KATO California Zephyr train sets. They were so common and for good prices a few years ago and now they are very hard to find and over priced on fleabay.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021
    Onizukachan likes this.
  10. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    I agree with this, go look at online hobby shops and compare number of available HO items to N, and typically it is 2/3 to 1. HO still dominates.
  11. rray

    rray Staff Member

    Haha, I was so hardcore N Scale when this thread came out. The layout I was building then is long gone, the players born, lived, and long ago died. It's hard to believe I have been into Z Scale since late 2003, and I actually believed N Scale would have overcome and surpassed HO by now.

    In 2000, an average home in Boise cost $100K, was 1600sf, came with a 3 car garage, and was on an 8000sf lot. Plenty of space for an HO layout and a train shed or garage to house it. San Jose however was $250K for 1200sf, 2 car garage, and a 6000sf lot. Still room for a small HO layout, but more suited to an N layout.

    Today Boise costs $400K for 1600sf, 2 car garage, on a 3000sf lot, and San Jose costs $800K for 1000sf and no room to change your mind. With space at a premium I really would expect N to take over HO as the most popular scale in the next few years.
  12. dti406

    dti406 TrainBoard Member

    This is the only forum that I frequent where N Scale has more proponents than HO Scale, For all the major US manufacturers/importers except Kato N scale is a small portion of their business.

    Rick Jesionowski
  13. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    SHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...we are trying to keep that a secret....(y):whistle:
  14. OlyPen

    OlyPen TrainBoard Member

    Not by a long shot. HO still commands the marketplace.
  15. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    I believe the HOers just havent seen the errors of their ways ...yet. ;):whistle:
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  16. mrhedley

    mrhedley TrainBoard Member

    Over on the Railwire forums they list over 260 thousand posts in N and Z scale and only 8 thousand posts in HO and larger scales. To be fair, they do not have a separate category for weekly updates. The weekly update is posted in the N and Z scale category and several of the updates are by HO modelers. But that is still a huge disparity. And there are some fine N scale modelers over there too. Just as there are here.
  17. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    HO may still be number one, but N scale turned out not to be any aberration and has a rock solid chunk of the hobby world well nailed down today.
  18. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member


    Most of the model railroad forums I know of are actually N-centric. Even the general/multi-scale ones. The only exceptions are the Railroader magazine forums (for obvious reasons :D) and MRH.
    mtntrainman likes this.
  19. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author TrainBoard Member

    One thing that wasn't nearly as much of a factor then as it is now is... wait for it... shipping costs.

    Between ever escalating prices and the introduction of "dimensional weight" (anything bigger than 12x12x12 is based on size, not weight) N Scale has a real advantage there now. One cannot fit much into a Priority Mail Small Flat Rate box in HO. And there's very little HO that doesn't exceed the 13 ounce First Class Mail maximum either... not like that's a deal anymore either.

    Now, does this stop certain sellers from trying to charge $8 and $10 to ship a single car? No...
    MK likes this.
  20. sd90ns

    sd90ns TrainBoard Member

    Shipping costs have gone through the roof and they are due to go up even more in the next several months.
    You cannot have a nearly $1.00 increase in the price of a gallon of diesel fuel without increasing shipping costs and this is just the beginning folks, wait until the Feds start charging a tax for every mile driven.
    Three years from now we'll all be looking back to 2021 as "The good old days".

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