"N SCALE" and "N GAUGE"

maxairedale Feb 2, 2010

  1. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    I’m going step up on my soapbox here and I hope that I do not offend anyone. If I do, I apologize in advance. If you think you are going to be offended stop reading now.

    N SCALE” and “N GAUGEARE NOT the same thing. Unfortunately the two terms have been interchanged for many years.

    N SCALE” is a definition of size when compared to the prototype, N Scale is 1/160 of prototype.

    N GAUGE” means NARROW GAUGE. Gauge is the distance between the inner sides of the heads of the two parallel rails that make up a single railway line and in the United States the Standard Gauge is 4 ft 8.5 in. Thus Narrow Gauge has a distance between the inner sides of rail heads that is less then standard gauge.

    You can have a Narrow Gauge N Scale railroad, and it would have items scaled to 1/160 the prototype and the distance between the rail heads of a single railway line would be less then the normal N Scale track. This would be expressed something like "Nn3" meaning N Scale (1/160 of the prototype) narrow gauge with the distance between the rail heads to be 3 scale feet (0.225 inches or 5.715 mm).

    I realize that this confusion was started many years ago by the manufactures and how they labeled N Scale items with the term N Gauge. It continues today by some of the manufactures. That does not make it right. Even some of the retailers advertise N GAUGE; but all of the other scales are stated HO Scale, O Scale, S Scale, etc. You see this in magazine ads and in online ads. Again that does not make it right.

    Frequently we see here on TrainBoard something like this, “I’m designing an N gauge layout." Okay, my first thought is he or she is doing a narrow gauge layout, and I wonder what Scale. Further reading I realize that he or she is talking about N SCALE standard gauge. I have lost count of the number of times I wanted to post a reply pointing out the error in the use of N Gauge for N Scale, but I bit my lip and fingers because the original poster most likely does not know the difference because he or she sees the terms used the wrong way all the time, and especially if he or she has a box full of N Scale model railroad equipment from the Wiz-Bang-Train Company and on the box it states “Authentic N Gauge Model Railroad.”

    I understand that the terminology can be confusing, N Scale and N Gauge, Switch and Turnout and Switch just to name a few.

    Scale and Gauge are not the same so STOP using them as the same.

    I now climb down from my soapbox.

    Gary

    TrainBoard Administration: I’m not sure which forum this should be in, if you think it should be moved or copied to another forum please feel free to more or copy it.
     
  2. wcfn100

    wcfn100 TrainBoard Member

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    Are you sure about that?


    Jason
     
  3. bdaneal

    bdaneal New Member

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    The way I've always heard it, N gauge refers to the nine millimeters of track gauge. If that's correct, then N-gauge is technically more accurate than N-scale. Consider that Japanese N is a different scale, but it is called N because it still runs on 9 mm track. As I recall, UK outline stuff is to yet another scale, yet still runs on 9mm track. The only common element is the track gauge of nine millimeters.
    Also, the only abbreviation for narrow gauge I've ever encountered is NG. I've never encountered n-gauge referring to narrow gauge.

    Cheers,
    Ben
     
  4. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Jason,

    What do you think it means?

    As stated above Gauge referees to the distance between the rail heads. See this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_gauge

    The one thing I'm sure of is that it does not mean N Scale.

    Gary
     
  5. Fishplate

    Fishplate TrainBoard Supporter

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    Jason has zeroed in on the problem with this argument. The "N" in N gauge does not stand for "narrow". It stands for "nine", as in 9 millimeters. At a ratio of 1:160 (N scale), 9 millimeters represents standard gauge almost exactly.
     
  6. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    N Gauge refers to the Nine millimeters between the tracks. Nn3 is one possible narrow gauge version of N scale.

    The main thing is that N scale is 1:160. N Gauge (nine millimeter) track could conceivably be used by modelers modeling in any scale.
     
  7. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    If someone posts "I am building an N gauge layout" in the N scale forum, and they are using nine millimeter track, then, technically, they are not saying anything inaccurate. I agree that the term N gauge is often used when N scale would be more accurate, but I don't experience any rise in blood pressure over it.
     
  8. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    I agree that the "N" does come from the 9 millimeters.

    From Wikipedia "The term N gauge refers to the track dimensions, but in the UK in particular N gauge refers to a 1:148 scale with 9 mm track gauge modeling."

    Based on that statement "N" does stand for NARROW since 1:160 is smaller then 1:148.

    Gary
     
  9. N-builder

    N-builder TrainBoard Member

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    I think you have a good point there Gary the reason that the manufactures get it wrong because they represent it the wrong way, if you build a narrow gauge railroad it is represented by a lower case n like Nn3, HOn3 not upper case N NN3 or HON3 therefore it would make sense to change it to n gauge instead of N gauge to end all the confusion. I think people would understand this a lot better.
     
  10. wcfn100

    wcfn100 TrainBoard Member

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    No it doesn't but there's more than one way to identify a model train. You can either go by the scale of the models or the gauge of the track those models run on.

    Of course there is only one N scale, but you could conceivably call anything that use 9mm track 'N Gauge'. This list could include HOn2-1/2 along with 1/148th.

    And this all gets more cluttered when you look at Nn3 and O, both of which use a track gauge wider than scale. I know it would seem odd to call Nn3 'Z gauge', and I've spent too many hours at train shows explaining the difference, but when it comes down to it, under current standards, Nn3 models are also Z gauge trains.

    Jason
     
  11. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    So based on "...N gauge refers to a 1:148 scale with 9 mm track gauge modeling.", if you state that "I am building an N gauge layout" then are you modeling the rolling stock and other structures as close to 1:148 as possible? Where with N Scale you would be modeling the rolling stock and other structures as close to 1:160 as possible. To me there is a difference just like there is between HO and S. Both differences are small but they are different.

    Gary.
     
  12. alister

    alister TrainBoard Member

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    I'll just throw this is as I've been around a while with this stuff.
    Max you are correct in saying N Scale is 1/160.
    N gauge is simply 9mm track gauge.
    Outside of the USA and Germany N gauge generally refers to UK at 1/148 and Japanese at 1/150.
    Japanese and UK N gauge not referred to as N scale because they are not 1/160.

    I also model TTN3.5 (NZ120) which uses N gauge track (9mm) so technically I could describe it as N gauge.
    In the early days N Scale was called N gauge because there were 3 different scales and don't forget the 2mm Society which is N gauge. Does this help or is it still clear as mud?

    Your Narrow Gauge designation of 1/160 is incorrect however this is why the UK uses 9mm but with 1/148 as the track gauge is narrower than the USA std gauge, likewise Japanese use 1/150 on 9mm track for the same reason. If N gauge was a true Narrow gauge it would be designated Nn but it's not. Nn3 is N scale rolling stock and locomotives running on Z scale track to give Narrow gauge.

    Alister
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2010
  13. retsignalmtr

    retsignalmtr TrainBoard Member

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    Scale is the relation of the model to the prototype, with N scale being 1:160. N scale track is 9mm which is supposed to equate with the 4'-8 1/2" gauge of the prototype. So in O,HO, N or Z, the word gauge refers to the spacing of the rails. So the word gauge should not be used to refer to the scale size of the train. As for N gauge refering to narrow gauge, N is usually accompanied with the gauge of the rails being, N,n2-1/2, N,n3 or N,n30 the small n refering to be narrow gauge. Even though the use of the word gauge may be incorrect when refering to the scale of the model they are interchangable.
     
  14. dstuard

    dstuard TrainBoard Member

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    "N gauge" means 9 mm between the rails
    "n" means narrow gauge compared to the standard

    "N scale" in "N"orth America is 1:160,
    in the UK it's 1:148
    in Japan it's 1:150.

    All three run on "N gauge" (9 mm) track

    Nn3 is N narrow gauge with a scale 3 ft. between the rails (1:160 assumed). Z gauge (6.5 mm) track is typically used, (although that would scale out to 1.04m/41" gauge at 1:160).

    Nm is N narrow gauge with a scale 1 m between the rails (scale not defined AFAIK, but see above).


    It all depends.... <G>
     
  15. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    I never claimed that "...N gauge refers to a 1:148 scale with 9 mm track gauge modeling." That must have been someone else's quote.

    I have not yet met a person modeling in N scale using N gauge (defined as a 9 millimeter spacing of track) for narrow gauge modeling. If you look at it proportionally, 9 millimeter track scaled up would be 1332 mm in 1:148, which is almost 52.5 inches. Considering that "standard" gauge is 56.5 inches, we're not really in the usual narrow gauge range, which would be more like 24 inches, 30 inches, 36, or, in a few cases, 42 inches.

    N gauge track in N scale is much closer to standard gauge. To scale, it models 1440mm (really close to the 1435.1 mm, or 4 ft 8 1/2 in. spacing of standard gauge track) and so 1:160 is a more accurate ratio in this sense than 1:148.

    In general, people use the same gauge track as Z scalers to model Nn3, which is also a bit inaccurate as it scales out to a little under 41", not 36".
     
  16. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    I agree that, any scale train, larger then N Scale be it HO, O, TT, etc., can run on the standard size track that is used for N Scale. But as soon as you use this Nine Millimeter between the rail heads you are no longer using standard gauge track spacing for your railroad. It now becomes a Narrow Gauge railroad. Thus at this point you can say that you are using "N Gauge" meaning "Nine Gauge" or "Narrow Gauge" or "Nine Millimeter" but you are still modeling in HO, O, TT, etc. Further more would a person modeling in HO state that he or she is modeling 0.65 gauge? Which brings me back to my first posting where I said that Gauge and Scale are not the same. So when some one tells me that he or she is modeling in "N Gauge" it just tells me that the space between the rail heads is most likely 9 millimeter (based on other postings in this thread) but I still have not a clue what Scale they are modeling.

    Yes it is STILL very muddy


    Gary
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2010
  17. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    No you did not. I had posted that in an earlier response in this thread as a quote from Wikipedia and I did not mean to imply that you had said that.

    Gary
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2010
  18. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    Do you not believe that the reason that they use the Z Scale Standard Gauge track is because it is available as well as the trucks and loco chassis making it much easier to use it then to lay their own track and making the trucks and loco chassis? After all 5 inches in N Scale is 0.0315 inches, I don't know about you but I cannot tell 3 one hundredths of an inch with my eye.

    Gary
     
  19. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Fifty-two inches is hardly narrow gauge in any sense as I understand it. It is, indeed, narrower than 56.5 inches, but it is hardly comparable to 30" or 36" inch gauge.

    The ratio of scales 1:160 to 1:148 is equivalent to .925/1. The other comparison you made earlier of HO to S is about .74/1. I would argue that the second scale ratio is much more readily identifiable than the first. Someone running S scale equipment on typical standard gauge HO track would be modeling roughly 42" gauge, so, yes, it would look like narrow gauge to the casual observer, and indeed there are a few systems out there using a 42" gauge equivalent, including, if I am not mistaken, most of New Zealand.
     
  20. country joe

    country joe TrainBoard Member

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    This seems like a lot of arguing about nothing. When someone says they model N gauge they mean N scale. I have never seen or heard an HOn30 or On18 modeler say they model HO scale-N gauge or O scale-N gauge. So long as we understand what is meant there is not a problem. I just don't get what all the fuss is about.
     

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