What is N-Scale?

gdmichaels Jul 25, 2016

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  1. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

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    Although it may be mistakenly called N-Gauge, derived from some of the earliest mass produced 1:152 "OOO" or "Treble-O" scale models manufactured by the British firm, Lone Star, in 1961, 9 mm wide (i.e., a track gauge of 0.354 inches, as measured between the inner sides of the rail) contemporary N-Scale model production was initiated by the German firm, Arnold Rapido, in 1962.

    While a rail gauge of 9 mm remains constant for standard gauge (as opposed to narrow gauge) N-Scale locomotives and rolling-stock, depending upon the place of manufacture and/or the specific market that a model is targeted to be sold in, its size in proportion to its prototype (i.e., "scale") may be 1:148 (British), 1:150 (for Japanese 3 foot 6 inch /1,067 mm or 4 foot 6 inch / 1,372 mm gauge trains), or 1:160 (for North American, Japanese 1,435 mm high-speed trains, and European) scale.

    Though 9 mm wide track is often used to model narrow gauge lines in larger scales (e.g., HOn2-1/2 or HOe), Z-Scale (6.5 mm/0.256 inch) products are typically used when modeling similar railway systems (Nn3) in N-Scale.

    As is the case with prototype railways, N-Scale manufacturers produce rail in different heights.

    Expressed in thousandths of an inch, track "Code" refers to the measured height of manufactured model rail.

    Extremely popular and larger than most prototype rail, code 80 (0.080-inches tall or about 12 scale inches high) has been the industry standard for years.

    Typically designed for modelers seeking products that are closer to scale, manufacturers also produce rail in Code 70 (0.070 inches tall or about 11 scale inches high), Code 55 (0.055 inches tall or about 9 scale inches high), and Code 40 (0.040-inches tall or about 6 scale inches high).

    While adopting more scale-like rail may initially sound great, there are a three caveats to consider:

    1. Older N-Scale models may need to have their wheels and/or wheel-sets modified or replaced due to the height of the factory-supplied wheel flanges, which will often hit the top of the simulated spike heads that secure the low profile rails to their ties or sleepers. Retrofitting rolling-stock with aftermarket low-profile wheel-sets is fairly easy, and can usually be done at moderate cost

    2. Though the tolerances of wheels and wheel-sets should be checked before newly acquired models are initially run, closer attention must be paid to wheel gauge and flange heights whenever low-profile rail is utilized.

    3. With regards to North American style N-Scale track, there is presently a somewhat limited range of prefabricated products available in anything other than Code 80.
     
  2. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I believe the correct terminology is N gauge which is derived from the actual track gauge of Nine millimeters. Within N gauge there are different scales such as 1:160, 1:150 or 1:148. The term N scale is often ambiguously used to refer to the scale in use in a particular country to designate models operating on N gauge track.
     
  3. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    Gauge refers to the distance between the rail [period]. N gauge is 9mm wide track no matter what scale you run on it. Scale is the size of the trains you run on that track. Currently I'm writing an article on G scale/gauge due to the different sized trains that are all run on the same track. Something that most people don't realize is that there is a meter scale that is popular in Europe where the distance between the rails is 1 meter (larger than US narrow gauge but smaller than US standard gauge). Bachmann's On3 scale trains run on HO gauge track. The track is the same width as HO but the trains are larger representing 3 feet between the rails instead of 4'8 1/2".
     
  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Gauge only refers to the distance between the rails.

    Scale is the proportion of our models to the prototype/the real artifact. Which that scale varies world wide and causes all kinds of confusion.
     
  5. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

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    My understanding, the term N scale is used just about every where except the UK and means 1:160 scale models running on 9mm track. In the UK they ran into problems trying to get small dc motors into scale sized boilers and ended up adopting 1:148 scale models running on 9mm track. In the UK they either refer to this as British Outline or N gauge. Even though they are modeling standard gauge railways in the UK, using 9 mm track, they are actually narrow gauge modelers, but they ignore that fact. It's a trade off they are willing to except. I follow a few UK N gauge modelers on YouTube and to my tired old eyes, I don't notice the difference. Now I guess if you were to place one of our 1:160 models beside one of their 1:148 models, you'd see the difference. Long story short, as BoxcabE50 mentioned above:

    Scale: A proportion used in determining the dimensional relationship of a representation (model) to that which it represents (prototype).
    Gauge: The inside distance between the two rails of a railroad.
     
  6. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

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    I would much rather have liked N scale been designed at 1/144 because there are so many items produced at that more 'common' architectural/engineering scale.
    British N gauge 1/148 is close... but 1/144 is 1" = 12'... whereas American N scale is at 1"=13.3333'. Next best is Japanese N scale at 1/150.
    American N scalers have to compromise and get 'close' to N scale stuff to fill out some items not available in 1/160.
    I think the locomotives would have been better in a slightly larger scale.
    The manufacturers could add some heft to the chassis and made them more reliable (provided... they are designed correct) in 1/144 scale.
    More room for decoders and speakers too.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2016
  7. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    This is the problem that G 'scale' ended up having. LGB brought G 'scale' to the US but were modeling European meter scale (1:22.5). US manufacturers began making G GAUGE (track that is 45mm between the rails) but used 1:24 because of the dollhouse industry also using 1/2" scale (so pre-made dollhouses could be used for buildings). Someone then decided to make standard gauge trains (meaning much smaller) but not wanting to have them look too out of place used 1:29 instead of the correct 1:32 scale (which would then scale out the track at 45mm = 4'8 1/2"). Of course, eventually other MFRs eventually made 'true' standard gauge as well as true 3" narrow gauge trains (1:20.3). Now G gauge (45mm between the rail) has 1:20.3, 1:22.5, 1:24, 1:29, AND 1:32 SCALE trains that all use the same track. And it is rather easy to see the sizes difference between ANY two sizes but its almost comical to see 1:20.3 and 1:32 trains next to each other. I'm glad that the MFRs used true N scale and didn't allow the G 'scale' mess to happen.
     
  8. Rich_S

    Rich_S TrainBoard Member

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    Joe, Wasn't that the idea behind TT scale, where 1" equaled 10 feet? At 1:120, you were halfway between HO scale and N scale. I'm not sure why the manufactures jumped on the N scale band wagon in the 1960's and completely disregarded TT scale?
     
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  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have heard this question asked many times. It would be very interesting to know an answer, other than speculation. It seems like an ideal size. But.....
     
  10. gdmichaels

    gdmichaels TrainBoard Member

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    Being a numbers guy - and loving all the cool 1/144 models available I have to say I agree with Rich. It is a shame Arnold and the others didn't do 1/144....
     
  11. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

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    TT scale is STILL 1:120, however what most people are modeling (in Europe) is TTn3 (3ft scale) or TTnM (meter scale). So they ARE modeling a variation of TT scale, just the narrow gauge version (which changes the scale multiplier). As for 4' 8 1/2" (standard) scale TT, there just isn't much available.
     
  12. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    It is correct that "N gauge" refers only to the distance between the rails (Nine - or neun mm in German) although the term was used in the early days to refer to the whole shebang.

    "N scale" should ONLY refer to trains that are scaled 1/160. The Arnold company developed that size and called it N scale and other proportions should be named some other scale. But, humans being humans...

    And N scale became popular instead of TT because there wasn't enough difference between HO and TT. BTW, TT predates N (at least as a relatively popular scale) by many years.

    Doug
     

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