Model railroad layouts come in a wide variety of scales and a model railroad show is an ideal place to compare scales and decide which appeals to you. In addition to admiring the scale layouts, check to see what local vendors offer in each scale. For some scales you may have several local sources of material, other scales may require importing stock or scenery, yet others may attract people who like to build everything from scratch.
This useful visual of identical railroad cars in the most common model railroad scales shows the following scales from the top right on down:
- HO scale - or Half "O" scale, the most common scale for railroad models with the most stock and accessories
- N scale (to left) - a common smaller scale for more compact layouts, the second most popular club scale,
- S scale - an older model scale of 1:64 popularized by Lionel and other makers of 'toy' trains. S scale is half of "standard size" or 1:32 scale, a scale commonly used for toy soldiers. As 1:64 is a common size for scale trucks and cars, there are a range of support vehicles for railroads available in this scale.
- Z scale (to left) is one of the smallest scales for railroads at 1:220, at railroad shows small layouts of Z scale are often shown in a suitcase, to show how compacts the basic layouts can be. There are an increasing number of accessories and pieces of rolling stock in this scale, but it is still less popular than traditional scales.
- O scale is the original 'toy train' scale but there is some confusion in this scale as pieces range from 1:43, 1:45 to 1:48 in scale. The large size allows for detailed modelling and many miniaturists now build in 1:48 scale for the detailed interior and exterior layouts of buildings.
- G scale is the largest of the indoor modelling scales, although it is also the smallest of the scales used for outdoors at 1:22.5 to 1:24. This is the easiest crossover scale to model with dollhouses and other play characters, so the scale is popular with both toy modellers and traditional railroad enthusiasts.