O Scale Model Trains: Let’s Know Everything You Need

Looking forward to purchasing your first model train? However, you are uncertain whether to go with O-Scale or G-Scale models. After all, these two have different scale ratios and run on a separate gauge.

Well, if you are looking for something that even your younger kids can play with, I suggest getting O Scale Model trains. They are not only durable but also big enough for safe use by small children. Even better, these trains are manufactured with better precision and offer more intricate detailing than most models.

Now, to help you make the right purchase, below is everything you need to know about O Scale trains.

A Brief History Of O Scale Trains

Interestingly, the O-Scale was one of the first sizes of model trains to be used. John Gwartzell started building the O Scale trains in early 1894. But you see, the first model was actually produced around 1900 by Marklin, a German toy manufacturer.

By the 1930s, these model trains were highly popular around the United States. However, during World War II, most O Scale train manufacturers ventured into the production of military equipment. As such, you will realize that their popularity did really decline.

And guess what? In the early 1990s, the manufacturers of these trains started emphasizing more on realism. Because of this, these trains started becoming less popular. But today, if you want a quality electric O Scale train, you can get one from the Lionel Corporation.

What is Scale?

Essentially, it’s the relative size of a model train in proportion to the dimensions of an actual train. This can either be in ratio or percentage form. Generally, you will come across five commonly used scales to choose, from including:

1. O Scale

This is the oldest and most popular scale of the five. With a size ratio of 1:48, it is also quite huge in size.

2. G Scale

Compared to the O-scale, this G scale is pretty large at a 1:22:5 ratio. As such, you will find it best suited for large indoor and outdoor use.

3. S Scale

At a 1:64 ratio, this type of scale is relatively smaller than the O-Scale. In addition, it uses a two-rail track which is what makes it stand out.

4. HO Scale

This is a smaller alternative to the famous HO scale since it is only 1:87 in size. So, if you’re a hobbyist looking to create your own layout in a small space, you will love it.

5. N Scale

With a ratio of 1:16, this is the smallest of all the scales. It is, therefore, ideal when you want to build a complex layout but in a small space.

What is O Scale?

It is simply one of the oldest types of scales in toy train and rail transport modeling. You use it to measure the size of a model train on a ratio of 1:48. Of course, this is in proportion to a real-life train. Generally, trains that use this gauge run on a two-rail track.

But compared to other scales, O-Scale offers a wide range of high-quality equipment and trains in the market. Now, if you are looking for an O-scale train, I suggest you get it from manufacturers like Lionel, Williams, or MTH.

What Does the O in O Scale Stand for?

You will probably be surprised to learn that the “O” is actually zero (0). Because you see, around 1900, other gauges were numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on. Basically, it was given the O name since it was a step down in size from the 1 scale.

What Are O Scale Model Trains?

These are model trains built to run on two-rail track systems or simply O gauge tracks. Generally, the trains are 1/48th the size of real trains in the United States with a 1.25 inches gauge.

However, in the U.K., you will find that their size is 1/43rd that of an actual train. And 1/45th size in Europe. So, if you are looking for the largest scale model train, I suggest you get an O-Scale.

What is the Difference Between O Scale and G Scale Trains?

These two model trains have more similarities than differences. That said, the main difference between them is their size. As I have already mentioned, the O Scale trains are 1:48 size and run on a 1.25-inch gauge.

G-scale trains, on the other hand, are built at a 1:22.5 scale and run on a 1.75-inch fixed track gauge. As such, you will find them large enough for outdoor use, especially in your garden. And thanks to their size, you can buy them for your younger kids to play with.

What is O Gauge?

To start with, a gauge is the distance between the outer rails of the track system. O Gauge, on the other hand, is simply a three-rail track scale. Generally, you use this type of gauge when referring to model trains built to a gauge of 1:43.5. But in the U.S., this gauge is approximately 1:48 in size.

What is the Difference Between O Gauge and Standard Gauge?

Well, it is their size. Because you see, O Gauge refers to a 1.25-inch gauge track. Standard gauge, on the other hand, measures 2.125 inches between the rails or simply 4 feet, 8 1/2-inches.

And when it comes to train scale, the O-gauge is at a 1:48 ratio, and the standard gauge is at 1:32 size. Therefore, you cannot run an O-gauge train on a standard gauge and vice versa is true.

What Size is an O Gauge Train?

An O-gauge model train features a 1:48 scale. This means that 1/4 of an inch on the O Gauge train model equals 1 foot on the actual train. However, in Europe, O gauge trains measure 1/43rd in size.

What Voltage Do O Scale Trains Use?

Because of their large size, these trains can run on approximately 18 volts of 60-cycle alternating current (AC). However, you can still find some O-gauge trains that are useless or have even more voltage than this.

Are O Gauge Trains AC or DC?

Surprisingly, almost all O-gauge trains operate on AC (alternating current) electricity. This is because they run on three-rail track systems, and DC is common with trains that operate on two-rail tracks. However, you might get some models built in the 70s and 80s that can run on DC or AC.

O Scale Brands and Manufacturers

With so many companies manufacturing O Scale trains, how do you know which brand to choose? Below are my top recommendations.

1. Lionel, LLC

Founded in 1900 by Lionel Cowen, Lionel, LLC is one of the world’s oldest manufacturers of model and toy trains. And for more than a hundred years, Lionel corporation has been the market leader for the O Scale trains.

2. MTH Electric Trains

MTH Electric Trains company has been in existence since 1980 manufacturing only high-quality O scale models. However, it’s no longer in operation because the company shut down in 2021. Even so, you can still get their trains under the Atlas O brand.

3. Atlas O

Having been in business since 1924, Atlas O is known for making train models in O, N, and HO gauges. However, you will realize most of their O Scale collection is from what they acquired from MTH Electric Trains.

4. Weaver Models

Founded in 1965, Weaver Models is yet another excellent O Scale manufacturer. Unfortunately, the company also shut down its operations in 2015 and had some of its products acquired by Atlas.


When buying O Scale trains, you need to first understand what scale ratio these model trains use. Above all, you must know what O-Scale trains are. This way, you can quickly tell their differences from other models like the G-Scale trains. Because you see, it’s pretty easy to confuse these two model trains since they both use three-rail tracks. 

Besides that, I suggest you learn the different gauges available. This is because you may have to choose between a standard and an O gauge. And to ensure you get the best O-Scale train, I recommend you consider products from trusted brands like Lionel, LLC.

Craig Eaton

Good day. This is Craig Eaton. My friends call me the home expert because I love spending most of my time in my home, garden, lawn, and yard. I am a lawn and gardener enthusiast who pursued organic farming as a career.

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