Lionel Used

does anyone know the difference between the gages in model rail roading?

they advertise: HO gage-N gage-O gage-S gage etc.

if youd like the in depth version to your question ie: scale differences, why they are, and how they came to be.... then please feel free to email me. its a long story. the easiest answer is:

O gauge = O scale = the largest scale you listed. (Lionel)
S gauge = S scale = American Flyer = smaller than O, but larger than HO.
HO gauge = HO Scale = 1/87th = the most popular of all scales = "Half O" scale (its half the size dimensionally from O scale. it is the only scale that can ride on another scales tracks. [will fit on 2 rails of O scale track, since O scale is the only scale that makes a 3 rail version {YUK!}])
N gauge = N scale = the smallest of the scales you listed.

all these listed are 'standard' gauges. that means they are models of the "standard gauge" real life 4'-8.5" rail system. real life trains at that measurement in the US are called "standard gauge". plain HO, O or N refers to a model of this, in their designated scale proportions. HO is 87 times less the size than 1 of the real thing for instance.

also dont be confused by "standard gauge". way back in the early part of last century, Lionel used to make 'standard gauge' scale trains. this was before the advent of model scale size designations like O, HO, and N. reason was these scales werent invented yet. more about that in the email if you wish.

if the model scale designations are On3, Nn3 or something like HOn3 (most common), then these are model designations for models of 'narrow gauge' real life trains. these are trains that have rails spaced closer together than the standard 4'-8.5". notice capital scale size, and little n. the number designates a whole other range of scales. there is an HO2 1/2" for instance. that is just a smaller, narrower gauge than even the HOn3 version which is already a narrow gauge.

in real life, trains are only, wide gauge, standard gauge, or narrow gauge. no scale for them since they are the real thing. if i had to guess, the order youve listed the scales in is by their popularity.
i am guessing that youve already seen a model in each of these sizes, i will remind you that there are pictures everywhere of these 4 scales set right next to each other for a comparative view.

as one would gather from this sort of picture, the N scale is almost ant sized compared to O scale. the above listed answer by Mike gives you the sizes of the scales. i can only always remember the HO one. i personally dont know anyone who refers to models by the scale ratios. its always HO gauge, or Lionel, or N scale etc etc.

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