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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LIONEL VINTAGE OPERATING CATTLE CAR  3656 WITH THE 3656 OPERATING BOX CAR
LIONEL VINTAGE OPERATING CATTLE CAR 3656 WITH THE 3656 OPERATING BOX CAR
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Lionel Lines 234W coal car
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Lionel 8800 engine with plug in coal car
Lionel 8800 engine with plug in coal car
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Lionel Train Part 2333 32 Diesel Wheel
Lionel Train Part 2333 32 Diesel Wheel
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Lionel Train Part 8306 200 Complete Smoke Unit
Lionel Train Part 8306 200 Complete Smoke Unit
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Lionel Train Part 622 9 Black Bell
Lionel Train Part 622 9 Black Bell
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Lionel 8310 engine with Nickel Plate Road coal car
Lionel 8310 engine with Nickel Plate Road coal car
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Lionel Train Part 9818 44 Milk Car Roof Hatch Black
Lionel Train Part 9818 44 Milk Car Roof Hatch Black
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Lionel Train Part 2466T 10 Tender Drawbar
Lionel Train Part 2466T 10 Tender Drawbar
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Lionel Plastic No 160 Bin Scoop Made in the U S A Black
Lionel Plastic No 160 Bin Scoop Made in the U S A Black
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Lionel Train Part 700E 43 LH Drive Rod
Lionel Train Part 700E 43 LH Drive Rod
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Lionel Train Part 8010 30 Chrome Radio Wheel
Lionel Train Part 8010 30 Chrome Radio Wheel
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Lionel New York Central 4 8 2 Mohawk L 3 Class Steam Engine 6 18009
Lionel New York Central 4 8 2 Mohawk L 3 Class Steam Engine 6 18009
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O SCALE LIONEL Santa fe loco ab unit 6 8653 6 8652
O SCALE LIONEL Santa fe loco ab unit 6 8653 6 8652
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Lionel Postwar 50 Gang Car INSTRUCTIONS ORIGINAL BOX RUNS GREAT
Lionel Postwar 50 Gang Car INSTRUCTIONS ORIGINAL BOX RUNS GREAT
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2 Lionel WORKING 252 CROSSING GATES  2 41 AUTOMATIC ACCESSORIES CONTRACTOR
2 Lionel WORKING 252 CROSSING GATES 2 41 AUTOMATIC ACCESSORIES CONTRACTOR
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Lionel 6026 Whistle Tender Shell 221
Lionel 6026 Whistle Tender Shell 221
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Lionel O Scale Biilboard Gold Medal Flour Boxcar 9860 LNIB
Lionel O Scale Biilboard Gold Medal Flour Boxcar 9860 LNIB
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Lionel 229 21 Gear Side Bearing Plate
Lionel 229 21 Gear Side Bearing Plate
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LIONEL 6 19207 SP RAIL DBL DOOR BOX CAR ORIG BOX
LIONEL 6 19207 SP RAIL DBL DOOR BOX CAR ORIG BOX
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LIONEL 6 6260 NEW YORK CENTRAL GONDOLA W CANISTER LOAD ORIG BOX
LIONEL 6 6260 NEW YORK CENTRAL GONDOLA W CANISTER LOAD ORIG BOX
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LIONEL 6 19922 1993 CHIRSTMAS BOX CAR ORIG BOX
LIONEL 6 19922 1993 CHIRSTMAS BOX CAR ORIG BOX
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Lionel 218P santa fe diesel
Lionel 218P santa fe diesel
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LIONEL POST WAR TYPE 1033 TRANSFORMER BLACK HANDLE
LIONEL POST WAR TYPE 1033 TRANSFORMER BLACK HANDLE
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Lionel 5314 5314g Transparent bulb 3
Lionel 5314 5314g Transparent bulb 3
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Vintage Lionel O Scale Lehigh Valley LV 25000 Hopper Car
Vintage Lionel O Scale Lehigh Valley LV 25000 Hopper Car
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Vintage O Scale Lionel 8141 Locomotive with Pennsylvania Whistling Tender
Vintage O Scale Lionel 8141 Locomotive with Pennsylvania Whistling Tender
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Vintage Lionel O Scale Nickel Plate Road NKP 9031 Gondola Car
Vintage Lionel O Scale Nickel Plate Road NKP 9031 Gondola Car
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LIONEL POST WAR 2321 TRAINMASTER DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE 1 PILOT FRONT STEP
LIONEL POST WAR 2321 TRAINMASTER DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE 1 PILOT FRONT STEP
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Vintage Lionel O27 Gauge Lot 5 FIVE Straight Track Sections 10 w 3 pins ea
Vintage Lionel O27 Gauge Lot 5 FIVE Straight Track Sections 10 w 3 pins ea
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Vintage LIONEL 027 Gauge Curved Track Lot 5 FIVE SECTION W 3 pins 1950s
Vintage LIONEL 027 Gauge Curved Track Lot 5 FIVE SECTION W 3 pins 1950s
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O SCALE LIONEL 6 39207 Union Pacific Boxcar 508500 Ship and Travel NIB
O SCALE LIONEL 6 39207 Union Pacific Boxcar 508500 Ship and Travel NIB
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