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 6 12778 CONRAIL TRAILERVAN TRACTOR TRAILER VG ORIG BOX
LIONEL 6 12778 CONRAIL TRAILERVAN TRACTOR TRAILER VG ORIG BOX
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Lionel PW 55 PRR Tie Jector w Box  Two Track Trips All Orig1957 61 C7
Lionel PW 55 PRR Tie Jector w Box Two Track Trips All Orig1957 61 C7
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LIONEL TYPE ZW 275 WATT TRAINMASTER TRANSFORMER Model R Work Great
LIONEL TYPE ZW 275 WATT TRAINMASTER TRANSFORMER Model R Work Great
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Lionel 700T 23 Hudson Tender Brake Cylinder Original Prewar Part
Lionel 700T 23 Hudson Tender Brake Cylinder Original Prewar Part
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LIONEL TCA 1983 Great Lakes Limited PASSENGER CONVENTION CAR O Scale
LIONEL TCA 1983 Great Lakes Limited PASSENGER CONVENTION CAR O Scale
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LIONEL PRE WAR DECAL 515 2 SUNOCO LOGO TANK CAR SELF ADHESIVE
LIONEL PRE WAR DECAL 515 2 SUNOCO LOGO TANK CAR SELF ADHESIVE
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Lionel Erie O Gauge NW 2 Switcher No 610 Offered In 1955 Only
Lionel Erie O Gauge NW 2 Switcher No 610 Offered In 1955 Only
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LIONEL 3659 DUMP CAR 1940 PREWAR O GAUGE X2260
LIONEL 3659 DUMP CAR 1940 PREWAR O GAUGE X2260
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LIONEL 812 GONDOLA 45N GREEN NICKEL PREWAR O GAUGE X2679
LIONEL 812 GONDOLA 45N GREEN NICKEL PREWAR O GAUGE X2679
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LIONEL 813 STOCK CAR CREAM MAROON NICKEL PREWAR O GAUGE X2678
LIONEL 813 STOCK CAR CREAM MAROON NICKEL PREWAR O GAUGE X2678
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Lionel PW 55 PRR Tie Jector All Orig Bright Red 1957 61 C6
Lionel PW 55 PRR Tie Jector All Orig Bright Red 1957 61 C6
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LIONEL PRE WAR DECAL 515 2 SUNOCO LOGO TANK CAR WATER SLIDE
LIONEL PRE WAR DECAL 515 2 SUNOCO LOGO TANK CAR WATER SLIDE
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40 Vintage O Scale Track Pieces Parts Straights and Turns Lionel
40 Vintage O Scale Track Pieces Parts Straights and Turns Lionel
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Lionel Train Set No 11560 7 Unit Texas Special Diesel Freight with box
Lionel Train Set No 11560 7 Unit Texas Special Diesel Freight with box
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LIONEL 156 STATION PLATFORM BAKELITE OB 1947 X2855
LIONEL 156 STATION PLATFORM BAKELITE OB 1947 X2855
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LIONEL 1866 WARR MAIL CAR GENERAL POSTWAR O GAUGE X3254
LIONEL 1866 WARR MAIL CAR GENERAL POSTWAR O GAUGE X3254
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LIONEL 600 and 601 PASS CARS BLUE SILVER X3147
LIONEL 600 and 601 PASS CARS BLUE SILVER X3147
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LIONEL 3651 LOG DUMP CAR 1940 PREWAR O GAUGE X2262
LIONEL 3651 LOG DUMP CAR 1940 PREWAR O GAUGE X2262
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LIONEL 806 STOCK CAR 4 WHL ORANGE MAROON X3153
LIONEL 806 STOCK CAR 4 WHL ORANGE MAROON X3153
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Lionel Postwar 101 4 E Unit 1862 1882 Generals
Lionel Postwar 101 4 E Unit 1862 1882 Generals
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Lionel 5132 152 Fixed Voltage Plug Sub 711 151 6SP5132152
Lionel 5132 152 Fixed Voltage Plug Sub 711 151 6SP5132152
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LIONEL TRAINS 19941 I LOVE COLORADO BOX CAR NEW IN BOX SHARP
LIONEL TRAINS 19941 I LOVE COLORADO BOX CAR NEW IN BOX SHARP
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LIONEL 442 DINER ACCESSORY ON PLOT PREWAR X2965
LIONEL 442 DINER ACCESSORY ON PLOT PREWAR X2965
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LIONEL 82N 80N SEMAPHORE TOP TRIM FINIAL NICKEL ORIGINAL PREWAR O GAUGE X2699
LIONEL 82N 80N SEMAPHORE TOP TRIM FINIAL NICKEL ORIGINAL PREWAR O GAUGE X2699
$2.99
LIONEL ROOF  DUST COLLECTOR 464 SAWMILL POSTWAR O GAUGE X3203
LIONEL ROOF DUST COLLECTOR 464 SAWMILL POSTWAR O GAUGE X3203
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LIONEL 3859 DUMP CAR 1938 PREWAR O GAUGE X2379
LIONEL 3859 DUMP CAR 1938 PREWAR O GAUGE X2379
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LIONEL 2656 STOCK CAR 1940 DK ORANGE X3150
LIONEL 2656 STOCK CAR 1940 DK ORANGE X3150
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LIONEL 82 80 84 SEMAPHORE TOP TRIM FINIAL BRASS ORIGINAL PREWAR O GAUGE X2698
LIONEL 82 80 84 SEMAPHORE TOP TRIM FINIAL BRASS ORIGINAL PREWAR O GAUGE X2698
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LIONEL 025 BUMPER DIECAST BLACK X2856
LIONEL 025 BUMPER DIECAST BLACK X2856
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LIONEL 2810 DERRICK CRANE 1938 X3047
LIONEL 2810 DERRICK CRANE 1938 X3047
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LIONEL 025 BUMPER DIECAST + TRACK BLACK X2857
LIONEL 025 BUMPER DIECAST + TRACK BLACK X2857
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LIONEL 1560 LL JR STATION TIN LITHO X2980
LIONEL 1560 LL JR STATION TIN LITHO X2980
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