Is the N scale now more popular than HO?

JimInMichigan Mar 8, 2014

  1. JimInMichigan

    JimInMichigan TrainBoard Member

    Every time I visit the forum, I see 5-6 times more people reading the N scale section than those reading the HO section. I looked in the forsale section, and seen many more N scale items than HO.

    Why is this? The models don't seem as detailed as the HO, to me at least. The cost is about the same for Loco's ( HO vs N ) from what I have seen. I read here that adding a sound chip isn't too easy either. I've also heard the sound isn't as nice as the HO as well. I've also been told N scale has more derail problems due to track size. So whats the attraction? Because of the space savings on the layout table size?
  2. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    N scale can be just as well, if not more, detailed than HO. Cost is not the same, an N scale loco is around $100 MSRP, where the equivalent HO unit is over $200. Sound isn't everything, in fact most modelers I know don't even like the sound. I for one don't, but mostly because most modelers seem to leave the volume at full volume, and it sounds awful, and for me, it eventually causes me a headache. I've had no more derails in N than I did when I was in HO. Derails, are caused by track work, or shoddy maintenance of equipment, not the size of the trains.

    As for myself, the reason I chose N over HO, I can run prototype length trains on a layout. I can also have scenery dominate the trains, so the trains are running through scenery vs the train is there with a little scenery on the sides. Not saying all HO layouts are this way, but for an example, a 12in wide shelf layout, in N represents 160ft, in HO is 87ft.

    As for why on this forum, heard that it started off with mostly N scalers and because of that, that is why there are more of us.
  3. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    It is more popular here. That is not true universally. I know a number of other sites that are heavily HO. I think this site just grew up with a stronger n scale focus. Plus fully half those threads are complaining about this or that manufacturer.
  4. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member


    You know, there was once a time when N was more expensive than HO -- 1.5 to 3x the cost for the equivalent model -- and the quality of N was laughable compared to what comes out today. I should know, because I was always sort of itching to go to N scale, but was sort of hesitant to do it since the quality of the trains wasn't good enough for me, and not many models that I wanted were available (this was around 1980s-1990s).

    I was an HO scaler for around 30 years until I got increasingly frustrated that the 18" radius curves on my layout wouldn't allow me to run the big, long modern rolling stock I wanted to run. So I dismantled my layout, sold my HO collection at a few train shows and started to build up an N scale collection. I must say I'm very happy with N scale, I can run the long locos and rolling stock and not be frustrated. 18" radius in N scale is like 30+" radius in HO scale, and I was always envious of HO modelers who had 30+" radius curves on their layouts. And when I did convert to N, it was great timing, since a lot of the equipment I wanted was either out or starting to come out, and things like metal wheelsets, prototypical ride height for cars, body-mounted couplers and the extinction of Rapidos erased all my complaints about N. I absolutely refuse to buy any N scale model made before 1990. In N I can run long trains and have a great deal of scenery, especially in the space that have. I'd never go back to HO, even if I did have the space, it just feels so huge and obtuse to me now (I wouldn't mind doing a traction layout in HO though, but for the modern mainline trains I prefer to model, N is the way to go).

    I still think HO is more popular than N, demographics-wise, BUT I tend to see that for people starting the hobby at this time, more people are choosing N than HO. It's sort of a reflection of the times: Homes are getting built smaller, cities are getting denser, and people are more comfortable with electronic gadgets that are smaller than an HO scale 50' boxcar.

    As for derail problems, having modeled in both HO and N, I would say that scale has no bearing on the derailment factor of model trains. And I'm using Code 55 track.

    The reason why you see more N scalers than HO scalers here is that there are other forums for HO scalers to visit (the Model Railroader forums, for example), so they're all there instead of here.
  5. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    I used to Play with HO trains, as all I had was an oval and some switches for a passing loop.

    Once I had my own job, after about working for a year I decided I wanted to start Model railroading(this was about April 2012). Kept reading MR, and came to the conclusion N scale was perfect for me. Then I built a simple 2 x 4... no advice, no questions, I literally jumped in.

    Nsane by choice.
  6. Jerry M. LaBoda

    Jerry M. LaBoda TrainBoard Supporter

    I always thought us N-scalers were just too busy shooting the bull to do any actual modeling... [​IMG]
  7. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    That's what I said about HO scalers. lol! :closedmouth:
  8. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    It is certainly more popular than when I started out in the 1960s. Several factors come to mind one of which is the smaller living spaces as stated earlier. The other is the advent of more variety in rolling stock and locomotives and certainly better running quality. Also the advent of more North American oriented structures. The early years had a lot of European based type structures so you either had to kit bash them or become a scratch builder. Now we have a lot of quality kits and structures that are all geared to this continent. On the other hand though that equipment and those structures have become more expensive and making it a little harder to start out in this scale. HO still has N scale licked hands down in the available variety of motive power, cars, and structures and are cheaper. I literally drool at the various assortment of steam critters and certainly far more regular locos. At some point some of those locos were available in N scale but haven't been available for a long while and probably won't be again while they are still available in the other scales. Catching up maybe some but N scale is far more popular outside this country because of the space limitations. This is still the land of oversized houses and big basements where HO rules. Take a look at Kato and thier far bigger production of stuff geared to the markets outside this country.
  9. LOU D

    LOU D TrainBoard Member

    I just think you see more N guys on forums simply because there are fewer N modelers..Nobody to hang with..I know dozens of HO,O,Lionel,and G guys,only 1-2 N modelers,and since they're actual RR engineers,I never see them..There's a huge HO club right up the road from me,the Hudson Model Railroad Club,I can't even get anybody interested in a club here..And I have an empty 35X65 room available at my shop...
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    N scalers are very social. That is one aspect which helped build the scale. Certainly N-Trak was a large factor, and that group in itself is very social. Anyone who looks at what is posted here can see N scalers spend a good amount of time modeling.

    And yes, we do spend a lot of time talking about products. Should we instead simply be meek, shut up and and take what is jammed down our throats? If we didn't say something, this scale would be nowhere near as good as it is today. A quick look around and you will find people from ALL scales commenting on quality, availability, etc, and in similar proportions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2014
  11. N-builder

    N-builder TrainBoard Member

    It may be true that N scale is more popular. I went to a MRR convention and I saw far more N scale layouts then any other layouts. I guess the reason is space and N scale can it in far less then any other scale except Z scale which is more expensive.
  12. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line TrainBoard Member

    I think N scale is the most popular in terms of modular layouts, mainly because there's been a standard (N-Trak) that has been around for a long time, as well as new standards (Free-MoN).
  13. Larry E Shankles

    Larry E Shankles TrainBoard Member

    My experience is that there are still more people in HO, but the HO modelers seem to be older and less computer savvy. Also in the words of an HO modeler I know, "they don't play well with others"
  14. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    HO is more popular in terms of the actual numbers of modelers. Take one look at the products released in HO versus those released in N scale. It is about a four to one ratio. That being said, N scalers tend to be more visible mainly due to Ntrak layouts at the train shows. I really do believe that a lot of HO people would switch to N scale if the product was there. N scale just has an appeal that HO can't match. I think that appeal is due to two things. Firstly, the ratio of scenery to track on modules as well as layouts. Secondly, the ability to run prototypical length trains.
  15. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    And speaking of the social nature of N scale [here comes a shameless plug], I think a great example is the upcoming Ohio N Scale Weekend event to be held the weekend of May 17 & 18 in Columbus, Ohio. The event will actually be at the Franklin County Fairgrounds outside of Columbus. Easy to get to via Interstates 70 and 71. About 10 -12 different layouts from different parts of the country along with some venders. Not your typical train show to be sure but a whole lot of fun. We make the 5 hour drive (one way) each year. So get the little lady something really nice for Mothers Day [May 11] then tell her that next weekend you are going to Columbus.
  16. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    Yep, another train show here in Washington, at the end of this month, saw far more N scale in October than anything else. Now I have more spending money so I will definitely be picking any relevant locos or rolling stock up that I feel I need.... or want.... maybe some Z scale while I'm there. I'm gonna dabble.
  17. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    And in N scale, if you are really cool, you get a free supper handy dandy decoder ring. But alas, I had to buy mine.
  18. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    You only get a decoder ring if you are running DCC ! ;)
  19. High Line

    High Line TrainBoard Member

    I just thought I should add that the main reason I plan on modelling a layout in HO at this point is due to the availability of locomotives that I am particularly interested in and would like to model for my freelanced layout (in this case Climaxes as the main power for ore trains).

    If there was more availability of ready to run or possibly even brass geared steam in N Scale...I wouldn't deny that I might be much more interested in modelling N Scale due to layout size constraints I currently have.

  20. Backshop

    Backshop TrainBoard Member

    Sad to see the old myths about N scale are still out there: it derails easily, limited quality/variety of items, and the classic American put-down "it's too small." I think the only misconception that died is that N was just a fad and would die quickly.
    I feel like a second-class model railroader when in the general world of American model railroading because of the huge emphasis on HO, G, and the "fabulous legend" of Lionel. It's why I only post on the N scale parts of forums, and tend to prefer all N-scale venues, like magazines and train shows. Otherwise N scale just gets shoved to the side in the crowd of gauges.

    P.S. We call it "N scale", not "the N scale".

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