How many feet and inches is an N scale mile?

How many feet and inches are you going to need to model one mile of track or landscape in N gauge?  The answer will surprise you.

Most of us who model in N scale have chosen it because it’s small.

In fact, it’s the second smallest commercially available model railway scale, coming after Z gauge. You can fit a lot of N-scale track, landscape and town into even the smallest of areas.

Yet if you’re recreating an actual place or location in N scale you may be thinking about how real-world distances might fit into a minature version. you’re in for a shock when you work out how much space you’ll need to model even a mile of the real world.

To work out how much a mile modelled in N scale will take a simple bit of maths is used.

One mile is 5,280 feet in the real world. British N scale has a ratio of 1:148. So divide 5,280/148 and you get 35 feet, six inches. So a mile of the real world is 35.6 feet in British N gauge.

For US / European N scale, the ratio is 1:160. And 5,280 / 160 is exactly 33. So 33 feet of N scale landscape will be needed for each mile. (If you don’t want to do these maths, try my free online scale calculator).

That’s a lot! Actually, it’s a LOT more than I expected.

Thankfully, we can use a technique to compression that helps and allows our model railways to still mirror the real world but in a lot less space than 35 to 33 feet for each mile. There’s more on compression in this article.

If you’re building an N scale model railway, I recommend getting a head magnifier and not straining your eyes. I reviewed easily the best head visor I’ve come across here. It’s well worth getting if you’re working in N gauge.




Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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