N Gauge model trains – what you need to know

N gauge is hugely popular but what is it? Here’s what you need to know before leaping in to the world of N scale model railways.

What is N gauge

N gauge is a tiny but wonderfully entertaining size of model railway. It’s the second most popular model railway size worldwide, coming after HO scale and the second most popular in the UK, after OO gauge made famous by Hornby.

It was created in 1962 by German model train manufacturer, Arnold, and quickly caught on with other manufacturers releasing models to match. There are now numerous manufacturers producing rolling stock and models to reflect the trains on every continent and era and all of which work to same track voltage, scale and gauge, which takes us nicely to…

A question of size

How big (or small) are n gauge model trains

An OO gauge locomotive (background) next to an N gauge model (foreground).

In model train lingo, the gauge is the width between the rails of the track. There are numerous standards, including the most popular in Britain, OO gauge which has a track width of 3.5 mm; the smallest Z gauge has a track width of 6.5 mm while N gauge is in the middle with 9mm between the rails.

But track width or gauge isn’t the only determinant of size in model railways.

There is also the scale of the models.

Scale is the size in proportion to real trains and for N gauge, the models are 1∶148 in Britain or 1∶160 in the US and Europe. So to convert a real-world size into its N scale dimensions, you’d divide the dimensions in the real world by 160 or 148.

This means that if you had a locomotive that was 70ft long — the Flying Scotsman for example — you divide 70 by 148 to get its N gauge dimension, .483 ft or 144.16mm.

Read more about the difference between scale and gauge.

Main N gauge manufacturers & brands

As already mentioned, there are a large number of manufacturers of N gauge rolling stock and models.

The principal makers include:


  • Graham Farish (owned by Bachmann)
  • Dapol


  • Atlas
  • Bachmann
  • Athearn


  • Trix (Märklin)
  • Arnold (Hornby)
  • Minitrix (Märklin)


  • Kato

OO gauge or N gauge

This depends on many factors and personal preferences.

Personally, as much as I enjoy modelling with N gauge, and I have several layouts in N scale,  I think OO wins. There are more OO products, it’s easier to see (being larger) and it’s arguably cheaper but these are just my views. Read my comparison.

If you have an N gauge layout or have decided to build one, I’d love to know more about it. Get in touch via the contact page or add a comment below.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. 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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