Understanding Model Railway Standards Organisations in 30 Seconds

Confused by the different standards. Baffled by NEM and NMRA and standards orgs? Here’s what you need to know in 30 seconds.

While eBay is a great source of model railway trains and accessories I don’t think of it as a source of learning or information. But it can be.

If you look carefully, hidden amongst the listings are some handy articles.

This one is particularly helpful for beginners, and those moving up from the toy / young children’s railways, and confused by the different model railway standards organisations around the world.

  • model trains 80-90sThe NEM standards. Known in the UK as ‘Normal European Modelling’ standards. This is the scaling system used in Europe.


  • The NMRA standards. Equated to the ‘National Modern Railway Association.’  It is the system widely used in the United States and Canada although quite a few of the scaling specifications are matched with the NEM standards.


  • Live Steam. Live steam models are not regulated by an official standards body. The majority of live steam train models will scale in accordance to NEM or NMRA standards so check individual models accordingly.


  • British. The British system is based on the narrower loading gauge used within the British Isles. Because of this many British train models are not often found elsewhere in the world.

The original article, with a bit more background info is here. If you’re confused by some of the other terms, take a look at this guide to model railway jargon.

Picture: the wonderful Penny Lane MPD by
Thru The Round Window; layout built by Mark Seward.

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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