Model Railway Gauge, what is is

What does gauge mean in model railways? Read the answer here, the Internet’s largest glossary for model railways.

  • Gauge in model railways is the measure of the distance between the inside of the rails on the track. It is one of the key measurements of a model railway and determines the track and trains used. Common gauges in the UK are N and OO gauge; in America and continental Europe HO and N gauge are the most popular.

Model railway / railroad track comes in different widths. The width of track used determines the trains that can be used – or vice versa.

Trains are typically scaled so their size is broadly accurate to the width of their wheels for a particular gauge. The size of rolling stock is defined as it’s scale. See the difference between scale and gauge.

In the UK, the most popular gauge is OO, as used by Hornby. This has rails that are 16.5 mm (0.65 in) apart. Another popular standard, N gauge, is much smaller, with the rails being 9mm (0.354 in) apart.

Other popular gauges are:

  • HO: The most popular model railroad gauge in the world, outside of the UK, with a track width of 16.5 mm (0.650 in)
  • 009: A width of 9 mm (0.354 in), used to model narrow gauge railways. See what is 009 scale.
  • Z Gauge: The smallest commercially available model railroad track, at 6.5 mm (0.256 in) wide. See what is Z gauge.

For easy to understand explanations of other model railway terms, see my glossary of common model railway terms.

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