How do the different sizes of N scale model compare and can they be intermixed? One N scale modeller took a look.
While models in OO and HO are fairly consistently sized, N scale is anything but. American, Japanese and even British manufacturers work to different proportions even though they’re all called ‘N Scale’.
In America, N scale is generally regarded as being at a ratio of 1:160. Japanse models, however, work to 1:150 proportions and British of course is larger than either at 1:148. There are even differences between manufacturers working to the same scale – Tomix and Tomytec in Japan for example.
But you can really see the difference?
Jerry at quinntopia lined up American and Japanse models from Tomix, Kato and Model Power Building to compare them.
Example 1, below, from left, are the Japansese the Tomix (actually, Tomytec) Cylindrical Building, and a Kato office building, alongside a (slightly modified) cheap American Model Power building.
Just by looking at the photo, it does appear that the Kato’s doorways are slightly smaller, and the Tomix doorways seem even smaller still. However, comparing the first four stories of the two buildings on the right, it seems like they are pretty close. The Tomix (or Tomytec?) cylindrical building does appear to be slightly smaller than the other two, but how noticeable this would be to a casual observer is hard to know.
Example 2 (again, below), is another comparison between a relatively common N Scale building, the “drive in” (can’t recall the official name) compared to the Tomix 7-11 convenience store.
Any differences between these two are, for me, very hard to notice, and they look perfectly compatible.
For my 3rd and final example, again, another standard Model Power building is compared to a TomyTec ‘Town Collection” building.
In this case, the doorway on the Tomytec tea is noticeably smaller. For me, this is probably too much, and this building would likely be hidden in a little-noticed area of a city (near the back, where the small doorway is not noticeable and adds to depth perception?) or it becomes a candidate for some creative kit-bashing.
So what’s the final verdict?
In most cases, I have found the differences too hard for the casual observer to notice, the exception to this seems to be the Tomytec models (which, for reasons unknown to me, are different than Tomix models) which do appear to be noticeably smaller when placed nearby a standard 1:160 (or even Kato) structures.
However, if these sort of details are something you can’t live with, I would recommend you avoid the 1:150 structures. If, like me, you find the differences hard to notice if not negligible, then I would suggest you try one like I did and see how you like the results. There’s a lot to choose from for under $20 and a whole new world of interesting, MODERN, buildings are yours to be had!
The one thing I find perplexing, and maybe I just have this whole scale thing wrong, but it seems to me that 1:150 should be LARGER than 1:160-not smaller-which is, as shown above, the apparent pattern! Anyone with any ideas on this please leave a comment and fill me and others in!
Jerry concludes by querying why the Japanese N scale buildings at 1:150 are smaller than the American N scale versions which, at 1:160, should actually be the smaller models.
This is answered in a comment to Jerry’s original post which postulated that the “Tomtec-branded models seem intended more for dioramas than layout modelling, and they all seem shrunk down a bit in order to squeeze the most into a limited space. They are probably designed to work best in a street scene that uses only Tomytec diorama products.”.
This might explain it.