Beginner’s Guide to Large Scale Trains

Last Updated: 17 May 2023

This page is a completely new project started early 2023, and is very much a work in progress. If you already found this page via a search engine or something, great, but make sure you bookmark it for future reference as there will be many changes/additions over time.

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People get into “Large Scale” trains in many different ways. Many people have modeled trains in the smaller scales before (e.g. H0 Scale, 00 Scale, 0 Scale) and at some point had their attention caught by the bigger size of Large Scale trains, and many people have not modeled in other scales before at all.

Large Scale trains may appear in a random YouTube video, at a convention for the smaller scales, under a Christmas tree somewhere, in an ad while browsing the web, etc. One thing for sure, the appeal of Large Scale is either the wow factor due to the size of the trains, or the fact you can run them outside instead of being stuck indoors in the basement or in an attic.

We’ll dive much deeper into what Large Scale is in the following sections, but first we’ll define a brief definition to get a fundamental understanding of what sizes of trains we consider “Large Scale”.

“Large Scale” is a collective term for model trains designed to run on a 45 mm track gauge, modeling standard gauge or narrow gauge prototypes in a variety of scales between 1:20,3 and 1:32.

This guide will link to many separate pages that will attempt to provide a neutral view on a variety of different topics related to Large Scale. Before reading those, think about the answer to all questions below. The answer to the questions under the “Fundamentals” topic are important on their own, but they also impact the three following categories “Rolling Stock”, “Track” and “Train Control”.

  • Fundamentals
    • Will my layout be indoors or outdoors?
    • How much space do I have?
    • How much do I care about fidelity?
    • What is my budget?
  • Rolling Stock
    • Do I want to model Standard Gauge or Narrow Gauge?
    • Do I want to model American or European (German, Swiss, …) ?
    • Do I want to model Steam, Diesel or Electric or any combination of that?
    • Buy New, Buy Used or Build?
  • Track
    • Do I prefer Sturdiness or Fidelity?
    • How much/little maintenance do I want to perform?
    • Buy New, Buy Used?
  • Train Control
    • Do I want to keep it simple (“run a train”) or do I want all the bells and whistles (sound, smoke, running consists, automation)?

These questions are a starting point, it is of course impossible to know the answer to all of them right away. By reading all articles in the Beginner’s Guide, you should be able to answer these questions more easily, and you’ll better understand the trade-offs of every decision you make.

Beginner’s Guide Articles

  • #1 – What Scale are Large Scale Trains?
  • #2 – How are Large Scale Trains Made? – coming soon
  • #3 – Large Scale Track – Introduction – coming soon
  • #4 – Large Scale Train Control Systems – Introduction – coming soon
  • … more coming