Tried N, got frustrated, went back to HO, happy again

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N would have been great for the space I had, but the scale was too small for my aging eyes and fingers. I gave it a good try. Rather than give up on the hobby I decided to go back to HO. Thankfully I was able to trade in the engines and rolling stock for about 75% of what I paid. I'm keeping the track just in case I get really motivated and convert the Atlas N shay I kept to HOn30.

I was able to get the HO track down and secured in about 1/4 the time it took me to just cut and fit the N flex track.

I picked up an HO Atlas Master NW2 (perfect for the small branchline I'm building) and I am amazed at the sound quality and performance in DC. I will definitely be saving up for a DCC system.


Well-Known Member
I gave N Scale a go as well, and switched to HO too recently. Im in the process of building benchwork now. 75% is about what I got back as well, so it wasn't quite a bite in the wallet to do it.


Active Member
I tried N back in the late 08 / 09 era. Wasn't too impressed with it. Just a short list of problems -- First, the stupid thing kept on shedding wheel sets from under the trucks. It turned out that with a long train and a short curve the "clothes line" effect pulled the train inward and the wheels went outward. Many a time the thing would go around and suddenly derail. WHY? Looking under the thing I found wheels were gone.

Second - fragile. For whatever reason N scale cars come in jewel boxes. they should stay there. I don't know how many times the thing hit the floor after the above derailment, and then cars shattered into lots of small pieces.. Several engines as well hit the floor from time to time and the last one was the last. It broke into many small pieces, including the entire drive mechanism.

Third, DCC problems. I don't know if it was the engines, or what. I did not install any of the DCC units but merely bought them as installed by the factory. They would run for a few months, then in a smoky ending, burn a big hole in one corner of the DCC decoder. WHY? I never found out. Replaced several and the things continued to burn out after a few months of running.

Last when I finally had enough of the thing - I tore it down. Under a lot of the scenery were wheel sets. AND I wondered where they had gone!

Back to HO and no more problems. Yes things hit the floor, but HO does not blow into lots of little pieces. Sometimes one gets a part falling off, but it can be easily reglued onto the car and life goes on.

This is the height of the N scale era. Most of the derails occurred around the far right curve going under the mountain. That is where I found tons of wheel sets.

Loved the size and how much I could get into a small space but too many problems especially with the DCC and others was too much to over come.

The Aerojet


Whiskey Merchant
Glad to see that you are staying in the hobby. Back in the 70's when I was stuck in an apartment ind suffering train withdrawal, I built a small N scale layout that could be slid under a bed. When we finally moved back to Montana, the small layout was added to for large layout with over 11 scale miles of main line. Unfortunately back then most of the available locomotives were pretty crude compared to what is available today. The N scale layout was torn out and I moved to HO scale in the early 80's.

I, like you, am now going through the eyesight thing and am quite happy that I did the change of scales. One of our club members has a small N scale layout in a corner of the club and when I look at it I can't believe how small everything is. Did I really work on stuff that small ????????
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Section Hand
I considered switching to N scale but didn't and now being close to 70 years old, I'm glad I didn't go to N scale. Sometimes even HO is a bit small to wok on or find parts on the floor.

In defense of N scale, I've seen some great running N scale layouts and like the long unit trains that can be run in N scale.

Can't imagine Z scale!!!



Loveably weird
There's nothing wrong with N scale. It's definitely more of a challenge for us 55+ folks with the effects of age starting to set in. I love seeing what people have done with it, but it's just too small and fiddly for me.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I'm the opposite to everyone else (I think). I started in HO and got frustrated at not being able to run trains with more than 6 cars so I converted to N Scale. Oh and I am one of the 55+ guys as well :)

N Scale is a challenge compared to HO just as HO maybe a challenge to someone who works with O Scale and so forth. I was concerned about the size of N Scale and whether or not I could manage it as well. What I have discovered is that you adjust to the size and what was easy in HO seems equally as easy in N - in most cases. Granted I use an Optivisor BUT I also used that when messing with HO as well.

At the end of the day though, it is what makes you happy and if N Scale causes too much grief then ditch it and go the next size up. When all's said and done, it doesn't matter what scale you model, so long as it is trains :)


Active Member
I run both HO and N. Lately, I've been working on the N scale layout. I will say, the smaller items do prove to be more difficult at times but as Tony stated above, you get used to it. If I work on my N locos and then pick up one of the HO ones, it looks huge. The real benefit for me was the size. I can do a lot more in a smaller space. Don't get me wrong, if I had the room I would have a large HO layout as well. Not that I have ventured into the N scale world, I will continue to model that scale as well. My dream layout has both N and HO running on it or at least come together for some of it. At the end of the day, it's what makes YOU happy. If you're not enjoying the hobby, it then becomes a chore.
I tried N back in the late 08 / 09 era. Wasn't too impressed with it.

The Aerojet
Reading your list of complaints about N-scale, I have to say that I've never had a single one of the problems you have had. Never a single burnt decoder (that wasn't my own fault) or shed wheel set. Definitely not anything falling on the floor. I don't know if the hobby has just advanced that much in quality or if the problem was in your setup, but I'm happily running N-scale for about five years now and love it.


Plucked Tailfeathers
Staff member
After working with 7.5 inch gauge for almost four years, now even O scale seems small ... N scale would require me to get a microscope!
Used to have N(easier to do a layout in an apartment) u til my eyes & hands decided the stuff was too small. Packed it up a few years ago & sent it to my sister for my now-10 year old nephew. Obtained an old modular layout out from a club member who had it sitting in his basement for 20 years. Slowly working on taking it down to the benchwork & start fresh. Plans are to build a 8 x 9 around the room layout in a spare bedroom, using either a lift or swing bridge to access the center aisle.
I'll join this chorus. N is just too tiny for me. I too gave it a good try, and I loved how much of a layout I could get in a space, but I found myself waiting for the train to come out of the tunnel, only to have it disappointingly seem to be about the size of a hot dog. Hubby and I went back to HO and are glad we did.


Active Member
I'll join this chorus. N is just too tiny for me. I too gave it a good try, and I loved how much of a layout I could get in a space, but I found myself waiting for the train to come out of the tunnel, only to have it disappointingly seem to be about the size of a hot dog. Hubby and I went back to HO and are glad we did.
Sorry but I laughed when I read your reference to the size of a hot dog. I looked over to my layout which currently has the engine sticking out of the tunnel and yep, looks like a hot dog.


Well-Known Member
Never even considered N. Not that I think poorly of it, it's just that HO has held my attention since the 1950s, so that was where I went when I started model railroading again! Plus I still had HO equipment left over from when I was a kid. So, for me HO was a forgone conclusion!


Plucked Tailfeathers
Staff member
I have just been the opposite. From Lionel days to HO when I located to KC in the mid 60's, then to O scale and On3 in ABQ (big club there), then to 7.5 inch at a friends 20 acres down the road here - now trying to return to HO again. It's hard to come down the scale and I am still struggling every time I pick up a kit to think about building. "N" for me means NOTHING, or NO-WAY!
But I do admire what can be accomplished in a small space.
Like most of the others, I too was into N Scale. A move two years ago forced me to abandon the layout I had, but now I am rebuilding, in HO.

I have a ton of N scale locomotives and rolling stock and will be looking into efforts later this year to part company with all of it.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I tried N back in the late 08 / 09 era. Wasn't too impressed with it. Just a short list of problems
I have only been in N Scale for a few years but I agree with Mike, I've never had any of the problems that you list just because it was N Scale. I could probably file a list almost as long about HO scale but, if I were to be honest, those problems were self inflicted and not because of the scale.

If you don't like N Scale because it is too small for you to work with, as others have admitted, then fine that's understandable. To say that it is problematic because you can't deal with it is another thing entirely, especially when your list is not scale specific.

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
I suppose I should add my story. I switched to N-scale in 1969, and was totally happy with it. Went through at least five layouts, each one progressing up the size and complexity scale. I was modeling SE Colorado where the Santa Fe, Burlington, and D&RGW co-exist. I had my Santa Fe El Capitan and Super Chief in brass (Hallmark as I recall). I had the Santa Fe original FT freight units also in brass and they ran like tops. I had a D&RGW Exposition Flyer. And that brought me to the Colorado & Southern and I needed a Texas Zephyr. No one made them nor were they likely to. By this time my modeling skills had progressed to the point I thought I would like to scratch build or at least kit-bash the train. I figured if I was going to go to that much effort I wanted it to be really good. Began the research on the E5 locomotives to pull the train. Immediately ran into size issues. The only way to get some of the hand rails, grills, piping the correct scale size would have been to use spider webs. Also there were the wheel flanges. Making the loco and cars to scale would force the wheel flanges to be scraping the bottoms of the cars.

At that point (1981 by now), I decided it was not physically possible for the scale to give me the level of detail I wanted on my toy trains. I switched back to HO. Finally razed the N-scale layout in 2003 or so just because I needed the space it consumed for other things. The O-scale layout went that same year.
Never tried N, as even HO was too small for me, so now I'm back into building another O-Scale 2-Rail layout.

My 82-year-old eyes are more comfortable looking at 1/48 scale equipment , which is 81% larger than 1/87 scale!

Shown is my first O-Scale 2-Rail layout , which I should have kept instead of dismantling it and building an HO layout.

Brakeman Hal

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