If you're just getting started with model trains or are researching the different options available for building a model railway one of the most important decisions you'll have to make is which scale to choose. Is N gauge the best option? Or would OO gauge be more suitable?
Let's answer these questions and take a look at N gauge vs OO Gauge in terms of price, availablility of locomotives and rolling stock, and the advantages/disadvantages of using both these model railway scales in relation to DCC.
N Gauge vs OO Gauge Model Trains
OO gauge is the most popular model railway gauge in the UK. Model trains in the OO gauge size are built to a scale ratio of 1:76 (76 times smaller than real size).
N Gauge is smaller than OO gauge. The scale of models can differ slightly depending on the country of manufature. In Europe and the USA the ratio is usually 1:160, however in the UK it is 1:148.
As OO gauge is bigger than N gauge it means that a greater level of detail can be obtained in the manufature process and the models will
For most people, OO gauge is usually a better choice than N gauge. It's almost always more cost effective - the locomotives, rolling stock and track are less expensive than N gauge and the second hand market is more mature and offers greater choice and flexibility.
See our recommendations for the Best Hornby Train Sets.
Should you choose N Gauge over OO Gauge?
If you're new to train sets and railway modelling or are building a new model railway layout from scratch then OO gauge would be the recommended gauge to go with.
It's more cost effective - OO gauge model trains, track and buildings are often cheaper than their N gauge equivalents. This may seem like a negligible difference at first, however the additional cost of all the components, trains, track and buildings soon mounts up over multiple items and can add significant expense to a model railway budget. What appears to be a pretty insignificant difference in price at the start of your journey can lead to a significant cost difference when you've fininshed building your model railway layout.
The second hand market is better - greater availability of OO gauge train sets on the second hand market will also be of benefit with more choice and often better prices for used OO gauge model trains. The second hand market for N gauge train sets is not as mature - however this may balance out more in the future if modelling in N gauge gains more popularity.
DCC works best at a larger scale - DCC is better on OO gauge train sets because of the greater room available in the increased scale. Whilst N gauge model train manufacturers are starting to offer greater levels of support for DCC (both DCC Fitted and DCC Ready) this is often only basic support and is limited to the larger locomotives. The smaller body shells of N gauge model trains simply cannot accomodate the extra equipment needed for DCC to work. This means that the range of N gauge locomotives with DCC functionality is significantly less than OO gauge, and where it is available not all features are included (e.g. smoke, lights and sounds). Hopefully, in the future we'll see improvements in this area for N gauge - for now though, OO gauge model trains are the better choice for DCC.
See this blog post for more on the differences between DC and DCC model trains.
Second Hand N Gauge and OO Gauge Train Sets
The used market is also an area where OO gauge has a significant advantage over N gauge. Being the market leader, OO gauge train sets are more readily available than their N gauge counterparts. There's simply more choice - with an often plentiful supply of used OO gauge model trains available to purchase second hand. Prices are more competitive as a result.
The second hand market for N gauge trains is not as well developed - choice is often limited and, due to the smaller level of availability, prices of N gauge train sets are more expensive on the used market.
The Case for N Gauge
One of the main reasons to consider choosing N Gauge model trains is if you're limited on space. The smaller form factor of N gauge can allow more efficient use of the available build area and potentially enable more interest to be incoroporated into the model railway layout in the given space.
Perhaps you already have an OO gauge model railway layout and want to try your hand at building in an alternate gauge? Maybe you would like the challenge of building or modelling in a smaller scale? If so, then N gauge may be for you.
The Best N Gauge Track & Essentials
If you've decided to go with N gauge, then it would be a good idea to look at some of the best N gauge track and essentials for your model railway layout:
The Best OO Gauge Train Sets
If you've decided to go for OO gauge then here are some of the best OO gauge train sets available.
Also, check out our recommendations for the Best Hornby Train Set.