model train set on track

Toy Train Gauges

Gauges related to toy train sizes were first introduced by German toymaker Märklin way back in the 1890s. It’s true that Märklin pioneered many aspects of toy trains, but other manufacturers soon followed their lead, adopting and adapting gauges for their own products. In fact, some variations still exist within gauge standards around the world because of manufacturer differences. This page gives a bit of information about the most popular gauges seen on toy trains in the USA. 

Chart of Common Gauges with Size Measurements 

Often used interchangeably, the term “gauge” refers to the distance between the main rails, while “scale” refers to the ratio of the model to the real thing. The chart below shows some of the most popular and notable gauges in toy and model trains, though there are other variations. 

TypeScaleDistance Between RailsLength of 50′ Boxcar
Z1/2206.5mm2 3/4″
N1/1609.0mm3 3/4″
HO1/8716.5mm6 7/8″
S1/647/8″9 3/8″
O1/481 1/4″12 1/2″
L1/321 3/4″18 3/4″
G1/22.51 3/4″26 5/8″
Standard1/272 1/8″22 1/4″

See Examples of Different Gauges in Our Museum Displays! 

Our dynamic displays at the National Toy Train Museum include several operating, train layouts in G, Standard, O, S, and HO Gauges, Replica Lionel D-265 O Gauge, and LEGO®. We invite you to visit us in person to get up close and personal with one of the largest collections of toy trains in the world! 

Are You Just Getting Started with Train Collecting? Find Your Niche 

Many people know they love trains, but they just aren’t sure where to start in terms of going deeper with the hobby.  

One tip we often share is to pick your “niche.” Do you enjoy carefully constructing models and layouts from the ground up? You may be a scale modeler. Or perhaps you simply enjoy talking about trains and traveling to train-related destinations, like the National Toy Train Museum. You may be more of a railfan.  

No matter your area of interest, we have a place for you at TCA and can help you hone your skills—and your train collection! In addition to getting involved with our organization, you may want to check out some of our resource links on this page. 

Have kids you would like to introduce to trains? Discover how you can get them started in the hobby, too! 

Grow Your Love of Toy Trains with Other Enthusiasts. Join TCA Today! 

If you are not yet a member of the Train Collectors Association, you’re missing out. TCA Members receive a long list of tangible benefits that put them on the toy train collectors’ inside track! These include free admission to the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, PA, as well as access to special collections of material in the National Toy Train Library, among other great perks and benefits our TCA members enjoy.  

Ready to get involved and join our excellent organization with thousands of other model and toy train enthusiasts around the world?