O Scale Model Trains – Common Mistakes

Share This

Many a newbie model railroader will decide that, instead of HO, they prefer to build their railroad empire using O scale model trains. While the bigger trains may seem easier to work with and just plain more fun they can also be a source of frustration to the inexperienced. Here are some common mistakes made with O scale trains.

Is your turning radius too tight? While the minimum turning radius for an O scale train is 24 inches you have to realize that box cars and passenger cars are not the same length. If you’re recreating an 19th century freight route you might be OK but if you decide that instead you’d like to run a modern Amtrak passenger train you may be plagued with derailments with such a small turning radius. Besides the functionality of too small a turn radius you also have the glaring fact that it just doesn’t look that realistic.


Are your inclines too steep? Most new model railroaders envision some sort of tunnel or bridge in their layout where the trains will run underneath its own track or up over the roads the cars travel. When you’re working in smaller scale where you have room to build long inclines this is not usually an issue. Not so with O scale.


Given the height required to clear another train track your O scale layout will require a very long incline indeed especially if you’ve created a long train to begin with. You’re not going to go from ground level to train clearing bridge height in only two feet. If you do not have large layout, one solution is to send your lower track slightly underground so that your upper track does not need to rise as much.


Is your landscape out of scale? Even though a locomotive is higher than a one story house we must remember that in the real world trees still tower over trains. No where is this single mistake made more than with O scale train layouts. The same scaling mistake is common with outbuildings and people. When buying any accessories or buildings for your layout make sure that you know it is to scale and not that it just looks to be the correct scale.


Does your train match your track? Unlike Ho scale where everything pretty much works with everything else, O scale modeling can truly be confusing when it comes to matching the correct track to your train. Since the early days when these toy trains were run on shiny three rail tracks there have been some major innovations that include two rail systems, more authentic O gauges and the option of running O scale trains on narrow tracks. Do your research before buying even your first train set, because once you’ve selected a track, you’re stuck with it or will be doing a major overall down the road.


Keep these common mistakes in mind when planning your layout and it should make building your O scale train layout much more enjoyable.