What is O Guage and O Scale?

Gauge and Scale? What are you guys talking about?

O Scale

This tends to imply an accurate scale model at 1:45 scale. It may run on traditional three-rail track, but more likely, it runs on more realistic-looking two-rail track using direct current. However, the height and spacing of the rails is not true to scale. Often, hobbyists will use the phrases “two-rail” or “three-rail” to clarify which they mean.

O Gauge

This usually implies a toy train running on three-rail track, scaled at approximately 1:48. To many, it is a gauge which allows the manufacture of larger precision models. Using the odd scale of 7 mm = 12 inches, a scale of 1:43.5 is established. Many models in the UK are made to this scale for running on small and large indoors and outdoors layouts.


The term “Hi-Rail” is generally accepted as three-rail O Gauge trains operating in a realistic environment. While every attempt is made to have the trains and scenery constructed as close to 1:48 scale as possible, the tinplated track which O-Gauge trains operate on has remained about a quarter to an eighth of an inch higher than scale track and has three rails hence the name “Hi-Rail”. The taller rail height is a requirement of the standard wheel flange that O Gauge engines and rolling stock use. O Scale trains on the other hand incorporate prototypical two-rail track and usually represents modeling scaled down to a true 1:48.

The Waco, Temple, & Western Roadrunner Fastfreight

We refer to our group as the “O Gauge” instead of “O Scale” part of the club because our layout is not a true O Scale layout. We use three-rail O Gauge LIONEL track, with O-gauge being the width or gauge of the track.

The club layout uses all types of accessories, buildings, vehicles, and scenery from many manufacturers. Some are even scratchbuilt that may or may not be true to scale. Our members run all types of trains: Lionel, Atlas, K-line, Williams, and even Mikes Train House (MTH) engines and rolling stock.

All in all, it makes for a fun operating session.

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