Welcome to Big Canoe’s Grand Central Mountain Station

Join us for a tour of Big Canoe’s model train lines and the expert engineers who designed, developed and run them. With model railroad buff Cecil Schneider as our guide, Smoke Signals Weekly will visit seven model train enthusiasts, check out their layouts and find out what drives their passion for this generation-spanning hobby. Cecil’s first stop—Len Walker’s four-track layout—has some unique features that definitely are designed with his grandchildren in mind. 

In the following weeks, Cecil will introduce Smoke Signals readers to model train layouts designed by Big Canoe residents Bill Gibson, Lee Schalon, Mike Martin, James Long, Tom English and his own Schneider Line. If you have any questions along the way, just email news@smokesignalsnews.com (with TRAINS in the subject line) and Cecil will be sure to get back to you.

Below are description and illustrations of model train gauges—the first step in understanding one of the basic features that differentiates these model train layouts.

Model Railroad Gauges explained

If you’re not familiar with model railroading it’s probably confusing when you hear O, S or HO gauge, and 1/43rd , 1/64th  or 1/87th scale.  What do these mean? To help you understand some of the terminology that will be used in this series of articles on Big Canoe train layouts we’ve provided the following brief introduction to model railroading.

SCALE refers to the size or ratio of the model compared to the full-size item. For instance, an S scale engine is 1/64th the size of the real (or prototype) engine. 

GAUGE is the measurement between the rails on the model or real track. Technically there is no such thing as HO gauge. It is HO scale. This is because a HO model may run on different gauge tracks. For example if modelling a narrow gauge railway, the track will be smaller, but the scale will be the same.

Note that I say "technically". In reality you will often see terms like HO gauge, N gauge etc. This isn't really "wrong", it's just a little less accurate.

Sn3 and On3 are slightly smaller in track width than the above gauges, but otherwise most of the other dimensions/scales are pretty close.

Model railroad scales and gauges