OPINION: Scale or Gauge

There are a couple terms that have bothered me for years.  Withing the world of 1/4″ scale model railroading there are a number of gauges in use.  We have O, On3, On2, On30 and Proto48 in 1/48.  Yet some have decided that the term O Scale means two-rail and that O Gauge means three-rail.  That seems to be confusing to me.  Both two-rail and three-rail O gauge use the same 1.25″ spacing between the rails.  So why label one scale and the other gauge.  This seems strange to me.   Scale is the size (1/48) we work in and gauge is the space between the rail on standard gauge.

I suppose that it isn’t that important in the total spectrum of 1/4″ scale modeling.  Proto48 doesn’t suffer this confusion fortunately.





10 thoughts on “OPINION: Scale or Gauge

  1. Interesting thoughts Gene. P48 makes the most sense since true modelling is an accurate representation of the prototype. As Norm Buckhart stated years ago, “Why not do it right the first time?” Don’t we all know that model airplanes, cars and just about everything else couldn’t get away with all this “scale” confusion and inaccuracy?

  2. Hi Gene

    I have always thought there was at least a small amount of logic behind the O-scale vs O-gauge differentiation of 2-rail and 3-rail, particularly when you consider that while 3-rail might be O-gauge, for a long time 3-rail’s adherence to O-“scale” has been entirely optional 😉


  3. Not understanding the simple difference between Scale and Gauge is such a basic precept of all model railroading. I model narrow gauge and that takes the concept of Gauge to a whole new level of miss-understanding!

  4. Its not just O, or N, or S… It’s in large scale as well. I hear people saying G scale. What’s G scale? Is it 1/13.7 (2′ narrow gauge), 1/20.3 (3′ narrow gauge), 1/22.5 (European meter gauge), 1/24 (random gauge), 1/29 ( standard gauge modeled on slightly narrower track) or is it 1/32 (standard gauge)?
    All of the above run on 45mm gauged track.
    Meanwhile, I’m over in another corner trying to figure out how to make Proto29 work (1/29 scale on the correctly gauged 4′ 8.5″ track).

    So I understand your pains 100% Gene.

  5. I believe the gauge is the same. S gauge wheels are wide and the flanges deep, whereas scale wheels are narrow with shorter flanges. This makes tolerances less forgiving.

  6. ..only to say that here in Europe O scale/gauge can be 1:43.5 or 1:45…and why ZERO -0- number is written/spoken -O- word..?

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