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Introduction to G Gauge Model Trains

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G Scale Comparison

A 1:32 USA Trains GP9 and a 1:22.5 LGB F7 demonstrate the difference in scale of G gauge trains. Both prototypes are similar in size.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

G Gauge vs. Scale

Why do modelers refer to HO, O or N scales but G gauge? In all of these other scales, most trains do run on a common gauge of track, but all share a common scale, or proportion to the prototype. With G gauge trains only the gauge, or width of the track, is common. The scales of the trains themselves can vary from 1:20.3 to 1:32.

Why the difference? Some manufacturers make their models a slightly larger scale so that the track becomes more narrow in gauge in relationship to the size of the model. You can see how all of the most popular manufactures measure up here. G Gauge is among the most popular choices for narrow gauge modeling. Models scaled so that the 45mm gauge is scaled to standard gauge are also called No. 1 scale, or 1:32.

The Machine in the Garden

One of the most popular uses of G gauge trains is outdoor garden railroads. The track and structures are rugged enough to survive outdoor climates all year long. Most modelers keep the trains stored inside for security and protection when not in use.

Building a garden railroad involves very different construction methods than indoor layouts. Grading the right of way, wiring, and planting scenery all take on new meaning. And then there are the problems most of us indoor railroaders don't normally worry about like erosion or animals.

For all of the added challenges, there are many advantages to garden railroading. This combines all of the joys of model trains with the hobby of gardening. For those who enjoy spending time outdoors, a garden railway is a unique home improvement and conversation piece.

Of course, G gauge trains are perfectly at home inside as well.

Choosing G Gauge

If you are considereing choosing G Gauge trains for your model rairoad, here are some thoughts to keep in mind. For garden railroads, it helps to do a little more advanced research at a local home and garden center to find out what plant varieties will work best in your climate.

  1. Availability - While not as common as HO, N or O scale trains, G gauge trains are available at most hobby shops and through mail order. A good variety of North American and European models are marketed. Even though many manufacturers do not build models to the same scale, the differences in size are often acceptable and with compatable couplers all will work together.
  2. Cost - G Gauge trains do tend to cost more than smaller scales. Not only are you buying bigger models, generally you are buying much more durable models. Trains, track and structures designed to survive direct sunlight, rain and snow must be made of stronger plastics. A basic starter set will cost about $300-$500. Keep in mind that with larger trains comes a need for fewer models, G gauge railroads often focus on quality over quantity.
  3. Children - With their large size and rugged construction, G gauge trains are a popular choice for children. Indeed, kids will have little trouble handling these sturdy models. The only major drawback is cost. $300 is a lot to spend for a starter set if there is any doubt that your child is going to really make the most of it. If you're just buying your child a train on the hunch that they might want one, consider a more inexpensive scale, or start with other train toys first. Of course if you know you've got a dedicated young engineer, this could be the best $300 you ever spend on their hobby.
  4. Space - Despite their large size, many G gauge trains are designed to negotiate very tight curves. Depending on which models you choose and how much compromise you are willing to make, a respectable G gauge layout can be built indoors on platforms normally sized for smaller trains. For outdoor layouts, the sky is literally the limit. Just as with indoor layouts however, access to track for maintenance is always a concern.
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