The most popular scale for modeling is HO scale (1:87). Most of the parts at this scale are big enough to handle easily, and modeling at this scale doesn't require painful attention to tiny tiny details. Unfortunately, HO scale is great for a basement but makes about one loop under a queen-size bed. If that's all you want, work in HO. It seems a lot easier to work with and trains and models are easily available. Even Toys 'R' Us has HO in quantity.

A tiny scale that you might like to work with is Z scale (1:220). If you want to build a complex rail system in a small space, this could be a great way to do it. Unfortunately, not a lot of stuff is available for this scale - and what's available is pretty pricey. There's less selection for people, houses, and scenery, and most of it seems to be German. (It makes it kind of hard to model Newark.) Maybe someday I'll build something in this scale on the corner of a desk, but I think I'd go crazy trying to work with it after a while.

The scale I use is N scale (1:160). I didn't choose it for any especially rational reason - I saw a Bachmann set at a Kay-Bee Toys and picked it up. It looked like the right size, and it was, though it's grown a lot since. You can get a wide variety of trains and buildings in this scale, and a decent layout fits under a bed. It's a bit small - some of the model parts are just plain tiny - but it works really well in a fairly confined space. You can buy steam engines and diesel engines and other equipment from all periods of model railroading, and the prices are no more excessive than they are for other model railroad equipment. Most train stores carry N, though if you really want all the possible toys available it's usually easier to find them in HO.

Thanks to N-Scale's compactness, I was even able to put a small yard into my tiny layout.
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Copyright 1996 by Simon St.Laurent. All rights reserved. You may print this document for yourself or others at no charge, but commercial distribution without permission is prohibited.

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