HO or N scale?

Mike has been in touch – he’s found out pros and cons when it comes to HO or N scale.

“Hi AL:

Hope this message finds you well. Seems like a great time to send you an update on my model train odyessy inspired three years ago when I first encountered your wealth of information website.

Briefly, I started with a basement full of Lionel trains on four 4×8 tables. A year later, I scrapped it all to gain more real estate with HO scale.

I went all out with Bachmann EZ Track and constructed replicas of the Western Film town of Old Tucson and Hill Valley from the “Back to the Future” movies.

However, left with very little floor space for family and visitors during the days of the pandemic, I took the decision to scrap once again all the HO trains and track to regroup in N Scale.

Right or wrong, I liquidated all the HO trains and track on ebay, and then I acquired a few Bachmann N scale starter sets and lots of EZ track to begin experimenting with layouts on a much smaller L-shaped table topped with extruded polystyrene.

Photos included to illustrate how much of the basement was reclaimed for visitors. After trying several track plans, I settled on the this one.

Then I made a great discovery: KATO Trains. The upgrade in quality over Bachmann was astounding. Wish I would have used their track before I invested so much in Bachmann EZ track.

Now the scenery planning begins. I intend to rebuild in scale the Old Tucson and Hill Valley towns of the HO setup with a mountain scene in the corner.

Project should take me well into the Winter months.

I’ll keep you posted. Many thanks again for all the great tips and examples of what other train enthusiasts are doing with this wonderful hobby.

Grand Rapids, Michigan USA”


model railroad bench

model railroad bench

HO or N scale

HO or N scale

HO or N scale

HO or N scale

HO or N scale

laying track

N scale track

N scale model train

A huge thanks to Mike for the update. His last post – the HO scale – is here.

It just goes to show that the scale – HO scale or N scale – or any scale come to that, all hinges and on the space and budget you have… and of course how much time you have.

I do love hearing how all are getting on. It’s a learning curve for all of us, and knowing my little site has helped some of you really does please me.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if you want to make your start, the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to get going on your own layout.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

25 Responses to HO or N scale?

  1. James Marek says:

    I like the detail of your track plan, but it appears that the table in your plan does not match the size and shape of the actual table in the photos. Somewhat confusing.

  2. Great layout.

  3. Brian Rockey says:

    Thats an impressive track layout Mike.
    I was only talking to a railway modeller friend this week about the quality of the Kato track that I received in the new UK 800 series 5 car set recently. If I were to build another layout in N gauge, I would seriously consider it even though it wouldn’t look as realistic as track that is ballasted. It’s interesting that you mentioned the upgrade in quality over Bachmann. One of the couplings broke on one of the Bachmann Virgin HST coaches in the 5 car set, and they don’t supply spares – what is that about!
    Look forward to seeing the Wild West town in n-gauge.
    Best to all.
    Brian Rockey, Wokingham, UK

  4. Christopher Mondone says:

    It’s looking great so far. I can’t wait to keep seeing your progress. I’ve thought about it myself several times.

  5. Cv66RoofRat says:

    What size tables are you using?

  6. Robert Brady says:

    Mike, If I may add you have a very interesting room. I too are a fan of old monster movies. But Again we see no trains, AHh. post finished product please.
    The Critic

  7. Robert Brady says:

    James ! Everyone in this hobby tends to DIVERT from original plans. That’s normal
    Plan as you go. You’ll change entire layout in a year or less. I’m on my # 3 change.
    The Critic

  8. Rod Mackay says:

    Where you have that much space, you have the opportunity to create some ‘real’ railroading, that collects freight in one place and delivers it to others, connects towns, has places to marshal trains and service locos. Round-and-round is fun for a while, but I fear you may get a little bored.

  9. Mike Bifulco says:

    First, thanks to Al for giving us this great forum to discuss our passion for trains. James, regarding the sketch of the layout, it was created mostly for recording the track pieces I used to finalize the routes after doing the math for how lengths and arcs would connect correctly. It’s only for future reference. The layout itself was a week-long experiment to create at least three lines for trains. For now, I’m staying with old traditional DC operation with isolated lines to control starts and stops of trains. I had DCC in HO and I loved it, but expense is a consideration and I’d like to complete this new n scale in my lifetime. Table top is 4×8 (feet) with an added 4×4.5 (feet) to create the L-shape. A 2×2 right triangle surface connects the two. Robert, room decor is a carryover from previous use as a screening room (note the carpet) which I moved to another room in the house. I was for decades (and still am) a film collector. Rod, believe me, your comment was seriously considered. The old HO table space would have given me the real estate to build an empire, but as Al always says, we learn from experience. Yes, it would be hours of fun running freight trains and passengers from one end to the other, but without committing to DCC, it would have been much more difficult and expensive to complete. Another thing I learned from previous builds is to avoid the block foundation of structures as I did before because they cannot be lighted internally. This time, my town constructions will be hollow so I can create better night lighting. That will be the fun part. Thanks to everybody for great suggestions and guidance.

  10. Mike Roberts says:

    Fantastic track plan Mike
    Thanks for sharing as you’ve given me a few ideas
    for my Kati track

  11. All good on all fronts!
    There is a lot of good to be said about Kato and a lot of bad to be said about Bachmann. That said, I have found EZ track to be good enough in most applications and the difference in price makes it a bargain.

  12. Erick says:

    Nice. !!!!! I wish i could have big layout.

  13. Frank says:

    I know a command control system or what ever they call it now is popular, but that requires modifying or outfitting your locomotives with electronics and a modular or isolated block system is an easy enough way to get stuff built and trains rolling. I myself have an old (antique really) Lionel 027 train given to myself and my brothers by one of our grandmothers years and years ago.
    And I have some HO stuff, but switched to buying N scale which most is of better quality as the HO train was from a set. I wanted to avoid the toy trains and of course it takes less space.

    Anyway for N scale it was difficult to install the components. But I have nothing built yet, so it is still my choice as how to proceed.

    I sort of hate to see some of the old methods pushed aside, but everything is preserved in all the model railroading books, luckily for us hobbyist. Maybe the newer systems have smaller devices that are easier to fit into the rolling stock and therefore make for much less work and even cost.

    Frank in Orlando

    Frank in Orland

  14. Jim Cox says:

    Mike, your future layout looks promising! Good luck with all that. I look forward to seeing your progress in future.

  15. Dave S. says:

    Great N scale layout! I can relate to the KATO Trains comment. Several years ago my wife and I visited Japan and were amazed by the bullet trains. I was excited about getting back home to add a bullet train to my HO layout, only to find that KATO doesn’t make the trains in HO only N scale. So now I’m thinking of building a separate N layout with Japanese scenery and all. I’ve got the space just haven’t figured out the budget yet.

  16. Jim Kennedy says:

    This question is really for anybody When laying out the track do you lay out the track and then add the risers to elevate or do you elevate as you go? Ima getting ready to start my first layout and it is in N scale. I want it to run well, and look good in the process but I am very much a rookie with this. Would prefer an email to this because I am afraid I might miss it if it is included in an article..

  17. Nice layout. I like your carpet.
    Where can I find carpeting like that?

  18. Mr. Lopez says:

    Sir, how did you build your tables

  19. John P Riepe says:

    I lost the best train layout I ever had to a divorce. While three conjoined tables were set om 18 casters, there was no way to save the layout and I liquidated it for about 9 US cents on the dollar. Now I am looking at “N” gauge and this layout has me thrilled for the space I have to work with. I do admit that “N” gauge is presenting challenges never before experienced in the much larger “O” gauge spectrum. Great layout Mike. Interesting that you decided to stay with DC. Thanks for posting this, Mike.

  20. Harold says:

    Great job. Sorry you had to get rid of the Lionel’s, I’ve always liked them. But I understand space was an obstacle and you chose the best possible solution. And it looks very well. Good luck and keep posting!

  21. Norman "Pete" McGill says:

    just as I figured, you have already added to your new table area. I’ll bet that as you get going in N scale you’ll see how much more you can do with that size and you’ll be adding more tables to the L shape soon enough. Don’t worry though. It’s a disease and there is no cure for it except more and more trains.Good luck and have a great time.

  22. william j plmer says:


  23. James says:

    A lot of railroading action !

  24. Bogdan says:

    why not TT? TT is perfect combining the best from N – too small – and H0 – huge…

  25. Rich says:

    Outstanding track plan. Great work Mike. I may use this plan for my future G scale layout. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *