Peter's Model Railroading - About S-scale

Why Switch to S-scale?

I had been using N-scale (1:160) for my entire model railroading "career". However, in July 2008 I decided to switch to S-scale (1:64). The primary reason being that the larger scale is much easier on the eyes. HO-scale never really appealed to me, and O-scale is much too large, especially when you start looking at structures. Also, the larger your modeling scale, generally the more expensive the hobby gets.

More Space for Electronics

The secondary reason for switching scales is that S-scale's engines weigh more, which means they track better and therefore don't suffer from stalling and derailing quite as often. Also, due to S-scale's larger volume, it is easier to install DCC decoders and even sound decoders in the engines, including small switcher engines. While O-scale would give you even more space, due to their heavier weight, they tend to use either two motors, or much more powerful motors. This makes DCC decoder selection and installation more complex. Newer S-scale locomotives use the same or similar motors that are in HO-scale locomotives, so DCC decoder selection is trivial. In late-2012 I converted my S-scale engines to use battery power, which is (currently) impractical to do in N-scale.

What Was It Like Switching Scales?

I have an article (diary) on this web site about the process of changing my favorite modeling scale.

Challenges in S-scale Modeling

S-scale is one of the least popular scales in which to model, but that doesn't mean that it is impossible. There are a large number of manufacturers who produce product specifically for S-scale, or whose products are usable in S. However, patience is required. Also, some scratchbuilding may be necessary if you want something specific, but that can be true in other scales as well. I have found that track laying, DCC installation, and scratch-building is much easier in S-scale than in N- or HO-scale (I have done some HO-scale work for friends).

Also, sometimes modelers get tired of just buying what is available and plopping it on the layout. What is the fun in that? Sure, if you are building a huge layout, you may not have time to building anything specific, and so spending some of your hard-earned cash is required to ever seeing a chance of your layout operating. However, for those of us with more modest means, the challenge of building something, i.e. getting back to the roots of what "modeling" is all about, is actually part of the appeal of this hobby. S-scale allows you to do that more easily.

S-scale Misconceptions

"S" is generally associated with the toy trains of American Flyer. However, there is a vibrant community of true scale modelers within "S". And my prediction is that eventually the "scale" side of "S" will be dominant. Within the scale side of "S" are those who model standard-gauge (American 4', 8-1/2" track gauge), narrow-gauge (Sn3, Sn2, Sn42, etc.), and trolley modeling.

Within the community there are also people who flag their layouts as "hi-rail". These are modelers who essentially use scale-looking track with scaling-looking equipment, but whose rail height may be a bit taller (officially code 125 and up is considered "hi-rail" by the NMRA and the NASG), so that they can still run some of their old American Flyer equipment. Generally, these people are caught between scale modeling and still using some of the American Flyer from their collection, and they will generally use wheels with large flanges and the old A.F.-style claw couplers. The true toy train enthusiasts will use only American Flyer track, A.F. accessories (many of which operate), and run their trains at rather fast speeds. Each has their own interests, but we all have equipment that is to 1:64 proportions.


The NASG stands for the "National Association of S Gaugers". It is an international non-profit corporation that helps the 1:64 community, setting standards, and bringing manufacturers and modelers together. The organization holds an annual convention somewhere in North America (usually in late July or August) to bring us together.

I joined the NASG when I switched scales in 2008. In December 2011 I was recruited and appointed by the then NASG president and the board to become the webmaster of the NASG's web site.

I spend time nearly every day updating that web site. It is a ton of work, but I enjoy it. On the NASG web site I actively maintain a listing of current manufacturers, retailers, and dealer links (see the "S Resources" page). There is always something new coming out in S-scale, so there is also the "News" page. The site has an RSS feed, so if you are at all interested in "S", I invite you to subscribe to that feed. There are also many articles, organized and validated links to external S-scale web sites and videos, photo galleries, and local club information.

(personal opinion: the current NASG president is a bit weird, and so he has forbidden anyone from using the NASG logo, so I removed the one I had on this page. Hopefully, a more reasonable person will be elected the next time, and I can return the logo to this page.)