(Back) to Lennart Thelander's Home Page

Model trains

Links to parts of this document:
Scale and gauge
Locomotives and rolling stock
List of links to other modelling sites

My list of manufacturers

I have always been interested in model trains. My older brother had H0 Märklin trains when I was a little child and I loved running the trains.

Nowadays I have a small collection of H0 locomotives and rolling stock. I hope to build a model railway some day. I buy any kind of train that looks nice, which means I have models from many european countries as well as the United States.

Scale and gauge

There are many scales. Most of them are now forgotten. Here is a list of the more common ones:





G (European)



Narrow gauge models

G (US)



Narrow gauge models




0 (UK)



0 (European)



0 (US)





7/8 inch (22.225mm)

Used in non-metric countries like UK and US.




Used in the UK only




Most common scale




Popular in eastern europe




Second most common




Comments to scales

Note the difference between scale and gauge. The gauge is the distance between the inside of the railheads and the scale is the proportion between the real thing (called prototype) and the model. What is called normal gauge is 1435mm in most of the world. There are also a number of narrow gauges. The most common are: 1 metre, 3 feet, 2.5 feet and 2 feet. Some Europeans model metre gauge railways in H0 (pronouced "Aitch-Oh"). They say they model H0e trains. Some US modellers model 3 feet railways. They call them Sn3, H0n3 or Nn3. "n" stands for "narrow gauge". H0e modellers may use N scale track, wheels and locomotive mechanisms. Nn3 modellers may use Z scale track, wheels and locomotive mechanisms. There are models and track for Sn3 and H0n3 available.
As you can see, 00 and H0 uses the same gauge. That means that track, wheels and locomotive mechanisms can be used is both scales. There are some advanced modellers in the UK that use a more correct gauge. In fact, there are two different gauges (beside 16.5 mm) that compete for success. Because of this, many modellers in the UK want to get rid of 00 scale and go for H0 instead. Others like it the way it is, and may have a large investment in 00 scale equipment. This debate has been going on for years and it probably will for years to come. The issue was raised again because of the release of the new English Channel Tunnel train (Eurostar), which was released in H0 only.

Locomotives and rolling stock

To get dependable operation I have Märklin's three rail system, see under Track below. That way I don't have to clean the track before I run trains. The centre "rail" is almost invisible. It is comprised of small metal studs hidden in each tie (or sleeper). I have many brands of trains, many of them designed to run 2-rail DC. I must provide them with a pick-up shoe or slider as well an electronic reverse unit in order to run them on my layout.

A lot of US equipment will give you excellent value for your money. Athearn locomotives with 8 wheel drive, 8 wheel pick-up and two flywheels are sometimes sold for $25 (US). Of course, US locomotives are models of US prototypes, so if you don't like US trains then...
One problem with US equipment is the different coupler compared to european couplers, see below at couplers.

One difference between US and european equipment is that US are usually in kit form while european usually is ready-to-run. Some cheaper, more toy-like US equipment is ready-to-run and some european manufacturers supply small add-on details that can be applied by the buyer. Even if the US equiment is in kit form, they are easy to assemble. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to assemble them. There are some car manufacturers that have more detail parts that take a little longer. There are also craftsman kits that are even more difficult. Beware of the cheapest US equipment. If it is cheaper than Athearn, then it is probably not good quality. Athearn cars may not have every tiny detail that more expensive cars have, but I think they are good enough, with excellent value for money. "Good enough" is a concept followed by many modellers. What really is "Good enough" may vary from modeller to modeller, but the concept is the same.


A large problem is the wheels on both locomotives and cars, or rather the flanges. Märklin's flanges are large, european DC-equipment have smaller and US DC-equipment even smaller. If you don't have any turnouts (I call them turnout so it won't be confused with an electric switch) then you don't have any problem, but that can be pretty boring. I tried a lot of turnouts and I have found the following to be excellent choices:

All of the above can be provided with under the table switch machines. Märklin's turnouts have a movable frog that allowes any kind of flange to work (large radius only). They can also be used for 2-rail wiring because the rails are insulated. I will be able to switch at least one track on my layout between 2-rail and 3-rail operation to allow friends to bring their equipment.
Peco is 2-rail only. However, they provide centre studs in rolls that allow you to run 3-rail trains on Peco track. There is a problem with the turnouts. You must provide a path for the ski wiper so it raises above the rails. If it touches the rails a short circuit occurs. I have not been able to do this with Peco's own centre stud strips. (Yes, I know there are two kinds: one for normal track and one for turnouts, but they don't work for turnouts anyway). The solution is to use small brass nails between the ties (or sleepers). They can be nailed down so they form a small "hill" for the ski wiper above the rail. After you nailed them down, remove the turnout and solder a thin wire to each nail. Cut a small groove in the middle of the underside of the ties to provide space for the wire. You can use a thin wire since it will be less than 15 centimetres long. You may want to connect both ends of the thin wire to the thick bus wire you (of course) run under the roadbed. Now you can put the turnout back on the roadbed. Remember to install the switch machine if you decide to use one.
Peco's turnout can be used without switch machine or switch throws. They have a spring mounted to keep the turnout in the desired position.
Peco also has a selection of code 75 track. This track is not suitable if you have equipment with large flanges on the wheels, like Märklin 3-rail.

There are two kinds of Märklin K-track: the older 2100 series and the new 2200 series. Beware of the 2100 series. The rails are bent, thin plate instead of solid, like the 2200 series. Also, in the 2100 series, the rails are not insulated from each other so you can't wire them for 2-rail operation if you want to.

Advantages with 3-rail track.


Most of my european equipment has a NEM pocket for couplers. NEM is a standard that is supported by every european manufacturer I know. My favourite coupler for NEM pockets are Märklin's close coupler. They couple and uncouple very easily. This also means that there is no space between the passenger cars, at least not on straight track.

No US equipment have NEM pockets. They don't have any commonly accepted standards at all. They usually have a coupler called horn-hook, that experienced modellers throw away immediately. Horn-hook does not couple with anything else, sometimes not even with another horn-hook. That is not as bad as it may seem. Most equipment can use Kadee number 5s without much work. There are a lot of different Kadee couplers for various uses. I use Kadee on all my US equipment, which means that they can never be coupled to my european equipment. Kadee does offer couplers for NEM-pockets, but they only work on short (2-axle) cars. The longer cars has a coupler guide mechanism that is supposed to extend the coupler so the train will go around curves. This mechanism does not work with Kadee couplers because they are too flexible. Kadee also couple and uncouple very easily.
One problem with Kadees and three rail track is that the uncoupler pin must be raised a bit compared to Kadees coupler height gauge. Just a put a piece of 1.0mm styrene on the gauge and it will work just fine.
Recently a number of manufacturers has released Kadee compatible couplers. I have not tested them myself, but I understand they are a good substitute for Kadee. Kadee still has a lot of different coupler for various situations, which no one else has.

Links to Web-sites with model trains.

Urban's Swedish railways page
NMRA on the Web - Home Page
Märklin, Inc. Toy Trains
Model Railroader Magazine
The Model Railroad Mall, by Wm. K. Walthers, Inc.
Caboose Hobbies