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Choose Your Gauge

(gauge is the distance between the inner edge of the rails)


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Popular model engineering gauges are - 3.5", 5" , 7 1/4"(7.5" in parts of USA), 10 1/4" and 15" gauge. For these pages I am sticking with 5" and 7 1/4" gauge as these can be used for ride on railways in medium to large gardens. Much smaller and they become unstable to ride and larger is the domains of the estate or commercial set up.

5" Gauge 

7 1/4" Gauge

Advantages Advantages
  • Smallest practicable ride on railway
  • Run round curves as small as 10' (3m) radius
  • Easy to transport around - fits in most cars
  • Many club track both raised and ground level
  • Raised track running - nice, stable riding position.
  • Cost
  • 1st gauge to be practicably used for commercial running
  • Far more stable than 5" gauge
  • 1st size gauge to be ride in - even enclosed coaches are possible
  • Most model engineering clubs with ground tracks have 7 1/4" gauge
  • 7 1/4" Gauge Society
Disadvantages Disadvantages
  • Not as stable as 7 1/4" gauge
  • Easy to move - more vunerable to theft
  • Cost
  • Size
  • Weight - 7 1/4" gauge lives on the rails - ramps, trailers winches
  • Larger train loads means for most lines you will need train brakes.
  • Really for the larger garden

Scale

There is a big difference between gauge and scale.

5" Gauge 7 1/4" Gauge
Standard Gauge 1 - 11.2 1 - 7.7
Two Foot Gauge 1 - 4.7 1 - 3.3

What does this mean?

A standard BR Mk1 is coach - 19.7m (64'6") x 2.8m (9'3")

  • 5" gauge - 1.76m x 0.25m
  • 7 1/4" gauge - 2.56m x 0.36m

Festiniog Coach 116 - 10.8m (36') x 1.8 (6')

  • 5" gauge - 2.3m x 0.32m
  • 7 1/4" gauge - 3.37m x 0.55m
Copyright Station Road Steam

Above - an example of two scales on 5" gauge.

The choice of scale can affect your plans. There are 7 1/4" gauge locos that can weigh in over a ton. No good putting down shallow ballast and lightweight rail for a loco of this size. If you are buying or building a large loco I am going to assume you have some common sense (despite what the wife says) and have a fair idea of the track requirements for your stock.

Merstham 2008

Above - 7 1/4" gauge locos at Merstham. The single Farlie on the left is a ride in locomotive. Both these locos have to be moved on rails due to their weight. Narrow gauge locomotives on 7 1/4" gauge can come up pretty big. This being one of the main attractions.

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