A reader writes:
Despite your very clear explanations, I am still utterly confused on the issue
of scale. If narrow gauge is 1:20 (or so) and standard is 1:29 (or so) and if these
numbers mean that one inch in narrow equals 20 inches in real life, then the standard
trains should be larger, and having just attended the Big Train Show in Ontario, CA,
it's apparent that they are. But the people on your website seem to be the opposite.
That is, the people for narrow gauge are larger than the people for standard gauge.
This is probably pretty simple, but I just don't get it. Can you explain further?
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Thanks for getting in touch. Your not the first person who struggled with this,
including a dealer that told me that the 1:32 trains should be bigger than the 1:22.5
trains. Some of them were, because they were models of REALLY BIG trains. Think of it
this way. 1:22 means that something is one twenty-second as large as the real thing.
1:29 means something is one twenty-ninth as large as the real thing. The reason that
1:29 models are often larger than 1:20.3 trains is that they are models of REALLY BIG
trains. If you put a real-world Shay (like the kind the 1:20.3 Bachmann Shay is based
on) near a real-world Hudson (like the kind the USA Hudson is modeled on), the Shay
wouldn't even look like a real train next to the Hudson. Think of it this way, an
engineer properly scaled to drive a 1:20.3 train would be HALF AGAIN AS LARGE as the
engineer scaled to drive a 1:29 train. If your 1:20.3 engineer is 6 foot tall, the 1:29
engineer should look 4 foot tall next to them. You don't see this much on garden
railroads because most accessories and figures are about 1:24 plus or minus 10%.
Hope this helps. 1:29 is a SMALLER scale than 1:20 the same way that one-sixth of a pie
is less than one-quarter of a pie.
The real question isn't which scale is "better," anyway, it's what kind of train do you
want to model. Narrow gauge trains with short consists and sometimes quaint equipment
(generally modeled in 1:20.3 or 1:22.5) or big long trains that crossed half of the
continent (generally modeled in 1:29 or 1:32).