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OO gauge vs O gauge - Which is best choice for you?


Introduction

In the world of model railways, the choice between OO gauge and O gauge is a subject of intense debate that has endured for many years.

Enthusiasts around the globe have tirelessly weighed the merits and drawbacks of these two popular options. It is essential to realize that the choice is not so much a matter of superiority but of suitability.

What works best for one model railway might not work well for another. Therefore, a thoughtful understanding of both gauges' features, benefits, and disadvantages is key to selecting the best option for your specific layout.

Each model railway gauge comes with its set of advantages and disadvantages. As such, the process of deciding between the OO gauge and the O gauge can be somewhat challenging.

This article aims to compare and contrast these two popular model railway gauges, providing a detailed overview of each track gauge's benefits and potential drawbacks.

Interestingly, various model railway scales can use existing track gauges, an aspect that adds an extra layer of complexity to the topic. OO gauge and OO9 gauge are the same scale, 1:76 representing standard gauge track and narrow gauge.

For clarity, in this article, we will focus on O gauge 7mm scale and OO gauge 4mm scale.

we will first answer some frequently asked questions about the size of the OO gauge standard gauge track and the O gauge track width.

Comparing the relative sizes of locomotives for 32mm and 16mm wide track

Standard gauge

1:76 scale - OO Gauge

The OO gauge, a firm favourite among model railway enthusiasts in the UK, models at a scale of 1:76, which translates to 4mm to one foot. This ratio effectively makes the OO gauge standard track width 16mm, exactly half the width of the O gauge track.

1:48 scale - O Gauge

Introduced in the UK during the 1930s, the O gauge is another beloved model railway scale. It boasts a 1:48 scale or 7mm to one foot, making it one of the most prominent model railway scales globally. Many enthusiasts hold the O gauge in high esteem, appreciating its perfect blend of detailed design, satisfying size, and compatibility with indoor layouts. It has a track gauge width of 32mm.

IMG_3401.JPG
An original Hornby Clockwork O gauge locomotive showing its age

Narrow gauge railways

While considering narrow gauge railway modelling, particularly 2-foot garden railways, a track gauge of 32mm is typically employed. However, it is important to note that the rail profile is noticeably deeper in these cases. The scale typically used for garden railways is 16mm.

One common misconception is that the O gauge 1:48 scale track can accommodate 16mm scale rolling stock and locomotives. Unfortunately, this is not the case due to discrepancies in scale. However, it is possible to use SM32 (16mm scale) track for running O gauge models, given that the gauge width is identical.

Now, let's delve into a more in-depth comparison of the two gauges.

OO Gauge – Pros and Cons

The popularity of OO Gauge brings a multitude of benefits. A wide range of standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock is available off the shelf, meaning you'll have plenty of variety to choose from. With a six-foot (1.8m) by four-foot (1.2m) baseboard, you can establish a substantial model railway.

Numerous design ideas are readily available to replicate or use as inspiration, providing virtually limitless creative possibilities.

Regarding scale model buildings, 1:76 scale models are easily accessible as kits or decorated resin castings. The same scale is available for model lighting.

Lastly, a thriving second-hand market for OO gauge models and accessories may further broaden your choices and help reduce costs.

However, the OO gauge comes with its set of drawbacks. The small details on the models can be delicate and easily damaged. Moreover, they are often best left permanently attached to a baseboard.

O Gauge – Pros and Cons

O Gauge models offer several unique benefits. High levels of detail are prevalent in the locomotives and rolling stock available off the shelf. Items scaled at 1:48 are generally more robust and less prone to damage.

Given their larger size, including technology like synchronized smoke generators and working locomotive lighting is easier.

The larger scale also allows for better DCC sound reproduction, as bigger speakers can be incorporated. If you're interested in outdoor railway modelling, 1:48 railways are suitable for such purposes. Additionally, their larger size makes O Gauge models easier to work on and repair than their OO Gauge counterparts.

Like the OO Gauge, the O Gauge also has its disadvantages. It requires twice the space of an OO gauge layout, potentially limiting your design options in smaller spaces. For instance, a simple oval of 32mm track gauge would require a minimum width of 4m.

Comparing the costs

As for the cost comparison, prices as of July 2023 reveal a noticeable difference between the two gauges.

A OO gauge 1:76 scale 0-6-0 locomotive generally costs around £125, whereas the larger O gauge 1:48 scale equivalent is priced at about £230.

Tender locomotives in 1:76 scale are currently around £270, while larger 1:48 scale locomotives start from £550.

Coaches in OO gauge start at £48, while their larger-scale counterparts begin at £205.

The price for a wagon in OO is around £30, starting from £50 in O.

Lastly, a yard (936mm) of track in OO gauge is priced at £5.26, while it is £11.75 for O gauge. Points or turnouts used to change tracks start from £17.26 for an OO standard gauge track turnout and from £75 for a 7mm scale standard gauge track turnout.

Conclusion

To conclude, you must consider your specific needs and preferences when selecting between OO gauge and O gauge model railways. Each model railway gauge has its unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Whether you prioritize detail, robustness, cost, or space will ultimately guide your choice.

Happy modelling!

Further reading

If you would like more information about track gauge and narrow gauge for model railways, please read our article Model Railway Scales and gauges explained

If you are new to model railways, we have more articles on getting started with railway modelling.


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