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Understanding Model Train Scales and using the Measurement Rulers

One of the most important issues a model railroader has to learn to understand is working within scales. Each modeler usually chooses the scale they are going to work with based on a number of considerations. For many, the amount of space they have to build their layout in is a key factor. For others perhaps it is the size of the models and the amount of close work and detail they can work with that is the deciding factor. Whatever the reason for choosing a scale to work with, once the choice is made then it is time to learn a little more about it. Your choice of scale affects every aspect of your model railroad, from the size of the locomotive and rolling stock to the type of trees and grass you use for scenery. One of the most important things that are affected by scale is the size of the buildings you will be using to build your towns and cities. Nothing can make your new layout look worse than having a building that is seriously out of proportion to the rest of your layout. When you buy a modeling kit or prebuilt building for your layout you will of course see the scale printed on the box. Now if you plan on scratch building your town, then you need to have an understanding of the scale you are working in order to build it to the correct size.

Scales in Model Builder

The Model Builder software is designed to work with 8 of the most common model railroading scales as well as 6 of the more common scales used by table top wargamers. Here is a list of the numerical scales and their corresponding matches.

Model railroading scales:

1:24 Half Scale 1:76 OO Scale
1:32 I Scale 1:87 HO Scale
1:48 O Scale 1:160 N Scale
1:64 S Scale 1:220 Z Scale

Miniature Figure and Wargaming Scales:

54 mm: Collectibles 25 mm OO scale
32 mm Mithril genuine 32mm size       15 mm Historical gamers, modern period
28 mm Games Workshop size 10 mm Newer scale close to N scale U

Using Measurements in Model Builder

By selecting the appropriate scale before you enter the Model Builder design program you are presetting the software to automatically determine the appropriate scale measurements for the building you wish to create.

Once you have the building creation palette open and are ready to work, you will notice that there are two rulers, one on the left side and one across the top. You can use these to determine the size of your building as well as the placement of your design on the paper.

These rulers can be set to read in one of several different measurements including inches and metric. Take a moment to use the drop down menu along the top row that is labeled units, you will see that there are five choices. The top two choices are for actual print size, in other words these measurements are exactly the same dimensions that will be on your printed project.

The bottom three measurements are there to allow you to work in real life sizes, but will create a building in the scale you have chosen. For most of us this is the best choice as it is much easier to imagine a building that is 40 feet long with a 7 foot high doorway than one that is say 5 1/2 inches long with a 7/8 inch doorway.

You can also switch to inch scale in order to determine placement of your building within the size of your printer paper, this can be a very important factor when you are getting ready to print your building. The reason for its importance is that you do not want to have half a wall on one sheet and the other half on another if you can help it, this could make for a very messy seam in the middle of your wall. It also will help reduce the amount of paper you waste creating your new model building.

Careful use of the rulers and the scale presets will help make your model railroad build project a complete success. Make sure you take a little time and familiarize yourself with all of the different ways to use them before you create your first building.


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