A Matter of Scale

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by catherine yronwode

An early 20th century exaggeration postcard by the California photographer Edward Mitchell, featuring two Washington Navel Oranges on a a Southern Pacific fatcar.

One of the things that everyone has an opinion on is scale -- the relative size of our railroad when compared to "real life." Most popular scales of model trains are tightly fixed; for instance, in the USA, O-scale is 1:48 and HO ("Half-O") is 1:87.1. Would that it were so simple for G-Scale. For historical reasons that cannot be revisted, G-Scale layouts vary from 1:20.3 to 1:29, all running on the same tracks. Some of these scales are unique to particular manufacturers, or to certain lines within a given manufacturer's offerings, so one way that modellers deal with the problem of clashing scales is to purchase only materials from one manufacturer, so that all the trains, buildings, and people will match.

However, as many garden railroaders are quick to point out, people come in all sizes, and so do buildings, so a miniature world full of uniformly 6-foot tall men and 5-foot-6-inch tall women does not look quite right. By placing in fiures from several different manufacturers into a crowd scene, you can achieve a more realistic look down a the depot, where folks are waiting for tehe train.