Measuring Toy Trains

In 1891, Märklin, a toy company in Leipzig, Germany, became eternally connected to toy trains when they developed the standards for toy trains. Over a hundred and ten years have passed and toy train manufactures are still using Märklin’s standards to measure toy trains.

When it developed the standards for toy trains, Märklin was a company that mainly designed and built accessories for doll houses. In 1891 they expanded the business and started making toy trains. Märklin had always designed its doll house accessories to a gauge (a certain gauge dollhouse corresponded with a certain gauge of furniture). They realized that if they used a similar gauge when building toy trains and railroad tracks consumer’s could continue purchasing bits of tracks for years to come. As soon as they realized this Märklin sold rolling and stock tracks that could be used to expand the boxed sets they sold.

Trains that run on a G gauge track have little in common but the track they operate on. It is a gauge that has been popular with European toy train makers for years. The G gauge has a width of 1 3/4 inches and a size of 1:32 through 1:30.

Measuring at 1 3/8 inches wide, with a size of 1:48 or 1:43 or 1:45 or 1:64, the zero gauge is the most popular toy train gauge.

The S gauge became popular in post World War II, when it was used heavily by the American Flyer company. Designing train tracks and trains that ran on the S gauge tracks is one of the things that most consumers think about when they think of the American Flyer toy company. Its measurements were in between an O gauge track and an HO gauge track. It is important not to confuse the S gauge with the wide gauge standard that was introduced by the Lionel Company. The wide gauge was less of a scale model standard that some believe to have been a result of the company misreading the Märklin specifications. Another theory is that the Lionel Company was trying to create a new gauge of track that would lock out competitors. At least four toy train manufactures in the United States used the wide gauge.

England devised a toy railroad track called the HO gauge. It was suppose to be half the size of an O gauge track. The actual measurements are 1:87. There are .65 inches between the rails. For some reason the trains that were designed to run on the HO tracks did not enjoy a great deal of popularity. Some people believe that they were unable to with hold the wear and tear their young owners put them through.

Germany came out with trains that ran on a Z gauge track. The tracks that support these trains measure 1:22. Perhaps because of their small size these trains have not been particularly successful.

The OO gauge measured 1:76. It appeared on the market in the 1930’s. In the 1950’s a train that runs on a track that measures 1:120 came out. It vanished shortly after its inception.