Popular modelling scales in Japan
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Railway modelling scales in Japan differ a bit from what is common in the rest of the
world. A short list with some characteristics.
N-scale is by far the most
popular railway modelling scale in Japan. The products available vary
from cute toys top quality models, both mass-produced and handmade brass models. Usual scale ratio is 1/150th
scale instead of 1/160th as common in the US or Europe. 1/160thscale
is used in Japan for models of Shinkansen high-speed trains,
which have a larger loading gauge than ordinary japanese trains.
Prototype japanese trains run on a track gauge of 1067 mm (3ft6in) or
1435 mm (4ft 8½in), narrower gauges used are 762 mm (2ft6in) and
600 mm (2ft). The Japanese have chosen to use normal 9 mm track for all
prototype gauges between 1067 and 1435 mm. Narrow-gauge lines are not
often modelled in N-scale, so it's no surprise that there's not a lot
available 'of the shelf'. You could have a go with European Z-gauge
mechanisms and trackwork.
HO comes next and
this is where life becomes a little
In Japan there are 3 different HO standards. Most common HO standard is
scale on 16.5 mm gauge track, also known as #16 scale, but some more
found this unacceptable as the track gauge is too wide for the 1:80
So they started a different standard, 1:80 scale on 13 mm track, which
to be handlaid as there is no ready-made track available. This
is called #13 scale. Other modellers adopted the international 1:87
ratio and use a 12 mm track gauge, as per the European narrow-gauge
standards This gauge is known as #12 scale.
HO-scale has only a very small share of the Japanese model market, as
are very small by European or US standards, and
it is hard to find some room, even for an N-scale layout. In some towns
model train clubs, pubs, restaurants or hotels offer rental layouts on
which you can run your own trains at a charge. There are also N-scale
rental layouts available in some locations.
Other Japanese modelling scales are 1:50
20.5 mm track gauge (static models only) and O-scale tinplate. A few
handmade models are available in 1:120 scale, running on 9 mm track.
This scale is also used in New Zealand as it fits the New Zealand
trains (small loading gauge, 1067mm, 3ft 6in, track gauge) very well.
Recently, Z scale is becoming of interest. This scale was introduced in
Germany by Märklin in 1972. In Europe and the US, Z-scale has a
small but dedicated circle of enthousiasts. Now Z-scale has made it to
Japan. There are now 3 brands available, but of different quality. See
the manufacturers overview for details. The scale ratio is the common
1:220, but some models are made to a 1:200 scale. All japanese Z-scale
models run on 6.5 mm gauge track. I am not sure if the track and wheel
standards are compatible with Märklin's. More information on this
is most welcome!
Most recent development is from K.K. Eishindo, a manufacturer which introduced an even smaller scale: T-Gauge at a ratio of 1/450th
is only a third of japanese N-scale. Today there are several types of
EMU available, together with a track system which includes turnouts and
a range of buildings, cars and other scenic accessories it is possible
to build a complete layout in this scale. More information at the manufacturer's website and at the following retailers: TrainAidsA (USA) , Japan Model Railways (Germany) and Gaugemaster (UK).
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