Collecting Ho Scale Model Trains

HO is a popular scale for anyone, particularly the collector. The HO scale started in the United Kingdom in the 1930’s as an alternative to the established 00 gauge, so these early trains from the United Kingdom are a wonderful collectible to hunt for. The HO scale failed to find a place until the 1950’s when American hobbyists began to seek it for the more realistic details and smaller size than the O scale that was then the popular size in America.

There are two different types of collectors: those who collect for the enjoyment with no intention to resell, and those who collect with an eye for investment.

Whichever kind of collector you are, you will want to make sure that you take a few steps to give you the best enjoyment and to safeguard against your collection losing value over time because of poor storage.

The first thing you want to do is get a good price guide, preferably one that focuses on the kind of trains you are collecting. Look or a copy of Greenberg’s Pocket Guide or the M.T.H. Electric Trains price and rarity guide. These will help you to determine if the train you are shopping for is actually worth the cost that it is being sold for.

• Condition

Condition is an important factor when you are looking at any collectible, you want to make sure that the train is in good condition. If you are looking at a boxed set then check to see if it comes with all of the original parts. Are all the cars there? Is there any track missing? Are track couplers broken? Does the engine and power pack both work? Does the packaging material come with the train? Are the instructions in the box?

Check your model for weathering. Chances are that weathering will only lessen the value of the train unless you can get some kind of provenance to prove that your weathered train was actually weathered by a pioneer in the model railroad hobby.

• Displaying Your Collection

There are a few options for display, from small plastic boxes that can stack atop one another to full sized display cases with glass shelving. My preferred method of display is to create a mini diorama on a small shelf and encase it in Plexiglas to keep out dirt. These small scenes add visual appeal to the display and can be as enjoyable to create as the full sized layout.

If your collection is a working collection then you will want to create a layout for your train that showcases the train. Your focus should be on having visibility of the train as it goes around the track rather than on the scenery, which should fade into the backdrop. If you have a small collection, say HO scale trains in the Amtrak line, then you could build a layout that highlights a segment of the real world lines that Amtrak runs on.

• What Is It Worth? 

In addition to the price guides I mentioned above, there are quite a few model railroad shows that you can take your trains to and speak with an appraiser to find out what your collection is worth, just be sure that you package your delicate trains carefully to avoid accidental damage or loss during the long day or walking around the show looking at displays and shopping for deals.

• SIizes Within HO

HO Scale Specifications

  Size: 1:87 (one eighty-seventh the size of a real train).
  Rough Conversion: 3.5 mm = 1 foot / 1 inch = 7.5 feet
  Standard oval layout size: 47″x38″

There are several sizes within the HO scale that represent narrow gauge railways. These are HO, HOm, HOn3-, HOn3, HOn30 / HOe, and HOz / H0i

• Lionels And Tru-Scales And Bachmanns, Oh, My!I

HO is a hugely popular scale, which means that there are many manufacturers building HO scale trains. How do you decide what to collect? That is up to you, you might focus on one specific brand, such as Lionel, Tru-Life, or Bachmann, or you might focus on a specific train, such as the Southern Pacific, Amtrak or Alaskan Railroad. Perhaps you are only interested in Pre-War or Post-War trains? Maybe the classics such as John Bull and Iron Horse are your preferred collectibles? You could even go for a huge collection and collect a sampling of HO scaled trains from all of the various manufactures.

The important thing is to collect something that you enjoy and can have fun with.