Getting Started
Welcome to all newcomers to O Gauge

This page has some suggestions about starting in O Gauge finescale. What track is available, what locos, coaches and wagons could be considered by a beginner to get you going quickly.

It is worth remembering that for a given room space you need less O Gauge stock than you would need in the smaller scales. So while O Gauge at first sight may seem to be expensive per item, the fact that you need less quantity of stock makes the overall cost about the same. The larger size gives the models more presence and they are nicer to hold.

For the quickest way to a working layout, you can buy ready to run (RTR) locos, wagons and coaches either new or secondhand. The Guild provides a Sales and Wants service and hopes to re-introduce an Executors & Trustees service. There are even specialists who can build your boards, lay track and provide scenery - all at a cost of course. Alternatively you make your own models. The sections on the right try to suggest what to look for in selecting the different items you need for a layout.

For the least cost outlay, scratch building should be considered. The larger scale makes it much easier to make quality items, both in rolling stock and buildings. There are numerous sources of material. Plastic sections and sheet are readily available from model shops, Eileen's Emporium and Metalsmith stock lots of metal sections, wires etc. If building rolling stock there are wheels, axle guards, buffers and couplings for all major railways available from the various O Gauge stockists. First class mail order facilities mean that you can get hold of anything you need very quickly.

Class 66 by Brian Daniels.
Class 66 by Brian Daniels.
A scene from 'Napier Street' by Nigel Bowyer showing the intimate detail possible in 7mm scale. The entire layout is only 10'6" long.
A scene from 'Napier Street' by Nigel Bowyer showing the intimate detail possible in 7mm scale. The entire layout is only 10'6" long.
Hobbs Warren - a motive power depot layout just 7'6 long.
Hobbs Warren - a motive power depot layout just 7'6" long. You can see more at

Finding good track is one of the easy bits. There are a couple of manufacturers of track ready made in flexible yard lengths, such as Peco and Marcway. Left and right hand, Y points and double slips suffice for most track layouts. More advanced layouts can be made by making your own track using readily available components from Exactoscale or C&L, easily glued together. Also use the classified adverts which come each quarter with the Gazette; there is usually at least one advert for second hand track which would be very economical. For more complex track arrangements such as single slips or crossovers, MarcWay offer a custom build service at reasonable prices.

For details of the various track standards associated with O gauge, please see the What is O gauge? page.

Ready to runThe Heljan class 47
Ready to runThe Heljan class 47.
Ixion's Hudswell Clarke saddle tank
Ixion's Hudswell Clarke saddle tank.
An example of a simple etched loco kit from Connoisseur Models
An example of a simple etched loco kit from Connoisseur Models.

Many brass RTR engines are now built in China to a very high standard, and painting services are often available from the retailer who sells them. Lots of small companies and individuals offer ready built locomotives. You only need to scan the adverts in the Guild's Gazette to find them. Buying a high quality ready built engine from one of these sources can inspire you to build your own. It gives you a standard to aim for.

Most people move into O Gauge because they want more detail in the stock they own. This is achieved by building your own locos from kits. For a beginner choose something simple to start with. If it is a steam outline engine, then choose a simple tank engine first, with main drivers only, and no outside valve gear. Connoiseur have recently reintroduced their 0-4-0T starter kit, which is a very simple engine to start on. Preferably select a kit which has the boiler, smokebox and firebox ready formed in resin or cast in whitemetal or pewter, limiting the amount of soldering of etched parts. Once practised, soldering etched parts is not difficult, but it is a skill which needs to be learnt and this takes time and dedication. Find someone who knows already, and learn from them. It is so much quicker than using trial and error. The best way is to join one of the model railway clubs with an 0 Gauge section.

A Dapol ready to run wagon
A Dapol ready to run wagon.
A kit from Slaters
A kit from Slaters.
A kit from Parkside by Peco
A kit from Parkside by Peco.

RTR wagons are increasingly being offered. Skytrex, Dapol and Lionheart offer a wide range at very reasonable prices. Again, look for second hand wagons already built.

There is an excellent range of plastic kit wagons from manufacturers such as Slaters and Parkside by Peco. They are easy to assemble and paint, and look very good when complete. They come with all required parts so there is no need to trawl the shops and trade for extras like wheels, couplings and buffers


Ready made coaches are somewhat less common, but again Skytrex can offer some simple BR style coaches at low prices. Chinese built and painted coaches are also available, and offer fair value when the time to build your own is taken into account. Some suppliers of coach kits such as Sidelines also offer their coaches ready built and painted.

There are some plastic coach kits available but the bogie ones are more complex to assemble and more expensive than the wagons. There was quite a range of cast resin kits from JLTRT. The level of detail is exceptional, and they fit together well. There is a wider range of etched brass kits, but some skill is needed to build and complete these kits. (see the comments above for locos).


Most 0 gauge locos are powered by electric motors driving the wheels and work with the normal 12 volt DC system, although sometimes higher voltages are used. If you are buying second hand stock check that the voltage is as expected. Usually because 0 gauge engines and stock are heavier than OO gauge stock the current drawn is higher and therefore heavier duty controllers need to be used. If you are starting in O gauge then it is recommended that the modern DCC system is considered (DCC is Digital Command Control). There is a slightly higher initial cost involved, but the benefit is much simpler layout wiring, control of all engines simultaneously, control of points from the same hand held controller, and the ability to fit sound to the stock. Having sound transforms the enjoyment of the layout enormously.


The best advice is to start small. Decide first on what you would like to model, be it pre-grouping, post grouping, nationalised or whatever. Choose simple prototypes first. It may be wonderful to have a express 4-6-2 pulling 10 pullman coaches, but consider whether you would ever complete the stock and do you have the skills. Build the skills slowly; visit the Gauge O Guild shows and talk to the demonstrators. They have great advice to impart. If you can, join a club and ask advice. When you think you want to buy a kit, open the box before you buy and inspect all the parts. If it all looks too much work then it probably is, and maybe you'll never finish it. Say your apologies and tell the seller that you'll buy one when your skills have improved !

But most of all, persevere. There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a model to the best of your ability, placing it on a layout and admiring it. For the next model, consider how you would make it better. Be inspired by what others do and use their standards as something to aim for. Buy the best tools. They are worth their weight in gold. Enjoy what you do; it's a hobby after all.