Sidebar: Japanese N Scale

Japanese N Scale is either 1:150 or 1:160, although 1:150 is much more prevalent; both use 9 mm track. Modeling Japanese railways is complicated by the fact that four different track gauges exist in Japan:

The Japanese National Railway and other major private railways use 3' 6". Evidently this gauge arrived in Japan via the British and European consultants hired by the Japanese to build their first railways. The problem is that 1:150 is not suitable to represent this gauge: 9 mm track at 1:150 actually scales to 4' 5". Working in the other direction, using 9 mm track to represent Cape Gauge requires a modeling scale of 1:119. A small number of modelers use TT Scale (1:120) with 9 mm track to accurately represent Japanese Cape Gauge railways.

Image courtesy of Railway Gazette.

The track for Shinkansen or "Bullet Trains" in Japan and other neighboring countries is 4' 8", or standard gauge, so modelers of such high speed railways are correct when using a scale of 1:160.

Then there's the Keiō and a few other small railways, as well as Tokyo tramways, which use a gauge of 4' 6". This may explain the origin of 1:150 scale, since 9 mm track at 1:150 is very close. Then again, many model ship and plane manufacturers use 1:150. Another idea that's been floated is that 1:150 was chosen because it's an architectural scale. Or it might have been a practicality issue, as it was for the British. However, this is all speculation; it yet remains a mystery how 1:150 became the more popular variant of N Scale in Japan.

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Copyright 2018 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
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