Which is bigger - 1:35 scale or 1:72 scale?

Which is bigger - 1:35 scale or 1:72 scale?


Unless you're lucky enough to own a full sized railway, probably everything we model is to a scale of some sort.

“The scale ratio of a model represents the proportional ratio of a linear dimension of the model to the same feature of the original. Examples include a 3-dimensional scale model of a building or the scale drawings of the elevations or plans of a building.”   Wikipedia

But what scale we model very much depends on how much room we have to fit that model in. As we explain in 'How long is a mile in OO gauge?", even in the smaller modelling scales, space is very much a deciding factor. 

Read on, as we scale this perplexing question…


Table of Contents

  • What does scale mean?
  • Which is bigger 1:35 scale or 1:72 scale?
  • What scales can I use for model railways?
  • Can I mix scales on the same layout?



What does scale mean?

As defined above, scale is a proportional ratio between similar items of different sizes. But what does that actually mean?

Probably the most common use of scale is for maps. We all know that any map is drawn to a smaller size than the actual landscape, but how much of that landscape can appear on one sheet of paper depends on the scale.  OS Landranger Maps, the Pink ones, are printed at a scale of 1:50,000.  This means for every inch on the map, in reality, it would take 50,00 inches to cover the same distance. However, the Orange Explorer Maps are printed at a scale of 1:25,000.  This makes them twice as big, so you can see much more detail, but you need more maps to cover the same area as the Pink Landranger maps. 


Which is bigger - 1:35 scale or 1:72 scale?

We can see that as the ratio gets closer to 1:1, the size of the scaled item is getting larger.  It makes sense then, that 1:35 scale is just about twice as big as 1:72 scale.

In context, UK O gauge, or 7mm/ft scale, is a scale ratio of 1:43.5, whereas UK OO Gauge, or 4mm/ft scale, is a scale ratio of 1:76.2. And we all know that O gauge is much bigger than OO gauge.

Both 1:35 scale and 1:72 scale are more commonly in military modelling, rather than model railways.


What scales can I use for model railways?

Model railways can be whatever scale you desire, and of course, you're free to make everything yourself in your chosen scale. But the challenge then comes with finding suitable items to purchase, such as track or locomotives, to save you some of the effort. 

Scalextric, the model slot car racing hobby, is usually made to a scale of 1:32.  But very little model railway stuff is made to this scale, so it's not easy to mix the two hobbies together on the same scenes, without some items looking too big (or small). 

In the UK, new modellers are probably best starting with either OO (4mm scale, 1:76.2) or N gauge (2mm scale, 1:148), as these have by far the biggest range of ready-to-run models. Other choices are either the much bigger O gauge (7mm scale, 1:43.5), or 009 Narrow gauge (4mm scale, 1:76.2, but using narrower, 9mm wide track), as these also now have a wider range of proprietary items which can be bought from your local model shop.

Can I mix scales on the same layout?

Within reason, yes, absolutely. Generally, using items that are slightly smaller than the main scale of your layout or diorama works best, trying to add larger items can just look wrong. 

Using smaller scale buildings or other scenic items, such as TT:120 scale, at the rear of a OO /1:76.2 scene can help convince the viewer that they are the same size as the nearer items, just much further away.

In the same vein, using some military items at 1:35 scale can sit well on a 1:43 scale (7mm/ft / O gauge) layout, if carefully placed.

One misconception is that HO and OO are the same, this stems from the early policy by some manufacturers to try to cater for both scales with the same items.  One well-known example was Merit, who made figures and small scenic items, marketed as HO/OO.

Despite both running on the same size track (16.5mm wide) HO is made to a scale of 1:87 (3.5mm/ft), whereas OO is of course 1:76.2 (4mm/ft).


Scales, gauges, ratios.  

Once the scales, gauges and ratios concepts are understood, making model railway layouts or diecast dioramas is much easier. Especially if trying to mix items from different manufacturers, as long as the scale/gauge is clearly marked, you can be confident the items will look good together.

Although using Rocket next to a Class 66 might be seen by some as a little incongruous!

Happy modelling

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