Lionel O Gauge

In 1915 a new size of trains appeared in the Lionel catalogue. Riding on rails spaced 1 1/4" apart, the new line known as O gauge was an addition to the then-current Standard Gauge.

The name for O gauge and O scale is derived from "0" (zero gauge) or "Gauge 0", because it was smaller than Gauge One and the other existing standards. It was created in part because manufacturers realized their best selling trains were the smaller scales. The purpose of the new size was similar to the purpose of Standard Gauge nine years earlier...to offer a more compact, and less expensive train, thus appealing to a broader market.

In the United States, manufacturers such as the Ives Manufacturing Company, American Flyer and Lionel Corporation used O gauge for their budget line, marketing either Gauge 1 or Wide Gauge, also known as Standard Gauge (a trademark of Lionel Corporation) as their premium trains. The Great Depression wiped out demand for the expensive larger trains, and by 1932, O gauge was the standard, almost by default.

Lionel's O gauge track was constructed the same as their Standard Gauge counterpart with three rails attached to steel crossties.

After World War II, manufacturers started paying more attention to scale, and post-war locomotives and rolling stock tend to be larger and more realistic than their earlier counterparts. This has been reflected in the change from O gauge to O scale : gauge describes merely the distance between the rails, while scale describes the size ratio of a model as it relates to its real-world prototype.

Since the early 1990s, O scale manufacturers have begun placing more emphasis on realism, and the scale has experienced a resurgence in popularity, although it remains less popular than HO or N scale. However, newer manufacturers including MTH Electric Trains, Lionel LLC, Atlas O and Weaver are making very exact 1:48 scale models of trains.

The following links will take you to the specific product pages within the Lionel O Gauge line:

O Gauge Steam Locomotives

O Gauge Electric Locomotives

O Gauge Trolleys

O Gauge Cabooses

O Gauge Derrick & Crane Cars

O Gauge Flatcars & Searchlight Cars

O Gauge Gondola & Dump Cars

O Gauge Hopper & Ballast Cars

O Gauge Box, Stock & Refreigerator Cars

O Gauge Oil & Tank Cars

O Gauge Passenger Cars