Bill's Railroad Empire -- N Scale History

History of N Scale

Copyright © 2002-2017 by Bill's Railroad Empire

Lone Star Treble-0 F7A from the early 1960s. This electric locomotive had a rubber band drive. Lone Star was one of the pioneers in the manufacture of modern-day N scale trains. In 1964, Lone Star discontinued their line of electric trains, but continued manufacturing push trains.

N scale is 1:160 (1.9 mm/ft) with a track gauge of 9 mm. Lone Star Products (Great Britain) introduced a line of 8 mm gauge metal push trains in the 1950s. Arnold Rapido (Germany) first offered their electric trains in 1960.

Before 1:160 (with a 9 mm track gauge) was adopted as the standard, models were found in Treble-0 (000 gauge) with a scale of 1:152 (2 mm/ft) and with track gauges of 9 mm and 9.5 mm. Great Britain uses a scale of 1:148.

Arnold Rapido FP9A (1964-1969). Locomotive has a metal body and stamped metal truck sideframes. These are part of an improved Rapido line that replaced the toy-like 1960 "Rapido 200" line.

In 1969, Arnold again redesigned their models to compete with the more realistic models being offered by Atlas, Bachmann, Con-Cor, and Minitrix.

Early Rapido 200 Diesel Locomotive. Note the simple couplers

Arnold Rapido Baldwin Switcher

Arnold Rapido 0-6-0T Steam Switcher

Arnold Rapido Western & Atlantic Old Time 0-6-0

Arnold Rapido 2-6-0 Steam Locomotive

Amtrak GG1 Electric Locomotive

Arnold Rapido GP9 Diesel. Note the oversized wheels.

Arnold Rapido EMD GP30 Diesel Locomotive

Arnold Rapido Alco FA2 Diesel Locomotive

In 1969, Arnold Rapido released this much improved FP9

Arnold offered a complete line of locomotives including the GG1, freight and passenger cars, track and structures.

Among the locomotives were an Alco FA2, EMD FP9, GP7, GP9, and GP30. Steamers included a 4-6-2 Pacific and a 4-6-4 Hudson.

Arnold declared bankruptcy in the 1990s. Rivarossi presently produces some of the locomotives.

In 2002, Rivarossi declared bankruptcy and the assets were sold to Hornby. The tooling was then shipped to China. Hornby now offers Arnold products.

Arnold Rapido Southern Railway 4-6-2 with Model Power (PMI/Lima) Heavyweight Cars

Arnold Rapido GG1 with Con-Cor Smoothside Cars

1960s Rapido Set with Alco FA2 metal body locomotive

1968 Arnold Rapido Magazine Ad

Early Arnold Rapido Catalog (1960s)

Con-Cor Southern Railway Alco PA1 Locomotive

Con-Cor was an early entrant in the N scale field. The line included a well-made PA1 plus freight and passenger cars manufactured in Japan by Sekisui (Kato).

Locomotives included a 4-6-4 Hudson, Alco C636, EMD F3, GE U50, and a GE gas turbine.

Con-Cor Gas Turbine Locomotive

Con-Cor GE U50 Locomotive

Santa Fe Bulletnose 4-6-4 Hudson

NYC Commodore Vanderbilt Shovelnose 4-6-4 Hudson

Con-Cor EF57 Heavy Electric (Sekisui)

Con-Cor offered building kits made by Heljan (Denmark) and corrugated passenger cars made by Rowa (Germany).

In the late 1970s, Con-Cor released Rivarossi-made steam and Diesels with improved motors and drives.

In 1980, a 4-8-8-4 Big Boy was introduced. Budd RDC cars followed in 1981 and an Alco DL109 was offered in 1982.

They also offered several Minitrix FM switchers, U28Cs, and U30CGs around 1980 in unique schemes. The boxes had Con-Cor end labels.

Con-Cor RDC Cars Introduced in 1981

Con-Cor Alco DL-109 with Minitrix Streamlined Passenger Cars

Over the years Con-Cor offered locomotives made by Fleishmann (Germany), Kato (Japan), Mehanotehnika (Yugoslavia), Rivarossi (Italy), Roco (Austria), and others.

Con-Cor Southern Pacific 4-6-4

Con-Cor B&O 4-6-4 with Atlas Heavyweight Cars

Con-Cor 4-8-8-4 Big Boy Steam Locomotive

Atlas B&O E8A Locomotive (Rivarossi)

Atlas Tool Co. began offering a complete line of N scale trains in 1967. Early steam and Diesel models were made by Rivarossi (Italy) and Mehanotehnika (Yugoslavia). Freight cars were made by Rivarossi and Roco (Austria). Some of the freight cars were painted in Yugoslavia. Several of the freight cars were offered in kit form.

Atlas Alco 0-6-0 Saddletank Switcher

Atlas 4-6-2 Pacific (Rivarossi)

Atlas 2-8-2 Mikado (Rivarossi)

Atlas 0-6-0T Tank Switcher (1960s)

Atlas SW1500 (Rivarossi, 1971). An unpowered cabless "calf" unit was also offered

Passenger cars were made by Rivarossi. Atlas also had a line of structure kits made by Pola (Germany) and Faller.

Locomotives included an 0-4-0 switcher, 0-8-0 switcher, 4-6-2 Pacific, 2-8-2 Mikado, Alco RSC2, FM C-Liner, EMD E8, EMD GP40, and EMD SD45. An EMD SW1500 (cow and calf) was introduced in 1971.

Atlas Fairbanks Morse C-Liner (Rivarossi, 1967)

Atlas 0-4-0 Steam Switcher (Rivorossi)

Atlas IHB Type 0-8-0 Switcher (Rivarossi)

Atlas Industrial Switcher. Over the years Atlas offered three industrial switcher models, the last had siderods

Atlas offered a complete line of freight cars including a 94' tank car with four trucks, 85' box cars, 85' stock cars, helium tank cars, and vinegar tank cars.

Atlas Helium Tank Car (1969)

Atlas Vinegar Tank Car

Atlas 94' Four Truck Tank Car

Other cars were single door boxcars, plug door refrigerator cars, outside braced gondolas, open hoppers, stock cars, chemical tank cars, steel, bay window, and transfer cabooses, bulkhead flat cars, double door boxcars, three-dome tank cars, mechanical refrigerator cars, three-bay, four-bay, and center-flow hoppers, flat cars, and more.

Atlas RSC2 (Mehanotehnika)

Atlas EMD GP40 (Mehanotehnika, late-1960s)

Atlas EMD SD45 (Mehanotehnika, late-1960s)

Atlas EMD F9A (Roco, early-1970s)

Atlas GP30 (Roco, mid-1970s)

Atlas EMD GP9 (Roco, 1970s)

Atlas Alco FA1 (Roco, 1978)

Atlas Six-Wheel Davenport Switcher with Siderods (Roco, late-1970s)

The early 1970s brought Diesel locomotives made by Roco that included a GP9, GP30, and F9A. Atlas began the manufacture of freight cars at their factory in New Jersey.

Alco FA1 and EMD E7A locomotives made by Roco were introduced in the late 1970s.

In 1983, Atlas offered an Alco RS3 made by Kato (Japan). Other locomotives made by Kato would follow throughout the 1980s.

Atlas Seaboard Coast Line E7A (Roco, 1977)

Atlas Train Set Box (late-1960s)

Atlas N Scale Set with FM C-Liners (late-1960s)

Atlas 1971 Catalog

Rivarossi Baltimore and Ohio 2-8-2 Steam Locomotive (offered by Con-Cor)

In 1977, Rivorossi introduced several steam locomotives including a 2-8-8-0 EL5, 2-8-4 Berkshire, 4-6-2 Heavy Pacific, and 2-8-2 Heavy Mikado using some of the earlier Rowa and Atlas tooling. They also offered a 0-4-0 Dockside Switcher and re-released the SW1500 that they originally produced for Atlas.

Rivarossi NYC Dreyfuss Hudson Steam Locomotive

The Alco FA1 (previously made for Atlas) as well as some of the freight cars were re-released by Roco in the 1980s and marketed by Walthers.

Minitrix "Little Donkey"

Early Minitrix all metal European prototype 0-6-0T steam locomotive. It was packaged as a "Little Donkey" in the U.S. and was manufactured from the 1960s until Minitrix declared bankruptcy in the late 1990s.

Minitrix also manufactured F9A, F9B, U28C, U30CG, and FM H10-44 Diesels. Steam locomotives included an 0-6-0T, 0-6-0 B6 switcher, 4-6-2 K4 Pacific, and 2-10-0 Decapod.

Minitrix GE U28C Diesel Locomotive

Minitrix GE U30CG Diesel Locomotive

Minitrix Fairbanks Morse H10-44 Switcher

Minitrix 0-6-0 B6 Steam Switcher

Minitrix 0-6-0 Old Timer Steam Locomotive

The Minitrix freight cars were made in Austria. Passenger cars were made in Germany as were the locomotives.

Trix Mangold (Minitrix) declared bankruptcy in the 1990s and the assets were purchased by Marklin. The first Marklin produced Minitrix items started appearing in late 2003.

American Tortoise was the original U.S. importer of Minitrix. Model Power imported Minitrix from the 1970s. Con-Cor marketed some of the Minitrix locomotives around 1980.

Minitrix Britannia Deluxe Set in Wooden Display Box

Minitrix PRR K4 4-6-2 with Atlas Heavyweights

Minitrix 2-10-0 Decapod

Minitrix Penn Central F9A with Atlas Corrugated Cars

Minitrix German Prototype Crocodile Electric Locomotive

Minitrix Catalog (1968) and Minitrix Catalog Page (1972)

Aurora Postage Stamp Trains Set Ads (1967-1968)

Aurora Postage Stamps Trains Set

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Aurora offered much of the Minitrix line under the Aurora Postage Stamp Trains name. At the same time, Revell provided Arnold Rapido products as Revell MicroTrains.

Aurora Catalog Page (1967)

Aurora and Revell are manufacturers of plastic model kits and toys.

1968 Revell Magazine Ad

Revell N Scale Train Set

Revell MicroTrains should not be confused with Kadee Micro-Trains. These are completely different items made by separate companies.

Aurora Industrial Locomotive (c.1975)

Around 1975, Aurora offered a N scale toy train set that was made in Mexico. It was far inferior to the Aurora Postage Stamps Trains made by Minitrix and had unique couplers.

AHM Reading GP30, New Haven F7A, and Reading Switcher

AHM (Associated Hobby Manufacturers) entered the N scale market with models made by Lima (Italy) in the late 1960s. AHM called their N scale offerings "Minitrains". The models were not well detailed and most were oversized. Shown are GP30, F7A, and four-wheel industrial switcher.

A EMD FP45 and Q1B 2-6-4T steam locomotive were also offered.

Freight cars and passenger cars were also in the line. Structure kits made by Pola and others were also offered.

MDT Four Wheel Diesel Switcher

AHM EMD FP45 (PMI/Lima) was later marketed by Model Power

AHM EMD F7 Diesel Locomotive

Alco RSD15 with high short hood was offered by AHM in the 1980s

AHM later offered Mehanotehnica FA2 and RSD15 locomotives.

In December 1982, AHM was reorganized as AHM by Regal Way. Regal Way subsequently declared bankruptcy. International Hobby Corp. (IHC) was the successor.

IHC went out of business in late-2009. Bernie Paul owner of these firms passed away in June 2010.

In the early-1960s, AHM offered a selection of H0e (HO narrow gauge) trains that were HO scale and ran on N scale track. They were called Minitrains. The same name that they later applied to their N scale offerings! These are again available through Big City Hobbies via Con-Cor.

AHM GP30 Diesel Locomotive (Lima)

AHM Q1B 2-6-4T Steam Locomotive

AHM offered the Alco FA2 (Mehanotehnika) in the late-1970s mislabeling it as a FA1

AHM Structure Kit (Pola)

AHM Minitrain Pocket Train Set

AHM Catalog (early-1970s)

Lima New York Central GP30 (offered by AHM)

Some of the items manufactured by Lima were also sold under the PMI (Precision Models of Italy) name.

Rivarossi acquired the assets of Lima several years ago.

Lima/PMI Heavyweight Coach offered by AHM and later by Model Power

Bachmann SCL Bicentennial U36B

Bachmann Bros. entered the N scale market in 1968. The items were made in Bachmann's factory in Hong Kong. Early models were an oversized F9A and GP40. The Budd Metroliner was one of the models offered in 1969.

Bachmann Bros. was purchased by the Kader Group (China) in the early-1980s. Kader had been the manufacturer of Bachmann Bros. trains in Hong Kong. After the purchase, some of the manufacture was moved to Kader's factories in China. Kader Group's name was changed to Bachmann Industries. U.S. headquarters remains in Philadelphia, PA.

Bachmann Auto-Train GE U36B Diesel

Bachmann Penn Central Metroliners

Bachmann UA Turbo-Train

Bachmann manufactured locomotives, cars, and ready-built structures. Several of the early items are still offered.

Bachmann Docksider Steam Switcher

Bachmann 4-4-0 Central Pacific American

Bachmann 0-4-0 with Slopeback Tender

Bachmann USRA 0-6-0 Steam Switcher with Tender

Bachmann Prairie 2-6-2 Steam Locomotive

Bachmann Mikado 2-8-2 with Vanderbilt Tender

Bachmann MDT Plymouth Six Wheel Diesel Switcher

Bachmann EMD F9A Diesel Locomotive

Bachmann EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive

Other notable items that Bachmann made were the United Aircraft Turbo-Train and the Auto-Train.

Bachmann TGV Train

EMD DDA40X Diesel Locomotive

Bachmann PCC Streetcar

Bachmann Brill Trolley

Amtrak GE E60CP Electric Locomotive

Bachmann SD40-2 with Blinking Light

Bachmann EMD GP50

Bachmann Plasser EM80C Rail Geometry Car

In the 1980s, Bachmann introduced the TGV Train, Brill and PCC streetcars, EMD DDA40X, EMD SD40-2, GE E60CP, and an EMD GP50. They also added several steam locomotives to their line.

Bachmann 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive with 52' 12-Wheel Oil Tender

Bachmann Norfolk & Western Class J 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive

Bachmann TGV Set

Bachmann N Scale Set with F9A Locomotive

1960s Bachmann set outer sleeve. Inside was a Lucite box with F9 locomotive, freight cars, track, and power pack

Bachmann Set with EMD F9 Diesel Locomotive (late-1960s)

Early Bachmann styrene hinged "jewelry-type box"

Bachmann N Scale Train Town Pressboard Kit (1980s)

Bachmann Ad (1975)

Early Bachmann N Scale Catalog

Parkway N Scale Set Box

Parkway was a distributor of Bachmann and Arnold Rapido trains, repackaging them under the "Bookshelf Railroad" name.

They also offered Bachmann freight cars in Bachmann's styrene jewelry-type boxes. "Parkway" was molded in the box in place of the usual "Bachmann" name.

MRC Santa Fe Alco RSD15

MRC (Model Rectifier Corp.) entered the N scale field in 1969. There were Alco FA2, C420 and RSD15 Diesels made by Mehanotehnika in Yugoslavia and a 2-8-4 and 2-8-8-2 made by Rowa in Germany.

MRC offered the Alco RSD15 in both low and high short hood versions. The red Santa Fe version shown was released by AHM in the 1980s

MRC Alco C420 Diesel Locomotive

MRC Alco FA2. These were later offered by AHM and Model Power

Cars included freight cars made by Sekisui (Japan), Mehanotehnika (Yugoslavia), and passenger cars made by Rowa (Germany).

MRC discontinued their N scale offerings about two years later.

MRC introduced the Y6B 2-8-8-2 in 1969

MRC 2-8-4 Berkshire (Rowa)

MRC 50' Double Door Box Car (Sekisui)

The Rowa Y6b was also offered by Arnold, Bemo, and Con-Cor at various times. Con-Cor later purchased the tooling and had them made by Rivarossi.

Rowa declared bankrupcy in the 1970s. The tooling for their locomotives was purchased by Con-Cor. Tooling for the attractive passenger cars was lost.

Kadee Burp-Oh Refrigerator Car (1970s)

Kadee began production of their automatic knuckle couplers in 1968. Their Micro-Trains freight cars followed in 1972. The cars could be found in ready-to-run or kit form and were offered with Kadee (Micro-Trains) or Rapido couplers.

In the late 1970s, Model Die Casting (Roundhouse) introduced their line of freight cars.

Life-Like Santa Fe SD45, Burlington GP40, and 0-6-0T

Life-Like began marketing a limited number of N scale locomotives and freight cars in the early 1970s that were made by Mehanotehnika. Shown are SD45, GP40, and 0-6-0T steam switcher.

Life-Like 0-6-0T Steam Switcher (Mehanotehnika, 1970s)

Life-Like EMD GP40 by Mehanotehnika (early-1970s)

Life-Like EMD SD45 by Mehanotehnika (early-1970s)

Life-Like Styrofoam Base (1960s). Life-Like was owned by Li-Foam, manufacturers of foam coolers

In 1989, Life-Like introduced their GP38-2 (made in China). The F7A followed in 1990. These two locomotives began Life-Like's new line of locomotives. New freight cars were also offered.

Life-Like EMD GP-38-2 (1989-present)

LIfe-Like F7A (1990-present)

Life-Like Amtrak F40PH Diesel Locomotive

Life-Like 0-6-0T Saddle Tank Switcher (1990-present)

Life-Like Little Joe Set with Mehanotehnika 0-6-0T Locomotive

Model Power Alco FA2 (Mehanotehnika). Over the years MRC and AHM would also offer the FA2 sometimes labeling it as a FA1

Model Power entered the field in the mid-1970s absorbing American Tortoise, importers of Minitrix. They went on to perpetuate the Mehanotehnika line of locomotives and freight cars as well as importing Minitrix locomotives.

Locomotives manufactured by Mehanotehnika for Model Power included Alco FA2, Alco C420, Alco RSD15, EMD GP40, and EMD F40PH Diesel Locomotives, and Brill Trolleys.

Model Power also offered Minitrix and Lima/PMI passenger cars. Numerous Pola structures in American-like schemes were also available.

Orient Express Deluxe Gift Set was available in wooden or cardboard box

Model Power C-420 Diesel Locomotive (Mehanotehnika)

Model Power Chessie Alco RSD15

Model Power also offered the Lima/PMI FP45 and GP30.

In 1981, Model Power introduced an EMD F40PH and Brill trolleys.

Model Power Brill Trolley and Trailer (Mehanotehnika, 1981)

Amtrak EMD F40PH Diesel Locomotive (Mehanotehnika)

Model Power Conrail EMD GP40 Diesel Locomotive (Mehanotehnika)

Model Power Shifty Sam 0-6-0 Tank Locomotive

Evening Star Deluxe Train Set with Minitrix 2-10-0 Steam Locomotive

Model Power Presidential Special N Scale Set

1970 American Tortoise Minitrix Ad

Model Power Catalog (late-1970s)

After nearly 50 years, Model Power went out of business in April 2014.

Kato EMD GP-38-2 Diesel Locomotive

In 1987, Kato introduced their first American locomotive, a GP38-2, under their own name. Their GP50 and F3 followed in 1988.

Kato EMD F3A Diesel Locomotive

Kato EMD GP50 Diesel Locomotive

Kato Alco RS11 (1990s) (Thanks, John)

Bev-Bel Santa Fe EMD F7 Diesel Locomotive (Life-Like)

Bev-Bel Corporation offered several Atlas, Bachmann, and Life-Like locomotives, freight and passenger cars in unique paint schemes.

Bev-Bel Corp. (Cresskill, New Jersey), was founded by Irvin and Beverly Belkin in 1956. Bev-Bel was a distributor of model railroad equipment and supplies. Bev-Bel offered limited runs of roadnames and schemes not generally produced by major manufacturers, plus numerous patriotic and holiday freight cars. They are now out of business.

Complete Bev-Bel N Scale Locomotive List

Others that offered freight cars with unique paint schemes include Ak-Sar-Ben, Aztec, and Brooklyn Locomotive Works.

V-Line and others offered locomotive body shells for several locomotive types.

Around 1992, Readers Digest offered a promotional locomotive and freight cars. These unpowered locomotives were made by High Speed (China). They are approximately N scale in size and have oversize handrails and details. These are frequently found on eBay and often sold at prices far in excess of their real value. At best, they are worth less than five dollars.

Handsome Lone Star EL66 0-8-0 Steamer with Rubber Band Drive (1964)

More of the history and photos of N scale (1:160), "Treble-0" and 000 gauge trains will be here soon. At present, this history is dealing only with models of American prototype equipment and the time period from the 1960s through the 1980s. I have not included Brass models.

The 1990s brought a wide variety of new locomotives and cars. A number of new manufacturers entered the scene.

The late 1990s found Minitrix in bankruptcy. The assets were purchased by Marklin. In 2004, new Minitrix items are surfacing, including a U.S. Army Transportation Corps train set.

Around 1998, Lima and Arnold were in bankruptcy and the tooling was sold to Rivarossi. Some Arnold items were offered by RR and the existing Rivarossi locomotives and cars were renamed as Arnold. Then in 2002, Rivarossi declared bankruptcy and the assets were sold to Hornby. The tooling was then shipped to China. Hornby now offers Arnold products (Thanks Olle).

in July 2005 ROCO Modellspielwaren GmbH was declared bankrupt. The ROCO brand continues under different ownership.

Mehanotehnica is now (2010) out of business and the tooling has been sent to China.

Lone Star Train Set

Lone Star Catalog

Lone Star Diesel in Blister Pack and Lone Star Union Pacific F7 Diesel

Reference guide to early N scale items published in 1981 (112 pages). Long out of print but copies can sometimes be found at Amazon, eBay, and Abe's Books. A supplement was published in 1985.


Mark Peterson's site has photos and reviews of almost every N scale locomotive ever made and now he has added freight and passenger cars... outstanding!


All-Time Listing of N Scale Diesels by Jim Kelly (June 2001 Model Railroader)


Source of Information for Arnold Rapido, Rapido 200, Revell Rapido, Minitrix, Rowa N Scale


Includes Minitrix, Bachmann, and Other Manufacturers


George Irwin's Guide to First Generation Atlas N Scale with Photos and Links


Includes photos of Rivarossi sets made for Con-Cor


Wikipedia's History of Bachmann


Kadee and Micro-Trains History


Treble-0 pioneer's story and photos



Aurora Postage Stamp Trains ads from the 1960s


N Scale Information and History


N Scale Reference Guide (formerly Sootsman's) and Miller's Price Guides


A complete list of N scale locomotives offered by Bev-Bel Corporation

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