For anyone starting a hobby in model railroading, you will soon discover that the first lesson should be in model train scales. Every model train made has a letter associated with it that denotes the size, like HO or O. This establishes two things, firstly how true to life it is and secondly the actual size of the model itself so a model of 1:220 is 220 times smaller than the real train.
The first factor is to determine the scale you want, based on the space you have available. For those with a lot of space it is possible to mix scales which can be great fun but this is really more for the hardcore model railroad enthusiast. Here are some details about some of the model train scales around and the minimum space they will require.
Very small trains are 1:220, which is Z scale. Theses miniature marvels are pretty cute and are ideal if you are restricted for space but like any other scale you can expand the layout and make it bigger as you go along if you so desire. Then there is the N Scale at 1:160. which are reasonably popular if you want to concentrate on the layout more so than the train. These are also good to fit into minimal space as they are quite small too. However one of the most popular scales has to be the HO Scale trains at 1:87. Not only do they provide a great deal of detail but they allow you to fit a decent sized track even into an average amount of space. These also blend in well with various kinds of scenery to give you a good balance. My personal favorite is the 1:48, O Scale and the past few decades has seen Lionel producing some great examples of this. You will need plenty of space for a decent layout as these trains are bigger. It would be possible to use a 5-foot by 5-foot area to set up a small oval track however and while this may seem small in comparison to the size of the train, it would suffice if necessary. A layout any smaller than that will mean your view will be dominated by your O Scale train.
These are the main scales used but there are a few others too including G and S but only you can determine which one is best for you. Even though the larger more detailed O Scale trains dominate the layout, some with less space still opt for these. These are substantial models that are great fun to keep both kids and adults entertained. The good news is that whatever model train scales you prefer; the price is not dependant on the size. You will find a variety of different qualities of model and the better quality trains will obviously be more expensive than a basic one. This is a great hobby to get into and you even may end up with a collection that covers the whole spectrum of scales.