What Voltage Do Model Trains Run On?

What Voltage Do Model Trains Run On?

The movement of model trains can be hypnotizing and mesmerizing to those of us who have a love of all things trains. Still, we don’t often stop to think about what it takes to really make one of these things move. So, what voltage exactly do model trains run on anyway?

Model trains can run on anything from 5 V to over 18 V depending on their scale and type. While many small N scale trains run on 10 V to 12 V, the more common HO scale trains usually run around 14 V. Mid-size O gauge trains as well as the large G gauge trains can be even higher. 

If you’re curious about what it takes to power your model railroad set, you’ve come to the right place. In our guide below, we will discuss what kind of power model trains run on (AC or DC) as well as what some specific types of model trains require to run. By the end of this article, you will know not only what voltage most model trains run on but how they differ in size as well. 

brands of model trains

Are Model Trains AC or DC?

Before we dive into the voltage of different size model trains, let’s first discover where that power is coming from. Do model trains run on AC or DC?

Depending on the type of model train you have it may run on AC, DC or even DCC, as you can see in the examples below: 

  • AC: Unlike their two-rail counterparts, most three-rail track systems run on AC.
  • DC: Generally, two-rail track systems run on DC, with the two rails acting as polarities. When the polarities have switched the direction of the train changes. 
  • DCC: Some–usually higher-end–versions of both two and three rail track systems use what is called DCC (Digital Command Control System) instead of AC or DC. With DCC impulses can be sent through the rails for a more consistent power source. 

Please remember that these are how two-rail, three-rail, and some high-end sets are powered on average. It’s not a hard rule. So if you have a two-rail track system, you probably shouldn’t assume that it runs on AC before checking it specifically. It just probably will.

What Voltage Do N Gauge Trains Run On?

The smallest that we’ll cover–though not the smallest in existence–is the N gauge trains. With their smaller size do these trains need less voltage and how much exactly do they need to run?

N gauge trains usually have a voltage somewhere between 10 V and 12 V. These little guys really don’t need a whole lot to get going.  

best model train brands

What Voltage Do HO Gauge Trains Run On?

HO is the most popular scale of the model train for a reason. They aren’t too small but they also aren’t too big. They’re just right. Still, with that extra size over N gauge trains, do they use more voltage on average? What voltage do HO gauge trains run on anyway? 

Most HO gauge trains you run across will run on about 14 V. That’s not a whole lot more than their N counterparts. 

What Voltage Do O Gauge Trains Run On? 

If you want something a little bit bigger than the average set, a three-rail, O gauge train may be exactly what you need. Of course, you’ll have to keep in mind that these trains use more volts than any of the others we’ve covered in this article.

O gauge trains average at around 18 V. Still, there can be some O gauge trains that use far less than that and are more comparable to their smaller counterparts, and some that use just a bit more.  

So Really, What Voltage Do Model Trains Run On?

At the end of the day, the voltage your particular model train runs on will depend greatly on what type of train you have and most importantly what size model train you have. It makes sense when you stop to think about it, the bigger and heavier the train is, the more power it is going to take to get it moving. 

That said, the most popular scale model train, HO, runs at about 14 V. If you want to go bigger than that you could find an O gauge train that runs all the way up to 20 V. If you want to go smaller, of course, you could nab a 10 V N gauge train. It’s really up to you. So how many volts is your train and if you don’t have one yet, what size will you pick? 


Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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