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At the 1935 Leipzig Spring Fair, an electric tabletop railway, Trix Express, was displayed to a gauge described as “half nought gauge”, which was then abbreviated as gauge 00 (“nought-nought”). Märklin, another German firm, followed suit with its 00 gauge railway for the 1935 Leipzig Autumn Fair. The Märklin 00 gauge track that appeared more than ten years after Bing’s tabletop railway had a very similar appearance to the previous Bing track. On the Märklin version, however, the rails were fixed to the tin ‘ballast’ as in the prototype, whilst the Bing tracks were simply stamped into the ballast, so that track and ballast were made of single sheet of metal.

According to the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) standard S-1.2 predominantly used in North America, in HO scale, 3.5 mm (0.1378 in) represents 1 real foot (304.8 mm); this ratio works out to 1:87.0857142, usually rounded to 1:87.1. According to the MOROP standard NEM 010 predominantly used in Europe, the scale is exactly 1:87. In HO, rails are spaced 16.5 mm (0.64961 in) apart which models the standard railroad gauge of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 in).

The name HO comes from 1:87 scale being half that of O scale, which was previously the smallest of the series of older and larger 0, 1, 2 and 3 gauges introduced by Märklin around 1900. In most English-speaking markets it is pronounced “aitch-oh” and written with the letters HO today, but in other markets remains written with the letter H and number 0 (zero), so in German it is pronounced as “hah-null”.

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