One of the most exciting topics for model trains is speed. While many modelers are only interested in simulation and play, speed adds excitement to the hobby. But how fast do model trains generally run, and what are the fastest model trains in the world? That’s what we will discuss in this post.
Generally speaking, model trains can go from scale speeds of 0 to 150 mph. However, some model trains can reach incredible speeds. For example, the Hornby Pocket Rocket 0-4-0 can reach up to 222 mph, and the HO Lima Intercity Loco can reach up to 423 mph.
This post will discuss the fastest model trains that existed. What is scale speed, and why do we use it instead of its actual speed? We will also talk about some branded model trains and the DIY trains that broke record speeds. This is an exciting topic so let’s start immediately.
What is the fastest model train in the world?
The fastest model train in the world is a DIY model train made with two quadcopter motors. This train reached a record-breaking 850 mph (1,368 kph) scale speed compared to regular train models that only go for 50 to 150 mph. The train runs on two high-powered helicopter model propellers on both ends.
When we talk about model trains you will get from stores, they usually run to a maximum of 150mph scale speed.
However, there are model trains that are made for speed, and a perfect example is the Hornby Pocket Rocket.
The Hornby Pocket Rocket is one of the fastest Hornby trains that can reach a scale speed of 222mph. It can reach a speed of 164mph on 12 volts and 222mph in 25volts.
The Hornby Pocket Rocket is on the OO scale.
Most HO scale trains can go 50mph, while their fastest can go up to 150mph. The speed depends on the power, track, and motor’s condition.
However, you might already wonder why I am saying 222mph when you won’t even reach that when driving a car except if you’re a racer. Well, that’s because the speed of model trains is measured in scale speed.
Imagine you have a small train that runs really fast. However, if you compare that to a slower but larger train, it would seem slow.
Generally speaking, larger trains tend to look faster because of their size. Since their wheels are big, they can reach faster speeds even if their motor isn’t that fast.
That isn’t fair, considering that we are talking about speed. However, we have to be fair on all scales since many small-scale models have reached record-breaking speed.
To help you understand scale speed, let’s give examples of the fastest model trains.
One of the fastest model trains is a DIY train made by a YouTuber named Ivan Miranda.
Here is the video of how he made the train and how it reached a very fast speed.
To speed up his train, he enlarged the train and the tracks. He also changed the power supply to something normal model trains won’t use.
His rails have a width of 2.6″, which is twice the size of the standard HO, which is 1.25″.
He also angled the rails to prevent derailing due to speed.
Due to these efforts, he made the train run at 14mph, which can be considered the fastest one on the list.
However, if you convert that to scale speed, it would only run at 301mph.
But isn’t 301mph scale speed fast? Well yes. But there are model trains that are faster than this. Some aren’t even DIY.
An example is an experiment made by a YouTuber Steve Burdett where he used his HO Scale Lima Intercity Loco.
To build speed, he conditioned the train’s motor and placed 8 transformers in a series circuit to increase the track’s voltage.
The train became so fast that it could reach 4.8 miles an hour.
Right now, you might be scratching your head since the DIY train by Ivan Miranda reached 14 mph.
But take note that Miranda’s model train is significantly larger than the Lima Intercity Loco, and if you convert the speed to scale speed, you will see the difference.
Steve Burdett’s Lima Intercity Loco reached a scale speed of 423 mph. This means it is about 40% faster than Miranda’s train.
This means that if the Lima Intercity Loco and the DIY from Miranda were converted to actual train size, Lima Intercity Loco would run at 423 mph while the DIY would only run at 301 mph.
That is big considering that the fastest actual train globally is Japan’s L0 Series Maglev, where it reached 374 mph or 602 kph.
The Lima Intercity Loco Model is faster than the fastest bullet train in the world.
However, that is not all since there is a DIY that topped the list in scale speed.
An experiment was done by a YouTuber named Sam’sTrains where he reduced the train’s weight and added propellers runned by model train motors. This reduced the friction and made a high-speed DIY train.
Here is the video on how he did the experiment.
On a standard 12volt powered track, the DIY train could reach 212mph scale speed.
To compare, the fast Hornby Pocket Rocket reached 222 mph on 25 volts.
However, it didn’t stop because there is still room for improvement.
He tried running the train on 25 volts, where it runs at 510 mph.
After that, he didn’t stop and tried to maximize the voltage when he tried to run the train at 70 volts.
At 70 volts, the train’s engine, tracks, and wires got destroyed. This is because these trains are made for a maximum of 22 volts.
In fact, after doing this, the wires and the tracks melted.
However, before breaking, it was able to run at a whopping 637 mph.
This train became so fast that sparks were coming out of the wheels, and the train looked like it will start to fly from the tracks since propellers ran it.
These speeds aren’t even reached by our modern bullet trains. However, it didn’t stop there.
The propeller runned model train is fast. But what if we used a stronger motor that isn’t made for model trains?
That’s when he built and upgraded the model train’s motor to a motor for chopper models. It used motors for quadcopters that looked nothing like the motors used by model trains.
Since it is a motor for model helicopters, it is significantly stronger and faster.
The upgrade lived up to the expectations as it was able to run at 393mph on 12 volts.
Right now, we will combine this upgrade with 40 volts of power.
The upgraded DIY train was able to run at 850 mph (1,368 kph) on 40 volts, which is the fastest I’ve ever seen.
This is why I always say do not look at the model’s speed. Instead, look at the train’s scale speed.
The fastest model train is the double propeller quadcopter train, which runs at 850 mph scale speed.
However, if you look at its actual speed, it would only run at 11.1 mph.
Ivan Miranda’s large train was able to run up to 14mph, which might look faster on paper.
But if you convert that to scale speed, the double propeller quadcopter is more than twice faster than the large train.
Basically, if the trains were the same size, the quadcopter propelled model train would be twice faster than the other train.
What’s next? I talked about volts here and how they affected train speed. One question you might ask is if these model trains can electrocute a person. I made a post discussing that topic here: Can Model trains Shock You?