How to Buy English N Gauge Locomotives on eBay

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How to Buy English N Gauge Locomotives on eBay

Railway modelling has been a mainstay of the British hobby landscape for many years and is one toy that has survived the advent of modern technology.

Model locomotives come in many different styles, sizes and engine types with there being a style to suit any collector, and eBay has one of the most extensive collections to buy anywhere online.

This guide focuses on N Gauge Locomotives, specifically British and English versions, and how to identify and then buy them safely and securely using eBay’s extensive auction site.

What is an N Gauge Locomotive?

The general make-up of an N gauge locomotive is no different to any other model train, with the stark difference coming in the size and gauge of the locomotive.

N gauge locomotives are sized on a scale that varies between 1:148 and 1:160 with the gauge, which is the space between the tracks it runs on, always 9mm – the N standing for Nine.

The scale mentioned above relates to its size when up against a real-life version of the same train and collectors with space constraints favour N gauge locomotives.

English N gauge locomotives are generally built to the 1:148 scale with most commercially available models made to this scale.

N Gauge Power Sources

N gauge locomotives, like all other model trains, are powered by one of a variety of different sources. The table below outlines the power sources with a short description alongside each:

Power Source



Locomotive powered by an internal battery that needs charging often.

Electrical supply not needed when in operation.

More suitable for younger collectors as it’s considered safer.


A system that was built into older models when electric power wasn’t widespread.

Works by winding up the train and then letting it go.

Power is short-lived although models are highly sought after by enthusiasts.


Internal boiler creates steam and powers the engine.

Looks very realistic and is more traditional.

Very time consuming way of running locomotives.

Not many N gauge locomotives made are powered by steam.

Electric AC

Alternating Current (AC) that gives the user more control over the speed of the locomotive.

Different knobs and levers control certain parts of the track.

Not a commonly seen power.

Electric DC

Widely available power source that is used by most modellers and provides an electric direct current (DC)

One transformer is connected to the tracks using a fork and controls any locomotive that is running on it.

Limited to one direction and one speed per transformer.


Newest type of power that works using a system of computer chips and a command centre.

Chips inside the engine and command centre communicate with each other.

This translates onto the track where the locomotive is running.

Powered by an Alternating Current (AC).

Assembly Required After Purchase

Buying N gauge locomotives from eBay will mean choosing how much work you, the buyer, want to do to the locomotive before it becomes ready for use.

There are a number of different stages and the table below explains them in more detail:

Assembly Stage



Train will be in the state, assembly wise, that it left the factory.

Check with the seller whether the locomotive is NIB (New In Box) or has been out of its box.


Is a specific modelling kit and will need to be assembled by the buyer.

Assembly could range from being the entire locomotive to just the shell.

Kit Built

Locomotive was originally bought as a kit but has been assembled fully by the first person that bought it.

Scratch Built

Parts all bought separately and then built into a locomotive.

Check replacement parts can be easily sourced.

Not Specified

Clarify with the seller what state the locomotive is in.

Buying Considerations for English N Gauge Locomotives

Purchasing an English N gauge locomotive on eBay throws up a number of different things that must be considered before finalising the deal. The following section outlines the main factors that must be taken into consideration.

Design of the Locomotive

  • Many different companies manufacture locomotives and therefore there are thousands of variations when it comes to the design of the locomotive.
  • English models tend to be based upon trains that either ran on British tracks in the past or still do.
  • Many of the current crop of models are based on the franchises that grace the tracks today.

Type of Locomotive

This is closely linked to the design of the locomotive and relates to the type of train the model is based on. Usually models will either be based upon an electric or diesel train, or a steam train. Buyers can check the accuracy of the models by finding photos of the real-world equivalent online.

Condition of the Locomotive

  • It’s important to thoroughly check the exact condition of the locomotive before it’s bought.
  • If it’s categorised as New or New In Box (NIB) this isn’t so critical.
  • Used items, however, vary widely and checking the item description carefully is key to making sure the item is in a usable condition.

Origin and Authenticity

Buying an English locomotive means checking that the item is both from where it says it is and not a fake. There are many English based companies that offer N scale locomotives and making sure it was manufactured by one of them is a good way to ensure authenticity.

Space to Construct a Model Train Set

  • Before purchasing any of the kit required to build a set make sure there is enough space in the house to do so.
  • N gauge sets are ideal for any sized house as the models are a lot smaller than other popular gauges, like 00, and even the smallest house may be big enough to cater for an N gauge set.

Cost of Locomotive

When searching through eBay’s extensive listings, the cost of an item is something that most buyers will think of before anything else.

Things that will affect how much should be paid for an item are as follows:

  • Condition
  • Age
  • If it’s a limited edition or not
  • Power source
  • Assembly stage

Age of User

The user of the set must be taken into account, as children will require a great deal of adult supervision when using it.

This relates to everything from setting up the layout to operating the valuable trains and making sure damage isn’t sustained.

How to Buy an English N Gauge Locomotive on eBay

When it comes to buying collectables there isn’t many places online that rival the sheer volume of items available on eBay. Model locomotives are a big part of this and N Gauge sized models are catered for by a wide range of different sellers. Those sellers are on hand to help buyers at every step of the process and will be very happy to answer questions that buyers have via the Ask the Seller feature.

To find English N Gauge Locomotives on eBay first go to Categories on eBay’s front page and select Collectables. From the list of options on the next page go to Trains/ Railway Models and click on it. It will then give buyers the option to choose from various options on the left hand side of the page. From here select N Gauge and then on the page that follows go to Locomotives.

To see just the English locomotives either type in British into the bar at the top of the page or trawl through the listings, many of which will indeed be English.

Items can be sorted in a number of other ways such as by Condition and Item Location.

Buyers also able to buy other items to complete their N Gauge set such as Track, Coaches, Buildings, Animals & Scenery, Tunnels & Bridges and many others.

With N gauge locomotives, it may sometimes be more appropriate to use eBay’s extensive search feature. To do this simply type search terms into the box at the top of any page and it will return results according to the terms entered. The results can be adjusted to show items in a certain group or category as well.

To check the seller’s credentials, eBay offers an extensive transaction history for every seller and this should be looked at before making any purchase final.

When ready to finalise a purchase there will be various options available depending on the auction type. These will be to make a Bid, place your Best Offer or choose to Buy It Now.


Railway modelling is an extremely popular past time amongst collectors and English or British locomotives are among the most accurate models that can be purchased.

eBay provides a great marketplace over which to buy N gauge locomotives and the site remains one of the most simple places to source models online.

The guide above is an excellent counterpart when searching for items. Combined with eBay’s knowledgeable band of sellers the two give buyers an invaluable source of information rarely found anywhere else online.

When completely happy with a purchase and ready to make a payment remember to use PayPal to ensure it goes through safely and securely.

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