I sat down over the weekend and figured out I have model railroad stuff in 5 scales: N, HO, S, O, and O-27 - too much. On top of that, some have multiple gauges or styles. In HO, I have some "toy" trains (Tyco) and scale models (Athearn Genesis, brass, etc.). In S Scale I have some Sn2, Sn3, Sn42, plus "true scale" and American Flyer. In O, I have On30 and some toy trains as well as "scale." Add it all up and I have a total of 12 different scale/gauge/styles to work with - and lately I've been looking into HOn30 and Z scale - too much right?
Maybe not. Everyone fills a little niche or need. My first love is HO Scale, both "toy" and "scale." Someday soon I hope to start on a 4x8 layout to run my Tyco stuff on, probably based strongly on the Great Northern Pacific (featured in "HO Railroad That Grows"). The scale stuff I'm going to eventually build into a layout that reminds me of visits to my grandparents house when I was a kid.
Sn3 and S standard gauge is for building a model railroad based on the Southern Pacific Slime Princess narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley and the standard gauge Jawbone Branch that connected to it at Owenyo, and the American Flyer stuff is an offshoot of the scale side.
So where does 3 rail O Gauge fit in? Well, it's perfect for playing trains with my kid. It's rugged and cheap enough to tinker with. I can get an O-27 steam locomotive for less than $100, and Williams diesel locomotives are priced about the same. Rolling stock is cheap on eBay, and the toy plastic kits are cheap too, and simple enough for my 9 year old son to build with minimal help.
My current inventory of O-27 locomotives is 1 Marx 4-4-2, two Lionel Atlantics, a Hudson, a Berkshire (Polar Express), and two RMT "Beeps." I also have a couple of Williams BL-2's that look a little big compared to the O-27 stuff, but they'll take the sharp curves (O-31 and O-42).
I'm thinking my first layout - I still don't have a layout - will be a 4x8 O-27 (actually O-31) layout. I was going to use FastTrack but the more I think about it, the more I'd rather have the "traditional" O-27/O-31/O-42 style track. This week all my FastTrack is going on eBay and once I get the money I'll be ordering the traditional track. In the spirit of FUN I also decided to build a simpler track plan than I'd originally planned. It will have a small holding yard so I can keep all my trains on the layout to avoid excessive handling.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
|Image: Contemplative Imaging|
Thursday, August 29, 2013
So I finally ordered the track for my $100 Layout (that's per month, not "total"). I had a hard time deciding what track to run, what track plan, blah blah blah and I finally decided I'm sick of piling up more and more toy trains with nowhere to run them. Since there's no such thing as a perfect layout anyway (especially when you're trying to cram an O Gauge layout onto a 4x8 table) I decided to just stick with the FasTrack that came with my Polar Express set. For my track plan, I used SCARM (a free layout design program) to draw up a simple layout based on Lionel's D-290 display layout. For now I'm leaving off the upper loop, but I might add one later with HO scale track so I can run my On30 Porter and Shay locomotives. One reason I decided to stick with the FasTrack instead of going with Atlas track is the built-in roadbed means I can run on the carpet until I get my train table built. Here's what the track plan looks like:
(Related links: A $100 Layout, Free train layout software)
(Related links: A $100 Layout, Free train layout software)
Monday, August 12, 2013
One thing I've learned is that if you model an obscure short line, you need to buy equipment when it's available - 'cause if you wait, it might be gone. When I decided to model the Eureka Mill Railroad in On30, I thought I'd have to compromise on the ore cars and use Bachmann's 4 wheel version - then I found out that Wiseman Model Services makes an exact scale kit of the actual car. They're kind of pricey at over $30 each ($59.95 plus shipping for a 2 car kit) but I really wanted them - so I bit the bullet and ordered 5 kits listed on eBay. I don't know if I bought the last 5 kits, or if I did if any more will be made, but the maker is now showing 0 (zero) availability. Since this is probably a limited demand item, it wouldn't surprise me if I got the last 5 kits. Waiting can cost you like that... That happened to me last year - I'd been wanting a Dolores Conoco Oil plant and an Ouray engine house for my Sn3 layout since around 2009 and kept putting off the purchase - until last year, when I found out both kits were out of production and no longer available. Lesson learned - buy when available because what you want might not be available later. Anyway, I'm glad I was able to get a complete set of the correct ore cars for my On30 Eureka Mill Railroad...
Thursday, August 8, 2013
UPDATE: Couldn't resist - ordered my Bachmann Shay tonight - also a set of 10 ore cars for my Eureka Mill Railroad (Wiseman kits). I hope I'm not getting addicted to PROTOTYPE 30" gauge railroads...
Monday, July 29, 2013
Last week I said I think On30 sucks. What I meant was, it sucks as a medoum for modeling 2 foot or 3 foot gauge prototypes. I stand by that. However...
Once I was looking for a specific car - a 1973 Dodge Coronet station wagon. Every week I would search on line using several different search engines, plus I would manually check Craigslist postings in every city I could find listings for. Over the course of a whole year, I only found one and it was in poor shape. I was talking about it with one of my friends, and he did find one it would probably be in Reno (where I live). He'd read some artical that stated most people searching for a car - no matter how rare - eventually find it withing 20 miles of their house. So last year, sure enough, I found a 73 Coronet wagon in Reno. Not just any Coronet either - this one was a rust free big block car with factory metalic blue paint, and the price was actually very reasonanble. I didn't end up with the car (my wife said I could get it but I'd have to sell the Buick) but it proved my friend's point. So back to talking about On30...
When Bachmann started selling affordable On30 locomotives and rolling stock, I really liked it. I just couldn't bring myself to model a 3 foot gauge railroad with 30 inch gauge track. I searched high and low on line for prototype US railroads that used 30 inch gauge track and came back empty every time... so I figured the Bachmann On30 equipment - as cool as it is - would never be of any use to me. However...
Over the weekend I was looking through one of my favorite books (Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Vol. 1) and something jumped off the pages at me - the Eureka Mill Railroad - a real 30 inch gauge prototype railroad. Not just any railroad either - this one was practically in my own back yard. It took ore loads from the Virginia and Truckee over a 1.12 mile line to a stamp mill on the Carson River. The entire equipment roster constisted of a single 0-4-0 Porter, ten 5-ton ore cars, and two flat cars. At the south end of the line, the track was built on top of the flume that provided water to operate the mill. Talk about and interesting little sort line. So On30 turns out to be a great scale/gauge combination after all. You just have to find the right prototype...
Monday, July 22, 2013
There, I said it. There's a lot to like about O Gauge, but On30 is NOT one of them. Not to disparage the work of some incredibly talented modelers, but there is very little to like about On30. I know... if it sucks so bad then why is it so popular? Well, there are reasons.... here's where On30 came from, what's wrong with it, and some better alternatives...
Where did On30 come from?
At one time, O Scale narrow gauge modeling was expensive. The only locomotives available were expensive brass imports, and detail parts, trucks, etc. were hard to find. Then one day a couple of really talented modelers decided they wanted to experient with O narrow gauge without buying expensive brass locomotives. They noticed that HO standard gauge track scales to 30" gauge in O Scale - "close enough." They built a few locomotives based on HO scale mechanisms, freight cars using HO scale trucks, and slapped them on to a 1/48 diorama - and On30 was born. Because the modelers involved in this experiment were incredibly talented, the trains and diorama looked great in spite of the track gauge being way off.
Later, a major manufacturer (Bachmann) was looking for an easy way to come up with some trains that would work well with the Christmas Villages made by Dept. 56 and others. HO Scale was too small, and O Gauge was too big. Running smaller O Scale narrow gauge equipment probably seemed like the perfect solution at the time. The smaller equipment looked better with the Dept. 56 buildings, and the HO scale track meant they wouldn't have to come up with a new track system.
Many modelers who'd never considered O Scale narrow gauge before (because of the expense) took note. They saw the cheap prices of of the Bachmann On30 equipment and noticed the work done earlier by Paul Scoles, etc. Suddenly O Scale narrow gauge was affordable and had potential. Instead of selling their trains to Christmas Village collectors, Bachmann started selling lots of On30 equipment to model railroaders. In fact, sales were so good that soon they (and other companies) were making dedicated On30 track, more prototypical On30 locomotives and rolling stock, and soon a whole new cottage industry was born - On30. So what's wrong with that? The main problem I have with On30 is the gauge is wrong whether you're modelling a 2 foot or a 3 foot gauge line. The other problem I have is that the 30" compromise is totally unnecessary and it keeps manufacturers from producing equipment in prototypically correct gauges.
What's so bad about On30?
If your modeling a 2 foot gauge line, the track is 25% too wide. If you're modeling a 3 foot gauge line, it's 17% too narrow. It might not sound like much, but if you're familiar at all with real narrow gauge lines, you can instantly see the problem with models of either 2 foot or 3 foot gauge equipment sitting on 30" gauge track. Still not convinced? Three foot gauge track is 50% wider than two foot gauge track - percentage wise, that's almost exactly the same as the difference between 3 foot narrow gauge track and standard gauge. Can you imaging modeling a 3 foot narrow gauge line and a standard gauge line using the same track? I hope not...
The really galling thing is such a compromise is totally unnecessary. Today, most On30 equipment is built on dedicated On30 running gear and runs on dedicated On30 track - both of which wouldn't cost any more to manufacture than correctly gauged 2 and 3 foot models. That horse has already left the barn though, and now we're stuck with the unprototypical monstrosity called On30.
What are the alternatives to On30?
In O Scale, there really is no cheap alternative to On30. If you want a correctly gauged O scale narrow gauge layout, you're going to have to pay the price for expensive brass imports. Switching to S Scale would be a good alternative. Sn2 locomotives (mostly Forneys) show up on eBay pretty regularly for less than $300 (though running gear for freight and passenger cars can be a problem). Used brass in Sn3 shows up fairly often too (I picked up a painted SP #8 for $450 and an unpainted C16 for $275) or you can get Railmaster Hobbies locomotive kits for around $500. Thanks to P-B-L, rolling stock kits are readily available and affordable. Finally, if you don't mind the track gauge being slightly off HO track scales to 42" in S Scale which is closer to 36" track percentage wise (and also visually) than 30" track. Tyco makes a 4-6-0 that's exactly scaled for S so you could get a R-T-R Sn42 steam locomotive for less than $100.
So what's my problem?
Nothing really. It's just so disappointing that On30 has become so popular at the expense of the correct On2 and On3 scales. There would have been almost no downside for the manufacturers to produce correct On2 and On3 models and track, and so much upside for narrow gauge modelers. The fact they went with the initially convenient solution is a big disappointment, at least to me.
(Photo: Brain Toad)