Back to… HO Scale? wtf???

I started out in HO Scale and soon got interested in N Scale (but never pursued it). For me, S Scale was just an accident caused by P-B-L: I was looking for a model of Southern Pacific’s SPNG #9 and the only one I could find was P-B-L’s in Sn3 – so I bought it. To make things worse, they had SPNG box car kits and were planning on importing 2 or 3 SPNG combination cars. I bought some box car kits and both combines. Later I found a P-B-L SPNG #8 on eBay and got it at a really good price. From there, things started spiraling out of control. River Raisin Models announced SP Mikados – in S Scale. Conveniently (unfortunately) these were the same locomotives that ran on SP’s Jawbone branch that interfaced with the Slim Princess line at Oweno. Soon I had grand plans for a huge Slime Princess line running all the way from Laws to Keeler, with a ‘close to scale sized’ Owenyo (I won’t even talk about my foray into American Flyer). Only problem is I don’t have the room. Even building ‘just’ Laws would need about 20 linear feet of wall space, and I just don’t have it. The way I see it, the choice would be to build an over-compressed version of Laws in S Scale or do something else. Laws in 16 feet wouldn’t even look like Laws, so why bother? And I DO want a model of Laws ‘some day’…

Long story short, I found a web site that talks about Achievable Layouts – you know, layouts you can actually build:) Funny thing – one of his recent posts was about none other road than the Southern Pacific narrow gauge line. His track plan was for Zurich, a small town just south of Laws. In O scale it would be 17 feet long, to make it look right in S Scale I’d probably keep it at 17 feet, but then I got to thinking… If I kept it at 16 feet (my max room for right now) it would look even better in HO scale. I could practice building with inexpensive HO scale kits instead of learning how to build, detail, weather, etc. with expensive S Scale kits. I wouldn’t have to leave my nice Sn3 locos sitting out in the dusty garage (the only place I have room for a layout right now). So my plans for now are to build a model of Zurich in HO Scale. It will be Southern Pacific, but standard gauge (with good reasoning behind it – will explain in a later post).

Meanwhile, in S Scale news, my P-B-L Climax in Sn3 got here yesterday and it is awesome. I made some bad decisions when I ordered it though, hope to talk about those in the next few days too…

Thoughts on On30 vs Sn42…

DDT Sn42 CritterSince discovering there were actual 30″ prototype railroads in North America I’ve been dabbling in On30 and I just got my first On30 locomotive, a Bachmann 0-4-0 Porter. For the price (less than $80 including shipping) it’s an amazing detail – nice detailing, runs very smooth (at least on DC – haven’t tested the built-in DCC yet), and best of all it matches almost perfectly the drawing I have of Eureka Mill Railroad #1. Setting it next to my Model Power DDT diesel – a locomotive that’s often mentioned as a great “On30″ critter – is instructive, and got me thinking about Sn42 again. In real life Porters were truly dinky locomotives, but sitting next the the DDT it actually looks large in comparison. In other words, the DDT is much too small for O Scale but seems perfectly sized for S Scale (when I put it next to my Sn3 locomotives it’s sized similarly and it’s noticeably larger than my Sn2 Forney). But I decided to measure…

The On30 Porter measures 2-3/16 tall at the cab, scaling to 8’9″. The Sn2 Forney measures 1-13/16, scaling to 9’9”. The difference in scale size seems about right (it should, I know they are both accurately scaled models), so the Porter should work OK as a “2 foot” porter if the wider gauge doesn’t bother you.

The DDT diesel critter scales to 8’6″ in O Scale – even shorter than the dinky Porter. In S, it scales to 11’4″, exactly the same as my P-B-L SP ten wheeler (#8) and slightly taller than my Tyco old tome 4-6-0 and my Sn3 C-16. The confirm it’s too small for O Scale (unless you’re modelling a really tiny locomotive) but just right for S Scale.

Narrow Minded

I really think S Scale is ideal for modeling narrow gauge. HO Scale narrow gauge is a little too small, O Scale narrow gauge takes up a little too much space, but S Scale narrow gauge is just right – and it gives you more and better choices. With HO, your choices are HOn30 (HO models on N Scale track) or HOn3. With O Scale, the choices are On30 and On3. S Scale gives you Sn2, Sn3, and Sn42.

Sn2 has a good selection of motive power as long as you like Forneys. Train and Trooper made quite a few different versions and they show up surprisingly often on eBay for around $250 – not a bad price for a nicely detailed brass locomotive. Brass passenger cars are also available once in awhile. The main problem with Sn2 is the availability of freight trucks – you can scratch build rolling stock all day long, but if you don’t have an easy way to put them on the rails you’re kind of stuck. If I was going to model a 2 foot gauge railroad I’d probably do it in HOn30 instead of S Scale.

Sn3 is awesome if you’re modeling a specific prototype – in fact P-B-L’s Southern Pacific locomotives are what got me into S Scale. No matter what prototype you want to model, chances are best that you’ll find locomotives and rolling stock in S Scale. P-B-L is the king of the hill, with lots of very nice brass locomotives imported over the years as well as rolling stock kits for various Colorado roads and my beloved SP narrow gauge. Older brass imports show up fairly often on eBay for good prices, and if you like to build, Railmaster Hobbies has lots of Sn3 locomotive kits. The problem with Sn3 is cost… a Railmaster locomotive kit is around $500, and if you want brass the price starts there and goes up to $1500 or more for a single locomotive. If you’re modeling a specific prototype the cost is worth it, but if you’re on a budget and don’t mind freelancing there’s a better (cheaper) alternative…

Which of course is Sn42 – S Scale narrow gauge running on HO Scale track, which scales to 42″ gauge. Instead of expensive brass locomotives, you can run modified HO Scale locomotives. In fact, the Tyco old time 4-6-0 is perfectly scaled for S so you don’t have to do anything to it besides paint. Other good candidates for Sn42 steam power are the MDC 2-6-0 and 2-8-0 locomotives, and HO scale diesel critters are perfect for more “modern” motive power. Some of the Athearn switchers can also be kitbashed into Sn42 pretty easily. For rolling stock you just use Sn3 kits with HO Scale trucks, and Titchy Train Group makes an HO Scale ore car that is perfect for an Sn42 mining layout. The picture shows a Tyco 4-6-0 that I just scored off of eBay. It’s just about a perfect match for Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge locomotives 12 and 13 – in fact it’s so close I’d almost consider narrowing the drivers to true 3 foot gauge and running it on my Slim Princess layout. But I need an Sn42 steamer to go with my Sn42 critters, so I’ll just paint it and run it.

A good month for S Scale…

May was a good month for S Scale… especially for me:) River Raisin Models officially announced they’ll be going through with their SP switcher project AND adding 3 different M6 2-6-0’s to the mix. If you’ve ever wanted a really nice S Scale brass steam locomotive at a great price, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE. Also this month, MTH Trains allowed their vendors to start pre-ordering from the Showcase Line they took over from S Helper Service. I was kind of disappointed the SW-9 didn’t make it into the first run, but really happy about the F3, especially since they’re doing it in Santa Fe War Bonnet. I ordered a pair of powered A-units and an unpowered B. They have some new reefers too, so I ordered 6 – including 2 new beer reefers. The reefers are supposed to deliver in December and the locomotives after the 1st of next year… I can hardly wait:) Also this month I got a laser cut kit for 4 outbuildings from Keeler, CA on the SP narrow gauge. Also saw on Facebook (yes, they have an S Scale group) that M2 has a new set of 50’s era work trucks in 1/64. Yes, it’s been a pretty good month for the Ideal Scale:)

With all the good things coming out on the scale side, S is looking better and better all the time for me. I wish I could say the same thing for toy trains… I just don’t feel too hopeful that S Scale will ever make much of a comeback which is a shame IM(not so)HO. Toy trains serve a very useful purpose, and despite what some self proclaimed experts think, they’re just as much fun to run as scale models. Even the O Gaugers are starting to get “uppity” towards the guys who still like toy trains, but at least there’s so much stuff in the pipeline that “toys” will still be available for a long time, even if they stopped making all of it tomorrow. Guess that’s a roundabout way of saying I bought some more O Gauge stuff since I swore it off not long ago.

More buildings for my Keeler branch

Keeler branch outbuildings in S ScaleSometimes you see some really surprising stuff on eBay, like the laser cut kit for 4 outbuildings in Keeler, CA on the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge (aka Slim Princess) – in S Scale no less. Every time I start to drift away from S Scale, something happens to bring me back to my senses. First it was the River Raisin SP Mikes (that just happened to run on the Jawbone branch that interchanged with the Slim Princess at Owenyo). Next it was the Railmaster “Little Giant” Sn3 locomotive kit. Then it was the SP C-30 caboose by Southwind Models. Do you think someone’s trying to tel me something? I’ve also managed to get an S Scale kit of the Keeler engine house, and an HO Scale kit of the Laws depot that I’ll use for reference when I scratch build it in S.

In other notes, I’m still waiting (over FOUR WEEKS???) for confirmation from MTH that I’m indeed in their “Railroaders Club” in spite of the fact they charged my credit card the same day I registered. LCCA is going to release a limited edition American Flyer set featuring a Baldwin switcher painted in UP’s “Building America” colors, flag and all. (note to self – start saving for one NOW). I still don’t have room for a layout but our rental house is almost complete so hopefully I’ll have time to clean out the garage soon and build a shelf along one wall. If I can’t run my trains it’d be nice to at least be able to display and photograph some of them. I’m too broke to buy much right now which is actually a good thing… maybe I’ll finally get around to building some of the structure kits I’ve accumulated.

It’s still looking like my first layout will be my Lionel Christmas layout – all I have room for is 4×8, and S Scale just won’t fit in 4×8. (I’m not counting the shelf in the garage since it won’t allow continuous running) Actually O Gauge isn’t too bad if you stick to O27 and ignore the wide track and third rail. Unless the American Flyer availability get a lot better I might just stick with O27 for my toy train fix and reserve S Scale for my scale modeling efforts.

Speaking of being broke, I just got a few kits – actually printable files – from Clever Models and for what they are, they look pretty good. I bought the O Scale versions and printed them at 75% to get them to S Scale. Hope to have one built and some pics pretty soon. Better to practice my modeling skills on cheap stuff instead of expensive laser cut kits.

River Raisin’s Southern Pacific S12 and more…

River Raisin Models Southern Pacific S12It looks like at least one of River Raisin Models’ latest announced projects – the Southern Pacific S12/S14 – is a go. I put in my deposit on an S12 last year and for awhile it looked like there wouldn’t be enough reservations for the project to go forward. I guess they finally got enough reservations though, because according to their web site it IS going to be imported. That’s great news if you’re an SP fan, but it gets even better. Besides the S12 and S14, they’re also going to import the Southern Pacific M4 Mogul (2-6-0) in 3 different road numbers with 5 total variations. Besides the SP models, they’re also offering this locomotive painted but unlettered with a coal tender which is great news for non-SP modelers who need some small steam locomotives on their layout.

So far this year is shaping up to be a pretty good year for S Scale. Lionel seems committed to expanding their American Flyer offerings, MTH is bringing back the S Helper Line, and now a new brass locomotive (Southern Pacific to boot!) from River Raisin. Oh, and I found the Conoco Dolores Oil Depot on eBay – should be here next week:) Happy S Scaling…

LCCA for S Scalers?

I just joined the LCCA – Lionel Collectors Club of America. I know, so what? It looks like the LCCA is going to release an S Gauge American Flyer set sometime soon and it also looks too good to pass up for a Flyer junkie like me. I’ve been wanting NEW Flyer stuff since, like, forever and I’ve also decided to quit buying O Gauge stuff for awhile and concentrate on S Scale, so the timing is perfect for me. Anyway, the set will have a small diesel switcher painted in Union Pacific colors, a box car, “special” (I guess just for this set) watermelon car and auto carrier with two Hot Wheels cars, and a “specially painted” caboose. It’s supposed to be a Ready to Run set so I’m guessing it will include a transformer and track.

I also joined MTH’s Railroader’s Club last week to get their special boxcar. The experience between the two is night and day. When I joined LCCA, I was immediately given my Member Number and password to the web site. I joined MTH’s RR Club on the 19th and have yet to receive so much as an email acknowledgement that I’d joined, even though my credit card has already been charged. I called MTH yesterday and was told the due to the backlog (whatever that means) I shouldn’t expect to receive my membership number and login password for 2 or 3 more weeks. What??? If they can charge my credit card automatically, why can’t they automatically generate my login info and email it to me?

No matter what you want…

Dolores Conoco Plant - S ScaleIf it was ever made, it’s going to eventually show up on eBay. I’ve been wanting the Dolores Conoco Plant from Raggs to Riches ever since I first saw it about 3 years ago. Unfortunately I screwed around and din’t buy one, and the kit was discontinued. After a few weeks of frantic internet searches, posting Want Ads in online S Scale forums, and making umpteen phone calls to every vendor in the country who “might” have one stashed away they’d forgotten about I resigned myself to the fact I was probably never going to own this kit. So Friday afternoon I’m looking on ebay for a Tyco 4-6-0 and… there’s a Ragg’s Dolores Conoco oil plant. I almost dod the Buy-It-Now option but I didn’t really want to pay $275, so I just watch and put in a bid about a minute before the auction ended – and got the kit for $208 (plus shipping). So I’m a happy camper again:) Now I have to keep watching for an Ouray engine house kit in S Scale.

MTH S Scale Catalog is out…

MTH S Scale Railroaders Club box carFinally some good news for S Scale fans… MTH Trains’ S Scale catalog is out and it’s a lot better than I’d hoped. They only have one diesel locomotive, but it’s the F3 and it’s available in Santa Fe War Bonnet colors. The best part is it comes with both scale and High Rail wheels and couplers. This is great news for both American Flyer fans and the scale crowd – maybe now the rivet-counters can quit crying about the continued availability of Flyer-compatible locomotives; MTH accommodates both groups.

Freight cars include PS-2 covered hoppers, 70-ton ore cars, 40′ woodsided reefers, and 40′ steel rebuilt box cars. These are all former S Helper Service cars so the quality should be great. They don’t offer as many road names as S Helper did but that might change. The current selection is actually pretty good, I just wish western roads were better represented. Another thing I’d like to see them do is offer the cars painted but unlettered. One bright spot is two new Beer Reefers – M.K. Goetz Brewery and Senate Beer. There’s also a limited edition box car (B&O Sentinel Fast Freight Service) you can get by joining the MTH Railroaders Club.

Finally there is new American Flyer compatible S Gauge track again. This is S Helper Service’s track system which is pretty decent from what I’ve heard (I’ve never tried it myself). The best part of the catalog though is the American Flyer accessories. They’ve remade 11, most notably the sawmill, log loader, and Gabe the Lamplighter.

Today is a very good day for S Scale. The F3 and freight cars look good enough to run on any Scale layout, yet they’ll operate on American Flyer radius curves. For American Flyer fans, we can finally get operating accessories without having to scour eBay, internet forums, etc. and pay exorbitant prices for something in even semi-decent condition. I can’t wait to see Lionel’s S Scale catalog which is supposed to release today…

More kits on the way – and more musings on S Scale

Lucky Mining CompanyI finally broke myself from buying really cool O Gauge stuff and ordered a couple S Scale kits – the Lucky Mining Company and the Virginia & Truckee Virginia City ore bin, both by Classic Miniatures. Both are models of kits served by the V&T but I think they’ll fit well on my Slim Princess Sn3 layout that I’ll eventually get around to building. Hey, at least I’m spending money on S Scale stuff again:) I also ordered the Laws depot kit in HO Scale. I still dabble a little in that scale, and I’d like to scratch build this model in S Scale; having the kit will help out a lot in that effort (I think). So far my S Scale inventory (not counting American Flyer) consists of two SP narrow gauge 4-6-0’s, a C-16 (that’s going to get an SP-style tender), two SP narrow gauge combines, and around 10 SP narrow gauge freight car kits. My standard gauge roster is two SP Mikados and three Mountains by River Raisin Models, an SP Atlantic by Southwind Models, an American Models GP-9 kit, Des Plaines Hobbies GE 70-ton switch engine kit, three Southwind cabooses, a really nice Daylight passenger car set (American Models), and about twenty S Helper Service freight cars. I don’t have much track, but I do have ten structure kits and that collection is growing, especially if someone will sell me a Delores Conoco Oil Station kit. (inventory provided for the benefit of a friend who asked why I’m getting out of S Scale)

Meanwhile, over on the O Gauge Forum there was a really interesting thread about switching from O Gauge to HO scale due to lack of space. It got me thinking – wouldn’t S Scale be a better scale to switch to? It has almost the heft of O Gauge but takes up a lot less space. You could almost call it “The Ideal Scale.” Oh, that’s right, someone already did:) Anyway, I thought it was interesting to read some dedicated O Gaugers’ thoughts on other scales. Then I popped over to the S Scale section and once again, some guys are bemoaning the existence of American Flyer and proclaiming how much better the world would be if only the manufacturers would give up on AF compatibility and only make scale stuff. It’s too confusing to have both types because no one can figure out what to buy and having both drives people away from S Scale and blah blah blah…

Want to make a bet? I’ll bet the constant infighting among morons who think S Scale can only accommodate “scale” or only Flyer – but not both – does more to drive away potential S Scale modelers and especially manufacturers than anything else. Some people estimate that S Scale is about 85% American Flyer (and compatible) and 15% scale – yet a small number of the “15%s” think they should get to tell the rest of us what should be available??? I don’t think so, and it’s a really stupid argument because ‘S’ is big enough to accommodate both.