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…

A Station for my Lionel Layout

plasticville stationI’m feeling bad about ordering so much O Scale stuff lately. I have all the track now for my Lionel Christmas layout but I still don’t have enough S Scale track to build an American Flyer layout. Since I’m an S Scaler not an O Scaler this kind of bothers me. My latest buy was a Plasticville passenger station. It was only $21.35 (including shipping) on eBay so I don’t feel too bad. Also the box says it works for both S and O scale… It does look a little small next to the Polar Express train. I haven’t set it next to a Fler train yet to see how it looks with S Scale equipment. I love the vintage look though, and it sure goes together easy – only 12 parts, and they interlock so you don’t even need glue.

The walls have a nice stucco finish cast in and are molded in white plastic. The windows are just part of the wall castings, with separate gray plastic doors. I’m going to paint the walls depot buff and the doors and windows some kind of dark red. I’d also like to add an interior floor, maybe some walls, and for sure some lighting. A smoke unit for the chimney would be pretty cool too but I don’t want to over-complicate things. One thing I will be doing for sure is adding snow to the roof – this is a Christmas layout after all:)

Oh – and I also ordered a Lionel Feather River service station set. Oops… To make up for it, I picked up a really nice American Flyer 30B transformer and an S Helper Union Carbide covered hopper. I really need to get this O Scale layout built and out of my system. Wish I could find a nice big stack of S Scale track in C7 or better condition…

Lionel Polar Express Train Set

Lionel Polar Express train setWe’ve been running this for about a week now. Track-wise, it would “fit” better if it was a 42″ circle (like American Flyer track:) ) instead of 36″. My son loves the way the cars light up, he thinks the the silhouettes in the windows are “too cool”, and he especially likes sounding the whistle. The smoke is pretty cool too, but it would be better if it actually produced a decent amount of smoke. My first project after Christmas might be upgrading the smoke unit.

As for the locomotive – to me it’s almost the perfect toy train locomotive. It’s die-cast metal, so it’s very rugged. All the detailing except the bell and hand rails is cast-in, so there aren’t any delicate parts to break off. The cast-in detailing is very crisp – with my poor eyesight it looks very realistic:) As I said, I wish the smoke unit worked a little better. I think the only thing that would improve this engine would be to add an American Flyer style choo-choo unit. I’ve listen to steamers equipped with Lionel’s electronic puffing sound and it sounds like crap compared to the AF sound – kind of like you’re in an echo chamber or cave.

I also ordered an American Models 4-8-4 Northern that DOES have a “real” choo-choo unit. It hasn’t gotten here yet but I’m really anxious to compare it with the Lionel Berkshire. After my experience with the Budd passenger car set I have no doubts about the quality, I’m just wondering if it will be as ideal as a toy. I’m kind of suspecting it will be a little too well detailed to place it firmly in the “toy” category. I’m really hoping that MTH will come out with a really high quality TOY steam locomotive in S Scale with die-cast metal construction, crisp detailing, minimal (if any) “separately applied” detail parts, a genuine AF-style choo-choo unit, and a good working smoker. Maybe 3 – a 4-4-2 Atlantic, a 4-6-2 Pacific, and a 2-8-2 Mikado. If the quality were as good as the Polar Express loco, I’d buy at least 2 of each. I hope I’m not the only one and I hope the manufacturers are listening…