More Myopia in S Scale – and another rant…

S Scale Brookside Dairy reeferPeople never cease to amaze me. Just this week, someone finally figured out exactly how S Scale can grow!!! The only thing that needs to happen is all the manufacturers need to agree on a standard that basically mandates Kadee (or similar) couplers and scale wheel flanges. Everything will be wonderful and we can “run…

An easy way to fix shiny valve gear and side rods on toy train steam locomotives

toy train valve gearOne thing I really don’t like on model steam engines – toy, scale, or otherwise – is the shiny valve gear and rods. It just looks cheap to me (never mind if it is a cheap locomotive). I always figured that “some day” I’d figure out what color I should paint them, figure out how to paint them without gumming up the works or ruining the looks of the locomotive, or otherwise making a mistake that I couldn’t easily fix. Then I read about something called Neolube. It’s not paint – it’s powdered graphite suspended in solvent. All you do is brush it on and it dries to a nice natural steel looking finish. I decided to try it. The day it came I looked at my first “victim” (a Lionel 4-4-2 from one of their starter sets), shook vigorously for about 3 minutes (as specified in the instructions that came with the Neolube), got out a cheap small paint brush (the kind that comes with children’s watercolor sets) and painted the rods and valve gear. It took less time to do both sides than it did to shake up the bottle. Also, it looks great:) I’m what you might call “artistically challenged” so if I can get good results then anyone can. After doing the rods and valve gear I decided to do the smoke box. That turned out nice also. I got mine from P-B-L (9.95 for 2 oz. bottle). Micromark also carries it. It’s considered a hazardous shipping item so can only be sent UPS ground. Probably best to buy from an LHS if you have one that carries it. Either way, definitely worth the money.

Giving up on American Flyer – yet another rant…

Plasticville StationI’m giving up on American Flyer for now. I’m keeping what I have, and I’ll continue to report on new items as they become available, but it’s pretty obvious that at this time American Flyer is pretty much only good for collecting, not for running. Don’t believe me? Consider this:

  • There is NO new track available (well, Gargraves) and NO new switches available to run American Flyer trains on.
  • There have been NO new American Flyer compatible steam locomotives offered in at least 5 years.
  • Other than a very few Lionel offerings, there have been no new AF compatible diesels offered in the past few years.
  • Most used American Flyer is overpriced junk. The stuff that actually is in nice condition commands a hefty (collectors) price.
  • 99% of people on the S Scale forums are clamoring for “scale ONLY” from Lionel and MTH. Mention AF style trains and you get told to shut up and go away. Short sighted, selfish bastards…

All of which is a shame, because American Flyer COULD be far superior to 3 rail O Gauge trains if decent equipment was available. It’s not though, so all my toy train adventures will be in O Gauge from now on. I’ll keep what Flyer stuff I have and pick up good deals when I can, but it gets increasingly frustrating hunting down used equipment in questionable condition when all I want to do is run trains – especially when I can go to just about any online Toy Train dealer and order whatever I want in O gauge, usually for a really good price to boot.

For the time being at least, all my S Scale endeavors will be, well, scale. I still plan on modeling the SP Jawbone branch “some day,” and I continue to buy good quality S Scale structure kits. I have a good selection of PBL and River Raisin SP locomotives, a couple of brass C30-1 cabooses, a set of SP Daylight passenger cars from American Models (one of the bright spots in their line up), and a few Showcase Line freight cars. Speaking of freight cars, even on the scale side that’s becoming a concern as the supply of S Helper cars dries up, but I digress…

This means the site will be changing a little. I’ll still be writing about my S Scale adventures and what little American Flyer becomes available (assuming it does), but I’ll also be writing about my O Gauge activities. For example, I just scored a Lionel 4-4-2 that I plan on customizing a little, then there’s my Bachmann Ten Wheeler that is in serious need of a detail upgrade, then a couple of RMT BEEPs that will be getting Command Control and a new paint job, then… See what I mean? So MUCH cool Toy Train stuff available in O Gauge, almost nothing available in S Scale. Don’t blame me, I’m just the messenger.

Can S Scale be saved? Another rant…

OK, maybe a better question would be “Is S Scale doomed to become a collectors and scratch builders only scale?” I get so damn tires of reading everyone’s opinion on “the one thing” (to the exclusion of all other things of course) that S Scale “needs” to grow…

“The manufacturers need better support from the S Scale community”

“We need more affordable brass locomotives”

“We need locomotives…

Why S Scale is Almost Dead – a rant…

A couple weeks ago on one of the O gauge forums, someone posted a question in the S Gauge section:

Now that MTH has bought out S Helper Service, what product(s) would you like to see them introduce first?

I replied that I’d like to see classic American Flyer track, a classic American Flyer style steam locomotive, and a scale (i.e. similar in detail and quality to Athearn’s Genesis line) GP-9. Almost immediately there was negative response to my answer. Some questioned why we “need” classic style track when Lionel has “better” FasTrack available. Most of the negativity was regarding that I dared to suggest a GP9 – after all, American Models has already done one. Well, Big Effing Deal. In fact, I already have the American Models GP9 and while it looks great on a classic AF-style layout, it looks like crap next to my River Raisin brass locos or even my Showcase Line SW1500. It’s a toy, not a scale model. It’s also a 20 year old design. Surely we can have something new or updated after 20 years???

The “idea” that if some company has already made a particular model, no other company should ever make the same model, is STUPID and it limits the growth of S Scale. So what if American Models made a GP9? How many people outside of S Scale know about it? Even if you do know, how easy is to get one? Well, if you want one painted in SP’s Black Widow scheme, you have to buy an undecorated one and have it painted (or paint it yourself, if you have an airbrush and talent and you can find decals). They are out of stock on other road names as well. And what about detail level? Do you tell someone that’s new to the hobby that if they want a locomotive that is detailed to modern standards the have to build it themselves or do without? Guess what? They’re probably not going to do either – instead they’ll move to HO or O scale.

I know some S Scalers would be happy for that to happen. For some reason, they’re proud of the fact that S Scale has a high entry bar. I think that attitude is selfish and self serving. After all, if S really is the ideal scale that so many claim it is (and I agree) why do some want to keep it for themselves? Does it make them feel special??? Sadly, I think it does – at least some of them. I’m calling BS. I want S Scale to grow. I love S Scale and I want to be able to buy nice models that I can put on the track and run. I’d like to be able to walk into a hobby shop and have a nice selection of S Scale locomotives and rolling stock to choose from. I’d like to NOT be the only S Scaler in Sparks because I’m the only one who was lucky enough to find some outdated equipment or I’m the only one willing to put up with a lack of detail.

As long as this stupid idea exists – “it’s been done before, therefore no one else can do it” – S Scale will never grow. Instead it will continue to shrink and eventually die, except for collectors and those who can afford “collector” prices. The rest of us will just be SOL. I’m not trying to pick on American Models here – I like a lot of their stuff. A lot of their diesel locomotives look great on a classic style AF layout but not so great (at least not without a lot of work) on a scale layout. If AM doesn’t want to produce highly detailed scale versions of their locomotives, then WHY NOT let another company do it – preferably MTH?

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…

American Models Budd Passenger Car Set

The same day I found out I wasn’t going to get my FM Trainmaster I ordered a Budd passenger car set in SP Daylight colors along with the extra coach. I didn’t really know what to expect but I needed something to put behing my River Raisin MT-5 that’s painted in the Daylight scheme. I’d never seen any of American Models’ products in person, and I was thinking they’d probably be pretty “toy-like.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was a little worried they might not look all that great behind the highly detailed River Raisin brass locomotive. I didn’t need to worry…

The cars came yesterday (fast shipping!!!) which was the first surprise. Second was the box they came in – instead of the flimsy little card stock box with a cellophane window that’s typical of most toy train products, the cars came in very heavy duty boxes that were finished and printed very nicely. The best way I can describe the quality of the packaging is that it’s equal to the packaging on every high end brass model I’ve ever bought. The best surprise was when I opened the box – these passenger cars are nice. They’re going to look great behind my MT-5.

Snooze you lose…

Well, crap… I was feeling bad about wasting money on an O Scale train set, especially considering some of the S Scale companies are having problems. I decided maybe it’s time to “get while the gettin’s good” and since I don’t have a large pile of money just sitting around waiting to be spent I made a list of the 3 things I just couldn’t live without (as far as S Scale trains go). I decided on 3 things from American Models: a Southern Pacific Budd passenger car set with the extra coach, a 4-8-4 Northern painted for Santa Fe, and a Fairbanks Morse Trainmaster painted in the factory demo scheme. The Northern wasn’t a problem – Hoquat Hobbies had one at a discounted price of $369.95 and they even threw in free shipping. No Budd passenger sets or Trainmasters though so I tried to order directly from American Models. The Budd passenger cars were in stock (thankfully) but no Trainmasters in the demo paint scheme to be had… DANG!!! I’m kicking myself because I almost ordered one of these last summer but I couldn’t make up my mind between scale or hi-rail wheels. IDIOT!!! I guess I could buy one in a different road name and have it repainted in the FM demo scheme but that would add about $200 to the cost. I’m still kicking myself. The take away from this is to order things when you want them. If you wait, they might not be available when you get around to it – especially in S Scale.