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.

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.

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?

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.

Toy Trains and Christmas

toy trains and ChristmasToy trains and Christmas go together like peas and carrots. In fact, a Christmas tree doesn’t seem complete without a circle of track under it. Getting a train set for Christmas is also a rich tradition in the US. If you’re into S Scale trains, your options are kind of limited. American Models and S Helper Service offer S Scale train sets, but selection is limited and seems to be dwindling. The only other choice is American Flyer, and American Flyer trains are long out of production. Fortunately, you can still get American Flyer trains on

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads this. This year I am most of all thankful for my family and the fact that all of them are in good health. I’m thankful that my parents get to spend so much time with us in Reno, especially as they get older. I’m thankful that both of my children are Christian (and I continue to pray that my wife will come to faith). I’m thankful that my wife and I still both have our jobs. I’m thankful that I live in the USA and I’m thankful for our military.

As far as S Scale trains go, I have a lot of stuff to be thankful for as well. I was able to get a few brass locomotives this year, including a pair of SP MT-4’s painted in Daylight colors from River Raisin models and a P-B-L model of Southern Pacific’s #8 narrow gauge locomotive.