On30 or On3?

Discussion in 'On30 Forum' started by segraves1, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum but have been in model railroading all my life (literally). In electric trains I've done LGB/G-scale, HO, HOn3, N. In steam I have a 7-1/2" gauge, 2.5" scale live steam 0-4-2. I've even spent a good bit of time on full scale steam in both seats. I now have a son of my own and I'm starting to look ahead.

    I have a pair of Bachmann On30 2-6-0s that I'm really pleased with (well overall... I'm more of a Baldwin guy, rather than a Rodgers, so that stepped smoke box has got to go....). My expectation is to remain in the lighter narrow gauge equipment and avoid the heavy C and K series D&RGW (doubt my railroad will ever need anything as large as even a Bachmann 2-8-0). What I envision for this railroad is a small general mover that would have supplied a few small mining towns in the mountains of Arizona. It should "meet" the standard gauge mainline somewhere to transfer goods and ore but I see it being a relatively light load (few trains a day max). I'm not going for "broke and hardly alive" but rather "limited and within budget." Equipment should be well maintained (I have never been a fan of the "neglected" look as this was a sure sign of a railroad on its last leg) if only because the equipment has to work reliability to bring in revenue (a broke down loco is not making money).

    What I'm having a hard time deciding is the question of stick with On30 or re-gauge to On3. While certainly easiest to just run On30, I'm in that middle ground where I could go both ways. I'm going to hand lay track so using "off the shelf HO track" isn't a plus. It would really I guess be helpful if someone could post in their experience/pros/cons. To me it really seems like "go easy or go true 3foot".

    Thanks all,
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    IMHO, it amounts to your answer to 2 questions:

    - Does the non-scale gauge bother you enough to re-gauge your locomotives? It obviously bothers you some, or you wouldn't be posing the question. But how much?

    - Are you planning any dual gauge track? Ever? Dual gauge track is a non-starter with On30 because it ends up looking like 3 rail O with a centered 3rd rail. The combination of the narrower than 3ft gauge narrow gauge, and the wider than standard standard gauge puts the narrow gauge rail in the center instead of the more correct 63%. With 1.25" standard O gauge, On3 ends up at 60%, which is close enough for visual purposes.
  3. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Hmm..... Well that is certainly something to keep in mind (the dual gauge track point). I hadn't thought about it but knowing that the On30 would look really stupid IF I ever wanted to do dual gauge pushes me more towards the On3 side. Thanks for bringing that up.

    Where would I find an On3 track gauge and wheelset gauge? I have looked all over and can't seem to find any. I'd certainly need gauges if I were to attempt the regauge and hand-laying of On3.
  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    There are a few hobby shops that carry significant amounts of On3/On30. Caboose Hobbies in Denver and Southwest Narrow Gauge in Phoenix come to mind, but there are others. Most hobby shops that carry significant narrow gauge do mail order. You want the On3 NMRA gauge to start with, and some roller or 3 point track gauges if you hand lay track.

    Southwest Narrow Gauge's ad in the Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette lists San Juan On3 flex track in meter lengths for $7. Commercial turnouts are available in On3 and On30. Also, Railway Engineering will custom build turnouts for you, like they do for us HOn3 types. Trout Creek Engineering offers BK turnout kits and track products, and will also sell them assembled. Fast Tracks sells kits for making your own turnouts, and several companies (Litco comes to mind) sell turnouts assembled from the Fast Tracks jigs.

    There is a whole different world of narrow gauge supplies and craftsman kits that never appear in the pages of Model Railroader. Best bet is buying Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette, which is where most of these firms advertise. A on line search on some of the names I mentioned will bring up their web sites.

    There are also Yahoo Groups for almost every special model railroading interest. As an example, I belong to Yahoo Groups on logging, early rail, HOn3, and several others. I know On3 and On30 have their groups, too.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of narrow gauge!
  5. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    I saw this thread and went here to answer questions , but Fred has been here first with good information,

    Bill Nelson
  6. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Thanks for the info!
  7. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    That's what we are here for, please share your progress.

    Have you hand laid track before? I have covered some of my techniques over in the logging area, in the Bill and Tom's excellent adventure thread.

    I have a vertical boiler On3 shay, a basket case Balboa C-21, and a Bachman 0n30 Climax W sound , which I intend to spread to ON3

    I have lots of irons in the fire on my various HO projects. I have toyed with doing a small portable RR, in ON3 but I have a lot more HOn3 stuff, and O scale takes up eight times the space. decisions decisions.

    Bill Nelson
  8. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    That's what we are here for, please share your progress.

    Have you hand laid track before? I have covered some of my techniques over in the logging area, in the Bill and Tom's excellent adventure thread.

    I have a vertical boiler On3 shay, a basket case Balboa C-21, and a Bachman 0n30 Climax W sound , which I intend to spread to ON3

    I have lots of irons in the fire on my various HO projects. I have toyed with doing a small portable RR, in ON3 but I have a lot more HOn3 stuff, and O scale takes up eight times the space. decisions decisions.

    Bill Nelson
  9. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Nope, I have never hand laid track before. I've been reading on it for probably the past 10 years but am always looking for more pointers (I'll be checking the logging area).
  10. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    I'm about to regauge my Bachmann On30 2-6-0 to On3 (I have decided to go all out). In doing so, I will be replacing the axles on the drivers and pilot truck (will be purchasing On3 trucks for the tender).

    I measured the "factory" driver axles to be 3mm. After searching on McMaster, I can get 3mm round stock in:

    stainless steel
    drill rod

    (can also get them in brass, aluminum, etc. but want to stick with steel alloys unless someone can give a reason to go otherwise)

    All cost the same (between $3-$6 for a 3foot piece) so its simply which one would do the job best. Drill rod seems like it would be the "best" as it will be harder and closer tolerance.

    What do other people use?

  11. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Grant line makes a conversion kit.

    Chris, Grant line makes conversion kits with axles cast plastic spacers, and most of the brain work figured out. This is much better than making your own the axle is knurled where the gear goes to help it grab, axles cut to size, well worth the effort of locating the kit.

    Southwest narrow gauge carries them I believe, goggle them and check out the web site.

    I have gotten excellent service from these folks, they are knowledgeable and helpful

    Bill Nelson
  12. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Thanks for the advice. Turns out Southwest Narrow Gauge only sells assembled locos/rollingstock (at least that's what the guy said on the phone...just called him). He referred me to Coronado Scale Models (also in Phoenix) and they have the sideframes in stock (the axles are on order and should be in after the first of the year). So I'll go that route for regauging these 2-6-0s.

    I'm still interested in what would make the best axle material as I have other engines that I want to build/kitbash down the road.
  13. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Sorry about that confusion it is Coronado who has been massively helpful to me in the cast. Southwest Narrow gauge, has beed good too.

    Bill Nelson
  14. Darryl Huffman

    Darryl Huffman New Member


    I have modeled in both On30 and On3 since the early 1970s.

    I sold all my On3 equipment years ago as I simply did not have the double car garage layout needed to run the equipment.

    My interest is in small railroads with tight curves and minimum maintenance.

    On30 is the only way to go for me.
  15. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Welcome to Zealot Darryl,

    I agree 0n3 is a huge space eater. I have an On3 Vertical boiler Shay, it is tiny, but while it will negotiate a 19 inch radius, it's universals bottom out when they are on the inside, and it makes for a bumpy ride. A planned ON3 mini layout got bigger and bigger, and wasn't built. anything I do in On3 is going to have to be very simple.

    Also the ready to run stuff in ON30 makes it a lot faster to get going. the level of detail on most 0n3 kits make them a hard slog for thise of us used to lesser scale/gauge combinations,

    My eye likes the look of on3 track better than on30, but my planning on on3 came to naught, due to space concerns, except causing me to expand the narrow gauge on my HO outfit ( I have a thread in the narrow gauge section on my narrow gauge locomotive shops, and my main thread is over in the logging mining, and industrial section).

    I hope you can hang around on Zealot, and share some of your fine work. this forum is well set up to share text and photos in a related fashion, but we don't have enough talented modelers participating to hit that level of critical mass needed to get enough action here to make full use of the set up : if you could help us in that department, I would be very appreciative.

    Bill Nelson
  16. Darryl Huffman

    Darryl Huffman New Member

    Thanks Bill for the welcome.

    I am new simply because I did not know this forum exisited.

    I found it only by following a link on a British forum on track planning.

    As you know, Bill, I started a lot of Yahoo Groups about 10 years ago. But I find the various forums are great at storing information in a more convenient format, but it is harder to find that information as there is no central FILES or PHOTOS section.

    Age and declining health is eating so much of my energy that I find I have little time for modeling. And this computer really eats into that time.

    I look forward to the discussions and will chime in a appropriate.
  17. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member


    I am familiar with you from the Yahoo groups, I follow 4L (logging) Hon3 chat , ON3, and the Cabbagestackers2.

    The Yahoo groups would be much more useful if the photos section allowed more space for captions. there is enough room for identifying what is in the picture, but there is insuficient space to add much how to do X W and Z. When you put that in the messages, it is hard to go back and find it later,. I have found it to be wonderfully socially, and interesting, but it is much easier to document projects in ways that will help others learn new skills here.

    While sharing information takes some modeling time, I have found that I am inspired by others work, and their responses to mine, and I'm more likely to try harder to find the time for projects, so sharing helps keep the drive to do more and share more going.

    Bill Nelson
  18. Darryl Huffman

    Darryl Huffman New Member


    There are several things that could be improved in Yahoo but, of course, that is beyond our control. Things are much better than they were back before Yahoo groups, before EGroups, before OneGroup.

    The forum arangement like we have here at Zealot is great for showing the progressive building of a kit or a layout.

    I have a home computer for 32 years and I really think we are just at the beginning of the development of platforms like groups or forums.

    I am looking forward to the future of this end of the hobby.

    The friendships I have made through the internet is astounding.

    Living in Alaska, the number of people interested in craftsman kits or scratchbuilding has always been limited, but now when I travel, I always find people I have known for years through the internet.
  19. segraves1

    segraves1 New Member

    Interesting. I wouldn't have thought the extra 0.125" would have made any real difference in turning radius.

    I had planned to use 24"-36" curves on any layout I would build (36" on mains/24" on sidings). Any reason I couldn't get an On3 K37 to run on that (I know I said I don't ever PLAN to have anything bigger than a light consolidation/C-19)?
  20. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    It's not the 1/8" difference in gauge; it's the way the models are built. You can see the same disparity in minimum radius between plastic and brass steam in standard gauge HO.

    Remember the starting points:

    On30 has developed from the toy train set mentality (it wasn't that way before Bachmann). Use HO mechanisms under O scale narrow gauge superstructures. The HO mechanisms, track, and coupler infrastructure were already well established. Bachmann developed its On30 line to serve as a layout through the Village 56 and similar ceramic structures. 18" radius was essential to use existing HO train set track. Couplers are HO scale couplers set at the height HO standard gauge uses (it's not the correct height for On3).

    On3 had developed as a more of a "purist" scale/gauge. Its adherents abhorred the compromises of O gauge and 3 rail O. The locomotives and cars and track were built very close to exact scale, and the minimum radius would be what it would be.

    The problem with narrow gauge running on toy train minimum radius is that the prototype kept the center of gravity very low. Wheels protrude above some of the frame members of the cars. If built to scale, this very much limits how far the trucks can turn. On2 in particular has a higher minimum radius than you would think because of this problem with the underframes. Many On30 underframes are modified so that the trucks can rotate further. And the bodies tend to be mounted higher than scale to give more clearance, too.

    Brass locomotives are generally made a lot "stiffer" than their plastic counterparts. There is little lateral motion or slop in the drivers to allow the locomotive to "bend" around sharper radius curves. Pilot trucks and trailing trucks do not have freedom to swing without hitting (and shorting out) on all that exquisite detail.

    Mass-produced plastic locomotives, on the other hand, must have a reasonable minimum radius to sell in the necessary quantities to justify the tooling costs. Compromises will be made in the swing and location of pilot and trailing trucks, and lateral motion added to the drivers.

    That said, when comparing HOn3 brass to On3 brass minimum radius, they tend to be about the same when the scale factor is taken into account. Most brass K series in HOn3 need 22"-24" minimum radius to be comfortable. That's why every HOn3 club or modular system I know specifies 22" or 24" minimum radius.

    Now a Blackstone K-27 was carefully designed and tested to take a 17" minimum radius. It doesn't look good doing it, but it will do it. Similarly, Bachmann (who uses the same manufacturer as Blackstone) designed their On30 line to take 18" radius, with a few 22" radius exceptions. Since the gauge is already a compromise, what's a few more compromises to get the desired minimum radius?

    From what I have seen in On3, no brass K is going to make 24" radius. 36" minimum radius everywhere will probably work quite well with any On3 models. How much lower you can go will depend. I would check with some On3 groups to see if 27" or 30" minimum radius is practical for what you want to do.

    my thoughts, your choices

Share This Page