Please Enlighten Me

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Don Gilham, Apr 19, 2007.

  1. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    This is something I genuinely want to know - what is the great attraction of 3 rail ??

    Some of you may have read a previous thread by me, but just as a way of a "hello" I am a Brit modeller, and have been railway modelling for years (in excess of 40 but I won't divulge the exact number - mainly because I can't remember :) )

    I strive for realism, which is why I have no idea what attracts people to 3 rail. The awful track (not just the 3rd rail, but the track profile) and the wheels that look like something from a 1940's toy train. Perhaps that's the attraction ?

    The only plus point I see for 3 rail is that the major manufacturers (Atlas excluded) still insist on making 3 rail in quantity, and denying their models to those of us who model in 2 rail - unless, of course, you are prepared to pre-order.

    I do wish that the manufacturers would make 2 rail models easier to buy - my pension fund can't support many more brass locos (and my Bank Manager has a BIG stick ) (so does the wife, for that matter :D )

    So please, try not to backbite 2 railers against 3 railers and vice versa - all I want to know is why people find 3 rail so attractive ?
  2. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

    Maybe it's us Brits - but I recall how awful Hornby Dublo in 3 rail was - and what a breakthru it was when 2 rail OO came along....
  3. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    3 rails are cheaper, 3 rail has more stuff and more brands available, almost all shops stock 3 rail stuff, and none of the 2 rail. , people dont run 3 rail to be detailed, they run them because there big and fast, the older guys like it because it brings back memorys from when they was a kid., the post war lionel holds its value better then most 2 rail.

    all O scale stuff be it 2 or 3 rail is not that detailed to, but N and HO is. seems the bigger they are the more toy like they look.
  4. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    So to sum up Ozzy old friend (thanks for the post) 3 rail is playing with toys. I just wish the R-T-R manufacturers (Lionel, MTH and to a lesser extent Weaver are the main culprits) would realise that the more 2 rail stock they off on a wider basis, the more 2 rail modellers there will be. There are many who can't afford the brass models, and that is a really great shame.

    Note I am not including Atlas here, who seem to offer much more to 2 railers than the others.

    So here's a plea to Lionel , MTH and Weaver - make 2 rail more accessible to those who want to model railroads, and not just play with toy trains ?
  5. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

    Clearly this must be a major difference in O Scale between North American and Europe. In UK 3-rail is virtually dead (I think?), and O scale material - though not a lot is available - is pretty detailed and not toy like. In Europe, 2 and 3 rail HO material is both available, but anything Marklin brings out in 3 rail, is virtually also available from sister company Trix in 2 rail.
    I'd have thought there would be a market over here for large scale (e.g. O) detailed, 2 rail material - maybe one of the big firms should try it! Doesn't Atlas produce 2 rail O track?
  6. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I think for a lot of guys my age and older it's a nostalgic thing. Most of us got the Lionel 3 rail O gauge set when we were kids so it sort takes us back to our childhood. Even though I am making plans to switch over to N scale, I still have my first O27 set and I will probably keep it as long as I live. And as you have already noted, it's more readily available and considerably less expensive.
  7. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

    Atlas O two rail is quite detailed from what I have seen -- and it isn't cheap.

    There are a fair number of two rail O scale layouts and modellers in the US.
  8. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    maybe the reason that there is not much 2 rail in the U.S. is because no know wants it?????? i mean theres not as big of a market here as there is over there. lionel tried 2 rail once, it did not go over good, (from what i read)
  9. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    even the the brits like then goofy looking trains with only 2 rails....... they sure know how to make a good motorcycle! i have had 3 triumphs from the 1960's i love them, had an old BSA too. dont know what there new bikes are like tho, i dont know what it is about stuff made in the 1950's and 60's, but i like it all, trains, bikes, cars.... you can keep the new stuff, and i will take the old stuff! funny thing is i was not even born till 1978! and some of my faverate trains was made in the 1930's

    oh ya, got to love the British girls! something about that accent ! lol
  10. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    I guess because us Americans are just common people and well 3 rail is a way of life for most of us. My point is just about any O gauge American had a 3 rail under the tree at age one. My point of view is why can’t you all be a little more common and run 3 rail since there are far more in the market place and to tell the truth the new stuff is priced just right and looks far more like the real stuff than I even care.

    Probably the most important factor is 3 rail makes the most money for the big manufactures and is the fastest growing segment over the past few years.

    The rich can keep the 2 rail and us working guys will just buy what we enjoy running the three rail and not worry so much if it is a rivet or two short. In any event I won’t get my shorts to tight over what other people run but then again I spend more time just having fun with my trains. Having fun is thinking out of the box at times when we run our high sided wheels at top speed and it fly’s around a curve and actually keep attached to the tracks.

    [FONT=&quot]To tell the truth I can’t figure out why you care. I could care less what anyone else runs. Maybe it boils down to those that like to run trains and those that like to operate trains. I’m a full time runner and it is a blast having no rules.[/FONT]
  11. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I hesitate to get involved here but I will. Cannonball, bear with me. The three rail track thing does indeed go back to an earlier time when most trains came as toys, in sets as Christmas gifts. Speaking for myself, I thought my original Marx set was the greatest present I ever got. If I still had it it would be on a shelf as a momento of earlier times. Did it look like a real train, no. My Lionel set, which I got used was a step up but as I grew older I started to dislike the three rails, short cars, oversize wheel flanges and short radius curves. If I still had the Lionel set, it would be on the shelf with the Marx.
    O gauge, scale two rail has everything going for it but price and the ability to fit it into an average home. I settled on HO. Two rail O scale, primarily Atlas, are reasonably affordable if you have the space to operate them. And then we have the beautiful, expensive brass equipment that everyone would love to own.
    Summary: Your priorities ,scale fidelity, cost, space. There are a lot of Lionel and American Flyer collectors who never run their equipment. They have walls covered with trains. We have one such person in our club and I love to visit his home just to see the collection.
  12. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    For me the attraction is nostalgia. Dad had 3-rail Lionel growing up, and we played with it together when I was growing up. Realism isn't the most important thing to me. The nostalgia is. One toy train author talked about scale modeling vs. toy train layouts as realism vs impressionism in art. That metaphor made sense to me.

    Some 3-railers do scale layouts where the third rail is the only thing unrealistic. I'm always amused when those guys start rivet counting. I want to ask about that third rail. If you want perfect fidelity, research and build it yourself. Even HO guys do that. But those guys can, for whatever reason, completely ignore that third rail and the 5' scale track gauge while they go all Proto:48 on the other aspects of the latest Lionel/Atlas/MTH product. I see it as a paradox but plenty of other people don't.

    I know there are two things in favor of 3-rail in scale layouts. One is momentum. We've had 3-rail O gauge here for 100 years. A lot of the scale 3-railers started out with semi-scale stuff, then expanded to larger layouts with scale equipment and wider curves. A lot of people struggle to find enough space to build a layout that accommodates 36-inch radius (minimum) curves needed for scale, whether it's 2- or 3-rail, especially when first getting involved. So they start out with a smaller layout, probably with semi-scale equipment, and then eventually they may decide they want more scale fidelity, so they build a bigger layout, phase out the semi-scale stuff and phase in scale stuff.

    The other thing is the third rail simplifies wiring. You can drop a crossing anywhere you want, any angle you want, without having to worry about shorts. You can do a reverse loop if you want without any special wiring tricks. You can isolate one of the outer rails and use it for train detection, signal activation, or even to control another train. So some people stay with 3-rail if only for that.

    The 2-rail segment in the United States is too small to ignore, but it's never been as big as the following Lionel has. I don't know if 2-rail is growing (although On30 certainly is). The 3-rail segment isn't going away any time soon.
  13. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    the reasons i typed in my first post here are MY reasons for going with 3 rail, and they are the same reasons that 35 members of the club im in have when i asked them. (its a multi scale club. n,HO,0on30, O.)

    and just so everyone knows, when i poke fun at 2 railers, its just that, in fun, like ford vs chevy, harley vs honda, its all just joking around.
  14. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    :) Ozzy 3 rail people and 2 rail people have always had fun with each other. :) I even take Dons post as a big part of the fun. For the most part 3 rail is as American as Apple Pie, 2 rail is more universal though it holds the lower rung in the states.

    The answer to the question is " I strive for realism, which is why I have no idea what attracts people to 3 rail."

    With that said Don will only pry my three rail system out of my cold dead hands. :) :)

    BTW Don you do know 2 rail and 3 rail are both just toy trains. :) :) Your toys just look better than mine. ;)
  15. Geno

    Geno Member

    I have two words for anyone who is looking for more realism than any 3-rail track has to offer, but doesn't want to get rid of their 3-rail trains- STUD RAIL.

    I learned about this set up from Hugo and Lisa Marie over on the OGR Forum, and what it basically is a rail with studs that stick up between the ties of 2-rail track. A slider shoe is placed over the rollers to pick up power from the studs, and the studs themselves can be camoflagued by ballast.

    The resulting track gives me the realism I want, but lets me keep all of my trains 3-rail allowing me to run trains at my 3-rail club. I can also run 2-rail rolling stock quite easily, as I'm using Atlas code 148 2-rail.

  16. Don Gilham

    Don Gilham New Member

    Thanks guys - great post Renovo :thumb:

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