What makes a real scale O train?

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Oracle_9, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. Oracle_9

    Oracle_9 New Member

    I am having a hard time figuring out what setup makes a true real life scale O train.

    I am thinking of deciding on steam locomotives field, to be specific the "Big Boy" :mrgreen:, in O scale.

    But there is a couple varieties, O, On3, On27, On30, and whatever.
    One thing I figured out is, there is no three rails in real life, so that eliminates one type.

    From what I understand, O scale is not exactly true scale due to the rail width, that is in real life its 4 feet 8 inches, but if that is converted into O scale trains, it would not be accurate since it would be like 5 feet or something like that.

    On3 is O scale trains, but on HO tracks. Isn't that too narrow or would On3 be the closest to an accurate representation of a true real like scale? :confused:
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    North American O scale is considered to be 1/4" = 1ft, or 1/48 scale. The track commonly used (both 2 and 3 rail) is 1.25", which as you point out, scales to 5ft. There is a very small group of O modelers who use a corrected track gauge, but most in O scale just accept the slight inaccuracy.

    Lionel has made trains that run on 3 rail O gauge track. They have varied in scale from true 1/48 models to rather arbitrary models designed to run on very sharp turns (O27, traditional are common descriptions). Starting mainly in the '90s, Lionel and others started making models very close to 1/48, but still designed to run on 3 rail track. These larger models generally need O36 or larger (some as big as O80) curves to run on. Models like the Big Boy and Challenger have been made to scale for both 3 rail and 2 rail track. Smaller versions (Lionel and Rail Line, usually shortened and reduced in height) have been made for sharper curves on 3 rail O track.

    On3 is modeling 3ft gauge prototypes in O scale (1/48). They use the correct gauge of 3/4", since there was no toy train legacy to confuse the issue.

    In the '90s, Bachmann came out with their On30 line. These models were O scale models of small narrow gauge prototypes, but with the track gauge narrowed to conveniently run on HO track. HO track scales out to close to 30" in O scale. The On30 line was originally designed to use as a Christmas layout with Dept 56 and similar buildings. The On30 was an unexpected huge hit because the models were inexpensive compared to On3, and ran well using easily obtained HO track. Those desiring an affordable, ready-to-run narrow gauge layout were willing to overlook the gauge discrepancy (again).

    In North American narrow gauge prototype practice, 36" was the most common gauge by far. 24" was the second most common, but there was some 30" gauge as well.

    Now, On30 models are commonly made of both 3ft and 2ft gauge prototypes, set up to run on 30" gauge track.

    trying to reduce the confusion
  3. Oracle_9

    Oracle_9 New Member

    This is still somewhat confusing. From what you stated, if I wanted to be close to real life scale, I have to go with the O scale tracks which would be 5 feet in real life, that justs 4 inches little more. The other tracks would be off way more that 5 inches. Or I use my mill to make tracks that is true to the scale (if I have time).

    I do not need to make sharps turns, my layout with be 20ft by 30ft (it will be running alongside the walls. At least I dont think so.
  4. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Oracle_9, The way to tell if Proto:48 is right for you (actual 4'8.5" trains in O scale) is to look at Proto:48 track/wheels and decide if they are that much better appearance wise than conventional 2-rail O-scale. I personally find On30 to look hideous when used in place of On3...Harold (hminky) doesn't really see much of a difference.

    Here's the Proto:48 group...
    Proto48 Modeler
    The main limitation on Proto:48 is converting engines.

    You might want to check out On3...as it is far easier to get started in finescale with On3. Precision Scale & San Juan Car co offer RTR On3 locomotives...and car kits from San Juan, Grandt, and a few others can help you get started into it. The Bachmann On30 shay and 2-6-0 can be re-gauged to On3. Bill Meredith is in your area, he's one of the guys behind Cimarron Works... The Cimarron Works Main Page
    The Maple Leaf Mafia is a fabulous group in your area.

    Hand laying track is no where near as bad as it sounds. I started doing it in high school and I was able to get functional, decent looking track within my first 3 or 4 1' practice sections. Building turnouts took a little bit more work...but BK Enterprises offers those.

    Attached is a picture of an On3 mogul I picked up for $280...towing a Mainline Models boxcar (Ye Olde Huff'n Puff, $25ish), a flat car, and a pair of Grandt Line stock cars ($40 a pop). I also added a Galloping Goose for $80.

    The advantages to On3 (vs normal or proto48 O std gauge) are the lower prices for high quality models, tighter turn radii, steeper grades, shorter trains (few people can assemble a prototypically correct 100 car freight train or 14 car passenger train for std gauge...but 2-6 car passenger trains and 2-20 car narrow gauge trains are easy to model...especially since 4 locomotives were std power for my favorite rr's alpine tunnel district), shorter cars, and better documentation of the major roads.

    The major disadvantages are smaller locomotives (largest On3 engine is a 2-6-6-2), no super power (like NYC hudsons), and less variety (basically you can model 1940s-1960s Colorado, Pennsylvania, or California without substantial effort).

    For normal 2-rail o-scale, the track is easier to come by and there is a great selection of mainline steam available. Most (or all?) MTH locomotives are available in 2-rail versions.

    Attached Files:

  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Oracle9: see if you can get into the Toronto O gauge club layout. They are down in the King and Dufferin are, on what used to be Hanna Ave. They often have open houses. The other big layout to see is Aberfoyle Junction. Check their web site for open houses (located near Guelph).
    For a real variety, there's the Doubleheaders home layout tour in Waterloo-Wellington counties.
  6. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Oracle: Real life standard gauge is 4 feet 8 and 1/2 inches. The O scale standard gauge track scales out to 5 feet even. As you can see, that's a difference of 3 1/2 inches. It isn't too noticable but you know how us accuracy freaks are. Consequently, The Proto 48 folks came into being and have established standards that more nearly represent the 4 foot 8 and 1/2 inch track width.
    The narrow gauge tracks that you mentioned are O scale versions of the various narrow gauge railroads. They are still O scale, 1/4 inch equals 1 foot. It just happened that HO scale track approximated 30 inch width track. Hence the On30 designation. The same for On3 (three foot narrow gauge). Don't know if the above info helps or adds more confusion.
  7. Oracle_9

    Oracle_9 New Member

    I am getting the notion that I should aim for proto48 then. :mrgreen:
    I really appreciate all the help I am getting here from all of you.
    Thank you.
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I've been looking at moving into Proto87 - which is wheels and track scaled exactly to HO scale. While HO doesn't have the gauge error problems that O does, there ended up being 2 show stoppers for me.

    Scale width wheel treads, while much better appearing (NMRA HO wheels are almost twice as wide as scale), require much closer to scale curve radii than are traditionally used. 18" radius curves and #4 turnouts in HO don't work with Proto87 wheels.

    Second is getting steam locomotive drivers. I don't have a lathe, so I can't turn my own. Only a very few drivers are made in Proto87. And the drive and side rods have to have their distance from centerline adjusted because the new wheels don't project as far.

    The same technical concerns are present in Proto48. Adapting any steam locomotives from O to Proto48 isn't going to be easy. In addition to finding/making/installing new wheels and drivers, the frame and cylinder chests have to be narrowed for the new track gauge.

    And the radius requirements increase. Based on Proto87 findings, you are not going to get away with less than 48" radius (96" diameter) in Proto48, and may well need bigger - much bigger for large steam or modern rolling stock.

    I would check out the Proto48 group, and ask lots of questions before committing to the concept. My hat is off to those who do Proto work - they are master modelers in my eyes. But as Harold Minkwitz said of his decision to use On30 instead of the more obscure scales/gauges he has tried, I probably don't have enough modeling years left in me to build everything that Proto87 requires, and I certainly would be very limited on what I could fit into my small space.

    my thoughts, your choices
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Way back when, before I was born,even, there were 3 variations on North American O gauge. 1/4" scale on 1 1/4" track, 1/4" scale on 1 3/16" track, and 17/64" scale on 1 1/4" track.
    Lionel claimed 1 1/4" gauge, but measured to the middle of the rails. Their scale was somewhat rubber.
    Britain used 7mm scale, but I forget the gauge.
  10. Chief Eagles

    Chief Eagles Active Member

    Whatever O gauge you want to PLAY with. :thumb:

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