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Which scale offers the most resources?

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  • Which scale offers the most resources?

    Just recently moved and have been looking at the boxes of my previous layouts but haven't had the desire to start putting that together. Instead I have been thinking about doing something a little bit different.

    What I would like to do is build a bunch of small layouts (more or less static) that are roughly 1 - 1 1/2 feet deep and around 3 feet wide. Some of these will focus on a specific spot and through several different versions of it move it from the late 1800s to the present day.

    For example, the first might show dirt roads and a brick warehouse underconstruction being served by steam locomotives, horses and the like. The second shelf is the same warehouse built and in use with early autos and what not. The third shelf shows the warehouse closed down - a bit skid row like with cars from the 1970s and early 1980s. The final one shows the warehouse revamped into trendy lofts with a roof top deck - perhaps with a Pullman car converted into a coffee shop on the now defunct tracks.

    That is the general idea of what I am thinking of. The problem that I have though is that I can't really hammer down a scale to work in.

    My previous layouts have been HO, and while it offers a lot of advantages for doing larger layouts - I think the larger scales would be more suited since viewers will be able to focus more closely at the details.

    I am leaning towards O however, that has its own problems (which O to go with - 43, 45, 48 or 50). 1:48 would allow access to stuff from the static model crowds. 1:43 or 1:50 provides a lot of diecast (albeit much is badly scaled). 1:45 would allow a bit of fudging up or down without it being too glaringly wrong.

    S has advantages as well. There are a lot of vehicles in 1:64 for really cheap (granted you have to sort through the ones which are not). You also have figures from a variety of sources. Modern locos are a bit more problematic though - however since they don't have to run, even that isn't too much of a problem.

    The larger scales, while interesting would limit my focus too much I think. I want to be able to keep things scaled accurately, and would also like to have the ability to have a handful of structures in each scene.

    So - which scale do you think would work best? I am looking forward to scratch building the structures and detailing them out, I enjoy building rail cars and locos from scratch as well. My main concerns are figures and vehicles. If I have something that is close to what I need - I can work with that. However, I am cringing at the thought of needing to make a half dozen modern cars with all their curves for a layout (or paying $50+ for an expensive diecast model)

  • #2
    Sean, From the limits you state, I would think that it HAS to be HO or O (1/48).

    Those are the two that offer all the details you want to use and not have to make.

    By that I mean autos, windows, doors, figures, and all the small details that you will need.

    I work in 1/24 scale and love it but I do have to make just about everything. However, that

    is what I like to do.




    • #3
      Sean, since you enjoy scratch building rolling stock and locos, you might want to consider On30. O-Scale buildings and diminutive locos and rolling stock.

      Having said that, I have similar interests and model in HO and HOn3.

      Which ever way you go, you might consider making your modules conform to one of the modular layout standards so that you could 'go modular' some time down the road.

      There are plenty of guys here on the forum who could help with those modular standards.


      • #4
        In 3 foot you can't do much in O (1/48) and if you want to go into modern day with your dioramas then that kind of rules out narrow gauge so I would go with HO standard gauge. It has virtually everything you are looking for and at a fraction of the price of O.


        • #5
          Welcome to the crew. The key work was Modern. Unless you want to model narrow gauge in some other country, standard gauge HO seems the only realistic choice.

          I'd second the idea of using some sort of standard module.

          You might want to reconsider your concept slightly. By keeping the track the same, you can 'time machine' with changable structure and detail units, then, with train cassettes, you could build a three levle railroad that you could use, especially if you could gain a little extra width. Iain Rics shos how to do this in his book on Small Railroad plans.


          • #6
            Welcome to the forum.

            Wonderful question, and I'm sure that you will get a lot of answers to throw into your 'pot of consideration', but for what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

            First, there is another option which you may want to consider, and that is the option provided by Schoolmaster. Build a single highly detailed overall scene and then use different structures/modifications to structures and rolling stock to show the various time periods. This has the advantage of being smaller if storage space if limited. You can store your other structures/rolling stock under the scene frame. Second, it reduces the scenery requirements of trying to duplicate multiple scenes with the same basic ground contours, tree plantings, etc. Another plus is that you may be able to go to a larger overall 'shadow box' for your scene since you will not have multiple scenes of the same thing, thereby allowing a small switching layout for the few times you may want to 'run' the trains. Think along the lines of the timesaver puzzle for a trackplan, but you can make modifications to the trackplan by adding length and distance between the tracks. Another positive is that a single scene will allow you to focus/spend more building time on the structures/rolling stock. The downside is that some items, like stop signs, may need to come out or go into the scene to represent the various time periods.

            Second thought: If you do want to stay with multiple modules of the same scene, I would also recommend that you establish some sort of standard so that you may connect the scenes as you complete them to run trains through the various scenes. I really concur with what others have said about going modular. I actually belong to a modular club, and if you check around in your area, you may very well find a modular club which would allow you to 'show' some of your scenes within a larger overall unit at meets/shows and public displays. In addition, you will have some help in learning some of the "in's and out's" of modular displays. Dependent on what the scale the club may model in, this could settle the overall issue for you. That is, unless you get into a modular club like mine where they have two sets of displays, one in HO and the other in O scale...

            Third thought is about actually working in the scales. Both scales (1:48 and 1:87) have lots of detail parts available, so either scale would work. If you are going to really focus on doing highly detailed structures etc, then I would suggest going to the larger scale. But a word of caution... just because it is a larger scale does not mean that it is easier to model in. In reality, the larger scales are actually more difficult to model as the ability to hide errors, etc., is actually much more limited and things like weathering become a much larger factor. If you are still not sure what scale you want to work in, then I strongly suggest doing a small craftsman kit in the larger scale to get a feel for what it is like working in a scale different from HO. There is a huge difference, and the only way to get a understanding of the difference is to experience it. I suspect that even if you find yourself going back to HO, you will find that the time spend working in a different scale was more than worth your time, and you will not have any regrets about taking a few months to 'test the waters' in a larger scale.

            Finally, I agree with you that you may want to avoid "S" scale. As you stated, it is a scratch builders scale to a large extent. To me, the folks who work in "S" scale are special artists, as I have never, and I mean never, seen or heard of a poorly done "S" scale layout. The folks who work in this scale are amazing and have a special dedication to the hobby.

            I would not worry too much about vehicles in either scale. With a bit of searching, and maybe some modifications, you will be able to generate all of the vehicles you want in either HO or O scale. You may want to focus a bit more on which scale you enjoy working in, as that is really going to be 'your life at the model bench'.

            Hope I did not throw out to much here and 'muddy' the waters too much.
            -- KP --

            Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.


            • #7
              My previous layout was a 3 level HO with broad and narrow gauge features depending on what the specific industries being served (mining and lumber on the resources side with paper, lumber and foundries on the production side of things) were and around 200 feet of frontage (probably 500 feet of track). It sort of did the time machine thing using helix ramps at the end to go between levels. It spans probably 60 years or so of railroad technology - but it doesn't really allow the focus. Of course there is the issue of a whole lot of boxes which I am in no hurry to open up (partly in that I don't want to see any damage done to what was packed up...partly because I have done it and I don't have the motivation to try and do it again just yet). I will get around to it again eventually - just I would like to do some modeling before that.

              So - the smaller shelf layouts are less about necessity and more about desire. It lets my ADD raddled mind bite hold of something to give it a go and get it done pretty quickly. I've got a wall in my office that is 16 feet long or so which will be mostly empty and I should be able to fit in a dozen or so of these smaller projects on that wall.

              Anyway - I think O is likely the way to go, though I will need to do the research on the specific products and suppliers available in the various O scales. It is pretty easy to find "O" gauge vehicles - but from what I have seen so far it is much more difficult to find proper scaled vehicles in any of the O scales (VW Bettles that are the size of Chevy Suburbans and the other issues which plague matchbox type cars).


              • #8
                Given the space you outlined O scale seems too large. This O scale structure I am in the process of building

                The central track ends at a bumper on the dock edge.

                is 32" long and 10" wide, almost as long, and more than half the width of your space.

                The area you described is only 72 feet by 144 feet in O scale.


                • #9
                  O scalers are compensating for something...

                  John Kerekes

                  Graduate, summa cum laude

                  Armchair Model Railroad Institute