Before I get much farther let me define a few things as far as scale and notations are concerned for the gamers out there. HO, S and O (and for O scale I'm referring to American O Scale) refer to specific measuring scales; HO is 1/87, S is 1/64th, and O is 1/48th. Gauge refers to the distance between the rails and I'm going to use US standards here. For American Standard gauge the distance between the rails is 4' 8 1/2". Narrow gauge is anything narrower than this, in general there are two "common" narrow gauge sizes in the US; 36" or 3' (the most common form of narrow gauge in Colorado) between the rails and 24" or 2' (the most popular prototypes being the Maine two-footers) between the rails. There are others but these are the two, more or less, most common narrow gauge sizes. We notate this with the letter "n" followed by a number, like n3 for 3' narrow gauge and n2 for 2' narrow gauge. When you see a notation like this HOn3 we are talking about 3' narrow gauge in HO scale, if HO appears by itself then its always considered to be standard gauge. If you see two digits then the measurement is in inches so n30 denotes rails that are 30" or 2' 6" apart.
|A piece of S Scale flex track from Tomalco|
In the Lead Adventurers forum a number of people have turned to On30, which runs on HO Scale track which is readily available and not particularly expensive especially when compared to S and O scales. On30 is a rare type of narrow gauge but has a good selection of products because it is produced by a major model railroad manufacturer; Bachmann. Bachmann wanted to enter the narrow gauge field but wanted something that would run on their existing HO track so they turned to On30 but used 3' narrow gauge prototypes, the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) being one of them. They make a number of locomotives that are very appropriate to our time period (a 4-4-0 American, and a 2-6-0 Mogul) but they are on the expensive side. You will have to haunt eBay for a while in order to catch one at a good price. Despite O scale being much bigger scale wise than our miniatures the On30 looks pretty good with our miniatures, so why is that? Proportionately narrow gauge equipment is about 2/3rds the size of standard gauge equipment so while the scale is a bit large we discover that the proportions are much closer to our miniatures and make a really good match. There is a fair amount of equipment already available in On30 that fits our Wild West era much better than we find in S Scale.
My immediate thoughts are to take the On30 equipment and swap out the On30 scale trucks (wheels) for S Scale standard trucks, which is a pretty easy conversion. Proportionately this is about bang on for S Scale trucks because Bachmann uses a 3' narrow gauge prototype and really should be running on wider track than HO, S Scale track fits the bill. The difficulty will be with the locomotives, I can't just swap out trucks because we dealing with the drivers and the pony truck (and possibly a trailing truck as well) and there aren't going to be any direct swaps possible. I will have to go in and swap out the axles, which is not the easiest thing to do but certainly possible. Hopefully that will give me the best of both worlds, easily obtainable equipment running on the track that I consider to be proportionately correct for our 28mm miniature scale.
I already have an American Flyer Franklin 4-4-0 and some passenger and baggage cars to go along with it but I should be able to readily dispose of that on eBay and help finance the acquisition of some On30 equipment.
|The American Flyer Franklin 4-4-0 and Baggage Car from the Frontiersman set circa 1959-60.|
I had posed a question about conversions of other scales to S Scale standard on one of my railroad forums. In between the usual Christmas railroad set conversions (which work just fine, just not to my taste) was reference to a website for something called 55n3. Essentially he follows my own argument about scale versus proportion. Its a very interesting website with a lot of helpful information and if you are interested in the railroad side of things its worth checking out: 55n3
So that's where the railroad for Calamity is headed. Incidentally I found out that the Bachmann 2-6-0 Mogul (In the Bumblebee paint scheme. Incidentally this paint scheme is incorrect for our Wild West period, it wasn't introduced until 1949) is very close to the #1 Engine on the Colorado and Northwestern, the railroad I want to model. So the Colorado history is now subject to my whims and since the location of the town of Calamity itself is somewhat vague I think I may letter the Calamity railroad as the Colorado and Northwestern, time will tell.
|Bachmann 4-4-0 American in On30|