Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Monday, April 1, 2013

S Scale Vs On30 for Calamity

I purchased a single Spectrum Passenger Car from Bachmann from their On30 line to compare against the American Flyer S Scale equipment that I already have on hand. Based on what I have heard from a couple of sources the old American Flyer S Scale stuff may be a little on the large size.

So is that really true or not? Remember what I'm really looking for here are proportions. In this context my O Scale passenger car is close to the same height and width as the S Scale passenger car. The biggest difference is length which is basically irrelevant within the context of the game. Now the reason that the Standard gauge S Scale car is as big as the Narrow gauge O Scale car is that proportionately the Narrow gauge car is about 2/3rds the size of a Standard gauge car. So proportionately the physical size is just about perfect for what I'm trying to accomplish which is to have something that looks and feels right with the western miniatures that I have. If you compare the doors at the end of the cars though you can see that the O Scale door is very tall compared to our miniatures. So within that context you can see that O Scale (or 1/48) really is just to big. The door on the S Scale car is much closer to what I want to see. So really its a toss up. Either of these will work for my purpose.
American Flyer S Scale Passenger Car

Bachmann/Spectrum O Scale Passenger Car (On30)
Citizens of Calamity admire the Bachmann Spectrum Car. It comes completes with lights and seats.
Some Citizens in front of the Spectrum On30 Passenger Car. From left to right; Foundry, Foundry, Black Scorpion, Dixon, Dixon, Foundry, Dixon, Reaper, Black Scorpion, Black Scorpion

Some Citizens in front of the American Flyer S Passenger Car. From left to right; Foundry, Foundry, Black Scorpion, Dixon, Dixon, Foundry, Dixon, Reaper, Black Scorpion, Black Scorpion

Close Up w/ the American Flyer S Passenger Car

Close Up w/ the Spectrum On30 Passenger Car
The next question to deal with is do I want a standard gauge train with its larger rails (and larger footprint on the board) or will I be happy with a narrow gauge train? In both instances when we look at the track they have the right feel for what they are representing, namely standard gauge track and narrow gauge track within the context of 28mm miniatures.  I really like how the S Scale track looks against the miniatures and not quite so happy with how the HO Scale track looks. If the rail size for the HO track was larger I would be happier. The HO track you see in the photo is from Micro Engineering and its their Code 83 track which represents mainline track in HO Scale and it is what I use for the LA Warehouse District (the Patch) layout. Code 100 HO track is also readily available so that's a small quibble at best. The S track from Tomalco is just about perfect.

So there are two components to making the decision between continuing on with standard gauge S Scale or going with narrow gauge O Scale. I know that proportionately narrow gauge O Scale is good choice. The look and feel is right no matter which way I go. The availability of equipment is becoming a huge issue. While I basically have complete passenger train in S Scale right now (I would like to pick up at least one more passenger car) every car for a freight train would have to be scratch built. I can buy trucks (wheels) and couplers but the resources are definitely limited. There would actually be more available if I went Sn3 but that is expensive and again the number of manufacturers is very limited. I could probably forget about buying a steam locomotive for the train, I would have to scratch build and that is something that I definitely have not done before. In the On30 world there is quite a bit available from a multitude of small manufacturers plus the support from a big manufacturer that puts out cars and locomotives on a regular basis. Just scrolling through eBay show literally hundreds of items available for On30. The item that seems to be missing from eBay is the standard American box car (goods car to those readers in the UK). I'm not contemplating a big train at this point so the amount of stuff I need is relatively limited.

My other option is to buy On30 equipment and swap out the trucks for S Scale standard trucks, which would look just fine visually. The issue there (which I talked about in a previous post) is that I would have to replace the axles on the locomotives. Its not an impossible task by any means but it isn't the easiest thing to do either.

I guess I'm swinging over to using the On30 trains with the HO track, although I still prefer the look of the S Scale equipment. The availability of equipment at, somewhat, reasonable prices is huge. Plus I will actually have choices for locomotives. The final nail in the coffin, so to speak, is that I don't want to spend time scratch building freight cars that could be used on Calamity itself and S Scale will require me to do that. While I want the railroad to look like it belongs as part of the town I don't want it to become an overwhelming time sink which its more than capable of becoming (I'm already fighting the urge to add a couple of turnouts so some of Calamity can have rail served businesses). I already have my LA Warehouse District layout to eat time when I need something else to occupy my hands (and I do intend to get back to it, it has sat somewhat forlorn for over a year now).

I haven't spent anytime working on Calamity at the moment, my efforts are pretty dedicated to getting my ReaperCon entry finished. I had a setback today and I'm stripping down some miniatures back to bare pewter. The 4x4 is coming along pretty well. I hope to finish that tomorrow, I have followed my own advice and I have really cut down the number of figures that will be involved, I'm vacillating between 3 and 4 figures at this point which is down from 8 or so. In dioramas less is definitely more.

I hope everyone has a good week, I'm not sure I'll have a post this week or not.


  1. They both look pretty cool to me. Not really sure which one I'd pick???

    1. At this point I'm leaning heavily towards the On30 equipment. I can just get the equipment a lot easier for that and I'll have a reasonable choice of locomotives. The other consideration that is pushing me this way is going ahead and building my turn of the century model railroad (Colorado and Northwestern) layout in On30 instead of HO. I would leave the modern "Patch" layout in HO though. It would allow me to sell off the steam locomotives and cars for the other layout to help finance the On30. So that's a big plus on the pro On30 column.

  2. It's a little bit too technical for me!
    but I'm sure that you will do the best choice !

    1. That's what happens when you try and combine two hobbies! I pretty much decided on On30 at this point just being the best choice.

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  4. some years have passed, how did it go?

    1. Sorry for the late reply, the holidays were busy and stressful! I would say that choosing On30 was a good choice. It fits in better with the miniatures and its easier to get a hold of than S Scale equipment for that time period. That being said both 4Ground and Sarissa now have trains available for the wild west.