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ShareThisAfter being in HO and N scale model railroad for nearly 40 years (off and on of course since I was 5) I decided to go a different route. What I have in place will be the lower level and my plan is to put in a small yard and some industrial trackage. I went to a larger scale back in 2000, but now for some odd reason I am back in  HO although I still run my On30 and O scale.
I may start up a blog and offer to share information on S with anyone considering a new scale. I know that in Japan the most popular scale is N and what is catching on is Z, but that is a different animal.
I have to say that S scale never occurred to me until after I bought into a bunch of O equipment. The Clean Machine all brass tank type track cleaning car beats all others in the "white glove" test. We promise to never spam you, and just use your email address to identify you as a valid customer. We'll also give you basic information on modeling in 2-rail O scale, from planning and designing a layout, to building a layout, to acquiring and building your own models.
Speaking of 3-rail, most of the early O scale layouts used 3-rail track with the center rail removed and a third rail added on the outside of the two running rails.
One often cited reason for modeling 2-rail O scale is that modelers like the size and heft of O scale models. One excellent source of information is the O Scale Kings organization, the producer of this primer, which was founded in June 1999 to promote 2-rail O scale model railroading.
The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) can also be helpful although this is a general organization that includes modelers in all scales. Two of the best information sources are the following magazines devoted exclusively to 2-rail O scale.
Freight cars - before 1990, only a few scale plastic freight cars were available on the market. Diesel locomotives - before 1990, there were 3 plastic diesels available in 2-rail O scale on the market.
Steam locomotives - before 1990, the choices for steam locomotives were either expensive brass models or kits that were NOT entry-level offerings. Changing to O scale from another scale is another story since probably nothing from the old layout can be converted, so it would involve purchasing new locomotives, rolling stock, structures, etc. The space available will also play a role in your decision about what type of railroad you can model. The basis for all good trackwork is the roadbed, and for 2-rail O scale this is no different from other scales or hi-rail. Track sections are also available with different rail sizes such as code 148, code 125, etc.
Maintenance is an important and a must ritual for all model railroaders regardless of scale, layout size, tinplate or scale, 2-rail or 3-rail, etc.. One of the facts of life is that there is never enough time to do everything one wants, and this is true of model railroading. Basic Model Railroad Benchwork: The Complete Photo Guide, Jeff Wilson, 2002, Kalmbach Publishing Co. This outside third rail carried one side of the power to the trains and was mounted on raised insulators so the track looked much like the track of prototype electrified railroads that do not use an overhead wire system for power distribution. O scale provides the modeler the capability to build a layout inside and protected from the elements. Now you can really see 2-rail O scale in its element, learn more about what models are commercially available, and get an idea of the price range of different models.
Regardless of scale, one of the first considerations is space and how much of it you have for your creation.
For example, if your space is limited, then obviously you can't model the mainline of a railroad like the New York Central, so you might consider a narrow gauge or a trolley layout. Companies such as Right-O'-Way manufacture just about every kind of prototypical model track components, so a modeler can reproduce an extremely realistic track with two tie plates and four spikes for every tie, with rail joiners every 39 feet just like the prototype. This is even more important in the smaller scales, so O scale has an advantage in that it can tolerate imperfections in trackwork better than the smaller scales.
The weight of the locomotives provide better contact between the wheels and the rails, so stalling is minimized. Model railroad magazines and your local hobby shop are good sources for additional material. O scale models have a presence so that one doesn't need binoculars to see them clearly as they traverse around the layout.
The advantage here is that this is a large organization, and you have a greater chance of finding an O scaler locally to help you in your quest. Here you can find just about everything ever made in O scale, including long out-of-production items as well as the latest hot-off-the-production-line models.
The quantity of products manufactured in 2-rail O scale in the last 15 years has been incredible. Contrary to what you may have heard that O scale is a lot more expensive than say HO scale, that is a misconception. Modelers in other scales are already aware of this, so the same methods can be used for 2-rail O scale. Those in tinplate or hi-rail usually use AC power sources, so for those folks, some of their electrical components cannot be used when they switch over to 2-rail O scale. We also have turnouts and flexible sections of track from many manufacturers as well as highly detailed track parts such as frogs, points, rail joiners, tie plates, etc. As a little research will show, there is a part of every railroad which is adaptable to any possible space which an O scaler may have available, from a small switching operation of an offline industry to a large passenger mainline. This usually involves using familiar materials for the roadbed such as Homasote, cork, foam, etc., which are already used in other scales. Many O scalers have hand-laid their track using wood ties, scale-section rail, track parts, spikes, and ballast to create beautiful trackwork. O scale models are about twice the size of HO-scale models and about eight times the volume, but that doesn't mean O-scale models are going to cost twice to eight times as much as HO models. In radio control, each locomotive has a receiver, and therefore it can be individually controlled, independent of other locomotives. For example, a plastic diesel locomotive will cost anywhere from about $150 to $300 or more while an all metal (including some brass) locomotive can cost around $300 and up. Most brass locomotives will cost more depending on the level of detail, all the way up to ultra-detailed museum-quality models.
A more common cleaning method is to use abrasive track cleaning blocks on the rails, but this method has drawbacks because not only does it wear away the rails, it also leaves scratches on the tops of the rails which are good traps for accumulating dirt and grit.
In addition, the larger size of O scale compared to say HO means that less equipment is needed to fill a same sized layout, so it's possible that an O-scale layout could end up costing less than a smaller scale layout.


Walthers does not?recommend?operating model train scale, in this vehicles developed nearly as quick as the. The functions, themes, tracks as well as the a lot of critical issues modeller's Forum for some a lot.
I am a model railroader from the UK, i model UK O scale but wanted to make a portable layout but of a US prototype. Time for the ground work to start and also some shots of the Coal Yard area developement, there was lots of discussion about getting this looking right. Thanks Mike, i came across the Pond to the O Scale March Meet in Chicago this year and i think theres a myth that you need lots of space for O. I was able to get a bunch from Petersen's Supply that were in the Yellow paint scheme as these were produced for Petersen's by Atlas O. I just feel that too many folks jump from the smaller scales to a larger scale due to diminished eyesight (been there!) and fail to consider S scale.
But I believe most people do that because when it comes to scale we are always thinking of the one that are most in demand, N, HO then they jump to O scale or even G . In my opinion, I think the time will come that N Scale will be the most popular scale for that particular reason. But the Hobbyist is looking more and more to have the most railroad in the least amount of space. Although O scale is in the minority now, this was not the case in the early days of model railroading. Early scale models would look crude compared to modern offerings, whether they were commercial or scratch-built, although there were notable exceptions. Another common justification for modeling in O scale is that details on O scale models are larger and easier to see than on smaller scale models. All these fine magazines cover the many areas that other model railroad magazines include in their pages, but here the emphasis is strictly on items of interest to the 2-rail O scale enthusiast - no 3-rail articles or other scales in these pages. Detail parts - before 1990, few companies produced add-on details for locomotives, buildings, and accessories, and even fewer hobby shops stocked them. As for layouts, those in 3-rail O scale with scale-type 3-rail track and large radius curves are in the fortunate position of being able to change over to 2-rail with a minimum of effort.
Now you need to decide if your railroad will follow a certain prototype or be freelance, and that will determine the type and lettering of your equipment. For those changing over from other scales who are already familiar with trackwork, tackling O-scale trackwork should be a snap since, except for size, there should be no difference in the methods of laying track.
There used to be an old joke that O-scale layouts had lots of neat-looking locomotives and rolling stock but was challenged when it came to scenery, or rather the lack of it. One advantage of O scale is that because of heavier locomotives, dirty track is less of a problem compared to the smaller scales. Even though there is a large variety of 2-rail O-scale models on the market today, not every prototype locomotive, car, structure, etc., will be commercially produced, partly due to the small 2-rail O-scale market. We hope that by the time you finish reading this primer that question will be fully answered and your interest will be piqued enough to join us in this fascinating aspect of the model railroading hobby.
In 1952, however, a new phase began with the introduction of highly-detailed built-up O scale brass locomotives and cars that were imported from Japan by Max Gray.
Especially helpful are directories of hobby shops which stock O scale supplies, listings of O scale clubs and organizations, and schedules of shows and model train meets including the annual O Scale National Convention which is held every summer in different locations around the country.
The choices here are still limited, but at least one company is producing diecast 2-rail steam locomotives that cost far less than the brass alternatives. Many cars and locomotives in O scale come undecorated, which means that painting and lettering are necessary to finish the model to the road name and color of your choice. DC is the standard power source for 2-rail O-scale operation, so except for amperage ratings, electrical components used in other scales can be adapted for O scale.
Say you have a favorite unpainted brass locomotive, but your painting and lettering skills aren't up to the standards you want for that model.
We'll tell you something about the history of 2-rail O scale modeling and how it differs from other scales and from the toy trains most of us are familiar with when we were children. Any member would be happy to help you learn about 2-rail O scale and provide you with the benefit of his experience and knowledge. Visiting clubs and attending shows, meets, and conventions are ideal ways to find out just about everything you could possibly want to know about 2-rail O Scale. Because of the lower demand in O scale, brass was one of the only ways for O scalers to get a variety of equipment to operate or collect. As for locomotives, it may also be possible to purchase the 2-rail drivers to replace the 3-rail ones. Switches, or turnouts, have frog and guard rail castings with all the nut-and-bolt details just like the prototype, and rail braces and gauge plates to scale are also available to make very realistic turnouts. The only thing to add is that, owing to the weight of O-scale equipment compared to the smaller scales, more attention should be paid to maintenance, especially for trackwork, traction overhead wire systems, locomotives, and powered traction equipment.
It's true that you can spend a bundle of money on O scale, but that's also true for any scale. It's OK to reach over to pick up an HO-scale locomotive, but try picking up a 15-pound O-scale locomotive at arm's length without damaging the model or getting a hernia in the process. His layout designs are legendary, and examples of his work show up from time to time in the model railroad magazines. One plan that will work regardless of the amount of space is the point-to-point system as exemplified by the real railroads. And for those in traction, modeling in O scale allows building more accurate overhead construction with closer-to-prototype wire dimensions compared to smaller scales.
Trains proceed from one end of the line to the other end where locomotives are turned around to begin the return journey. The latest system, DCC, has even greater flexibility in that besides independent control of locomotives or traction equipment, it can also be used to operate other functions such as whistles, bells, lights, etc..
When I was brainstorming my layout in my bedroom I was really thinking doing N scale and I could've accomplished exactly what I wanted to do in N scale. In the meantime, HO scale gained in popularity, and soon after the end of World War II, O scale was no longer in the majority.
Larger scales such as G scale may allow even more added details; however, these scales require a considerably larger space to build a layout, perhaps even the use of a backyard which modelers may not have available. Another good information source is your local hobby shop if you're fortunate enough to have one who deals in 2-rail O scale equipment.
Brass - the brass industry has been a big part of O scale since the beginnings of imported models. Those in other scales would need to replace their entire layout, of course, although some of the benchwork could be salvaged for use in the new layout. One of the great masters of model railroad layout design was the late John Armstrong, and in planning your layout you can do no better than studying his layout designs for ideas and adaptations to your own planned empire. Hi-railers generally use sectional track, and these modelers can continue to use sectional track in 2-rail O scale.


Scenery is one part of model railroading that is common to all scales in that methods and materials are universally applicable, so model railroaders should already be familiar with making scenery.
Lubrication of O-scale locomotives and cars follow the same guidelines as for any other scale, but it is more important because the heavier weight of O-scale equipment will cause more wear and tear if there is not sufficient lubrication.
In short, we hope to supply you with enough tantalizing information to get you started in 2-rail O scale model railroading. The best answers come from those who are already in 2-rail O scale, whether they are old timers who started with it or are converts from 3-rail O scale or other scales. Besides imparting their own knowledge, they can recommend other sources such as how-to books on the subject or introduce you to customers who model in 2-rail O scale. This increased the number of models produced and in most cases lowered the price of O scale brass.
Benchwork must be sturdy enough to support the heaviest of the locomotives and the scenery that you will be using (more on benchwork in a later section). All model railroaders with layouts should be aware of this, so nothing revolutionary will be introduced here. A caveat, however - this primer targets people who already are acquainted with the model railroading hobby. All the manufacturers and importers will be glad to answer your questions and help you in your quest of 2-rail O scale modeling.
Today, you can find many O scale brass locomotives that are no more expensive than HO-scale locomotives. Some finicky modelers insist that locomotives and rolling stock adhere strictly to the prototype as to type, paint color, and lettering.
Another advantage for O scale is that the heavier locomotives make better contact with the track, so stalling due to circuit interruptions because of dirty track is less frequent than with the smaller scales. Derailments in O scale can be disastrous when heavy locomotives are involved, not only to the model but to the modeler as well. Locomotives were available as castings kits, partially machined kits, or fully machined kits and were priced accordingly. Thus it is possible, for example, to double-head different locomotives which otherwise would not run at the same speed at the same track voltage. In DCC, decoders are installed in each locomotive and are programmed by the operator to perform the various functions desired when the commands are sent out from the controller. The reason I did not do it was because it has been 20 years that I've been using DCC with sound and I was not pleased with the sound in N scale, otherwise my present layout would've been in N. If you are interested in learning more about the early history of O scale or model railroading in general, we suggest books such as 150 Years of Train Models by Harold Carstens or early issues of magazines such as Model Railroader, Model Craftsman (now known as Railroad Model Craftsman), and Miniature Railroading. We have mentioned O scale and O gauge, and now is a good time to expound on these terms since they are often erroneously used interchangeably. Last but not least, catalogs and brochures from the manufacturers and importers of 2-rail O scale models will provide all sorts of information about their products and O scale in general. As we've mentioned earlier, converting rolling stock from 3-rail O scale could be as simple as replacing trucks (or perhaps only the wheels) with their 2-rail counterparts and changing the couplers to scale couplers. For those who have already built layouts in other scales, benchwork for O-scale layouts should not be fundamentally different except that it should be robust enough to support the heavier weight of O-scale locomotives, some of which could weigh as much as ten pounds or more, such as large articulateds. This is another area where the same principles apply regardless of scale, unless one is in tinplate or hi-rail operation in which case some new learning is in order. As in all scales, screws, bolts, nuts and other fasteners should be checked periodically for tightness, especially on locomotives.
Indeed, model trains have been around since the middle of the nineteenth century, and it has been reported that one John Gwartzell was building O scale trains as early as 1894. O scale models look substantial rather than like something small enough to stick in one's pocket or that look like they can be easily broken. Perusing their literature can be a very rewarding and informative learning experience about the nuances of 2-rail O scale modeling. If the 3-rail track uses scale rails, then it could be as simple as removing the center third rail and replacing or modifying turnouts, crossings, and other components, so the entire layout can be easily transformed without a major overhaul. His designs, as well as completed layouts based on his designs, have appeared in model railroad magazine articles, and he has written books on the subject (two of them are listed in the appendix).
Manufacturing of O scale equipment began in the 1920s, and O scale was the predominant scale from the early 1930s until after World War II. There are many lubricants on the market today that are specially formulated for model railroad applications. A less common method is to use a metal polishing cream which not only cleans the rails but also polishes them and prevents rapid build-up of oxidation.
For those who were hi-railers (O scalers using 3-rail toy-train track), the obvious justification for 2-rail is realism. Another gauge is 32mm for the British O scale of 7mm to the foot [from whence came the HO (half O) scale of 3.5mm to the foot].
Now that you've gotten a handle on where to get information on 2-rail O scale, it's time to find out what 2-rail O scale is all about in terms of actually seeing and handling O-scale models for yourself, maybe for the first time.
Owing to the size of O scale, benchwork most likely will be of the open framework type with risers to support the base on which the roadbed and track are laid or to form the basic outline for scenery.
Basic control with standard DC power is straightforward, consisting of a rheostat to adjust voltage to control speed and a switch to change polarity to the rails to control direction of travel. At one time sectional track was available only in flexible sections that the modeler had to bend to the required radii, but there are now available curved track sections with fixed radii in 2-rail O scale.
You'll get information on how to begin, where to find equipment and supplies, what magazines cater specifically to 2-rail O scale, and, very important to everybody, how much it will cost. Traction equipment (freight and passenger) is in the same price range depending on the car or locomotive type, level of detail, finish, and whether powered or unpowered. We have given you some background on 2-rail O scale and made convincing arguments why you should model in this scale. If you're fortunate enough to have a local hobby shop that sells O scale equipment, that of course is the obvious choice of where to go to look over the equipment and see firsthand what is available.
So models should properly be called O scale models, not O gauge models, although toy trains using O gauge track are commonly called O gauge trains. One inescapable fact of O scale is that the size will limit the amount of track on your layout even if you have a huge basement, attic, or train room.
As we mentioned earlier, visiting clubs and attending shows, meets, and conventions are ideal ways to find out all about O scale equipment. You are also invited to join the organization not only to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow O scalers, but to help the organization with its vision to promote 2-rail O scale. The NMRA is an old organization, established in 1935, and set up the standards for all the scales so that equipment from any manufacturer will interchange with those from any other.



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