More accurately, the scales are changing. I’ve made the decision to switch scales from O P48 to S scale P64 standards. A somewhat quick decision, but one we’re going to roll with.
I blame Lionel Strang and the Modeler’s Life crew for this change, specifically the episodes featuring Robert Fraschella and Mike Ostertag. The talk of S being the “perfect scale”, plus some folks I respect and who model the modern era that I’m interested in, got my attention and started my brain going on the possibilities. Not to mention the enabler of enablers, Trevor Marshall, who connected me with the local S scale community. And I haven’t even picked up Model Railroad Planning 2022, which features an article expounding on the potential of today’s S scale.
In no particular order of influence, the following all played a role in my decision to try something new:
- O scale is big, I mean really big. It’s almost overwhelming looking at the models in terms of the physical presence. Sometimes that’s an advantage in conveying the feel of real railroading, particularly when combined with deep bass from a Tang Band speaker. Other times that size is too much for my basement.
- That size makes it difficult to 3D print freight cars. I would have had to upgrade to a really large, expensive new 3D printer to try to get the freight car sides or whole cars that I wanted, whereas for S scale cars and locomotives I can move to a medium-sized, more affordable printer.
- The basic building blocks are the same as in O scale. There is a small, very basic selection of quality, modern-era locomotives and freight cars available from suppliers such as S Scale America (Des Plaines Hobbies) and American Models. But just as I figured when working in O, I was planning on designing and building the majority of the diesels and freight cars I would need on my own, which is now somewhat easier in S (see previous point).
- Just as in O scale, perhaps even more so, there is a small cadre of talented S scale modelers within driving distance of my home who are proving themselves to be very generous in sharing their time and experience with me as I get started on this journey.
- S scale really is the perfect size. It’s big enough that my aging eyes and fingers can still manipulate and appreciate the details, but it’s just small enough to allow for a better scenery to track ratio, or to fit in more of the particular prototype railway that I am modeling for my given space. And I think I can still fit in those awesome Tang Band speakers!
- I derived much pleasure in the level of detail that I could model P48 track, and I believe that P64 is large enough to still allow me this joy. I can use code 83 cast frogs from Details West, readily available Micro Engineering rail, and 3D print or laser cut/engrave all the tieplates and joint bars, etc. that bring the track model to the level I want.
- S scale locomotives and freight cars are very reasonably priced relative to O scale. Rather than having to pay close to $90 USD for Atlas O cars and then still have to spend almost the same amount in Protocraft couplers and P48 trucks/wheelsets, I can get Athearn-level freight cars for $40-$60 and install Northwest Short Line P64 wheelsets and Kadee couplers for less than $20. American Models diesels are right around $249 USD; that’s a very reasonable starting point!
So there we go, a new adventure awaits. A gorgeous Red Caboose GP9 and Atlas SW1200rs will remain in my O scale stable, perhaps on an Inglenook module to take to shows, mostly because nothing beats the sound emanating from those Tang Band speakers (can you tell I love them?). It’s as close as I’ve come in a basement to standing beside a real locomotive.
And my fledgling collection of S scale diesels and cars will soon be operating on a new version of the Guelph Spur. Or will it be OSR’s Ingersoll-Tillsonburg line? Or the Brandywine Valley RR? A new scale opens up potential for a new prototype. Stay tuned!