Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What Scale to Use?

Now that I have a plan in mind as to where to start, I now must pick a scale to model the space in.  The two main scales worth consideration, given that this will be an indoor, traveling layout, is N scale and HO scale.  S scale or O scale could be done, but both are simply too large to fit a decent layout inside of a sedan.

Equipment-wise, there is no shortage of choice for either N or HO scale.  In HO scale, Athearn and Broadway Limited have made SW1500's and Micro Trains does the same for N scale.  Detail is excellent for these models when looking at photos.  Really, it all comes down to the size:

At 1300 feet long, the industrial park is compact. To model the park accurately in N scale, the display would have to be 8 foot, 2 inches in length and around 2 feet wide for clearances.  In HO scale, the dimensions would be 15 feet in length and about 3.5 feet in width.

N scale has a huge size advantage. Being able to accurately model the entire park in a reasonable amount of space is a big plus worth considering.  But HO scale has more detail (important for train shows) and there is more variety and "choice".  Plus, the models can have more realism.  And thus comes the great question every modeler must consider when choosing a scale to model in, "Do I pick a larger scale for realistic details, or a smaller scale for prototypical distances?"

In my case, I would place more value on the details, running reliability, and the ability for people to see the models.  I did a small N scale layout a couple years ago for a train show.  It was a nice layout that the kids loved (it was at their level, and no I had no problems with little hands breaking things, kids tend to be well behaved, or more so than some adults!).  But let's be honest, people want to see details, and most people just can't see that much detail in N scale.

That means, unfortunately, that I need to do some compressing of the scene.  If someone can fit a 15x3.5 foot layout in a sedan, kudos to them.  I'm not that talented though, so time to see what I can do.

My trunk measures 42" between the fenders and is 14 inches high.  Front to back, I've got a full 44" to work with.  I could fit 20x40 inch modules inside the car no problem, as many as 4 in the trunk if the buildings are removable.  In addition, another two could fit in the back seat, so I have a total of six 20x40 inch modules to work with for a layout.  That's not quite the 15 feet, but it does give me a 40 inch by 120 inch (10 feet) or something similar, so plenty of space to reasonably model the Glacier Rail Park in HO scale.

Oh yes, and for a comparison, here is N scale:

1x4 micro layout that was never completed, Kato NW2.

And HO scale:

Harry Brunk's HOn3 Colorado and Southern Layout, Cheyenne Depot Museum, WY
 As you can see, N scale detail is good, actually quite amazing given the size.  To read the fine print on some of the equipment, I have to use a magnifying glass.  For photography, N scale works.  But those HO scale models are big enough for the eyes to see!  Harry Brunk's Amazing layout is a fine example.

So it's settled then (and truth be told I've been thinking about this for several days now) HO scale will be the chosen scale to use for this layout.  Additionally, I can operate this equipment with several local clubs and other layouts, no use being a social outsider.


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