O Scale Model Trains –Take Another Look

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When toy trains were first introduced in the early part of the 20th century the 3 rail O scale model trains were king. Originally manufactured as toys for kids they were a staple around the Christmas tree in December and easily pulled out from under the bed and set up in the playroom or bed room the rest of the year. The original model train sets were simple ovals or circles, were large enough for kids to handle, and were sold as toys, not for scale modeling.

When adults started to take interest in trains as a hobby, big inEnglandfirst, the O scale lent itself to easy model making but to have a large permanent layout was next to impossible. The O scale model trains were just too big. Most new houses inAmericaat the time wereCapeCods, and unless you wanted to devote the entire basement or the 3rd floor to model railroading, the large scale layouts were impractical. Then along came the HO scale.

When the HO scale was introduced with its 2 rail track system, the hobby became a viable option again for large realistic layouts. Being only 1/187 in scale an entire HO town could be set up in miniature on a table or a 4 x 8 platform with plenty of room for detailed landscapes and buildings. The O scale was relegated back to being made for toy trains again, not model railroading.

Let’s jump forward to the 90′s when bigger houses were sprouting up every day and basements and spare rooms were now large enough to accommodate realistic O scale model trains and buildings. With Atlas and MTH supplying the parts, O scale, with it’s blackened center rail or new 2 rail tracks, could be taken seriously as a viable option to model railroad with. If you haven’t seen the new trains; you really should take a look as they are light years away from the toy trains you played with as a kid.

I think some of the current appeal for O scale trains is the memories we have from childhood of playing with those 3railed oval tracks, which were easy to replace after a derailment, something kid’s hands just struggle with in HO scale, let alone N scale or Z scale. The appeal of O scale to me is partly that and partly something else.

When you’re trying to build scale models for backgrounds in the smaller scales, it becomes difficult to provide a lot of detail on the pieces without muddying them up. It’s also hard to maintain proper scale across your entire layout when you wish to hand make smaller detailed items like buckets, a stack of logs for the fire, or some outdoor furniture. The small detailed components for items that have handles or hinges, or knobs simply can’t be made well in the smaller scales. This is why I love O scale modeling. With it’s 1/4 inch equals 1 foot scale it becomes easy add all kinds of details and props to your layouts.

The most realistic building models I’ve seen have all been done in O scale. A multitude of intricate details added to them created scenes that when photographed can barely be distinguished from real life. That’s what model railroading is really all about for most of us anyways. The trains become secondary to the scenery and buildings, and O scale allows you to have the best of both. Take another look at O scale model trains, you may be surprised at what you find.