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Beginner advice----HO vs O gauge

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Beginner advice----HO vs O gauge
Posted by Hardcash on Sunday, February 08, 2009 6:12 AM

I am 64 and have an renewed interest in Model Railing after 55 years when I had Lionel O gauge. 

My wife and I are into Cowboy Action Shooting and we think it would be fun to have a Model Train with a layout using the Old West. 

What are the Pros and Cons of HO and O gauge?

Which gauge is the most popular and the most versatile?

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Posted by ken_23434 on Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:17 AM

I think you have identified the two that are the most common.

HO stands for half-O Scale.  So, one of the "biggest" advantages of HO, is that it only takes half as much room.  So, you will get a lot more action, scenery, etc with a given amount of space if you do HO instead of O-Scale.  Generally, O-Scale is more expensive than HO.  Once again, cause it is bigger.  As far as realism, I think HO has more scale offerings.

Lionel holds it value really well.  Just look at some of the Ebay adds with old locos and such.  Plus, if you wife is into Dept56 or similar size ceramic houses, then you could combine your hobbies.  The 3rd rail for O-Scale makes wiring a little easier when it comes to reversing loops or wyes.

The best information on the Lionel or other O-Scale trains would come from the "Classic Trains" or the "Toy Train" sections of the forums.  Not trying to insult the O-Scale trains, but those are the 2 magazines that cover them, so you will find a lot more discussion on them there.

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Posted by grizlump9 on Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:28 AM

 don't buy into the thinking that O scale is more expensive than HO.  O scale equipment is 4 times the size as HO, therefor, you can only get 1/4 the amount of stuff in the same space.  even it it costs 4 times as much as HO, you won't spend any more money when you are done.

grizlump 

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Posted by ukguy on Sunday, February 08, 2009 7:59 AM

O scale does not necessarily mean a 3rd rail or more money, check out the bachman (and other) ON30 equipment, comparable prices to HO. Realism and detail are one advantage to O scale, it depends on your interest level, ie, HO has the most variety available where as O scale is more of a modelers scale, despite the size of the equipment you can produce a very nice O scale layout in a small space, plus its easier to work with due to the size.

HO is the most popular and 'commercially' versatile, however for a 'wild west' theme I would seriously consider O scale and some of the ON30 equipment.

Check out some of the threads here.......

http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=69

 Karl.A

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Posted by Hardcash on Sunday, February 08, 2009 8:12 AM

Hi UKguy,

Being new to the railroad jargon, what do you mean by the O scale is more of a 'modelers scale?? 

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Posted by ukguy on Sunday, February 08, 2009 8:45 AM

I guess what I mean is that HO has much more 'ready to use' stuff available that you can just buy and stick down to build a layout.

Building things and making them look realistic with weathering and higher levels of detail is 'easier' in O scale.

Modeling in high detail and with high realism can be done in HO (take a look at http://magnoliaroute.com/magnolia%20route.htm ) but O scale lends itself to going that extra step.

    

Thats kinda the way I think, if you want lots of trains, options and ready to roll stuff HO has it, if you like to build stuff and want lots of detail and realism go with O scale, but before you decide on either make sure you have a good look at whats available in both and what you really want to achieve and what others have done.

Karl.A

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Posted by hminky on Sunday, February 08, 2009 8:54 AM

 Try On30, it has the necessay equipment for the old west. It is O scale equipment running on HO track.

 

Visit:

http://www.pacificcoastairlinerr.com/on30/

Thank you if you visit

Harold

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Posted by selector on Sunday, February 08, 2009 9:42 AM

Hardcash, these fellows are giving you good ideas and advice if you were to ask me.  There are several factors to think about in terms of how enjoyable the final product is to you:

Availability

Visibility

Ease of handling

Overall costs

Quality and reliabilty

If your aim is pleasure, then you would want to invest a great deal in high quality and readily available items that complete your set-up, your layout.  But even so, you need to be able to manipulate them with your aging hands, and your aging eyes should be able to reveal them to you for several more years in all their glory.  Your goal is appreciation and fun, but if you can't handle or see what you want to enjoy, or if it has lots of mechanical issues, your enjoyment will suffer nearly catastrophically.

As we age, and as you must already know, we need more light to see.  If lighting increments will be problematic after a while, then give yourself a buffer at the outset with models that are easily seen.  That will necessarily be O gauge or O scale (they are not the same thing).  As Harold and others have suggested, you can get the best of both worlds by using HO track to run the scale equivalent of narrow gauge western engines such as on the Denver & Rio Grande Western or the Durango & Silverton...two of the most modeled roads there ever were.  For convenience you can run O scale engines on HO track.  My own Christmas train set is a Bachmann On30 set, meaning that it is a full-sized O scale engine that in real life was meant to operate on 30" gauge.  When we move from one scale to another in the model world, HO track fits the 30" narrow gauge requirement very nicely, if not completely accurately to scale...hence my use of the word "convenience".  We try to keep it simple.

I am only 56, and still enjoy and see my HO scale engines very much.  But if I read correctly, many others who have gone before me into later years say the time is likely to come when HO becomes very difficult to appreciate any more.  I hope it's not true, or if it is that I can delay it for several decades, but....................

I hope that helps a bit.

-Crandell

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, February 08, 2009 10:07 AM

If by the Old West you mean 1870's to 1880's there isn't much available in either scale.  A lot of the narrow gauge dates from around 1900 onward.  There is some standard gauge in HO.  If you have the room for it, some of Bachmann's Large Scale narrow gauge models (1:20.3 scale) date to that period, notably their 4-4-0 and 2-6-0.

It also depends on what you want to do with the models.  Do you want to build models or buy everything ready to run.  Is this basically a display layout where the trains provide some action in an Old West diorama or do you want to engage in operating the layout like the prototype did.

In general large scales favor building because the pieces are large. They also favor display running because the large trains have more "presence" as they run.  Smaller scales favor more of a scenic setting for the trains, longer trains and having more railroad - that is more towns, yards, etc - which helps make operating more interesting.

Enjoy

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by tangerine-jack on Sunday, February 08, 2009 11:41 AM

O is the hands down winner.   It's large, rugged, available, and way cooler than HO.  Don't buy into the "expensive" myth, it's a lie that O cost more.  You can buy O at close out sales, yard sales, 2nd hand shops etc.  O scale is bomb proof, if you drop it, if the dog grabs it and runs, it's OK, wipe it off and continue.  O scale is orders of magnitude easier to repair, it's bigger so it's easier to see, and you need fewer tools.  O scale you leave in your will to grandkids.  O scale takes up only slightly more room than HO, so no need to worry about that.

The Dixie D Short Line "Lux Lucet In Tenebris Nihil Igitur Mors Est Ad Nos 2001"

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Posted by markpierce on Sunday, February 08, 2009 11:49 AM

Hardcash

Which gauge is the most popular and the most versatile?

Now to respond to your questions directly without all the pontification and assuming you're talking about model (not toy) trains:  HO scale is about ten times more popular (number of modelers) and four times more versatile (takes about one-fourth the space and has four-plus-plus-plus more products available) than O scale.

Now, back to my cave to avoid thrown objects from minority scalers.

Mark

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Posted by New Haven I-5 on Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:27 PM

 

tangerine-jack

O is the hands down winner.   It's large, rugged, available, and way cooler than HO.  Don't buy into the "expensive" myth, it's a lie that O cost more.  You can buy O at close out sales, yard sales, 2nd hand shops etc.  O scale is bomb proof, if you drop it, if the dog grabs it and runs, it's OK, wipe it off and continue.  O scale is orders of magnitude easier to repair, it's bigger so it's easier to see, and you need fewer tools.  O scale you leave in your will to grandkids.  O scale takes up only slightly more room than HO, so no need to worry about that.

Opinion. Newer O scale isn't cheap. Lionel's fancy line is expensive. So is MTH's. Just do HO.

- Luke

Modeling the Southern Pacific in the 1960's-1980's

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Posted by Last Chance on Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:43 PM

O gauge is not cheap. Neither is HO scale.

I will enjoy HO scale for a few years yet in my home. I believe that HO scale offers the best oppertunity.

However, old style Lionel and similar O gauge are bullet proof and require more basic plan for the smaller space than does HO scale.

With that in mind, I may be moving up into O gauge with advancing years. I already have started the planning for a simple out and back track plan plus the rolling stock, engine and caboose necessary to make it happen. Train length will be 5 to 8 cars and a few more for staging.

In HO you can find yourself with dozens of engines and hundreds of rolling stock.

The real question comes down to availible budget. That shooting you like to do will probably see a bit of a slow down in ammo supply once you start buying stuff for trains.

Take care to avoid certain O gauge stuff that appear to be a bit... over done. I started off in O-27 and moved into O gauge via Lionel post war as a child and recently looked over the offerings availible in O gauge in two hobby shops. The pricing for O gauge will be more expensive than HO. The other issue is space. What I can do HO in that room, I would have to make a more simple plan that still operates in O gauge.

I doubt by then there will be too much trouble doing that in the future.

I think I avoid N scale because if I was to pick something up in N it will get crushed.

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Posted by ukguy on Sunday, February 08, 2009 2:10 PM

Maybe the older O scale stuff was 'bombproof' as has been stated above. Also be wary of the difference between O scale and O guage......

I certainly wouldnt want my dog picking up and running with the following items, yes O scale is bigger and sturdier but bachmans later offerings are loaded with detail and still delicate.

http://www.micromark.com/BACHMANN-SPECTRUM-148-SCALE-On30-NARROW-GAUGE-2-6-0-MOGUL-PAINTEDandUNLETTERED,6862.html

http://www.micromark.com/BACHMANN-SPECTRUM-148-SCALE-On30-NARROW-GAUGE-2-8-0-CONSOLATION-PAINTEDandUNLETTERED-BLACK-WandRED-and-W,6855.html

Check out micromark.com and others for sale prices, as above the baldwin is $136 and the mogul is $84, an On30 porter for around $50..... I really dont see how it is more expensive than HO and these prices can still be beaten. I know I for one would much rather put DCC and sound into an O SCALE loco than a HO one. (although of course there are options to buy the units already installed.)

Expense, space and time involved are all relative to what you want to achieve, until you are absolutely sure of that, read, investigate and learn everything you can before jumping in and making the all to familiar expensive mistakes.

Karl.A

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Posted by fwright on Monday, February 09, 2009 5:49 PM

I think the all-important question is how realistic/accurate/true to your chosen time period do you want to be?  Will it be Civil War era, or 1880s?  Or does it matter, as long as your models give an impression of the Old West, even though they be models of too recent prototypes?

In both scale O and HO, the suppliers of true 19th Century models tend to be very small firms that don't advertise in Model Railroader - but they do exist.  Some focus on Civil War era, others focus on later.  The Yahoo EarlyRail group is a great source of information.

SMR makes beautiful locomotives in scale O and O gauge, but at high prices.  In HO, the 19th Century models tend to have cheap drive mechanisms because of the price point of the models.  OTOH, there are many wood and resin car kits available in HO; not so many in O.  In HO, there is often difficulty in making good locomotive mechanisms and very fine scale details due to the tiny size of the prototypes when compared with the behemoths that came out in the 20th Century.

If you are willing to compromise, there is a fair amount of RTR HO equipment modeled after very early 20th Century.  And Lionel and MTH make some 3 rail locomotives and rolling stock - but again accuracy to 19th Century varies widely.

Which brings up the other benefit of the tiny size of the prototypes - 19th Century O can fit in nearly the same space as a 1950s (or later) HO layout.  Cars are half as long as their 1970s brethren.

Finally, as others have said, narrow gauge is an option.  Colorado narrow gauge got its start in the late 1870s.  But by 1900, narrow gauge was shriveling in the prototype world - although one would never know it from the model world, which focuses on 1920-1950 narrow gauge.  It's easier to build models of better documented later equipment for those fastidious narrow gaugers!

just my thoughts, your choices

Fred W

....modeling foggy coastal Oregon, where it's always 1900.....

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Posted by citylimits on Monday, February 09, 2009 7:03 PM

Hardcash

I am 64 and have an renewed interest in Model Railing after 55 years when I had Lionel O gauge. 

My wife and I are into Cowboy Action Shooting and we think it would be fun to have a Model Train with a layout using the Old West. 

What are the Pros and Cons of HO and O gauge?

Which gauge is the most popular and the most versatile?

Hello.

I model in HO because of the greater availability of items I can buy that are not only RTR, but also detail parts and kits of the type I want to feature on my layout.

This is just me thinking out loud, OK?

If I was starting out like you at 64 and with an already well developed involement in another hobby or interest that will influence or be part of model railroading, then I would opt for O.

Depending on where in the Ol' West you see your model railroad running there are some modeling advantages in choosing O or even narrow guage O. You have bigger models to use and I belive that this is important as we get older. There is a lot of information in books and magazines for you to reference regarding the very realistic level of detailing old style wooden buildings that charaterised what comes to my mind as being, the cowboy era Old West. Your trains will be be made-up of just a few cars and a caboose running behind a locomotive so available space using this larger scale my not be a hindering factor at all. If you model a desert terrain then your scenery will be a lot less "fussy" than if you modeled scenery that required old wooden trestle bridges and large rocky mountains. With a desert there can be some pretty dramatic scenes with in a scene such as a train or bank robbery or a gun fight in progress or some modeling opportinities around a water filling or fuel(wood) stop. Vegetation will not be abundent but can be interesting and well detailed

Authentic detailing opportunities are one of the reasons why, a few years back, many HO modelers, shifted to narrow guage O.  There are a couple of publications that support these folks in their modeling endevours. I am uncertain if this swing by some modelers to O was sustained or not, but many of these folks did produce detailed models that were absolutely stunning. There are several producers of O guage resin and wood kits such as Thomas York who offer a descent range of  buildings that would suit any Western era or location you may wish to model - it just depends on how you weather them to give the appearence of being old or just recently built.

Anyway, I hope there are some suggestions here that, along with what others have written, you may find helpful in making your guage and scale decisions.

With best wishes for a very happy and fullfilling modeling experienceSmile

 

Bruce

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Posted by on30francisco on Monday, February 09, 2009 7:50 PM

tangerine-jack

O is the hands down winner.   It's large, rugged, available, and way cooler than HO.  Don't buy into the "expensive" myth, it's a lie that O cost more.  You can buy O at close out sales, yard sales, 2nd hand shops etc.  O scale is bomb proof, if you drop it, if the dog grabs it and runs, it's OK, wipe it off and continue.  O scale is orders of magnitude easier to repair, it's bigger so it's easier to see, and you need fewer tools.  O scale you leave in your will to grandkids.  O scale takes up only slightly more room than HO, so no need to worry about that.

DITTO!
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Posted by nkp_174 on Monday, February 09, 2009 8:11 PM

 HO vs O.

Tell us about what you'd like to to for building your layout.

Do you have a nice garden outback in which you might want to build your layout?

Do you have a large or small space inside?

Do you care about scenery?

Do you care about figures?

Do you have a large or small budget?

Do you like to build your own models...or just drop it on the track?

 

There are a few different O scales.  The American definition is 1:48 scale...and std gauge track scales to 5' gauge.  If you go to Europe, it is 1:43 and scales correctly to 56.5" gauge (HO is derived from European O scale...87/2=43).  There are two common types of std gauge O scale... 3 rail and 2 rail.  There are two basic levels of 3-rail...less detailed (you may consider it toy trains) and super detailed (definitely models).  I've never met a 3-railer whom wasn't convinced that he was sitting on a gold mine...and I can't recall meeting a non-3-railer who agreed with them.  There are 4-4-0s available in O-scale.

O scale narrow gauge can be divided into a bunch of different groups, but I'll focus on two: On30 and On3.  On30 has become very popular in the past ten years thanks to Bachmann.  It operates on HO track.  In US history, 30" gauge practically didn't exist...something like 40miles in the entire country...but, the track can be cheap (unless the ties bother you...and they seem to bother most On30ers that have layouts).  On3 is very different from On30, 2-rail, and 3-rail.  The track scales to an accurate 3' which was by far the most common narrow gauge.  Until recent years, you had to be a craftsman to model in this scale.  That has changed.  You have to mail order everything, but it is excellent for the wild west thanks to MMI (Precision Scale Co)'s 4-4-0s and Accucrafts 2-8-0...both of which are being offered in both On30 and On3.  I know a few On30ers whom have switched to On3 as the rail spacing of On30 drove them nuts.  The trade off is that your min curve radius will be either 24" or 34" instead of the 18"-24" of On30.  None of Bachmann's On30 items are appropriate for the Wild West.

 

 HO is the most popular scale and has the most offerings.  If the scenery is important to you (and finding moderately priced (scale) figures...it is the scale).

There are a few approaches to the Wild West in HO:

-Bachmann's old time 4-4-0s.  They are famous for not running all that great...but they are ok...they also cost about 1/10th of what you'd pay for an O-scale 4-4-0...note that this is NOT the HO Spectrum 4-4-0 which is a 1920s locomotive.  They are appropriate for the late 1960s-1880s.  Bachmanns old time rolling stock is adequate.

-IHC's old time 4-4-0 and the old Rivarossi 4-4-0s...again, IHC offers a modern 4-4-0 which is different from the old time 4-4-0.  They are accurate for the 1870s-1880s.  The problem with them is that they aren't HO scale...they are OO scale (1:76 vs. 1:87.1).  They at least used to look nicer and run better than the B-man 4-4-0s.

-MDC/Roundhouse by Athearn are post 1900 locomotives packaged as 1880s locomotives (same thing with their freight cars).  MDC Roundhouse/Athearn is the source for wild west passenger cars with their 50' overton cars (rivarossi offered them as well).

-Brass engines, while older...more expensive...and possibly needing repowered (which can be hired out)...are the nicest power...and would possibly be cheaper than an O-scale 4-4-0.

 -Mantua's old General was a pre-civil war engine as it looked in the 1870s. Mantua has adequate freight cars.

 -------------------------------------------------

The Wild West was really the 1870s.  The 1st Transcontinental railroad had just been finished and many feeder routes were being established/Indian treaties being signed.  Also important was the begining of the US narrow gauge movement.  While std gauge roads were largely devoted to 4-4-0s, narrow gauge roads quickly added more variety...2-6-0s, 2-8-0s, 4-6-0s.  Trains were relatively short, and the small towns have mostly primative buildings.  The first of the ng roads was the D&RG (1871) south out of Denver...it had a mix of 4-wheel and 8-wheel cars pulled by 2-4-0s and 2-6-0s.  Within a decade, it operated many 2-8-0s as well as 4-4-0s, 2-6-0s, 4-6-0s, and 0-6-0s...and 1 of the only 2 double Fairlies ever to polish American high iron.  An interesting event was the Rio Grande war which involved hired gunmen.

The Rio Grande was far from the only road.  There were quite a few.  The other most revered Colorado ng roads from before 1890 were: the South Park (1874), the Colorado Central (1872), the Rio Grande Southern (1889), and the Silverton (1887...not the same as the Rio Grande's branch which is now know as the Silverton).  The two best loved Std Gauge roads of the Wild West were the Virginia & Truckee...and the Colorado Midland (which was actually from the later 1880s).

 If you are interested in narrow gauge, look up:

-White Pass & Yukon

-The Denver & Rio Grande (became the D&RGW in 1920...the Durango & Silverton and Cumbras & Toltec are tourist lines on the old D&RG...with 1920s locomotives)

-The Denver South Park & Pacific (became Colorado & Southern in 1898)

-The North Pacific Coast

-The South Pacific Coast

Here is the Eureka & Pallisades #4 on the C&T...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9d2WhZ7kHo

 MMI/Precision scale is coming out with this engine in On30 and On3.

 -------------------------------------------------------

Look into Large Scale if you have the space.  It is more economical (imo) than O-scale...and more Wild West products are available.  Spectrum's F scale 4-4-0 is the same as the MMI 4-4-0s....both in price $400...and in prototype. 

 

I'd suggest picking up a Bachmann HO trainset...they are cheap.  If it is too small, look into O and F.  One of the scales is probably right for you...and its cheaper to start with HO than the others.

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Posted by superbe on Monday, February 09, 2009 9:49 PM

When I got back into rail roading I faced the same question. I have a ton of Lionel O gauge stuff, some going back to the 1930's and 40's with the latest being of the 1970's vintage. I basicaly had a 4' by 12' 0 gage layout with an added section making it in to an L shape.

I decided to go with HO thinking I had room for a RR empire. After I got commited to HO I learned that O gage rolling stock turned a lot sharper than HO. For example 027 turns in 27 inches and O in 31 inches whereas HO needs a minimum o 36 inches.and for bigger locos and cars 44 inches is small.

But with that said I'm still glad I went with HO because the size of the equipment as well as structures are much smaller and being small you can have a lot more and a good looking layout because the absence of detail in scenery is not missed as it would be on a O gage layout. In my opinion O gage has to be done really well or it looks toy like.

Bob

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Posted by ukguy on Monday, February 09, 2009 10:56 PM

superbe

In my opinion O gage has to be done really well or it looks toy like.

Bob

ummmm  HO 'scale' needs to be done really well or it looks toy like too, as does any scale you choose.

 On30 is not HO track, yes the rails are the same distance apart and you can run On30 stock on HO track, but, On30 track has longer ties than HO track and they are spaced very differently, On30 track is only very slightly more expensive than HO from Micromark and the small difference is worth it in the appearance.

 While yes I agree you can fit more HO 'items' into the same space as you can O, but how many bite off more than they have the time or money to chew, dream of a huge HO layout with lots of track/engines/structures only to build 5 different 'plywood pacifics' in 10 years, never get any of them anywhere near finished and then 'pop-off' leaving a ton of boxes that they never even opened or used full of kits and rolling stock for the family to dispose of?

Like I said in the begining, until you are sure of your goal you cant decide on the way to get there, everyone else has (and is entitled to) their own preference and opinion for their goals.

Karl.A

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