"I currently have over $12k worth of 2RO on order."
Just out of curiosity, did you mean O gauge? I found nothing offensive about your post. I'm about 25 years older and have modeled or owned Z, N, HO, O gauge three rail and G gauge trains. Never S, although I have very fond memories of looking at the American Flyer catalogs as a boy. I see the appeal of S in many ways, but clearly O gauge, particularly 3 rail, is a much larger market today than S. That was true in 1955 too. The same is also true but an order of magnitude larger market for HO. I'm more of a toy guy, so while I understand your passion for scale, it's not one I share. I think HO folks are indeed more scale oriented than S or O gauge hobbyists.
I think Lionel is not thinking 20 years in the future, when essentially all who were alive when AC Gilbert was in business will be gone from the scene. They are thinking the next few years, and apparently, American Flyer type S sells substantially larger volumes than true to scale S, or so they say. Why would they lie to us? So one needs to either live with those limitations or find another scale to work in if prototypic fidelity is the highest priority. You've made that conclusion it seems.
Personally, it's clear to me HO would be that scale for anyone in their teens, 20s or 30s, hands down. It was for me until age about 40 for cost considerations. But there is no denying the heft and visual appeal of S, O and G. The reason I don't include 40s and 50s in that group is the inevitable deterioration of vision that occurs during the 5th through 9th decades of life. I've only recently required reading glasses, but they compromise the pleasure of doing manual tasks for me, including reading. So you may want to reconsider HO for the long haul if you have a similar experience down the road, or even today. For me, HO just not visually and touch-wise sufficiently large. Ironically, I still buy some N scale, and even occasional Z scale, because it takes up so little space and is "cute."
Good luck whatever you decide. But you may change your mind a few times over the next 20-30 years.
Parenthetically, I'm guessing American Flyer fans will still be around 20-30 years from now, even when those who now know much about the Gilbert company are long gone.
Many of the three rail hobbyists these days who are doing the most buying from Lionel were born long after JL Cowen died. If you attend York, there are lots of folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s who came of age long after Lionel's heydays. People can be nostalgic for things they never experienced first hand. Look at all the Civil War buffs and people who collect old cars, medieval armor etc.
Good and fair points sir. Yes, that pre-order amount is what I currently have with Sunset/3rd Rail for 2 Rail O scale models.
On paper, HO offers a lot but I have never liked it's size. Ironically, like you I still purchase a bit of N because it's "cute". I prefer the larger scale for the ease of seeing details (I've recently had my sight start its decline too) and the big sound and smoke. So I will not likely go to HO, but back to 2 Rail O even though it is not far behind S on the slippery slope towards irrelevancy.