Hi all, first post here, and really new to the hobby and have a lot to learn.  I had HO stuff when I was young, but that was so long ago I do not think it matters.  I am interested in an outdoor railroad, and would like to do this with O gauge or S gauge track.  I understand it may be challenging, but that has never stopped me before.

I do not think I want 3 rail track, but is there a type of 2 rail track that might suit my purpose better?  Is there any such thing as hi 2 rail track?  will it matter or help things?  would that then mean i need larger flanges on my wheels to reap the benefit if hi rail?  or maybe it does not matter.

I really wanted to do On30, but everyone I have spoken too and what I have read is the HO track for it would be a really hard way to go.  Will I be able to have steam loco's scaled properly except for the wheels/trucks/track?

Lastly, I know this is an O forum but would anyone discourage me from trying to do this with S gauge track outdoors?

And if you are wondering, I find the G scale stuff just plain too large.  I am buying a set for Christmas display/my daughter though.  She absolutely loves trains.

Thx for any and all replies!



Original Post

BTW - I joined S Scale SIG as well to get some opinions and posted this about my goals:

"signed up to do research and get opinions and advice. I want to build an outdoor layout but find G scale very fractured (i.e. too many different manufacturers making similar stuff to different scales all on the same gauge track) AND just plain too big.

I am considering both S and O for my rail road and am tying to understand the caveats of each.

I am also a technical person not afraid of electricity, electronics, software, programming, etc. My research has led me to find an open source software, jmri, along with an open source software to control a layout on an arduino board along with after market decoders, wireless modules etc.

My goal is to be able to run realistic operations on a fiction railroad that is modeled after a prototype. It would be utopia if it can run both modern and steam era, but I do understand there is a difference in accessories (buildings, etc.) so I will see how that goes. I aim to use (and maybe be able to enhance) the open source software mentioned, convert my locos and other devices to battery and remote control, be able to use remote accessories (like switches/turnouts, but understand that may not be possible outside), use an android.ios device or pc to control the layout and locos via wireless network (bluetooth or wifi - preferrably the latter), and adhere to NMRA DCC standards with the devices.

Wow, i think I have the gist there - seems like a lot. It is a set of requirements that does not seem overly much when compared to what my dept. does at work though. I will post a thread to start my questions for you all. I appreciate any and all help you all will give to me.

As a bonus (for me), my very young daughter absolutely loves trains!"

hopefully this helps any of you trying to help me.



Hey all, I have gotten a lot of information and opinions so far, and am ready to start moving forward pending a scale decision. 

Considering O and S scale, which scale might be less expensive overall?  I do not know costs of rolling stock and locomotives, although I certainly cannot afford the brand new locos I have seen - at least not if I am going to buy anything else like track to run it on!

So which am I most likely going to be able to find used, decent shape and able to refit with battery and power board and dcc board with wireless module and sound board and speakers?  I think the answer is O but I am not sure.  What about converting 3 rail stuff to 2 rail DC?  I do not think there are any issues there (other than learning/figuring it out)

My thoughts are to buy used and refit/rebuild the locos with the electronics I want instead of buy the fancy, feature laden stuff that is currently available.

Unless I look at American Flyer for S?  Any thoughts there? I posted a new thread that is somewhat the converse (looking from an S scale perspective) to this post in the S scale sub-forum.

Thx for any replies. 


Here is another thread regarding outdoor layouts.  https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/t...22#43383980166812822

One thing I was also told when considering putting a layout outdoors is that most of the O and S cars and engines are not painted with a UV resistance paint.  I cannot speak to how fast your trains will fade in the bright sunlight but it can happen.  There are clear UV resistance paints but I have not heard of anyone using them or how well they perform.

I have considered going battery powered outdoor O scale layout with 2 rail non powered track.  I want to be able to have appropriate sounds; bell, whistle, diesel sound appropriate to speed or steam chuffs appropriate to the steam engine model; remote couplers, smoke, and startup/shutdown capabilities.  I had an idea of putting extra batteries in cars that would connect and add additional power through the couplers.  My targets for getting the engines would be MTH or Lionel with either Proto Sound (not 2.0 or 3.0) or non-TMCC.  I have not solidify any plans yet though. 

You also may want to do some searching for "Dead rail" for battery powered options.

Keep up posted on what you do for those of us who want to pursue the same.


Best of luck.

More thanks!

I do not know how the clear UV paints will work either, but I will be finding out.    I will record the results over time in pictures, as well as report on the rest of my findings/issues/results.

And thanks for the link, shows it is possible.  Gotta figure out O or S though.  I might be leaning towards O due to room inside the locos.  My hesitation is if I went S and had to or wanted to move indoors S would work better in a smaller space.

I need to go to a store and look at some S and O together or just buy a couple of cheap pieces.


It has been a long while, and I have made some large decisions and progress.  So to close the loop on part of my goals and to inform folks that might be making a journey into model railroading and searching for others experience:

I did buy several items: a Bachmann On30 4-4-0, a Bachmann Porter 0-4-0, an S scale Gilbert SF Atlantic 4-4-2, an Atlas (traditional) O Atlantic 4-4-2, a Lionel O scale Camelback 4-6-0, a Bachmann Ten Wheeler 4-6-0 (part of a Christmas set), an LGB Stanz 0-4-0, and an LGB Porter 0-4-0.  This was part of a 'scaling excercise' so I could see/touch/handle these things to know for myself the size differences.  I actually put these in the yard since my ultimate goal is an outdoor layout.  While this did cost me some money and some time to do this, I am pleased I went through it.  I feel it has ultimately saved me some time and money in the long run by not making a bad decision *for myself* - YOUR decision might be different.  The pictures are attached, my 2.25 year old daughter is in one for 'scale'. 

One thing I REALLY learned, traditional O scale is pretty much S scale!  Beware!

I have been able to recover the bulk of my investment in the items I purchased as some were purchased broken and I repaired then and sold them for a profit. 

On30: too small for me, getting them on the track is too touchy relative to the size of the rolling stock, the detail is awesome, but too delicate especially for outdoors and/or children or people that are not used to handling detailed models.  While doable, little room inside for adding electronics. Track, etc. is hella cheap relative to the other scales!  Keeping the track clear outdoors would likely be more challenging.

S scale: decent size, but I still found it got lost outside.  If I was going to do indoors only I would probably do S scale.  While not mainstream, I think I could be selective enough to find rolling stock in my price range that would suit me just fine and no real need to worry too much if it was scale or not.  Decent looking track that suits hi rail is kinda pricey, especially if you need UV resistant.

O traditional: same as S scale regarding size, no advantages except for price - maybe.

O scale:  Now we are talking, this is exactly what I was imagining when I saw G scale and thought that is just far too large.  Ultimately this is what I have chosen even though it has pitfalls of its own to watch out for, and I have not quite stuck to it.  I shall explain.  Real O scale is expensive and I have noted all along I need to keep the cost down/ be cheap.  Then I found MTH Railking and some Railroad museum sites that actually list the dimensions of their rolling stock so I can check things out.  Well many of the Railking locomotives, listed as scale or not, match the dimensions of those real life locomotives.  For me that is good enough for my purposes.  I do not need to match the actual class of locomotive - if it matches the Whyte classifications and general appearance it is good enough for now, I am more into simulating the operational feel of the railroad (maybe it will change later as I get more into things).  Track, etc. will cost me here, it seems the only UV resistant track is Atlas O.  I have had a note in to Micro Engineering for 2-3 weeks with no reply; I have also read their ties are kinda delicate.  I may also lay my own track, not sure here yet.  I was considering reworking old tubular O27 (I had a big thread on that in the O27 section) but I think I am not going to do that.  Still a lot to do and a lot to decide on how to do it here, but I am happy with this decision.

G 'scale': Just plain too large, even outdoors I would need to allocate more space than I am comfortable with.

For now I am doing a Christmas layout around the tree.  Everything will stay 3 rail (I think!) for this.  I have 2 K-line Porters, an MTH Rugged Rails 2-8-0, an MTH Premier (yes!) G5 4-6-0, a set of 6 MTH Heavyweight passenger cars, and 10+ freight cars.  I am working on enough MTH realtrax to put down around the Christmas tree so my daughter can run something there.  So I have made a lot of progress towards my goals but as stated I have quite a bit to go, but at least I can run some trains soon.



Photos (2)

O and S scale have been done with great success outdoors.  Gargraves offers track that has stainless rails to tollerate being outdoors, and the Atlas O track in both 2 and 3 rail will also work outdoors.  Obviously the trains and buildings in these scales are not weather proof like most all G scale is.  My own LGB can stay outdoors all the time if I wanted it to.  I do leave the track and buildings outdoors year round.  But I take the trains themselves indoors after each run session.  I also went to onboard battery power as cleaning track was becoming to much work down on my knees.  Mike

Silly NT's...I have Asperger's Syndrome! 

Hi Helmut

I am planning the same thing; had two truck-loads of quite large rocks delivered last week to form the basis of a mountain with water feature.  I only have two steam locos at present, both AHM plastic kits.  Being a complete miser, I have assembled and bench-tested a rudimentary radio control system using electronic speed controllers and 2-channel transmitter/receiver sets designed for RC cars.  These are bulky but that's not really an issue with O-scale, and control is fully proportional so they are  no worse than the expensive purpose-designed systems from a control point of view - I am not concerned about not having sound, and I can use the other tx-channel controlling a servo to activate 'functions' such as uncoupling and lighting.

You might be interested in my 'prototype', the South Penn railroad.  It was started building by anti-PRR interests in the 1880's but abandoned before construction got very far.  It was to run 200 miles between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg but high construction costs ultimately sank it.  Nevertheless, most of the proposed tunnels were completed and the formation was eventually sold to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and used to build a four-lane highway, the I-70.  The highway more-or-less follows the original route, with a few alignment changes here and there, and by-passes of some tunnels made fairly recently.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...ennsylvania_Railroad if you want to know more.

I am a NYC fan, and the NYC influence behind the South Penn means I can freelance while still including a lot of NYC equipment.  The South Penn was to connect with the P&LE at its western end, and the Reading RR at its eastern end, so I can justify a lot of equipment from those railroads too.  There's a facebook page set up by a very clever bloke who is overlaying scans of original South Penn survey maps over aerial photos, so it is possible to get a very good understanding of what the railroad would have looked like.  I can hook you up if you are interested.

Regards, Paul.

Paul, sounds pretty cool.  Being in SoCal in no way do I have the terrain for anything like that neck of the woods.  I am probably going to do a complete freelance mining/branch line combo of some such.  This is till in the planning stages but I have been putting some thought to it all.

I will still go check the South Penn out, just its history will probably give me some ideas.

Thanks for sharing!


Woodsworks posted:

You might be interested in my 'prototype', the South Penn railroad.

The Railroad That Never Was: Vanderbilt, Morgan, and the South Pennsylvania Railroad (Railroads Past and Present) by Herbert H. Harwood Jr.

A good deal of strategic planning is like a ritual rain dance.

It has no effect on the weather that follows, but those who engage in it think it does. 

Furthermore, much of the advice related to strategic planning is directed at improving the

dancing, not the weather.



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