I was away from this forum for most of the past five years, during which my collection of O-Gauge model road vehicles changed a great deal. For anyone interested, this is an update on where it stands now: why I have it, how I use it for my train layout (and why), and what I plan to do with it in the future.
Five years ago my collection of O-gauge models included nearly 1,000 cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles. It grew to over 1,600 by early late 2018. In early 2019 I started “downsizing” by getting rid of all but the most accurate, detailed models, cutting back where I had too many of one type (did I really need twenty-three ’55-’57 Chevrolets?), eliminating about 200 vehicles that ran on ‘Streets as I moved to wire-guided vehicles, etc. Today my collection stands at 1,197 vehicles. The piece chart below breaks them out into ten categories.
Models I Have Just Because They Are Cool. Over 500 of the models I have are of vehicles that would never realistically go on my layout: exotic sports, GT, or racing cars that were not common on American streets, or brands and cars never sold in America, like those the photo below. I have these models just because I like them and want to collect them. A small example is shown below:
Models I Have And Use of the Layout (Whether I Particularly Like the Car or Not). Over 600 models in my collection are there primarily or partly so I can use them on the layout: models cars made and widely used in the US (Ford, Chevy, Dodge), or imported in sufficient quantities that they were common on American streets (VW, Mercedes).
These cars, trucks and buses for the layout are deliberately scattered across model years spanning more than a century, so that I have enough (at least 35) to put out on my layout to represent any era between 1880 and 1980.
I have deliberately spread my model collection across the entire automotive era from 1900 to 2020, and included the horse-drawn wagons and coaches from the 19th century, because I love setting up the layout for different eras -- putting out trains and changing details like billboards, telephone booths, mailboxes, traffic lights, etc., to represent an era as realistically as possible. Getting the road traffic right with respect to the type, brands, and age distribution of vehicles on the street is a key part of making it realistic. The next three photos show my layout as was set up last year 1885, late 1941, and 1966.
In all three cases above, I made an effort to see that street traffic included the types of vehicles that would really be on the streets of a western-US town in that era. Only a few cars are new. Most are a few years old and a few, much older. Upscale and premium luxury cars are rare – most vehicles on the street are low-end brands, bought on a budget, workaday cars and light trucks often showing signs of having been used hard.
Cars and Detectives. Within my collection are two sub-groups I have become addicted to, in the sense that I keep working to get more of each. The first is cars of famous TV, movie, and book detectives. It started fifteen years ago with two figures and one car (Inspector Morse, Lewis, his Sergeant, and his Jaguar S sedan) and now includes 57 cars and 116 detectives. It is still growing.
Operating, wire-following cars are a new and recent addiction. I once had 200 cars and trucks and buses than ran on ‘Streets, but have eliminated all those cars (and the roads they run on). I now have 33 cars and pickups and van, that run autonomously on wire-guiding roads similar to German Faller HO and N gauge Car System. The majority of cars are from AutomotionFX. I have made three myself, converting them from diecast models, and they run fine and look great, but AutomotionFX’s car are slightly better than mine (I cannot cram a speed-control board into most small model cars. They can.) I have a wire-guided city bus and two tractor trailers I made myself. Frankly thirty-three operating cars is probably more than I need (I can run no more than eight a time), but I want and will eventually get close to a hundred cars, because these are especially fun to run, the tractor trailers and buses are a fun challenge to build, and I need a lot of cars in order to cover that wide wide range of eras, just like I do with the static models.
Extremes and Favorites: the largest vehicle I my collection is a scratch-built 1:48 model of the US Antarctic Services Snow Cruiser, completely with a full interior. I have in mainly because it was a very cool vehicle, and a was a tremendous challenge and a lot of fun to build. The Snow Cruiser was built the US Government by the Pullman Company in Chicago in 1938, and driven to Boston (carefully and with much attention to moving overhead power lines) on public roads, where it was loaded onto a ship to Antarctica. It was essentially a “spaceship” designed for the Antarctic, intended to be home to six scientist explorers in a two-year roving exploration of the South Polar region, but that expedition was cancelled due to the start of WWII. The smallest car in my collection the Isetta mini-car. My favorite static model is a Brooklin 1952 Studebaker pickup (a workaday car for the layout if there ever was one), and my favorite operating car is also by Brooklin, a very nice model of a 1954 Plymouth station wagon, converted to run on wire-guiding roads my AutomotionFX – again, a workaday, plain-jane car that is as realist as anything you could put on a model railroad layout representing the mid 1950s.
My collection will grow only a bit from now on. I plan to increase the number of operating cars to about 100, and continue to add detectives and their cars, but other than that add only occasionally to the static models I have for the layout.