Questions on S Scale

Now that MTH has announced they will be going into S scale I am considering selling most of my equipment and going over to S scale. A little information about me: I like scale models but I’m not a rivet counter. I have no interest in AF or postwar S scale. I like steam and my preferred CC system is DCC. The main reason I am thinking about leaving O scale is the cost seems to be pricing me out of the market. Not just locomotives and cars but track especially. Atlas O 2 rail track and turnouts are prohibitively expensive and the alternates are not much cheaper. At the current rate of rising prices what I will I be able to afford in 10 years?

 

The things I like about S scale are (not in any particular order), it would seem to be cheaper for locomotives and rolling stock, it takes up less space, scale sized vehicles are easily and readily available at very low cost, in S scale you don’t have to convert from 3 rail to 2 rail, and S scale would seem to be the perfect size for model trains—it has some of the heft of O scale and some of the space savings of HO scale.

 

The things I don’t like about S scale are track seems to cost almost as much as O scale track, not a large variety of steam locomotives available, not a large variety of structures, not a large variety of passenger cars and some brass may cost even more than O scale brass.

 

For the two above paragraphs my perceptions may be off because I don’t know a lot about S so please correct anything I say that is inaccurate.

 

The biggest thing that is holding me back is that over the last 14 years I have a lot of $$$$ invested in O scale (both 3 rail and 2 rail but I won’t sell most of my 3 rail stuff). I realize I will take a serious hit if I sell out.

 

Here are my questions:

 

#1)Are turntables and transfer tables available in S scale?

 

#2)Are there any S scale companies that make “Atlas like” rolling stock and Passenger cars?

 

#3)What about couplers? I don’t care at all for the Lionel/AF bear claws. Do other companies have good working more scale like couplers?

 

#4)I’ve always wanted a scale Trainmaster but don’t have one because I don’t like most of the Trainmasters that were done in O scale. I know these were done very well in S scale but what about other diesels? Are E7, E8, Fs, FAs, PAs, and GP7-9s done well in S scale?

 

#5) Does anyone make Atlas like flex track for S scale? How about roadbed?

 

#6) What are the predominant minimum radii for running scale steam equipment in S? In O this is O72 for 3 rail and either 56" or 72" radius for 2 rail.

 

I saw the thread about the drive system China drive vs. horizontal drive and not to get into a debate I think the China drives are great for museum type operation where the trains run fast and for many hrs but for a hobbyist like myself I much prefer the horizontal motor which usually has smoother start up speeds. Does Lionel use the China drive system in their S scale diesels? If not, I doubt that MTH will either but I have no official information this is just my opinion.

 

BTW, back in the mid-90s for a time S Helper Service was located in New Brunswick,NJ and many times I delivered their mail. One time the gentleman was home and I mentioned that I liked trains so he took me in the garage and showed a small test layout and many brand new boxes of S scale trains. Oh, how I wish he would have talked me into S scale back then! I would practically be on easy street now!

 

This is a tough decision and I am going to take my time making it. Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

 

 

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Original Post

I got into S scale a little and know a few companies that make stuff in S scale.

There is; S Helper, Gargraves, and K-Line(if you can find it) for S scale track & switches. K-Line made some S scale items but they are mainly undersized O gauge stuff mounted on S scale trucks.

MTH makes S scale items but I don't have anything current in S scale trains, just post-war A.F. From what I have seen with MTH prices for H.O. scale I am staying away from them.

Not sure but I think the other company making S scale stuff is AMerican Models.

 

Now about the size factor, I really don't see any advantage to doing S scale because most of the curves that I have found are 42 inch and above. That is even larger than the 036 Fastrac curves by Lionel. Also another factor in S scale is the voltage; A.C. or D.C.

 

Lee F.

Philadelphia & Reading Railway, one of the first railroads in the USA, first to have a double track system in the USA.

Thanks for the reply Lee. Yes, before making a final decision I want to see what MTH will be charging for locomotives, cars, etc. I agree their HO stuff is pricey but it certainly looks good and from what I hear it runs good too. Still HO is cheaper than O.

 

So everything in S scale is made to run on a 21" radius? That would be a big space savings over O scale (2R) which is what I have. I was planning a layout with 54" radius curves (O108) as a minimum. With S I would surely go larger than 21" radius. Just a guess but I would think 36" (O72) or 40" (O80) minimum radius would look good for running S scale equipment.

 

I apologize for not making it obvious that I am a 2 railer.

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Phil,

 

I made the same decision you did a little over a year ago.  I was to the point that I really wanted to shift towards 2 rail O, but found that for my personal preferences, it simply consumed too much space.  I've found that S is just about 30% - 33% smaller and scales down pretty well.  For me, this meant I could use a #8 in S, where I could only squeeze in a # 6 in O.  I found this very handy for crossovers. I'm not sure everything you want to run, but I've found that about 45" - 50" radius is very comfortable for 4-8-2's and 2-10-2's with all their drivers flanged.  Depending on what you want to run, I think 40" radius is about right.  Keep in mind, I like broad curves also. 

 

Here is what I can say to your questions:

 

1. I do not know of anyone that currently makes a TT or transfer table in S.

 

2. S Helper Service Freight Cars are as good or better that Atlas O, IMO.

 

3. Kadee couplers are available in S

 

4. American Models makes a Trainmaster, but I am not sure how correct it is for what

    you want.

 

5. Shinohara makes code 100 flex track along with #6 and # 8 TO's.  You can also get

    just about any type of TO available from Tomalco.

 

Lastly, with MTH, they have pretty much said that you will not even see production samples of newly tooled SD70ACE's until late next year.  IMO, sometime around spring York, you will probable see an MTH catalog with SHS F-units that have PS3 and DCC compatability.  

 

 

 

"Moreover, experience proves that there is virtually no limit to the amount of cars, track, equipment, etc., the scale model railroader will buy once you have planted the "system" idea in his head. The more he has, the more he still wants." A.C. Gilbert Co. - 1947

Port Lines is advertising a new turntable (scroll down about 1/4 of the web page for photos)

 

I returned to S after 25 years in three-rail O. There are fewer offerings in S but I think it's fair to say the basics are covered. For me, less rolling product is an opportunity to focus on other aspects of layout building, such as buildings from Clever Models.  I'm also spending much less on train stuff.  

 

 

 

Brady

Thank you very much Rusty and Troy for answering my questions. I sincerely appreciate it. It seems Lee is correct in stating that there really isn't a large space savings in S scale when it comes to the curves (if one likes broad curves). Troy mentioned 45-50"R curves and I was going to use 54"R for my 2R O scale layout. Yes I could fit 2-10-2s on the S scale side and not fit them on the O scale side. Yes, it is a lot to think about. Thanks again for your help.

 

I thought the AM Trainmaster was awesome. Definitely good enough for me. As I said I am no rivet counter. If I go to S scale I hope I can find one.

 

I've never heard of Tomalco. I will have to check them out. I hope they have a website.

 

BTW, I was checking the website for AAA Turntables and I found out that they do list a S scale TT. The website shows a price of around $1K which is slightly less than what I paid for my 32" Millhouse River TT. However, I am not sure if other add on items are needed which are not included in that price. Anyway, just wanted to mention that there is at least one TT available for S scale. Thanks again guys. [Just now saw Bradys reply.] Thank you Brady for the link to the TT.

 

 

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

#4)I’ve always wanted a scale Trainmaster but don’t have one because I don’t like most of the Trainmasters that were done in O scale. I know these were done very well in S scale but what about other diesels? Are E7, E8, Fs, FAs, PAs, and GP7-9s done well in S scale?

The AM Trainmaster is a good looking unit.  Better than Lionel’s or William’s O gauge offering up to the Lionel collector series.  Having said that, there are some short cuts taken on it so I’d say it’s better than Athearn’s Blue Box offering of their Trainmaster but not up to their Genesis line.  AM offers an E8 that is pretty darn good looking.  The Fs, FA’s, GP9/18 and PAs are basic models of the Athearn Blue Box style.  Detail them to the level you want.  There are detail parts available out there.  Running qualities are generally very good.  For SHS units, you are getting Kato/Atlas quality units in detail and running qualities. 

 

Greg

One new question guys and I won't bother you guys anymore!

 

If buy a new Lionel boxcar or some other company's rolling stock with the bear claw (I gather from what I've read above I won't have this problem with SHS) will it have the KD mounting pad on it so putting KDs on it are easy like MTH does with their scale rolling stock? Or will be like what Lionel does with their scale rolling stock and not have any type of pad at all and the user has to fabricate something to put on KD couplers?

 

It's not that I am against doing this type of work, usually I can do it but it just isn't fun to me. I can understand why it wasn't done back in the day but for Lionel to still be selling scale rolling stock at the prices they charge and not give the user the option and benefit of a KD coupler pad is IMHO a real kick in the pants.

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Originally Posted by Hudson J1e:

One new question guys and I won't bother you guys anymore!

 

If buy a new Lionel boxcar or some other company's rolling stock with the bear claw (I gather from what I've read above I won't have this problem with SHS) will it have the KD mounting pad on it so putting KDs on it are easy like MTH does with their scale rolling stock? Or will be like what Lionel does with their scale rolling stock and not have any type of pad at all and the user has to fabricate something to put on KD couplers?

 

It's not that I am against doing this type of work, usually I can do it but it just isn't fun to me. I can understand why it wasn't done back in the day but for Lionel to still be selling scale rolling stock at the prices they charge and not give the user the option and benefit of a KD coupler pad is IMHO a real kick in the pants.

Phil, keep on asking those questions, we're glad to answer them if we can.  (Besides, we like to show off how smart we are!)

 

S Scale America and the former SHS are drilled to accept the Kadee 805.  They also include scale wheelsets.  (MTH may change that and have a separate stock number for scale wheel cars.  We don't know yet.)

 

The Flyer compatible coupler on SHS and SSA is on a talgo arm going back to the bolster.  Unscrew the truck, remove the coupler, mount the Kadee on the pad, install the included spacer on the bolster, remount the truck.

 

American Models stocks and sells Scale and HiRail cars and locomotives separately, but they have a similar set up on their HiRail freight cars.  The older cars are set up for the #5 HO coupler, so it's up to the user to drill for the 805.  The 805 wasn't out when AM started up.  There is no spacer for the AM cars, the HiRail versions just ride a tad higher because of the compatible coupler arm.

 

Currently. AM scale wheeled cars have their dummy "snap lock" coupler installed.  Scale wheeled locomotives usually have a package of Kadee 805's thrown in. 

 

Lionel's method is unknown until the cylindrical hopper comes out.  The catalog description is a little confusing on how they're going to be set up.  I've heard rumblings that there will be a Kadee mounting pad, but nothing official.  Stay tuned...

 

It's also somewhat unclear if scale wheels will be included or available separately with the new scale detailed freight cars.  The U33C's were originally supposed to have scale wheels included, but Lionel changed their mind on that.  There is a bracket and screws included for mouting 805's on the U33C's, however.

 

Any suitable taditional Flyer has a sheet metal or plastic frame with trucks rivited on and no provisions for mounting a Kadee.

 

Rusty

Originally Posted by Hudson J1e:

Thank you very much Rusty and Troy for answering my questions. I sincerely appreciate it. It seems Lee is correct in stating that there really isn't a large space savings in S scale when it comes to the curves (if one likes broad curves). Troy mentioned 45-50"R curves and I was going to use 54"R for my 2R O scale layout. Yes I could fit 2-10-2s on the S scale side and not fit them on the O scale side. Yes, it is a lot to think about. Thanks again for your help.

 

I thought the AM Trainmaster was awesome. Definitely good enough for me. As I said I am no rivet counter. If I go to S scale I hope I can find one.

 

I've never heard of Tomalco. I will have to check them out. I hope they have a website.

 

BTW, I was checking the website for AAA Turntables and I found out that they do list a S scale TT. The website shows a price of around $1K which is slightly less than what I paid for my 32" Millhouse River TT. However, I am not sure if other add on items are needed which are not included in that price. Anyway, just wanted to mention that there is at least one TT available for S scale. Thanks again guys. [Just now saw Bradys reply.] Thank you Brady for the link to the TT.

 

 


Phil, I've been finding out that everything just seems to "fit" with S that used to really make me struggle in O.  Granted I like pullmans and big steam, but really, for those models, I find that 54R is just your minimum.  When you make a change to S, now, your minimum is about 40R-42R and that 54R makes everything spread out nicely.

 

Also, I'm just now finnishing up selling off my O scale and so far, it has gone better than I thought it would.  All I can say is be patient and be willing to answer ALOT of basic questions like: "Will the Lionel train you are selling run on Gar Graves track?" and I think you will be happy with the return you get on your stuff.  I've found that there are manny more people out there bying trains than I was aware of and if you help them, they will buy your stuff and generally pay your price.

 

 

 

"Moreover, experience proves that there is virtually no limit to the amount of cars, track, equipment, etc., the scale model railroader will buy once you have planted the "system" idea in his head. The more he has, the more he still wants." A.C. Gilbert Co. - 1947

Larry Morton is the go to guy at Tomalco Track, google them.  He sells S scale Microengineering, flex or rail, and sells turnouts.  A 3 ft stick of flex is about $6.80, compare that to Atlas O at about $16 a stick.
Customtraxx of Indianola Iowa has turnouts you won't believe (they're beautiful!) and around $42.  Compare that to an Atlas #5 or 7 in O at around $90 - $95 bucks!
And...S is 4ft 8 1/2 in. Between the railhead as God ordained, not 5ft, as in O!
Welcome aboard, should you decide to come our way!

John Albee

Hi Phil,

 

Haven't communicated with you on a forum for a couple of years because I've been hanging out mostly on the "S" forums instead of O. Still have some O display pieces but sold off the O and replaced it with S. This is my 2nd venture into S as I did it once before around 2000/2001 but it didn't take. Don't get me wrong, O Scale 2R is great, but I wanted more than a switching layout and S allows me to do that. It is also large enough to build in for aging eyes and none of the smaller gauges are for me.  

 

I think you'd like "S" and there is a lot more available than what you see on the surface. Most regular hobby shops don't carry much in the way of "S", but there are a lot that do and some who specialize in "S".  You have to change your mindset from O to S. You'll find it on eBay or on the S gauge yardsale forum or just by asking for something on any of the S forums. I've seen S for sale on the OGR "For Sale" and "Wanted" forums too.

 

I don't agree with the statement above that there really isn't any size advantage modeling in S because there sure is. As you pointed out S is about 33% smaller than O so in any given space you will have more modeling and space to run trains in S......just like if you modeled in N or HO you'd have more space for running trains than in S. The beauty of S is you gain the operating space but can still see all the detail from a distance. And because the trains are smaller the same radius curve in S appears to be larger than O because the trains are smaller.

 

The smallest commercially available radius in S that I'm aware of is 15", then 18" and then 21" (SHS sectional track with roadbed). Using flex track I suppose you could go smaller, but why?  The beauty of S or any smaller scale is you can have larger appearing curves which makes your equipment look better while running.

 

You can learn a great deal about S (at least S scale) on the S Sig Forum @ sscale.org. Lots of history covering AF up to present day, but mostly geared towards S scale rather than Hi-Rail. There is also a list of S suppliers which will give you a good idea what's available. And with Lionel and MTH jumping into S it will only get better.

 

All opinion of course but check it out.

 

Butch

 

 

One minor correction that I want to add into the discussion is that the Kadee couplers for S scale are #802 and #808. The only difference between the two is the 802 is cast in black plastic while the 808 is cast in brown. The 805 is the older style all-metal O scale coupler.

 

I also wanted to add that there are a few sites on the net that can help you answer your questions on S scale.

 

www.nasg.org (National Association Of S Gaugers)

www.sscale.org (S scale Special Interest Group, NMRA)

http://trainweb.org/crocon/sscale.html (Craig O'Connell's S scale website)

www.sscalenews.com (S scale site with some tips and older catalogs)

 

Hope this helps,

 

Robyn (CarolinaRail)

 

Thank you very much for all your help and answers. I really appreciate it. I'm sorry that I can't give you guys an answer right away. It took me almost a year to decide to switch to 2 rail O from 3 rail. However, my train room should be done by the end of the year and then I want to start building a layout in 2013. One minute I think I should switch to S and then the next minute I think the opposite. It's a tough decision. I have to agree with Troy that going to S scale does solve many of the struggles or things that I don't like with O scale. I think the biggest negatives for me are, number one that I have so much invested in O scale especially with conversions and number two I would be going from a small niche scale to an even smaller one.

 

Recently, I got into digital slot cars and set up a track in the basement for me and the grandkids. The cool thing about slot cars is they are way cheaper than trains and they can be set up very easily. Anyway, I asked the guy at the slot car store what was the most popular scale and he said 1/32 which is what I have. It was certainly nice being in the most popular scale for a change. Did you guys know that HO slot cars are actually 1/64 models. They have incorrectly called them HO since the '50s! I never knew that until recently.

 

I was looking at some S scale videos on you tube yesterday and wow there are some really nice layouts out there. I saw a SP Daylight passenger train that just looked great. The spacing between cars really captured the prototype.

 

Thanks again for all your help.

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Originally Posted by Hudson J1e:

Thank you very much for all your help and answers. I really appreciate it. I'm sorry that I can't give you guys an answer right away. It took me almost a year to decide to switch to 2 rail O from 3 rail. However, my train room should be done by the end of the year and then I want to start building a layout in 2013. One minute I think I should switch to S and then the next minute I think the opposite. It's a tough decision. I have to agree with Troy that going to S scale does solve many of the struggles or things that I don't like with O scale. I think the biggest negatives for me are, number one that I have so much invested in O scale especially with conversions and number two I would be going from a small niche scale to an even smaller one.

 

Recently, I got into digital slot cars and set up a track in the basement for me and the grandkids. The cool thing about slot cars is they are way cheaper than trains and they can be set up very easily. Anyway, I asked the guy at the slot car store what was the most popular scale and he said 1/32 which is what I have. It was certainly nice being in the most popular scale for a change. Did you guys know that HO slot cars are actually 1/64 models. They have incorrectly called them HO since the '50s! I never knew that until recently.

 

I was looking at some S scale videos on you tube yesterday and wow there are some really nice layouts out there. I saw a SP Daylight passenger train that just looked great. The spacing between cars really captured the prototype.

 

Thanks again for all your help.

Phil,

 

It was a pretty tough decision when I switched from HO back in '85, I had a pretty sizable investment there, even thought of going back from time to time. 

 

I like to say S Scale is an aquired taste.  Take your time, there's no need to rush.

 

Here's a couple of places you might like to poke around in.

 

The S Scale SIG:

http://sscale.org/

 

The National Association of S Scalers:

http://www.nasg.org/

 

Rusty

 

Butch, it's nice to hear from you. I don't think we talked since the old Atlas forum. I hope all is well.

 

Thank you very much Rusty. I will check out those sites. And since you said I could keep asking questions I thought of two more:

 

#1) Is there an S scale layout somewhere near me (NJ) that my wife and I can visit and see S scale in action?

 

#2) I know Lionel sells steam locomotives with TMCC and Railsounds but is there anyone out there that sells steam locomotives with factory installed DCC and Sound in S scale? I've done TMCC/DCS/DCC convrsions and I don't find it to be a fun part of the hobby.

 

Thanks in advance.

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Originally Posted by Hudson J1e:

Butch, it's nice to hear from you. I don't think we talked since the old Atlas forum. I hope all is well.

 

Thank you very much Rusty. I will check out those sites. And since you said I could keep asking questions I thought of two more:

 

#1) Is there an S scale layout somewhere near me (NJ) that my wife and I can visit and see S scale in action?

 

#2) I know Lionel sells steam locomotives with TMCC and Railsounds but is there anyone out there that sells steam locomotives with factory installed DCC and Sound in S scale? I've done TMCC/DCS/DCC convrsions and I don't find it to be a fun part of the hobby.

 

Thanks in advance.

The east coast boys are going to have to answer you about NJ S scale railroads, I'm in the midwest and don't travel much anymore.

 

The SHS 2-8-0 was the only mass produced S steam locomotive available with DCC or DCC w/sound installed.  I believe some of the installations were done at SHS.

 

As Brady stated, MTH plans to install their DCS/DCC system in the former SHS loco's.

 

AM steam is available as DC, AC or AC with the extremely mediocre Ott sound sound board. 

 

The good thing about AM steam is their simple construction, think Mantua/Tyco HO of the 1960's.  The Pacific's are pretty basic, but there ESE Hudson and Santa Fe Northern have fairly nice detail for being cast in.

 

After I removed the smoke unit and chugger assembly, I did a test install of an MRC DCC/sound decoder in the boiler on one of their Pacific's and was able to fit the supplied spreaker in the smokebox.  I'm hardly a DCC wizard, but the installation wasn't at all difficult.

 

Another defense about AM steam is their drive.  Each driving axle is geared and the mechanism is like a big diesel truck.  The rods are only along for the ride so there's no potential for binding.

 

Rusty

Rusty, I was just looking at the AM website and their diesels look pretty good but most of the steamers look more on the toy side of things. Kind of like how Lionel was 15 years ago. I don't mean to knock them just my opinion. The Hudson and the SF Northern look pretty good though. More importantly how does their stuff run? Smooth start ups? Can they crawl at low speed? Quiet mechanisms?

 

I am considering buying the TM. I've always wanted one and even if I don't choose S scale I can always use it for display. Thanks.

Phil

TCA Member

NYCHS Member

MTH RR Club

Phil,

 

AM steam runs pretty smoothly and you can get decent slow speed response out of them.  They all have a Flyer-like piston and smoke unit, which I'll admit is toylike, but there's a switch to turn off the smoke and the whole thing comes out easily.

 

The drives are bullet-proof.  There is a little noise amplified somewhat by the resonance of the boiler, but nothing I find objectionable.  We ran a Pacific at an open house for 6 hours straight with no problems.

 

The USRA Pacifc is a very basic locomotive with solid performance and was AM's first steam locomotive.  It doesn't take much to improve their looks.  Each succesive steam locomotive became better detailed, although as I mentioned earlier, most of the detail is cast in.

 

I can post some pictures of a reworked Pacific tonight, but here's a picture of the Northern, also slightly reworked with an MV lens, graphite paint, numberboard decals and crew figures:

 

Ready to Roll

 

There's also a little pixel magic with the sky...  This appeared on the cover of the NASG Dispatch a year or two ago.

 

Rusty

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