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In the end, it's a shame that the original toy train makers (Lionel, Marx) didn't adopt a scale size of, say, 1:56 - 1:58, back in the PW era. I recall that K-Line marketed its Titan series as 1:58 scale.

That's because much of the PW era is "selectively compressed" or "selectively expanded" (like the 44 tonner) and not to the same fixed scale in any of the three dimensions.  The Postwar Lionel engineers were really masters of this trade.

Rusty



3-Rail O also includes a segment, commonly derided as toy trains, not scale model (non/semi-scale) items that run run on three-rail track. Lionel and a few other manufacturers really popularized this segment in the postwar era, almost making Lionel synonymous with O. Again, though, most were not scale.  True, 1:48 scale models in O didn't really become prevalent until much more recently.

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I'm starting to wonder how much longer the semi-scale market will last except for fantasy toy train sets for entry-level...

Lionel's most recent catalog had way more offerings in 1:48 scale engines than LC+2 engines.

Let's be clear. It is the scale side of the hobby that is the segment.

This 3-rail hobby wouldn't exist today as we know it were it not for Lionel. And the VAST majority of the trains, that many of us have fond memories of, were not precise scale. Production runs of these products were in the tens of thousands. In one year alone, Lionel made almost 200,000 027 operating milk cars. Though precise production run numbers are hard to come by, even during the MPC years of Lionel, most cars were made in the multiple thousands, not in the few hundred that many of today's scale items are made in.

In other recent years, both Richard Kughn and Dick Maddox both said that the 027 4-4-2 steam engine "Flyer" starter sets outsold all the other starter sets combined. Which outside of track, is another way of saying it was the best selling item in the catalog. Jerry Calabrese said the non-scale Polar Express set became the best selling set in the entire history of Lionel. Even today, Lionel has said it is the starter set sales that keeps Lionel in business.

Both Howard Hitchcock of Lionel and Andy Edleman of MTH have both said the emphasis on the scale products today is not in production run numbers, but in variety of products. So while the front of the Lionel catalog has page after page of scale products - nearly all limited production, built to order - the few pages of LionChief Plus locomotives probably outsell the entire scale product production. 2,000 units is a limited production starter set run. 2,000 units of a scale product is an out-of-the-ballpark home run and is also unusual. We've seen examples of scale products that were cancelled because they failed to get orders for even 25 units.

BTW, the number I've heard quoted from other manufactures, of the minimum production run out of China (not paint scheme, but overall production run) is 300. That could vary between Chinese factory vendors, but that seems to be the commonly spoken of number - just to keep some semblance of reality about the scale products are taking over.

So while much of the topic of conversation on this forum seems to be on the scale side of the product spectrum, it is not an accurate reflection of the overall market. And while personally, I'm not really wild about all of the current fantasy, brand item train sets and traditional rolling stock items, there are decades worth of large production runs, and so there are many products on the secondary market, and at far less money.

I always laugh when I read the scale guys whine about prices (which BTW, need to be a whole lot higher) ... They fail to consider that the prices on the traditonal items are usually just a few dollars behind the scale ones. When you're talking nearly $100.00 for a single box car, that could just as easily be a traditional version over a scale one.

And I personally agree with Rich Melvin about the semi-scale term. Just call it Lionel. That's what it is. A Lionel Alco is the short 027 Alco FA. That's what it is! A Lionel box car is a 6464 style box car!! A PS-1 box car might be made by Lionel, but it's NOT a Lionel box car... it's just a highly detailed, accurately proportioned replica. That 6464 type is a LIONEL!

I'm not knocking the scale market or products. But these current scale products wouldn't even exist were it not for the products Lionel has made over the decades that has kept them in business. And to this very date as Ryan Kunkle has said. This semi-scale term I think came about to differentiate the newer scale products from the others. But that still doesn't change reality: Sheer numbers speak of that quite clearly. So the "segment" of the hobby, is the scale product side.

Last edited by brianel_k-lineguy

...This semi-scale term I think came about to differentiate the newer scale products from the others. But that still doesn't change reality: Sheer numbers speak of that quite clearly. So the "segment" of the hobby, is the scale product side.

The term "semi-scale" came out as early as the 1930's (as early as June 1936) before the scale Hudson and scale switcher were produced, although it may not have been used as often as it is nowadays.

Tom

Last edited by MNCW


And I personally agree with Rich Melvin about the semi-scale term. Just call it Lionel. That's what it is. A Lionel Alco is the short 027 Alco FA. That's what it is! A Lionel box car is a 6464 style box car!! A PS-1 box car might be made by Lionel, but it's NOT a Lionel box car... it's just a highly detailed, accurately proportioned replica. That 6464 type is a LIONEL!



Then what would you call it?  Isn't that scale PS-1 designed by Lionel engineers working in a Lionel location getting paid by Lionel?

Is my Ford Escape not a Ford because it isn't a Model A?

Rusty

This is a can of worms for sure. O gauge is 1:43.5 in England, 1:48 here. O gauge track is 1.25" in gauge which is the equivalent of 1:45.2 scale. True 1:48 would be 1.177". The top end engines are more or less in 1:48 scale for length and height, but the track gauge and profile, couplers, wheel flanges, configuration of the pilot and trailing truck, distance from engine to tender are not- not to mention the center third rail.  Everyone has their own line in the sand. Over in tinplate, we just embrace non-scale.

@Rich Melvin posted:

I have always had a problem accepting the term “semi-scale.” It doesn’t mean anything and is, in a way, an oxymoron. It’s like being “semi-pregnant.”

Every model is built to a some sort of scale. It may not be set perfectly accurate to a given scale, but it is built to SOME scale of the real thing. “Semi-scale” conveys absolutely nothing about to what scale a particular model is built. It’s a silly, nonsensical term.

I agree that semi-scale has no fixed definition. But I disagree with "Every model is built to some sort of scale" In a general sense, yes as applied to length, but that implies a consistent scale. Various parts of the prototype are compressed different amounts and therefore different "scales" to suit the needs of track gauge, minimum radius, fitting the motor in, manufacturing, etc. Maybe this is is nit-picking. Maybe manufactures should say, instead of "semi-scale", 90% of scale length or something.

My, my, my, what a fascinating conversation to stumble into!

When I did 1/72 model airplanes, I allowed a scale deviation of 10%, so as to allow some unusual (old) models. In fact, I took it a little further, going closer to 12% to allow for some 1/64 model aircraft.
Also, there was a time here in the States where people modeled 17/64" scale, which works out to a notch over 1/45.
Bowser's old HO gauge Challenger and Big Boy were actually 1/96. Tyco's Ten Wheeler was 1/76.
This isn't even taking into account things like selective compression, "SMILES", what have you.
What brought me back into the hobby was a Kusan battery powered set. A quick measure of the boxcar made it 90% 1/48, or 1/53. Marx is all over the place, of course.
And I have yet to venture into MTH, but they have some mighty tempting items.

Cheers,

Robert

Let's be clear. It is the scale side of the hobby that is the segment.

This 3-rail hobby wouldn't exist today as we know it were it not for Lionel. And the VAST majority of the trains, that many of us have fond memories of, were not precise scale. Production runs of these products were in the tens of thousands. In one year alone, Lionel made almost 200,000 027 operating milk cars. Though precise production run numbers are hard to come by, even during the MPC years of Lionel, most cars were made in the multiple thousands, not in the few hundred that many of today's scale items are made in.

In other recent years, both Richard Kughn and Dick Maddox both said that the 027 4-4-2 steam engine "Flyer" starter sets outsold all the other starter sets combined. Which outside of track, is another way of saying it was the best selling item in the catalog. Jerry Calabrese said the non-scale Polar Express set became the best selling set in the entire history of Lionel. Even today, Lionel has said it is the starter set sales that keeps Lionel in business.

Both Howard Hitchcock of Lionel and Andy Edleman of MTH have both said the emphasis on the scale products today is not in production run numbers, but in variety of products. So while the front of the Lionel catalog has page after page of scale products - nearly all limited production, built to order - the few pages of LionChief Plus locomotives probably outsell the entire scale product production. 2,000 units is a limited production starter set run. 2,000 units of a scale product is an out-of-the-ballpark home run and is also unusual. We've seen examples of scale products that were cancelled because they failed to get orders for even 25 units.

BTW, the number I've heard quoted from other manufactures, of the minimum production run out of China (not paint scheme, but overall production run) is 300. That could vary between Chinese factory vendors, but that seems to be the commonly spoken of number - just to keep some semblance of reality about the scale products are taking over.

So while much of the topic of conversation on this forum seems to be on the scale side of the product spectrum, it is not an accurate reflection of the overall market. And while personally, I'm not really wild about all of the current fantasy, brand item train sets and traditional rolling stock items, there are decades worth of large production runs, and so there are many products on the secondary market, and at far less money.

I always laugh when I read the scale guys whine about prices (which BTW, need to be a whole lot higher) ... They fail to consider that the prices on the traditonal items are usually just a few dollars behind the scale ones. When you're talking nearly $100.00 for a single box car, that could just as easily be a traditional version over a scale one.

And I personally agree with Rich Melvin about the semi-scale term. Just call it Lionel. That's what it is. A Lionel Alco is the short 027 Alco FA. That's what it is! A Lionel box car is a 6464 style box car!! A PS-1 box car might be made by Lionel, but it's NOT a Lionel box car... it's just a highly detailed, accurately proportioned replica. That 6464 type is a LIONEL!

I'm not knocking the scale market or products. But these current scale products wouldn't even exist were it not for the products Lionel has made over the decades that has kept them in business. And to this very date as Ryan Kunkle has said. This semi-scale term I think came about to differentiate the newer scale products from the others. But that still doesn't change reality: Sheer numbers speak of that quite clearly. So the "segment" of the hobby, is the scale product side.

So you know, I'm on your side in the 3RO, decidedly and forever committed to O27/non/semi/Lionel/Traditional scale. I have enough for the next 20-30 years on this planet, and while I'll likely buy something new each year to scratch my itch, especially if I can replace at TMCC 1.0 engine with an LC+2 equivalent, my major accumulating years are about done.

You're right, our group was the basis on which 1:48 scale was created and now thrives. I just think it's possible to conclude (fear?) a squeeze on us in the middle judging by recent catalogs and the folding of a few like Industrial Rail, and the POTENTIAL loss of Rail King, that's all.

Not panicking or even complaining. Our Lionel scale has so much available on the secondary market now in modern, MPC, and PW with even more coming with estate sales that I have little worry about obtaining more rolling stock. Other than sprung trucks, how much have our scale's box cars, gondolas, hoppers, tankers, and cabeese really changed in 65 years? Not that much, methinks. Sure, I love the RK O27 passenger cars and would never buy another set with silhouette passengers, but I have more than enough RK passenger car sets.

There was a great thread recently about mixing and matching PW, MPC, and modern era gear.....we can do that without batting an eye in Lionel scale.

Interesting subject that always brings out lots of opinions.  Personally, I don't understand the vitriol by some against the term "semi-scale" as applied to model trains.  The term makes sense to me, I'll explain why.

First, the definition of the prefix "semi" is not limited to "half of" as in semi-circle.  It also can mean partial or quasi Semi | Definition of Semi by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com).  The word semiconductor is an example of the prefix semi used in this context.

Second, and more specific to model trains, is this example of my modified MTH RK K4s.

20181223_111055

The PSC details added are 1:48 proportioned scale items.  Of note, the scale PSC par pilot mated perfectly to the RK pilot beam whish is obviously of scale width.  Also interesting is that the RK pilot beam, while of scale width, has a greater than 1:48 scale height to compensate for the too high pilot deck height.  MTH RK PRR M1a in the background is another example of a scale pilot added to a model that is not otherwise strictly 1:48 proportioned.   So the way I see it, the term semi-scale as applied to O-gauge model trains means that 1:48 scale, selectively compressed, and selectively exaggerated elements are combined to create a caricature of a prototype article that looks and performs well on way too tight (compared to prototype practice) model train curves and turnouts.  The context is in keeping with the definition of the prefix "semi."     

I don't expect the explanation above to change the minds of semi-scale naysayers, but I hope it clarifies rationale behind the use of the word as I use it to describe my model trains.  While I use the the word semi-scale to describe my trains, please don't call them "toys!"   

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  • 20181223_111055
@Scott R posted:

Interesting subject that always brings out lots of opinions.  Personally, I don't understand the vitriol by some against the term "semi-scale" as applied to model trains.  The term makes sense to me, I'll explain why.

First, the definition of the prefix "semi" is not limited to "half of" as in semi-circle.  It also can mean partial or quasi Semi | Definition of Semi by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com).  The word semiconductor is an example of the prefix semi used in this context.

Second, and more specific to model trains, is this example of my modified MTH RK K4s.

20181223_111055

The PSC details added are 1:48 proportioned scale items.  Of note, the scale PSC par pilot mated perfectly to the RK pilot beam whish is obviously of scale width.  Also interesting is that the RK pilot beam, while of scale width, has a greater than 1:48 scale height to compensate for the too high pilot deck height.  MTH RK PRR M1a in the background is another example of a scale pilot added to a model that is not otherwise strictly 1:48 proportioned.   So the way I see it, the term semi-scale as applied to O-gauge model trains means that 1:48 scale, selectively compressed, and selectively exaggerated elements are combined to create a caricature of a prototype article that looks and performs well on way too tight (compared to prototype practice) model train curves and turnouts.  The context is in keeping with the definition of the prefix "semi."     

I don't expect the explanation above to change the minds of semi-scale naysayers, but I hope it clarifies rationale behind the use of the word as I use it to describe my model trains.  While I use the the word semi-scale to describe my trains, please don't call them "toys!"   

Sums it up. It’s a wrap!  Lol. I feel like Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons right now. My finger in my nose, saying, “I’m a railroad”

By the way. I mean zero disrespect. I find the whole subject hysterical.

Last edited by Pg3ibew

my 2 cents- Any engine I have -conventional, Lion Chief(have 1) or Legacy I will run with my 'scale' rolling stock, looks fine to me.

I won't mix 'scale' and not 'scale' rolling stock- doesn't look right, my personal preference.  It's your layout, do what you like.

I learned a few things from this thread, thanks.

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