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2 Rail O Scale is very alive in the US.   It is more of modeler's/Builders niche than a collectors's niche.     MTH one of the big 3 rail mfg, has produced 2 rail versions of their products on and off.    Lionel has not produced 2 rail stuff that I am aware of.    I have heard that they are offering 2 rail trucks to convert some of their cars.   Weaver, who has gone out of business, and Atlas imported or mfg most of their products in both 2 and 3 rail.    Generally 2 rail models are built to 1:48 scale.    In the 3 rail realm, there are a variety of product lines by mfg and some are not to scale and some are.    

2 rail O scale is a lot smaller market than 3 rail, but it still exists and it relatively easy to find if you look.    Many of the suppliers, importers and mfg in 2 rail are small shops vs big corporations like Lionel and MTH,    For this reason most 2 rail O scale is made to NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) standards and recommendations.   That way, generally, products from all the different mfg are compatible and work together.   

 

Not to forget Proto48 Fine Scale.  This is 1:48 O at it's finest!  Visit www.proto48.org to see for yourself.

Item: The late Bob Hegge constructed his Crooked Mountain Lines electric railway to 1:48 Fine Scale using Code 100 track albeit the layout wasn't built to Proto48 standards.  His models were outstanding just the same. 

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

3 rail O was developed as a toy train, Joshua Lionel chose 3 rail because it made wiring a lot simpler, no problems with reverse loops for example. The trains were representative of real trains for the most part, again designed for kids to use (well, in theory....). 

2 rail O emerged I believe in the 30's, when I would assume adults wanted to have more realistic trains, it was when HO started growing in popularity.  For engines from what I have read people converted Lionel 3 rail engines to 2 (Frank Ellison used outside third rail, still not prototypical), and there were a small group of manufacturers who started offering 2 rail O running 12v DC like HO, offered rail. 

3 rail in terms of size of market has dominated 2, even as 2 rail scale did grow over time, in part because especially before the 1960's, Lionel 0 was a mass market product. Even after Lionel went into decline it still was bigger than 2 rail, even as more manufacturers started producing in 2 rail.  In recent decades 3 rail changed, it went from the semi scale to toylike post war mode to being scale models, a lot of people got into 3 rail as scale modelers (obviously semi scale is still out there), and of course the entry of MTH and Atlas also made 3 rail bigger. 

2 rail 0 is still out there, it is of course much smaller than HO or N , and it is also one of the reasons that 3 rail O scale modelling dwarfs it, and that is space. 3 rail O, even scale, has compromises to make it run on tighter curves, things like truck mounted couples, longer drawbars on engines, blind drivers (non flanged), are compromises to allow scale size but run in relatively smaller spaces. 2 rail O scale generally requires larger radius curves that many people don't have the room for (and that is a generalization, even 3 rail O scale can require larger radii to work or look good, like O36 radius/O72 diameter, but that would likely be larger in 2 rail scale for a similar engine. (it is also why for all the scale equipment, a lot of people stay with smaller scale 3 rail or semi scale, because they don't have room for larger curves)

2 rail scale as I mentioned is 12v DC, it operates the same way as HO does. In terms of command control it has one big advantage, most engines in 2 rail O that support command control use DCC, the industry standard, there is no bifurcation like 3 rail (MTH made engines that could be switched from 3 rail to 2 rail, the command control system supported DCC or DCS, MTH's own system), where Lionel and MTH had 2 different, incompatible systems for the most part.  2 rail scale also has the polarity issue with reversing loops, but these days thanks to automated polarity control you no longer have to manually control the rail polarity to prevent a short.

Basically comes down to what drives a person, 3 rail semi scale allows you in  relative smaller spaces to be able to run a variety of equipment on tighter radii curves, but it won't be as scale appearing; 3 rail scale is less of a compromise, the equipment is more scale appearing, looks more realistic, but of course it has the third rail, and it employs other compromises like truck mounted couplers, drawbar lengths, blind drivers, removed steps and such on overhangs to allow tighter curves.

2 rail scale like any scale equipment still has compromises, but they are a lot less, 2 rail scale has body mounter couplers, has fine detail not possible on 3 rail scale always, has small flanges to allow more scale track in terms of height .

Proto 48 is sort of the ultimate, O has one factor that goes across O 3 rail and 2 rail, the gauge works out to 5' scale, when prototype is 4' 8 1/2". Proto 48 means track that is gauged properly, that the ties are spaced to prototype spacing, and generally is using code 100 track as well. 

Price is also a factor, semi scale tends to be cheaper, significantly so, scale equipment 2 or 3 rail is more expensive, so it is another compromise, budget plays into it, too. 

 

 

 

 

Not to forget German manufacture Märklin HO also operateds on AC current just as traditional three rail does. 

Märklin in the past released models wired for two rail DC under the HAMO name.  Their idea was to offer Fleischmann and Trix operators a better variety of products on the market at the time when HAMO was introduced.  It worked too!

Last edited by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer

If the movers and shakers of the 2RO world had had a history of compromise (optional, engineered for easy addition/removal blind center drivers, swinging pilots, truck-mounted couplers when needed for tighter spaces, and so forth) over the years, I would not have a 3RO layout. I would be in 2-rail. But, most 2RO equipment of the large steam (or diesel) variety requires a barn. "Big 072" diameter (36" radius) curves are tiny in the 2-rail world.

3RO Hi-Rail standards can live in the real modeling world, where most of us want a home layout and very few have anything to do with an often-shaky club. That middle rail still bothers me, but I've moved past it.  

Last edited by D500

So to the big Lionel fans of 3 rail,

do you know Lionel made 2 rail stuff? 

How about their 2 rail PRR T-1? (Passed on buying one and it still is in my mind.)

http://www.lionel.com/products...-model-5511-6-28089/

You forgot about the Smithsonian Dreyfus Hudson and matching scale passenger cars back in the 1990's. Beautiful set, even by today's standards. Don't know how well the locomotive ran as it seemed to be a set geared toward collectors.

What started you modelling O?  For a lot of Americans it was what did Dad, Uncle have or what could you buy down the store?  For me, living in England, it was what looks almost as good as the real thing?  Totally different.

Before I focussed on the D&H after my first Nth American vacation in 1974, I had bought a second-hand US Hobbies UP 2-8-0 which comfortably went round 30" radius curves.  Nobody has ever made a D&H 4-8-4 so I've never been disappointed.  The US Hobbies D&H SD45 I painted does it just fine.

Running trains round and round is what I do at my local club - testing the new builds, the DCC, the 3-rail conversions, coupler height, etc.  Back home is all about industries, car cards and switching.  Sounds and slow-speed control and a track plan that gets you a 45 minute session does it for me.

For all of us, model railroads is IT.  Teaches us so many skills over time.

Jason

I'd forgotten about the 2-rail T-1, Matt, 2001.  Yes, everybody needs one .  Lionel have produced some very nice, scale freight cars, well worth converting to 2-rail: autoracks, tanks, 2-bay hoppers (diecast , but we know why ), covered hoppers, those PS-1 40ft boxcars are probably the nicest mass market version ever.  I got a Rock Island version to repaint D&H, but couldn't bring myself to.

jason

@Jerryc41 posted:

I've always had Lionel three-rail track.  When I watch videos from England, they all seem to have O-gauge with two rails.  Is the two-rail version of O-gauge popular here?  I had never seen it before.  I'm staying with Lionel, but I'm just curious.

A few years old, but this video provides a good view into what's possible (and happening) in O scale 2 rail.

What bugs me about the current state of the two-rail market (aside from the shortage of track) is the erratic nature of the locomotive market.

 

two-rail O lacks a basic “bread and butter” locomotive that is available year in, year out. Instead, it has import runs with waiting lists and, as often as not, requiring wide curves and wide spaces. I can see why someone with deep pockets and a passion for big engines might want a 2-10-4 or a massive articulated, but those with smaller living spaces can’t fit them in.

 

I have watched the D-FW O scalers and their layouts for years.  I also started reading British modeling magazines. I think there is a way for two-rail to expand its niche:: smaller locomotives capable of navigating tight curves. (Think common diesel switchers or smaller steam locomotives like the 4-4-0s and 2-6-0s still used by Class Ones in the 1920’s or the smaller rod locomotives used by logging lines Sierra RR 28 or the rod engines used by WT Carter).

The original 3-rail is/was handy for running all-metal toy trains with its less complicated insulation demands. The US 3-rail hobby took a real jump I'd guess with the rise of the MTH - Lionel rivalry, and 2-rail scale O needs all that space. I think a lot of people liked the ability to run O gauge on tighter curves with 3-rail, as I do. 

The British O Scale Guild had standards for a 3-rail stud contact system that was popular for outdoor layouts and what they called "coarse scale". They used a skate ( as seen below) similar to the Marklin set-up.

If you zoom in on the lower photo, you can just see the studs between the rails.

Photos: https://www.gaugeoguild.comIMG_0536

IMG_0537

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My impression - if you are starting out the main reason for selecting 3-rail is you like the way the track looks.

There are no shortages of good 2-rail equipment; at any time of the day or night you can buy a good NW-2 and enough boxcars to make anyone happy.  

The tighter radius afforded large 3-rail models comes at a price - models must depart from accuracy, often in serious ways.

Recently visited a neat hobby shop up towards the Pocono region and Scranton Pa. the owner has his layout Throughout the shop and had quite a few lines dedicated to 2 Rail- he also had a bench of works in progress that he was converting to 2 Rail. While the train selection was on par with an LHS,  the selection of track was more than you see at the biggest hobby shops- 2 or 3 types of atlas, selection of Gargraves that was more than I could count, MTH realtrax & scaletrax, Lionel Fastrack, tubular O and o-27, it was impressive.

Got me thinking of which track I want to use as I expand my layout(13 by 7, about to be 16 by 7). Max radius is O-42, outer loop realtrax inner is Fastrack. Had been thinking of upgrading outer loop to 0-54 for awhile but with such a small width. Sorry for the tangent. But there is 2 Rail scale out there, more of a niche market but MTH and others had taken steps to make their engines and rolling stock useable on 2 Rail 

@Mister_Lee posted:

What bugs me about the current state of the two-rail market (aside from the shortage of track) is the erratic nature of the locomotive market.

 

two-rail O lacks a basic “bread and butter” locomotive that is available year in, year out. Instead, it has import runs with waiting lists and, as often as not, requiring wide curves and wide spaces. I can see why someone with deep pockets and a passion for big engines might want a 2-10-4 or a massive articulated, but those with smaller living spaces can’t fit them in.

Well, there's always this...if you can find one. 

811

Mark in Oregon

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You can probably buy 2 or 3 of those Varney/GM/AN 10 wheelers at any of the 2 rail shows any time.   Or a 4-4-2 or sometimes a pacific.    And the price is generally in 250-300 range for a decent used model and about the same for kit.   Althought pristine kits are not as common.

As for a bread and butter loco, the Atlas O SW9 in 2 rail has been around for many years and it is a great model and a good runner.   

While it is true that new 2 rail locos are mostly built to order now even by MTH.     But they are not longer only high end brass.     Sunset and MTH diesels in 2 rail are not brass - most do have brass add on details.    Sunset stuff has very good single motor mechs with gear reduction to improve slow speed running and does cost a little more than MTH 2 rail.    

Sunset steam does not generally run much more than the high end steam in 3 rail.   

Used brass that may be new old stock, at train shows is often cheaper than the new 3 rail stuff.     I am referring to the scale models, not the low end toy trains.

As a resource, there is an On-line magazine called "O Scale Resource" that is free to view and focuses on 2 rail scale modeling.   It is a good source to describe what is available in 2 rail.

The Two Rail vs. Three Rail debate has been going on for years.  A leading model railroad magazine's slogan says it all, "Model Railroading is Fun".  Gads guys, it doesn't matter what scale anyone models in, from Z to G, it's meant to be an enjoyable hobby and passtime.  With the exception of receiving a beat up package that contains your newest order that's been reduced to parts, it can also be a great way to lower one's stress factor.  Every scale has an advantage for many reasons and it's up to you to decide which one best fits your needs. 

Item: Many model railroaders have both indoor layouts as well as garden railways.  Garden railways are great for bringing families and friends together.   Example: Think about the kids busy running the outdoor trains while dad has steaks and stuff cooking on the grill if you will...

...come and get it!

Ted R: Neat video presentation of the Nickel Plate Road in Two Rail O Scale!

prrjim: O Scale Resource and S Scale Resource are fine online magazines and like www.Proto48.org are free to view and provide lot's of useful information and tips that can be used in all scales. 

All of the above is what makes model railroading The World's Greatest Hobby!

Those of you who haven't taken out a digital subscription to O Gauge Railroading and/or become a Supporting Member, please consider doing so today.  Your contribution will guarentee that OGR will be here for years to come so your children and their children's children will also be able to enjoy the greatest O gauge magazine in the world!  It's the best investment I made in 2020...Period!

Dot Dot Dot Done!

 

@Mister_Lee posted:

What bugs me about the current state of the two-rail market (aside from the shortage of track) is the erratic nature of the locomotive market.

 

two-rail O lacks a basic “bread and butter” locomotive that is available year in, year out. Instead, it has import runs with waiting lists and, as often as not, requiring wide curves and wide spaces. I can see why someone with deep pockets and a passion for big engines might want a 2-10-4 or a massive articulated, but those with smaller living spaces can’t fit them in.

 

I have watched the D-FW O scalers and their layouts for years.  I also started reading British modeling magazines. I think there is a way for two-rail to expand its niche:: smaller locomotives capable of navigating tight curves. (Think common diesel switchers or smaller steam locomotives like the 4-4-0s and 2-6-0s still used by Class Ones in the 1920’s or the smaller rod locomotives used by logging lines Sierra RR 28 or the rod engines used by WT Carter).

Well said Lee,

 

I’m in agreement with you.

@Firewood posted:

The original 3-rail is/was handy for running all-metal toy trains with its less complicated insulation demands. The US 3-rail hobby took a real jump I'd guess with the rise of the MTH - Lionel rivalry, and 2-rail scale O needs all that space. I think a lot of people liked the ability to run O gauge on tighter curves with 3-rail, as I do. 

The British O Scale Guild had standards for a 3-rail stud contact system that was popular for outdoor layouts and what they called "coarse scale". They used a skate ( as seen below) similar to the Marklin set-up.

If you zoom in on the lower photo, you can just see the studs between the rails.

Photos: https://www.gaugeoguild.comIMG_0536

IMG_0537

3 rail or stud contact also has the advantage that it will accept clockwork or live steam rolling stock with no electrical issues. This is particularly important in the UK, where the biggest single O gauge group are the Hornby owners and collectors, and 16mm scale live steam on 32mm or 45mm Gauge is popular for garden railways.

Last edited by Rockershovel

I don't have a dog in the fight, but looking at NMRA recommended practices for O gauge, I don't see any reason to think that 2 rail can be run in the same space as typical 3 rail.

Class E  R25" Old Time Pikes Prototype 9' wheelbase for rigid frame

Class F  R30" Branch Lines                      11' wheelbase

Class G  R32.5"                                          12'6"

Class H  R36.5"                                          14'

Class I   R40"                                              15' (3.75" in 1/48 scale)

None of the above are for mainline railroads. R40 = O-80. The majority of 3 railer's can't accommodate O-80. To me comparing 2 rail O gauge to 3 rail is like comparing HO to 3 rail O gauge.

@Oman posted:

I don't have a dog in the fight, but looking at NMRA recommended practices for O gauge, I don't see any reason to think that 2 rail can be run in the same space as typical 3 rail.

Class H  R36.5"                                          14'

Class I   R40"                                              15' (3.75" in 1/48 scale)

... The majority of 3 railer's can't accommodate O-80. To me comparing 2 rail O gauge to 3 rail is like comparing HO to 3 rail O gauge.

I agree. A New York Central Hudson had a 14-foot rigid wheelbase that (according to your data) requires O-73 for a scale-sized 2-rail model. A 3-rail MTH Premier Hudson is listed for O-42. O gauge (3-rail) is a compromise that allows you to run scale-sized locomotives and passenger cars with simpler wiring than required for 2-rail in a space available to many modelers. The trade-offs are the unrealistic center rail, hi-rail track and larger wheel flanges to avoid derailments, truck-mounted couplers, and other deviations from scale (handrails, steps, movable pilots) to provide the necessary truck pivot angles. It is a simpler proposition and less work to build a 3-rail layout and take advantage of the large choice of 3-rail equipment without having to convert it to 2-rail.  As much as I would have preferred to have 2-rail track on my layouts, I did not have space for it and had to accept the compromises with 3-rail. I might have done that even if I had the space for 2-rail. All-in-all, the trade-off was worth it to me, but if I build another layout it will be On30.

MELGAR

Last edited by MELGAR

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