It is recommended that you only use corn oil and water to make the train engines smoke. Do not use vegetable oil, because it will damage the train heating element inside the engine
Technically speaking “gauge” refers to the width between the rails and “scale” refers to the ratio of the model to the real thing, i.e., the prototype. “O Gauge” is 1.25″ between the rails and “O Scale” is a ratio of 1:48, or one-quarter inch to the foot. More commonly “O Gauge” refers to trains that run on 3-rail track and “O Scale” refers to trains that run on 2-rail track.
O Scale is unique in the sense that there are four different ways to model in “standard gauge”.
- There are two versions of 3-Rail modeling: Nostalgia and 3-Rail Scale. Nostalgia has a toy train aspect to it (think early Lionel from the 1950s as the best example of this category).
There is also what is coming to be known as 3-Rail scale. This still uses 3-Rail track but these modelers emphasize scale couplers and even scale wheels
- In 2-Rail modeling, the gauge of 1-1/4″ is a hold over from the time when O Scale models made their way over from the European continent. In 1/4″ scale this worked out to be a track gauge of five feet. Modelers just lived with this anomaly for decades, although there were attempts to correct the discrepancy, usually by increasing the scale ratio of the models from a 1/4″ to the foot to 17/64″ of an inch to the foot. This never really caught on since it involved scratchbuilding everything.
- In the 1960s a group of narrow gauge modelers developed a wheel and flange profile based upon the prototype’s AAR standards, so they could operate standard and narrow gauge models on dual gauge track reliably. This become known as 1/4″AAR and did catch on, eventually becoming what we know as P48 today.
If this all sounds confusing, it’s because it is. O Scale is the only one of the popular indoor modeling scales that hasn’t outgrown its toy train roots and influences. But take heart, because much of the equipment made for 3-Rail is suitable for scale or prototype based modeling with a little extra work. So you can have the best of the many worlds O Scale currently offers.
These terms and numbers might be confusing at first, but they are actually quite simple. Let’s start wit ht the “O” in all these terms. The O simply stands for O-gauge. The O scale was originally invented by Marklin trains around 1900, but Lionel took it big time. From what I’ve read, they called it O scale because it was smaller than the existing “1” scale (also known as wide scale) at the time. Anyway, the number next to the O is a direct representation of the diameter of a completed circle of track. So, a completed circle of O-27 track measures 27 inches across. Standard O-gauge track is O-31, meaning that it’s 31 inches across a completed circle of track. O-45 is 45 inches across and so on. This comes into play when you consider the scale of trains you are running, how realistic you want your layout to look and also how much space you have to work with. Since a turn of O-27 track only requires 27 inches, you can have a lot more train in a smaller space. But the tradeoff is that O-27 is not as realistic looking as standard O. With standard O, you get a more realistic looking scale, but you’ve also got to have a lot more space to make those big turns.
The overall market for O Scale is very small compared to HO or N Scale. In addition, many of the product manufacturers are small time operations; literally someone who is working from their garage or basement in many cases. Due to the niche aspects of the O Scale marketplace, the production runs are often very limited in quantity and once an item is sold out it’s often considered to be gone forever. This is why many O Scale modelers tend to be pack rats in nature.
The term “postwar” refers to the era of Lionel trains following the end of World War II, spanning from 1945 to about 1969. Hence the term “postwar”. In contrast, the era of Lionel trains prior to World War II is known as “prewar”. Prewar trains tended to be more toy-like while postwar trains were more realistic looking. Postwar Lionel trains were made in the USA and the craftsmanship and quality was second to none. This was the golden age for electric trains and pretty much anything from the postwar era is a collectors item. Some postwar Lionel trains that are still in good condition can be worth a good chunk of change. After 1969, Lionel’s quality went down and the trains were not as good as they used to be. Fortunately, as I mentioned on the home page, the new century has become a new golden age for electric trains. High quality trains are back in production and some of the new stuff that Lionel is cranking out is just as good or even better than the original stuff. The only difference is that now all the stuff is made if China instead of here. But if you ask me, I think moving the manufacturing the China was one factor that made this new golden age possible. With lower productions costs, train makers are able to make high quality items for reasonable prices once again.
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