Saturday, 26 August 2017

HO Vs. N Scale

I wanted to share with you my two latest model railway additions. Aren't they great? The thing is, I can't decide which locomotive I like more. And yes, they are two different scales from two very different locations.

On the left is an Australian HO scale L class loco in the stunning ATN Access livery by Southern Rail Models. The loco is a former West Australian Government Railways loco based on the U.S. SD45 model and the livery is that of parent company Wisconsin Central. ATN Access operated briefly in the east of Australia from 2002 to 2006 before being sold to Pacific National.

On the right is an N scale Santa Fe GP60M locomotive from across the Pacific in the U.S. of A and made by Fox Valley Models. It features the classic warbonnet livery first made famous in 1937 at the height of the Streamliner-era and later re-introduced on Santa Fe's diesel fleet in the mid 1980's. Some examples of this livery post BNSF merger can still be found today.

For a model railroader, choice of what we choose to model and on what scale often comes down to one thing; the space we have available to work with!

Plans for a 2 foot by 5 foot layout will sit nicely beneath my 1 foot by 6 foot modelled portion of my bookshelf layout.

Readers would probably remember my decision to can-the-plan for my upper level extension back in March this year. Compromising the layout design to end up with a plan I didn't really like was at first disheartening. But after enjoying exhibiting Philden at two shows this year, I decided to put any expansion plans for my HO scale bookshelf layout on hold for the moment, and instead look at what I could do beneath my small layout.

Using N scale and working with a 10 and 1/2" inch radius for the layout's design, I came up with a 2' x 5' foot elongated oval plan that incorporates a passing loop, lead track and key siding capable of holding 4 cars for a major industrial tenant on the layout. The layout will replace the desk that currently sits beneath Philden, with 1 foot of the layout tucked beneath my bookshelf layout and still visible, and 1 foot jutting out in front of it which still shouldn't obtrude on operating my HO scale layout. With N scale being roughly half the size in terms of operating space required, a HO scale equivalent would be a 4' x 10' foot layout, something which I just don't have the room for.

My desk will soon disappear, to be replaced by an N scale layout beneath it.

Using a 10 and 1/2" inch radius curve isn't ideal for those wanting to run larger locomotives such as SD70MAC's or Challenger steam locomotives. So after months of researching different railroads, eras and studying track plans, I settled on the Santa Fe Railroad, set in the mid 1980's. Not only did it offer two distinct and well recognised liveries between the silver and blue warbonnet schemes, but they also used an interesting variety of 4 axle locomotives, including the wide cab GP60M shown above. Comparing the retail prices of HO and N scale locomotives, N scale is by far the more affordable option, with the Fox Valley Models GP60M loco brand new costing $179 Australian Dollars, while the Southern Rail Models L Class retails for $375 Australian Dollars. Talking price now instead of size, once more N scale comes in about half that of HO.

The Eighties also bring back a flood of memories from many of my favourite TV shows that were all filmed in California. Shows like CHiPs, Knight Rider, The A-Team, MacGyver, and even ALF. And if we're talking movies, then you can't go past Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Beverley Hills Cop and the Back to the Future movies to know that I've picked an awesome era to model. From my apartment high in Caloundra, my desk overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and somewhere over the horizon on the other side of the Pacific, all those memories come floating back in the form of the silver warbonnet GP60M I've photographed above.

Modelling the Santa Fe in N scale becomes all the more interesting given that the Surfline between Los Angeles and San Diego has some stunning parallel running with the Pacific Ocean. When it comes to the beach lifestyle and palm tress, there's a lot that Australians and Californians share in common. Returning to N scale isn't really a problem given that Philden is the first HO scale layout I have constructed. Prior to that, I'd spent the previous 25 years having fun building N scale layouts, you may remember my post on my past layouts from October 2016.

That's me back in 2005 at the Union Pacific Model Railroad Club Show in Brisbane. Where did all that hair go!

Stepping back into N is also a little like stepping back in time, albeit, minus the hair I once had! Last weekend I made the trek south to Brisbane to visit Austral Modelcraft, to what was once my local model train shop when I lived in Brisbane. Rest assured, Ray and Eileen Nunn were still there, and the place pretty much looked like I remembered it from a decade ago. Back when I was a regular at their store, it was pretty much a case of me buying anything C&NW that arrived. My double tracked layout had 9 and 1/4" inch radius on the inside curve, and 10 3/4" inch on the outside rails. I ran C44-9CW six axles locos on the outside line without any problems, so a 10 1/2" radius on my new layout won't be an issue at all when running four axle Santa Fe locomotives. It was a great little layout, and stayed with me for the best part of a decade until we downsized to a smaller apartment. I have a lot of memories of that layout involving my kids climbing up on their little blue plastic chairs when they were young to watch the trains pass by at nose-level. Now my kids are both grown and I find myself wishing I could re-live some of those memories again.

Perhaps the nostalgia in building a new 1980's N scale Santa Fe surfline layout extends to those memories as well. Maybe it is imagining what lies over on the other side of the Pacific Ocean when gazing out our apartment window. Or maybe it is just the memory of MacGyver. Or a little bit of each. One thing is for sure; given the space and budget I have available to work with, I've picked a great little time and place to model.

As for Philden's HO scale plans? The L class is currently awaiting the arrival of Southern Rail Models XGAY hoppers before I convert an existing siding into the junction for a wheat line leading to a distant wheat silo that will be visible on the backdrop in the corner of the layout. After my N scale desk is completed, I'll once more be drawing up plans to extend Philden. Only this time it will be in the form of an L-shaped extension with, you guessed it, a large wheat silo to operate. When it comes to modelling in different scales, some may argue its a case of different strokes for different folks. I think its more a case of two layouts is double the fun of one!

See also; Those Uh-Oh Moments and Remembering my past layouts

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil