Selecting a prototype railroad

New scale new prototype. I have started my journey to north american railroads with a lot inspiration from Lance Mindheims books. Thus I was attracted by the modern prototype and CSX Transportation.

On the FREMO-meeting my son ran switchers in the yard and an Alco RS-1 for the local jobs. My daughter loved running steam locos and waiting for the water to be refilled. So the new timeframe should be right in the transition era, late 1940s to mid 1950s. This allows running steam locomotives besides diesels.

To allow the use of the rolling stock and especially locomotives in a wide timeframe on FREMO meetings, it would be nice to use a railroad company that has not made large changes to its paint scheme. Additionally it would be nice to allow to operated it in interchanges with other railroads.

I did some research and looked for the available models for different railroad companies. I discussed the candidates with my kids and finally we  settled on the Union Pacific Railroad. It fits my criteria. The paint scheme has not been changed radically and the UP operates in a large area and thus interchanges with a lot of other railroads in many locations. The kids like the colors. So here we go now.

Tipped over

Last weekend my kids and I were guests at a FREMO-meeting of the local americaN-group. The subject of this meeting was set in the early transition era with a focus of steam operations. I’m more into diesels nevertheless it was a lot of fun. We stayed for a little more than four hours. Most of the time we spent holding a throttle and running trains.

My seven year old daughter was a little reluctant and didn’t want to run a train on her own in the first place. After we had completed our first “jobs” she ran a steam powered passenger train from the staging yard into the large yard. I helped her with coupling and operating turnouts and she enjoyed it a lot. Especially filling up the water tanks of the locomotive, which was symbolised with hourglasses: “There is an hourglass that takes five minutes!”

My nine year old son ran the trains on his own and just needed help with uncoupling. He likes switching most and his special love is running locals with some switching at the local industries.

On our way home the kids where enthusiastic and wanted to build some N-scale modules on their own. As I was thinking in this direction before, it didn’t take a lot work to convince me. So I’m tipped over towards N-Scale.

HO vs N. A devastating comparison

The last few days I spent a quite some time with track planning. I planned two very comparable layouts, based on Palmetto by Lance Mindheim. My first version is in HO. As I am used to this scale and I was pretty sure that this is the scale to go. Then I tried the same (or similar) in N scale. There are #10 turnouts available for the Atlas code 55 track. Awesome!

The result is devastating. I created a N scale version that is 25 % shorter and uses only 60 % of the real estate. Additionally it uses #10 turnouts instead of #8. The scene has a much more generous look and might cope with more rolling stock without unrealistically cluttered.

Switching layout like Lance Mindheims Palmetto in HO and N-Scale compared.
Switching layout like Lance Mindheims Palmetto in HO and N-Scale compared.

I am now in a scale-selection-crisis. I have excluded N scale due to my crafting skills – or better the lack of them. I thought my space would allow my to create some interesting HO scale layouts and operations. I’m sure it does. But I must acknowledge that I like the Idea of this spacious scenery and “tiny” trains a lot. I will visit a FREMO americaN meet in two weeks and hope to experience some nice, prototypical operations. I will have a look at the models and their quality. My kids will accompany me and their opinion will certainly be part of my considerations. That might tip me over in the either or other direction scale.