Respect the scale

More on the size question, this time from the OST blog.  It’s aimed more at ‘O’ gauge, but a lot of these thoughts can be factored into any scale.

Many of the layout design conventions we take for granted were developed in HO scale. As the most popular modelling scale, HO receives the bulk of press coverage and therefore, these design conventions are well entrenched in our thinking.

For HO and N scales, the conventions serve well for the typical spaces modellers have available. However, the design train comes off the rails when the modelling scale increases to 1:48 or even 1:64. An HO modeller moving into these scales is in for culture shock on many levels and since I’m most familiar with quarter-inch, let’s look at what happens…..

The first rude awakening is encountered when one reaches a room corner. In HO, a 36-inch curve is nice while a 48-inch radius is quite generous; long equipment like Hy-Cubes, eighty-foot passenger cars and such look pretty good on such curves. However, 48-inches is a train set radius in quarter-inch scale, being the rough equivalent to 26-27-inch curves in HO, and we all know how grotesque the visual compromise is on curves that tight…..

Observation and experience has taught me that a No.10 frog is the minimum size for a mainline turnout and a No. 12 will be even better. A No. 10 crossover will stretch out around four-feet from switchpoint to switchpoint and the same distance is required to reach the clearance point for an adjacent track with a single turnout. I know, you’re screaming who has space for turnouts that long? Believe me, you can find the space if you really want to…..

Each modeling scale has its own strengths and weaknesses. The strength of N scale is in portraying a panoramic scene. Its weakness is that individual details are all but irrelevant. For quarter-inch scale it’s the polar opposite, because the viewpoint is more close-up and intimate and individual details play a more important role.

I’ve worked in quarter-inch scale for ten years now and it took me three, if not five of those years, to rid myself of the HO scale mentality I brought with me. The initial design of the I&W reflected that mentality with its track dense nature that left little if any room for scenery. I finally understood that the problem wasn’t the larger scale or the perceived lack of space. It was the feeling of being deprived that was generated by constantly comparing the new scale to what I was accustomed to with the old one.

Gee, I can’t fit as much track in here now.
Wow, that runaround looks awfully short.
Boy those turnouts eat up a lot of room.
Did I measure that curve radius correctly?
Why does everything look so overcrowded?

And for us in ‘N’ gauge…..

  • Take care when translating track plans from 4mm scale or even from the real thing.
  • And from those last comments:
    • Don’t fit too much track in, even in ‘N’ gauge
    • Use long runarounds.
    • Use large radius points/turnours.
    • Maximise curve radius. (Don’t use Peco 9″ radius SetTrack points – they will never look right.)
    • Don’t overcrowd the scenery – real life is rarely like this.
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About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in Hints and tips, Inspiration, Layout design, Weird and wonderful and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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