“S”electing a “S”cale

Taking up S scale as the chosen medium for railway modelling is not for the faint-hearted – I am not talking about collectors of American Flyer here, but those who want to create a finescale model railway. It is not, though, as daunting as it may seem. This is a recurring theme on the S Scale Forum, which if S scale interests you, you are strongly urged to join (it costs nothing, although donations towards the upkeep are welcome). I though it an interesting exercise to tabulate some reasons why S scale might be right for someone, and indeed, why it might not:

  • Although only 36% longer than H0, S has 2 1/2 times the volume and mass – things roll better;
  • S is only 3/4 the length of 0, requiring only 56% of the area;
  • There is a reasonable range of RTR and kits, as well as limited run brass, on which to build;
  • Because of this, there is scope for individualism via modifications and new paint schemes;
  • If you wish to model something off the beaten track, where kit-bashing and scratch-building will be essential, then the larger size is easier on the hands and eyes;
  • Large enough to see details and models yet small enough to fit a layout into a reasonable space;
  • An active, if sometimes disparate, social scene where everybody has the common interest of enjoying S scale.

Against that, there are some valid reasons not to get involved, and some less valid reasons:

  • “I want access to a large manufacturing base offering great variety at the lowest possible cost.” Can’t really counter that – if that’s what you want, then H0/00 or N are probably for you;
  • “I have a large circle of modelling friends, all of whom model in H0, and I like to host sessions where they run their trains on my layout.” OK, stick with that, then, but maybe do a little bit of S scale for a small module?
  • “I don’t have the skill to alter RTR and kits, or to build kits.” Skill comes from practice, and from not rushing things;
  • “I want as much landscape as possible, in a small space.” OK, then N is probably best for you!
  • “I want really big individual models” I am not interested in a layout.” Well, S scale is a good size for this – you can pick things up more easily than in larger scales, but it sounds like 1:48 or 1:32 may be a better idea.
  • “I have too much invested in another scale already.” That depends on how it is invested. If you are 70 years old, and have spent the last 25 years building up a large operational empire and it all works, then maybe now is not the time to rip it all up! However, if you simply have a cupboard full of kits and RTR, then selling off those kits which you may never build via eBay or friends could fund your first steps into S.
  • “Nothing is made in S.” Look around: starting with the S Sig website and the NASG, as well as the UK S Scale Model Railway Society for an example of an organisation which has used the facilities of a group to produce the necessary parts;
  • “I don’t like the size.” Fair enough.

As ever, it is always a personal choice, but for someone who doesn’t want to run with the herd, someone who enjoys a challenge, then I would say, S scale is ideal.

If you are not sure, I think you should.

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