Fear of change?

Chris Mears has made an interesting post – not that he does any other sort – picking up on discussions about what it would take for P87 to become established in North America.

My understanding is that “code 64” wheels and P87 wheel and track components are available for freight and passenger cars and diesel engines, but steam is a different matter. Also, it isn’t just about the wheels and the track: with scale wheels, the truck frames can – and arguably should – be brought slightly closer together. In a reply to Chris’s post, I touched on the fact that what it needs is for someone to actually get on and do it. The biggest obstacle seems to be fear of becoming a “lone wolf”, unable to run stock on friends’ layouts and vice versa. That is a poor excuse, as most of us have more equipment than we need, so why not have a few extra items to the other standard? This enables the P87 modeller to run finely detailed engines elsewhere, and encourages the H0 modeller to have a go at P87. For passenger and freight cars, it may be as simple as having a few spare trucks and swapping them over now and then.

I can think of several possible subjects which be ideal candidates for a reasonable P87 layout that would not be too demanding, yet interesting enough once built to enjoy operating them. Some are real, some are models, and some are inspired by the approach taken to modelling a real location. All bar one have relatively few turnouts and require little in the way of equipment: if modelled in the diesel era (which might be stretching things a little for a couple of the suggestions) then re-wheeling would be neither expensive nor time-consuming.

The obvious candidate would be Port Rowan, or Port Dover: already done in S as we know, but in the same space a model of Port Rowan station could be modelled more or less to scale length, with a longer tail track than Trevor Marshall could accommodate.
Another prototype-based model line which lends itself to adaptation for a P87 first layout – not least because it can be built in a modular fashion of discrete scenes, as confidence builds up, is James McNab‘s Grimes Line. (Yes, two links: one for the blog, the other for the site)

A couple of Eastern Seaboard prototypes come to mind, partly because I have already mentioned them on my own blog, are the North Stratford RR and the Edgemoor and Manetta.

For a trio of Proto-freelance layout ideas, two small and one moderate – and the small layouts could be connected to the moderate – then I think there is serious potential in some (or all, if you are brave enough!) of Mike Confalone’s Allagash Railroad. The rickety track and backwoods nature of what is now the Andover branch is a great starting point (the video demonstrates the rapid starts and stops of an Alco RS3, together with DCC sound). The original “Woodsville Terminal” layout, being a long, thin shelf, is relatively straightforward to fit into a house, or as a portable layout built in sections: UK practice would fit this onto four sections 48″ long, pair for storage face-to-face. The Regis Paper mill at New Portland is anther candidate for a small but satisfying start in a limited space. But New Sharon Junction, with the branch and the yard, wold make a great centre-piece for a moderate layout in P87, especially if there were a few yards of carefully crafted scenic running either side of the main station, and if there is room for the branches for pulp wood (off the “Atlantic” branch on the plan) and the paper mill (as is, coming off Carrabassett Junction) – indeed, one could supply the other. Staging at each end for a small number of trains would provide for a very satisfying scheme, capable of leisurely solo-operating (one train at a time) or a handful of friends coming round for a full-session with trains on the main, the branches, and a switch job in the yard. He has published some e-books, available from the MRH site, which I can thoroughly recommend (usual disclaimer).

Finally, what about Ryan Mendells’ Algonquin Railway? A perfect example of a layout design which could be used for a P87 layout.

The only thing a P87 requires more of than a “standard” H0 layout is time: a few hours extra to build the turnouts and plain track (if ready to lay flexi is not acceptable – it can always be replaced, piecemeal, at a later date) and a bit more time putting in new wheelsets. But even the latter is good practice, standardising on a single tyre profile is the first step to better running and using P87 sorts that out – otherwise, it is better to standardise on a single manufacturer and make sure the track matches it (so doing it properly probably requires hand-built – or at least hand-tuned – turnouts anyway). All the extra detailing is likely to be of interest to anyone prepared to consider P87 in the first place.

The rewards are immense: a railway that looks and runs like a real one.

So, what is really holding back P87? I suggest inertia, not of the physical kind, but of the psychological variety.

4 thoughts on “Fear of change?

  1. Trevor

    Hi Simon:
    A great post, as always. And thanks for referencing my Port Rowan layout as an example of one that could be modelled in Proto:87.
    One paragraph of yours in particular prompted a couple of thoughts. You wrote:
    “The biggest obstacle seems to be fear of becoming a “lone wolf”, unable to run stock on friends’ layouts and vice versa. That is a poor excuse, as most of us have more equipment than we need, so why not have a few extra items to the other standard?”
    My thoughts are:
    1 – If one is modelling a specific prototype, chances are one will acquire all the equipment one needs to represent the trains that ran on it – so there’s no need for others to bring equipment for operating sessions. I believe that (in general) the concept of operating sessions is more advanced in North America than it is in the UK, and perhaps there’s still a trend on your side of The Pond to bringing along equipment to run on another’s layout when the group gets together. But here, that doesn’t happen as much. Instead, we enjoy the host’s layout – and the locomotives and rolling stock that she or he has acquired to run on it.
    2 – A few extra items: That’s exactly my approach. I have what I need to run the Port Rowan layout. And then I have items that are intended to run on the S Scale Workshop’s modular layout. In addition to addressing any difference in standards, it’s an opportunity to build and enjoy equipment that falls outside my modelling focus.
    Beyond that, I should admit that I’m successfully running a “hybrid” standard on my layout. My rolling stock is all fitted with Proto:64 wheel sets, but my steam locomotives have wheels with standard profiles. Perhaps it’s easier in S, since relatively few of my hobby friends also work in this scale, but my modest prototype and the desire to faithfully replicate it also means that I have all the equipment needed for operating sessions. So I’ve simply tuned MY track to work with MY rolling stock – and can’t guarantee that anybody else’s stuff will run on the layout.
    – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  2. Dunks Post author

    Hi Trevor,

    Firstly, thank you for replying, and your kind words. Secondly, I am aware of your hybrid standards, but also that you have everything balanced and adjusted to suit what you have – it also depends whether your scale wheels are code 88 or code 87, as the former have a thicker flange which is closer to the code 110 profile, so less work would be required to adjust the track.

    Keep flying the flag!


    1. Trevor

      Hi Simon:
      My pleasure. And I only mentioned the “hybrid” approach because it’s an example of why people sometimes worry about the wrong things. I could worry that friends can’t run their equipment on my layout – or I can make sure my layout runs as smoothly as possible, so that they enjoy MY equipment, and leave theirs at home…
      – Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)

  3. Chris Mears


    Thank you for the shout out and also adding your post to the conversation. I appreciate that.

    I wonder if a reason why these movements haven’t gained a greater foothold in America is that individual scales aren’t aligned with their respective associations, such as the 2mm Association or the S Gauge Society. I’ve always been so very impressed with the mutually beneficial relationship between the modeller, the scale, and the Society. With a vibrant exhibition scene it’s easy to see examples of the work in application and the question shifts to accessibility and that’s where the power of the Society and the community it represents starts to look so good.

    I get a sense, from these groups, that their primary focus is supporting the modeller in his endeavours. That support creates an attitude where it’s okay to consider finer scale standards and a group of support to help the new modeller when it’s time to try something new. This is territory and an attitude that we don’t have from such broad groups as the NMRA whose focus is more on getting people into the hobby and providing a more generalized support.

    Having the community (Society) to support the work in the scale takes away that sense of “am I alone?” and that respite provides a place where one can get on with the work of creating the model.

    Thanks for extending the conversation.


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