Looking for a small railroad on which to base a model? Like rolling countryside and boxcars? Have a penchant for small diesel engines? Want simple layouts that can be built as stand-alone modules, and connected together when there is more space?
Then look no further than the North Stratford Railroad Corporation (NSRC), an example of New England Yankee thrift and ingenuity.
To be honest, there was not much to it: a 44-tonner, an Alco S1, and 100 40′ boxcars, all of which have been or are in production in most modelling scales. Trains ran on a couple of days a week: firstly to sort out the loaded cars and swap them with the empties, and then to run the loads down to the CN (Grand Trunk) interchange, returning with new empties. The primary service was a furniture factory in Vermont, but the railroad was supported by the State of New Hampshire, which provided the lease on the track bed.
The terminus, at Beecher Falls, was just south of the Canadian border.
There are some very nice pictures on the net: a simple search will turn them up, but for more information including layout plans, look no further than the ever wonderful Trainlife website, where all is explained.
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.
One of the things which has restored my mojo, and help me through the jungle of diversions to the oasis of focused calm is Trevor Marshall’s rather wonderful blog, about his project to model the CNR’s branch to Port Rowan. It is well worth a visit, but be warned, like many prodigious bloggers, his modelling output is fairly rapid, too. There’s a lot to read…
By pure chance (we never notice coincidences when they don’t happen) his latest post mentions that he weathers his scenery, to produce subtle variation in tone, and take off the plastic look. As you can see, this approach to colour as part of the finescale approach is well worth the effort.
This is a common comment at exhibitions, almost as common as asking if it is EM or P4!
I have a theory why S is perceived as “the right size”, and it also applies to Gauge 1 in its (proper) 1:32 format. The human eye with the help of the brain measures things via angular displacement, binocular stereoscopy and perspective and as with standard geometry is pretty good at halving angles. If you take a half, and halve it, and halve it, and halve it, you have 1/32nd of your starting point: do it once more, and it is 1/64th of the original. It therefore “fits” just right into the mind’s eye. It’s only a hunch, but there is probably a PhD thesis that could come out of it! Incidentally, this also makes the scale ideally suited to the modern computational era: two to the power 6 is 64, or 100000 in binary….
So, the fact that it suits the eye is probably why people ask if it is EM or P4 – in the mind’s eye, this is the size their 4mm scale should be!