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2 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
So, I'm thinking seriously about building an O layout. I would likely use Lionel locos and rolling stock.

The main reasons are:

1) With Lionel, you have a wide selection of available road names and specific locomotive types (2-8-0, etc... Although, admittedly, Lionel has noticeably scaled back their offerings in the last couple of years.) Also, they have automatic uncoupling for locomotives, as well as several other features that initially make them attractive.

2) Obviously the size: being able to “experience” the layout more.

However, there are a couple of issues I have with O scale (and Lionel specifically):

1) I've noticed that most O layouts have the third center rail. I am a bit turned off by that, even though I know it serves a purpose. What, if any, would be the drawback of going with a two rail layout for O?

2) Lionel locomotives seem to have a bit of a toy-like nature to them. Most notably, when the locos take a turn, the trucks seem to have more of an exaggerated, unrealistic motion to them. They stick out way beyond the what I've seen with either HO or N locos. In my opinion, that's a bit of a shortcoming considering how much one pays for a Lionel locomotive.

3) Lionel sounds: they list in their catalog they have sounds, particularly sounds of the crew members talking, receiving orders, etc. . . I've heard those sounds when at the train shop. I'm not all that thrilled. If possible, I would like to either completely eliminate the factory installed sounds and replace them with better aftermarket sounds, or get rid of some and keep others. Is it possible to eliminate some sounds and keep others?

4) I've noticed that Lionel seems to make two rail tracks: can I use those instead of the three rail tracks and if I do, are there any special considerations I need to be made aware of? (The layout I have planned incorporates a loop-around and I am wondering if there are electronics that can be installed to help maintain the polarity and keep the loco from coming to a standstill? (If I'm not mistaken, that's what the center rail takes care of with a three rail track.)

5) I know Lionel has a few product lines, such as the Visionline: with any of these, are sounds and operational aesthetics improved? (Operational aesthetics: The trucks sticking out in turns like a toy, better sounds, etc. . . ?)

6) Speaking of the trucks sticking out, is there a mechanical necessity for that? Such as: being due to the nature of a model locomotive and being at that scale?

I should point out that I am not necessarily married to having an O layout, I can be just as happy with an HO layout. I just appreciate the availability and variety.

Thank you for the input.

CaliforniaRailfan :)

8,679 Posts
Here is a fairly complete discussion of 0 gauge both 3 rail and 2 rail.

0 gauge trains were originally marketed as toys, thus the famous Lionel
Christmas catalogs and the thousands of Lionel trains running around
the base of the Christmas tree.

That factor is much of the reason the 'unrealistic' trucks, wheel flanges,
and the way loco and car ends stick out away from the track on curves.

There are, however, ways to convert 3 rail equipment to 2 rail. In fact,
there are many fine 2 rail 0 gauge layouts.

If the realism factor is important to you, you may want to look deeper into
HO scale. Though many HO trains are sold as toys, others don't
have that 'toylike' look. In fact, some are so well detailed, either by
the manufacturer or by the new owner, that it is difficult to tell whether
it's real, or HO. I think you'll find a much larger selection of locomotive
and car designs in HO also. HO is so popular for modellers that there
is just about every conceivable product offered to make HO modelling
easier and more realistic. You'll also find it a bit less costly than
comparable 0 gauge equipment.

A very important advantage of HO, is it's size. You can develop a much
larger and more complex HO layout than you can an 0 gauge in the same space.
HO stands for HALF 0, so you see what I mean.

So, do take your time to review the 0 gauge and HO gauge forums. Look
at videos and pictures of layouts. That will help guide you to the type
of hobby you will like best.


2 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Re: An O Scale Layout? (To Don)


I agree with you on the HO scale layouts. I had been more enthusiastic about O gauge simply for the experience of it. But, also, the availability of road names with Lionel far surpasses the other manufactures [of smaller, more common gauges.] I don't understand why the manufacturers don't just leave the locos blank and simply include a variety pack of decals for various road names and number boards so that the person can semi-customize the locos, themselves.

I was browsing Athearn's website recently and found that they mostly only offer UP road name locomotives (I'm shooting for a late 1800's era layout, which means I'm looking pretty much exclusively at steam locos.) I understand there's a real issue with supply and demand and all, but it seems a bit narrow. My only other option for road names would be Bachmann and I am not all that sure I want to go that route. (Even if I use their "Spectrum" series.)

-- CaliforniaRailfan. :)

8,899 Posts
You can go with two-rail O. The selection of locos and rolling stock, etc., is far less, generally costs more- from near the high end of what three-rail costs on up, and almost exclusively they use scale wheels and thus need very wide radius curves so you need lots of room.

I've been happy with three rail. As was said, go look at the O-gauge section here, and check out with Lionel and MTH and 3rd Rail have in detailed locos.
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