I'm new (well, back after 40 years) to Model Rail Roading.
I have secured a room (after MUCH work on the wife) approx 10'x12' (the
dreaded basement bedroom) to build my empire and I'm in the middle of
planning a layout. I have come to the conclusion that HO is the scale to
use, but am intrigued with the possibility of narrow gauge do to the type of
layout (free lance 1920's mining and logging) and the somewhat limited
space. I was given a Bachman Spectrum "Frontiersman" set by my kids
(adults) for Christmas and will incorporate this into the scheme as an
interchange for freight and passenger service for the area.
The problem I am having is finding HOn3 locos of the type I want (Shays,
ect) that do not cost an arm and a leg. (My monthly budget, established by
the said wife, is $150 give or take so a $1200 price is out of the question
while $250 is doable.)
Are there any sources for HOn3 locos? Or am I asking for too much?
I strongly recommend you consider On30 - 1/4" = 1' scale running on regular
HO track. A nice variety in now available from mass production suppliers,
and more is coming out every year. You mention getting back in the hobby
after 40 years, which puts you more than 50 or so, so if your eyesight is
like mine, working in 1:48 instead of 1:87 will be a blessing. You can do
quite a nice layout in your basement bedroom as the curves are about the
same as HO, so many HO layout designs will work for On30 - you do need to
increase the spacing on parallel tracks, which may mean one fewer tracks in
a yard, etc., but this is a relatively easy adjustment. And you can
probably re-use your Frontiersman set - a small scratch built 1:48 cab
replacing the one on the Bachmann 4-4-0 will make a plausible small narrow
gauge loco, and all the freight car trucks can be re-used on 1:48 kitbashed
HOn3 remains pretty much a craftsman's scale with brass import motive power.
HOn30 (1:87 scale using N gauge track) is a little less expensive,
particularly if you are willing to kitbash N scale locos. Some HOn30 is
commercially available, although I think most is of European prototypes
(Egger-bahn, Joeff, Liliput). Geezer
[snip excellent comments]
I would also suggest that you start by building a shelf layout along one
wall - a small town with depot, passing track, team track maybe, a spur
or two for industries such as a box factory or brewery (those loggers
and miners are a thirsty bunch), etc. Build or allow space for the
curves around the corner that will connect this starter section to the
rest of the layout. This will give you time to (re)develop your
modelling skills, and try out the newer techniques and materials. It
will also give you time to find out just what you really want to do -
you're a newbie in effect, so you're certain to change your mind along
the way. Not necessarily about the concept (which sounds well thought
out to me), but about details. You also need time to (re)discover your
what you don't want to do. Also, you can budget better. Benchwork, for
example, will cost quite a bit. In my experience, newbies never factor
in the cost of benchwork.
There's another reason: you will be able to show off a nicely finished
layout section in a fairly short time, which will impress your wife with
the hobby's potential. It might even inspire her to build some models
But whatever you do, have fun.
And remind the wife that model railroading is cheaper than smoking. If
you do smoke, then model railroading may help you quit. Giving up that
expensive habit will make it easier to justify higher expenditures on
the hobby. And it's healthier, too. :-)
Fleischmann do on 0-4-0t O&K loco, prototypes exported around the world
in any narrow gauge you asked for, and a nice outside crank Diesel of
similar proportions, plus 4 wheel coaches and wagons.
It's known as "HOe" from European manufacturers
Liliput and Roco are currently available, along with not cheap
manufacturers such as Bemo and various expensive specialty
Eggerbahn lasted 1963-69 and Jouef 1960s plus several batches in the mid
Are HOm (HO scale meter gauge track - used in Europe) and HOn3 close
enough in track gauge to be able to use on the same track?
The problem with HOn30 / HOe here is that the selection of American
freight cars is very limited. At least HOn3 has some D&RGW and C&W
boxcars and such.
Unfortunately, it appears that Model Die Casting / Roundhouse / Horizon
(who owns them now) has stopped producing the HOn3 line of equipment - at
least for the time being.
HOn30 looks like it is a better option in terms of cheap locomotive
availability - one could start with a Roco 0-6-0 or 6 wheel diesel. I'm
not sure how much those are selling for now, but 10 years ago either of
those could be found for $50 or slightly less. Unfortunately prices for
imported items have become outlandish because of the USA's currency
dropping on international markets in recent years.
Yes, those are European prototypes, but that can change with some detail
parts. There was an article in Model Railroader about 20 years ago about
using various super detail parts from various manufacturers to turn one of
Roco's 6 wheel HOn30 diesels into a fairly good looking USA style
I notice that there are some interesting projects out there that do the
same thing with their little 0-6-0 industrial steam locomotive:
Roco does have an interesting selection of freight cars and some of those
could be useful for the suggested railroad, but much of the larger 4 axle
stuff is definitely European looking.
How do HOn3 freight cars look when put on HOn30 trucks? That might be a
good solution to the limited USA freight car selection for HOn30. 6 scale
inches in track gauge shouldn't make too big a difference in the size of
the freight car, and I know that some model companies used to advertise
their narrow gauge stuff could be used as either HOn30 or HOn3.
The despammed service works OK, but unfortunately
HOm is 12 mm railhead to railhead. HOe is 9 mm railhead to railhead. HOm
will not run on HOn30 as HOm is trying to model 39"+ railhead to railhead
instead of 30". HOn3 (3' or 36"is about 11.5 mm and HOn3 is not compatible
"I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make
The Athearn/Roundhouse line has been combined and reorganised. Horizon
is offering N scale locos under the Athearn brand. If you're thinking of
adapting N to HOn30, some may be suitable.
Micro Trains Line has started a line of HOn3 cars, very nicely done.
When I look at them I'm tempted to build a small HOn3 layout, just to
use these lovely little cars. :-) MTL are releasing new models every
month or two. In the $20-30 range, ready to run.
Roco declared bankruptcy about a year ago, and was bought by a venture
capital group. Their product line is, as they say, "in flux." Expect
increases in prices as products are re-released.
You could adapt N gauge locos to HOn30. The closest N gauge locomotives
to what you want would probably be LifeLike's 0-6-0 saddle tanker,
listed at $38 in Walthers catalogue (Walthers now owns LL, BTW). I can't
vouch for its quality, but LL's diesels are very nice runners. Mind you,
they cost considerably more. :-)
Bachmann offers an 0-6-0 switcher at $48 list price. Also an MDT diesel
at $33. Bachmann quality is variable, but a bad loco can be sent back
for repair or replacement. One thing that's important is to lube any
Bachmann loco before running it.
Er, yup. There are good reasons for that.
Yes, that's so, and many people still do this, using N scale as well
But once the prices of detail parts etc are factored in, you may find
that this supposedly cheap loco turns out to cost about as much as the
expensive one you didn't think you could afford. So unless you want to
do the adapting and detailing work for its own sake, you may want to do
a careful analysis of the "total cost of ownership". Personally, I
factor in the cost of my time, too. And sadly, there are fewer and fewer
detail parts available, as scratch-building has become rather small
They look just fine, IMO. Keep in mind that the sizes of narrow gauge
equipment, even for the same gauge, varied greatly. Look at the EBT, for
example: this 3ft gauge line ran coal hoppers of about the same size as
the smaller standard gauge ones. I would take care to use cars that are
basically the same width, which will give a realistic looking
consistency. So the bottom line is: if it looks right to you, it is right.
It seems to me that your decision is being driven by the apparent high
cost of HOn3 locomotives. Well, that's your privilege - it's your wallet
that will take the hit, not mine. :-) I sense that you really want HOn3,
but are scared off by the relatively high acquisition cost of HOn3
locomotives. You're arguing yourself into a compromise, and while
compromise is of the essence of model railroading, IMO, a compromise
based on mere cash isn't one you'll be happy with. I would urge you to
consider that total cost of ownership. I've been around long enough to
know that acquisition cost is often a surprisingly small fraction of
that cost of ownership.
Also, consider how long you expect to enjoy this hobby. From that point
of view, even a high priced locomotive may turn out to be a bargain.
Suppose you spend $300 - over 10 years, that's $30 a year, or less than
10 cents a day. If you are a regular at the local caffeine dispensory,
you'll spend far more than that. If you smoke, you'll spend even more -
and smoking is unhealthy to boot. So even what looks like a major cost
of what are after all merely toys may be well worth it, compared to
other, er, cheap thrills.
As far as time and parts available goes I can understand all that, but
money? Just in the curiousity search I did related to this thread, the
cheapest HOn3 steam locomotive I saw was in the $350 range. You might be
able to get down to the $100 range if you buy a Grandt Line boxcab diesel
and put in a power unit, but then you are still talking about a project
For the simple Roco HOe / HOn2.5 0-6-0 steam locomotive, this same
curiousity search turned up prices as low as $90. It would run just fine
out of the box, with no modifications needed. One would have to add an
awful lot of detail parts to get the price up to $350. Even if you wanted
to add detail parts, you could do so over time since it isnt' vital to the
Modification of N scale locomotives could come later, if desired.
In either modification of N scale locomotives or super-detailing a
European HOe locomotive, there is the added bonus of having something
The despammed service works OK, but unfortunately
You're right about the prices charged for HOn3 locos you can find on the
web. My error, should've have checked. I believe you will find
(slightly) more reasonable prices in the print media. Try the Narrow
Gauge and Short Line Gazette. Not only ads for non-mass market
companies, but also loads of good info on narrow gauge of all kinds.
Er, there's a reason those Roco 0-6-0s are cheap. They were originally
marketed as Egger Bahn, and built on N gauge chassis. (AHM imporetd
them.) Not a very reliable product - I have a couple. Cute li'l
beasties, but that's the best I can say for them. More recent product
may be better, I can't say. The best mass-produced HOe locos IMO are
Liliput's. Liliput is now owned by Bachmann; I don't know if they've
reissued much of the HOe line. Didn't see any at my favourite pusher's,
er, I mean supplier's in Austria last October.
Well, since you have your heart set on HOn30, go for it. You may find
Dave Frary and Bob Hayden's series on the Carabasset and Dead River a
good source of info and inspiration. based on the New England 2ft gauge
lines. Frary and Hayden wrote a few articles on adapting N gauge to
HOn30. I have some of these on hand, and would be willing to snail mail
you photocopies. If interested, e-mail me at wolfkir, domain sympatico,
>> More recent product may be better, I can't say. The best
>> mass-produced HOe locos IMO are Liliput's. Liliput is now owned by
> I like the looks of the Liliput 0-6-2T.
The later production runs of the Us have good mechanisms and perform
well. The best thing about them is the vast number of different versions
you could model, and the surprising number of railways in
Central/Eastern Europe that had them, or copies.
Unreliable pick-up, and they waddle. Also suffer from the jack-rabbit
Very nice little engines. Not much tractive effort, but then the
originals rarely hauled more than four or five cars. The Steyrtalbahn
running from Steyr (where else) to Gruenfeld (in Upper Austria) runs
trains with six and sometimes seven cars, and the engine slows down
noticeably on the steeper hills with this load. They take a run at those
> Er, there's a reason those Roco 0-6-0s are cheap. They were
> originally marketed as Egger Bahn, and built on N gauge chassis. (AHM
> imporetd them.)
Wolf, I'm not 100% certain, but I don't think the Roco 0-6-0 is the same
model as the Eggerbahn loco. I seem to recall a time when they were both
on the market simultaneously.
> More recent product may be better, I can't say.
Yes, I reckon they are. The most recent version of the Roco engine has a
much improved mechanism derived from their N scale model of a BR89
0-6-0. A friend has two, he says they are quite good little runners.
> The best mass-produced HOe locos IMO are Liliput's.
I'd say that depends on whether you regard Bemo as mass-produced :-)
But I would agree that the Liliput HOe range is very good.
> Liliput is now owned by Bachmann; I don't know if they've reissued
> much of the HOe line.
Some models have been re-issued, plus the new model of the Uh 0-6-2Ts
was released late last year.
No - HOm uses 12mm gauge - the old TT gauge which is still a popular
scale in Europe.
Peco, Bemo and Tillig all make track. Tillig makes TT rolling stock and
Bemo makes HOm.
HOn3 uses 10.5mm gauge.
HOe/HOn2.5 uses 9mm track. (N gauge) This is probably the most popular
narrow gauge/scale combination because HOm/HOn3 stock can be regauged
and N gauge mechanisims can form the basis of home constructed locos.
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