Wondering about scale vs gauge? You’re not alone. It’s a common question, and I’ll try to provide a simple answer. The two terms may appear interchangeable, but they aren’t quite.
Comparing Bachmann vs Lionel is a contrast between two very old, established names in electric trains. Lionel, in one form or another, has been selling trains since 1900. Bachmann, the largest seller of trains in the world, was founded in 1833, though they started selling trains in 1966.
Ironically, it was Lionel that got Bachmann into the train business. In the 1940s and 1950s, when every kid wanted a Lionel or American Flyer train, Bachmann sold buildings under its Plasticville brand so kids and dads could build towns for those trains to run in. As the focus shifted to smaller scales in the 1960s, Bachmann moved with it, with greater success than the companies it once shared a symbiotic relationship with.
Disassembling a Lionel 1001, 1060, 8902 or 8302 locomotive isn’t too difficult. The biggest problem is knowing where the three screws are that you have to remove.
These particular locomotives weren’t really designed to be repaired, but there’s some basic work you can do on them with household tools. The 8902 and 8302 locomotives can be cheap sources of a motor for other projects.
The Department 56 product line is rather extensive, but there are items they don’t produce and likely never will. If you want to complete your village with other items, or use Department 56 in other settings, such as a train layout, then scale might matter to you—and “Department 56 scale” is undefined. Here’s how to make sure the things you want to use together will go together, size-wise.
The answer, by Department 56’s own admission, is that it varies. But since I see the question come up again and again, I’m going to tackle it. It varies, but there’s a method to it the madness.
A common problem with HO, N, and other scales of electric train that run on DC power is that when you put them on the track, they light up but don’t move and instead make a weird noise.
The cure is usually simple, involving switching a couple of wires.
Borrowing materials and models from other hobbies can often be productive, and in the early stages of a hobby, often it’s a necessity due to a lack of products available. But it occurs to me that other hobbies borrow from model railroading more often than the other way around, and that means there are untapped resources available. To do that, you need a way to convert scale between wargaming, diecast, trains, and slot cars.
In that spirit, I present a chart of scales. Two neglected train scales, O and S, it turns out, can borrow heavily from elsewhere to make up somewhat for the greater selection of products available for HO and N scale. But this chart will, I hope, prove useful to other hobbyists as well.
Here’s a good question: Can you use Lionel O or O27 transformers (or, for that matter, American Flyer S transformers) with HO or N scale trains?
The answer is, not directly. It will make a terrible noise if you hook it up. But you can make it work properly if you add a bridge rectifier. Look for one that’s 10 amps or more; don’t expect to have to pay more than a couple of dollars for one. Read more
Christopher Mims argues that 3D printing is the next Virtual Reality. I think he misses the point. I see 3D printing as having a bright future, but not because I see it as necessarily the future of mass production. I see 3D printing taking over the fringes, because it makes small-scale manufacturing practical.
Last Christmas Eve, I helped one of my Internet pals figure out why his brand-new N scale train, purchased as a gift, didn’t work.
He got lucky. He had his old train available, which he was able to steal parts from to get it to work that morning. Not everyone is that lucky. Tonight marks one week until Christmas, so I have some advice for you if there’s an electric train of any sort on someone’s list.
Set it up one night this week and make sure it works.
It was Christmas Eve. I finished playing Santa, then I plopped down in front of the computer to unwind and signed into Facebook. Internet pal John Dominik posted a status update about buying a Bachmann N-scale train set and it not working, and how he knew he should have tried it out before Christmas Eve. I offered to help. He related the epic troubleshooting he went through–OK, perhaps it wasn’t epic, but his account of the things he tried was longer than the Book of Jude and several other books of the Bible–and, frankly, there wasn’t anything I would have thought of that he hadn’t already tried. He went beyond that and even tried things I wouldn’t have tried. Or recommend, for that matter, but that’s OK. He mentioned he’d had a set of HO trains when he was younger, and that gave me an idea. I asked if he still had that power pack, because, if he was willing to do a little creative and sloppy wiring, he’d be able to get that new Bachmann set working with it. He said he did.
The temporary fix worked, and Christmas Eve was salvaged. John said he hoped Bachmann would be cooperative about the bad power pack.