The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Sunday, August 18, 2013

On Converting to a Minority Scale or Focus

I started working in American OO gauge in the late 1970s when I was in high school. I outline part of the route to OO (and the freelanced version of the Orient) in this article, but to offer a few more key details, I started out in HO. One thing I figured out when working in HO was that I wanted to be in a different scale, HO was not really for me. But what? I actually dabbled a bit in TT scale first (more here) but then found OO and connected by mail with a few OO gaugers, with Temple Nieter really getting the ball rolling, but also William Gilbert gave me this great car as a high school graduation present for another example. The rest is history so to speak, and at this point I am pretty invested in keeping going in American OO.

For example I present these recently competed stock cars, rebuilt from vintage Scale-Craft models with great Schorr trucks. It was an interesting puzzle to put them together (a bit more on these may be found in this article) and seeing them on the layout now is a treat. But I think again it helped a lot that I converted to OO as a younger person and have at this point a good set of “OO eyes.” All other gauges feel to me to be the wrong size, with one exception. If I were to switch gauges I would probably go to Sn3, the models are actually very similar in overall size and I enjoy Colorado and narrow gauge. But with that said, I enjoy the retro-modeling aspect of working in OO so for now I will stay where I am.

I follow a variety websites, and one I stumbled across at one point was United States Military Railroads Virginia 1863. It is O scale and civil war era, neither of which is my interest, but it is a well written and interesting website I have enjoyed following. This project layout is nearly done and the builder, Bernard Kempinski, has had it on public display recently. After being on display at a major NMRA event he wrote,
This was our first event where we participated as part of a larger NMRA event. I think we were successful in showing that the Civil War era is a viable subject to model in N, HO and O scale.  In some ways it was a perfect storm as we were in Atlanta with our ACW display during the 150th Anniversary of some of the biggest events in the war, and the NMRA offered a separate Civil War track of clinics and tours.
However, I am not sure we had too many converts. The NMRA as represented in these meets is an older crowd. Most have a significant investment in their current layouts or projects so it is not unexpected that they would not be interested in converting. I saw only one person I would say was under twenty visit the room, and he was really enjoying the layout. I gave him a throttle so he could try some operation. Time will tell if we have any new interest in our subject based on this show.
This phrase particularly resonated with me – most who viewed the layout had “significant investment in their current layouts or projects” and that translated into a low interest in converting to work on Civil War era models. I think this investment factor is on one hand what kept the OOldtimers going in American OO for a lifetime, long after the scale was popular, but it is also what keeps people out today. It requires a significant investment of time and skills to work in American OO to be sure.

His O gauge civil war project is nearly complete but his next project really caught my eye, it is “a 00/009 scale layout set in WWI.” OO?!? Excellent choice of scale! I believe it will set in Europe, hence the choice of gauge and scale--the benchwork may be seen in the brief article, and the layout itself “is intended as a project layout for the book I am working on.”

As to me, I know that American OO Today has people who follow it for a variety of reasons. I know some just like checking in to see what is up in the OO history series; others have some models but they are just a small part of an overall collecting interest; many more arrive via Google but were not really looking for info on American OO. I do hope to spread the word but realize too that not that many will be converted. But no matter what I will keep on going with OO, I have a lot of history still to sort out (ultimately for a book project on OO) and modeling projects that could last me years and years to complete.

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