Sunday, September 18, 2011

Train Length on the Manitoba & Minnesota Subdivison.

A 19-car train on the M & M Sub.

Earlier I wrote about how trains in Canada are becoming longer. But how long should HO scale model trains be?

As long as possible, some might say. But how long is that?

It depends on a few factors. If you are modelling a lazy branchline, short trains look fine. But if you are modelling a busy mainline, like I am, then you want trains to be as long as possible.

On the Manitoba & Minnesota Sub., the average train length is 18-20 cars—that’s as long as they can be, given the size of the sidings. It also looks right, given the room size: The longest wall is 21 feet, and a train that length pretty much fills it.

By most layout standards, that’s a pretty long train, although it’s not as long as what my brother-in-law could run on his old layout, the Cougar River Sub. On that large triple-deck layout, average train length was 25-30 cars—very impressive!

A train slips behind the trees. 

One way to make a train seem longer is to make it pass behind scenery—to break up the scenes it runs through. On my layout’s upper level, I accomplish that through the use of trees, hills and an underpass.

Despite these efforts, I still have to admit that it doesn’t look quite right: In real life, two SD40-2s could pull way more than 20 cars. Once again, it’s a matter of compromise—either that, or start modeling steam in the 1950s, when trains were shorter.

Some years ago, I remember Jim Hediger of Model Railroader writing that any HO scale model train of about ten cars looks long. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that almost all non-model railroad visitors comment about the length of my trains. So maybe I’ll just go with that.

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