Bachmann Message Board

Discussion Boards => On30 => Topic started by: Tugmaster on February 24, 2013, 11:49:14 AM

Title: New to ON30
Post by: Tugmaster on February 24, 2013, 11:49:14 AM
I'm thinking of coming up from 'HO' to 'ON30', having run dcc on the former for nearly 10 yrs.
Can anyone tell where I can find the dimensions of ON30 locos and rolling stock.  I've found the 'parts' diagrams for spares etc, but I cann't find the 'ACTUAL' sizes [length - width - height] of anything.
Hattons will show me lengths but that's all.
Can someone help or point me in the right direction pls?
Many thanks

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: CNE Runner on February 24, 2013, 12:24:28 PM
Garth - I too was in the process of transitioning from HO to On30 (for a myriad of reasons I am now rethinking that decision). My rule of thumb is to double the size of, say, a 40' boxcar's dimensions as O-scale is ~2x larger than HO (slightly less if you are converting from OO>On30). Keep in mind that the gauge is HO; whereas the scale is O.

As you probably already know HO = 1:87, OO = 1:76, and O = 1:48. One could determine the difference in the ratios and get a rough idea of car dimensions. To give you a little more information, I measured the only R-T-R car I have (Bachmann's #27656 Ventilated Boxcar). The scale dimensions of this car are: 25.5 scale feet long x 7.75 scale feet wide x 10 scale feet high (all dimensions are in O-scale). The actual measurements of the car are: 6.25" (16.3 cm) x 1 7/8" (4.8 cm) x 2.5" (6.5 cm). Garth, please understand these are very approximate measurements...a function of a very late night and old eyes.

I hope this helps.


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Tugmaster on February 24, 2013, 12:32:27 PM
Ray  -  Many thanks for this info.  Just needed to know what sizes [ins or mm] things/stock are for building bridges and tunnel portals etc as and when needed on the layout.

I'm trying to get enough info together before I start to buy a loco and or stock.


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: CNE Runner on February 24, 2013, 03:02:45 PM
Oh, won't go wrong with using O-scale structures, vehicles, etc. on your On30 layout. While the cars are a bit smaller than standard O, the only major difference is in the track gauge. Depending upon the 'look' you want, you can use either standard HO/OO gauge track or go for the true On30 stuff. The difference, between the two, isn't the gauge - but the size and spacing of the ties (sleepers).


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: GG1onFordsDTandI on February 24, 2013, 03:26:33 PM
Depending upon the 'look' you want, you can use either standard HO/OO gauge track or go for the true On30 stuff. The difference, between the two, isn't the gauge - but the size and spacing of the ties (sleepers)
Nice tidbit of info. I had not picked up on this sleeper issue before.

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Doneldon on February 24, 2013, 05:38:01 PM

On30 is built using O-gauge (1:48) proportions but narrow gauge track. Normal North American track spacing (gauge) is 56.5 inches. On30 is built to the same scale as regular "full" O-scale, but on track which is a scale 30 inches apart. HO track is a rough approximation of that distance so it can be used. However, HO track is built to a 1:87 proportion. That means that the track is close enough on the gauge scale to be used for On30 but it won't look right because the crossties (sleepers) are also 1:87 proportion. That's why you will do better to use On30 track; not only will its gauge be correct, the size and spacing of the ties will also be right.

Keep in mind what you already know about the terms scale and gauge. Scale is the proportion of reduction in size from the prototype to the model, 1:48 for O and 1:87 for HO. Gauge, on the other hand, refers to the distance between the inside vertical faces of of the railheads. This is what allows the same model track to be both HO scale and gauge and O-scale.

                           -- D

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: GG1onFordsDTandI on February 24, 2013, 08:11:24 PM
Someone from On30 scene should condense these facts and list them in the On30 faq's. ::)

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Joe Satnik on February 26, 2013, 12:31:01 PM
Dear All,

NMRA clearance standards:

Hope this helps.


Joe Satnik

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: mabloodhound on February 26, 2013, 02:45:33 PM
Much depends on how much of a rivet counter you are or will be.      I and many, many other On30 modelers use HO track for our layouts.   Although the ties are HO scale, after ballasting they become almost hidden.   Cost was a major decision for me to choose the less costly HO flex track.

AS for engine and car sizes, the On30 are not twice HO size.   They are narrow gauge and hence are smaller than a full O scale loco or car.   Lengths are shorter and engines smaller, as was the prototype narrow gauge railroads.

For clearances, you will find that full O scale is too much.   It will look oversize for your engines and cars.   'S' scale is closer to the On30 size.   For that matter, some modelers use S scale buildings on their On30 RR, although doors and windows would be too small.
Remember, O scale isn't twice as large as HO.   It is actually closer to 8 X in volume.   So a full scale HO building scaled up to O scale could be HUGE.   That is why many modelers use selective compression in the buildings to get them to fit into the layout.

To get a good feel for On30 using HO track and some excellent modeling, check out the Coastline RR by Troels Kirk.   This link is to his first volume (100 pages) and he is now up to six volumes. (

Welcome to the dark side.

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: railexpert on February 26, 2013, 04:55:53 PM

What is On30?

See FAQ´s On30 on the Bachmann Message Board.


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: wb2002 on February 28, 2013, 02:43:35 AM
Hello. My question is NOT "What is On30" but Why On30?



Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: JerryB on February 28, 2013, 06:13:41 AM
0n30 denotes both a scale (American 0-Scale which is 1:48 proportion) and a prototype track gauge (30"). It happens that H0 gauge track (which is 0.649" between the rails) scales out to ~30" (actually 31.17") in (1:48) 0-Scale.The vehicles and accessories that are applicable are American 0-Scale, again, 1:48 proportion. It is happenstance that the gauge of H0 track is very close to a prototype gauge of 30" in 1:48 scale.

0n30 is not 'S-Scale,' nor even close to S-Scale which is 1:64 proportion. Using S-Scale buildings, figures and accessories with 0-Scale (including 0n30) trains results in a hodgepodge of scales mixed together. Kind of like deciding that N-Scale buildings can be used with H0 or H0n3 trains in order to save space. Consider that the prototype 3' gauge railroads were still 1:1 scale. They didn't have smaller buildings nor smaller people using them!

Consider that a model of a 6' tall man in 0-Scale is 1 1/2" tall. The same 6' tall man reduced to S-Scale is only 1 1/8" tall. That is 25% smaller! Unless your RR is populated only with 'little people,' the 0-Scale figures won't be able to get through the doorways of the S-Scale buildings.

0-Scale buildings, vehicles and accessories used for 0n30 are readily available. I am building a (fantasy) U.S. Naval installation where some PBY and PBY-5 aircraft are based. The aircraft, personnel, buildings and support equipment are all 1:48 (0) scale. My Navy installation is served by a branch of a 30" (0n30) gauge railroad. Similar to the 36" (narrow) gauge RR that served the Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy base in the late 1930's into the 1940's.

As to why 0n30: It gives us the opportunity to use H0 gauge track and mechanisms to model in the larger 1:48 scale. This cuts the costs of locomotives, rolling stock and track while enabling the use of larger buildings and accessories for those of us who want to get into something larger than H0 Scale.

BTW, one of the items that defines the narrow gauge RRing look is the size, length and spacing of the ties. IMO, using H0 standard gauge track and covering it up with ballast to camouflage the fact that the ties are too small, the tie spacing too close, and the tie length too short takes away from the narrow gauge effect. I use Micro Engineering 0n30 track, which gives me the desired narrow gauge look.

None of the above is meant to denigrate nor take away from anyone's modeling efforts. Just my personal take on the reasons for 0n30.

Happy RRing,


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: CNE Runner on February 28, 2013, 12:31:22 PM
HO scale is 1:87.1 (which means that every foot in the prototype world translates to 87.1 feet in the HO world). O scale is 1:48 (1 foot in the prototype world translates into 48 feet in the O scale world). Got that so far? Good. The difference in the ratios is ~ 2 times (~ = approximates). Yes, the volume of a 3 dimensional object would approximate a factor of 4. I was using the 'double HO measurements' to give the reader some tangible idea of size relativity.

On numerous occasions I have seen structure kits listed as O/ which is it? As I understand the concept On30 is O scale - running on narrow gauge track (in this case HO gauge). Everything other than the track gauge should be in O scale...I'd like to see the argument to the contrary.

Our discussion does take us to the 'nub' of the problem with On30 vs HO. As I see it any 'excursion' into On30 has the following pitfalls:

     -  The amount of space required for the same layout plan is roughly twice greater in On30 as in HO.
     -  The diversity of manufactured track components is much less than with HO; and is usually more expensive.
     -  Generally speaking narrow gauge railways did not connect directly with each other (yes, there were a [very] few exceptions...but they certainly weren't the rule).
     -  Narrow gauge railroading was largely confined to the 19th and early 20th centuries (again, yes there were exceptions that weren't the rule).
     - The types of rolling stock and locomotives was quite limited and usually 'use specific' (such as quarries or lumbering). This is an argument for On30 as you would be 'acquiring' less varied (and less of) rolling stock. You might have a need for 20 ore cars...but they would be of the same type. Many standard gauge model railroads have that number in just boxcars alone...let alone tank, flat, gondolas, etc.
     -  If you are used to running cars from different railroads on your layout that would probably not be logical on an On30 pike. Why? How would a boxcar from narrow gauge railway A get to narrow gauge railway B if they didn't directly connect?

I am not trying to dissuade anyone from entering the genre of narrow gauge railroading. It is incumbent for someone considering this facet of model railroading to also consider its disadvantages. If you have the space, finances, and skills then I say go for it. The wonderful thing about model railroading is the breadth of its scope. On30 not for you; but you want something a little different? Try English modeling. Bachmann makes some 'killer' stock in OO scale (1:76 scale). Why not do a Google search on English model railways or pick up a copy of Railway Modeller?

Ours is a diverse hobby. Please understand that I am not 'bashing' any one genre of the hobby...just trying to give us something to think about. If you are 'set' upon modeling in On30 good for you! I'll stick with HO (although I do love those English layouts).


PS: As I 'hunker down' for the firestorm that will likely follow this post, may I say that I own a Bachmann On30 Davenport, a Bachmann ventilated boxcar, and have a Boulder Valley Models 16' flat car kit on order. 'Never too late to explore...

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Stevelewis on February 28, 2013, 03:36:50 PM
Just to follow  on from the  above
I am in the  UK well wales actually!! I live  within 1 hours  drive  of  several welsh narrow  gauge  railways. ( Festiniog, Tal-y-lyn, Vale of Rheidol, Bala Lake etc!!)
However to get to the  point,  as well as  having  a Large  scale  garden Line  I have a  British Outline 00
layout  and  an 0n30  US outline layout  here.

The 00 layout is in  a 12' x 8' shed,, whilst  the 0n30  one is in a   16' x 12'  garage.

Just an indication of the sizes which I feel are adequate to house  an interesting layout but which is not TOO big so as to be too much to handle by 1 person.

One thing I would  say   Modelling  UK Railways is a very complex  subject,  I have been  doing  it   for  more years than I care to remember and  still not  got  it  quite  right! loads of UK model  raolways on


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: CNE Runner on February 28, 2013, 07:13:59 PM
I didn't want to leave the subject on a possible negative note. One of my pen pals sent me this On30 layout design that really, really interests me. The design comes from the fertile mind of Iain Rice (Iain Rice and Carl Arendt have been major influences in my model railroading pursuits). I am sorry to say that I don't know the source of this layout plan; but I think you have enough information to build it.


The layout would work best if one allowed a space measuring some 11' in length to allow for the use of cassettes on either side (although you could get by with only cassettes on the right hand side). There is a surprisingly large amount of operations possible in very little space.

I hope this stimulates some interest on the part of the readers.


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: canpac on March 02, 2013, 04:51:44 PM
I was an HO scale person for many,many years and loved every moment of it. Then one day I purchased a small On30 locomotive. I could run this loco on my HO scale track and then I bought a few small pieces of ON30 rolling stock.I was hooked on these small pieces, but I wasn't ready to make that giant leap just yet. A few years passed and I acquired some more On30 pieces of rolling stock and a couple of locomotives( of the larger variety...reefers, flat cars etc.) and they too would run on my HO layout layout for the most part, except where clearances were tight.

In On30 there is not the grand variety of rolling stock and locomotives for prototypical railroads that you see offered in HO scale. In this scale I also found people were not so bound to correct colour schemes and locomotive numbers etc., etc. that I found in HO scale. Amateurs and Master craftspeople coexisted very nicely in On30. I found  that this scale challenged your creativity more than before. I enjoy seeing  precise modelling as much as the next guy and doing the same, but there should always be some fun in this great hobby of ours too.

The big day came as what direction I was going to go. Continue with HO or make that leap into On30. I decided to go the On30 route and it has been a wonderful experience. My wife thought I was nuts when I announced that I was going to dismantle the HO layout( after all she had logged more than just a few hours in it's creation also )On30 is a whole new world for me. I had to give my two or three great prototypical standard gauge railroads I had modelled for years in this process. That was the big decision for me to consider when thinking of a scale change. Also I had been a total diesel guy and was about to enter the world of steam locomotives and tenders.No Proto 1000 0r 2000 in On30. I do find now that having switched I am modelling more( and buying less at train shows as HO is still King at the train shows for items being offered for sale)

Have fun in all your deliberations. The new layout occupies the same space as the old one, just a few less structures and rolling stock than the old one and I used my HO scale track also (with some modifications ) as well.

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Stevelewis on March 03, 2013, 06:18:38 AM
I have  built  several  end to end ( ie no continuous run) layouts over the  years   and I admit  that  I enjoy building  them,  laying  track  and doing the  scenic side of  them, BUT I find  that  when I actualy start  using  them to run trains  I get pretty bored  with  them!

Having  read  many of Iain Rice's books  I often  wonder how many of  the plans in them   were the  result of a layout  that  was  actually  constructed  and how many layouts  are made as a result of  the plans?

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: terry2foot on March 07, 2013, 07:28:44 AM
BUT I find  that  when I actualy start  using  them to run trains  I get pretty bored  with  them!

For those intrepid members who migth like to learn a bit more about operating a fairly small scale model railway in a more prototypical fashion (and learning about the prototype along the way), I can recommend visiting


Enjoy if you visit,


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: CNE Runner on March 07, 2013, 10:39:53 AM
I would like to add some additional comments on my post concerning the Iain Rice track plan (Arendt Engineering). As is typical with Mr. Rice this one looks pretty...but doesn't work. After literally hours of trying to replicate this plan (which is in On30) with AnyRail, I have come to the conclusion that it can't be done in the space Mr. Rice has allocated (5' 3" x 16").

The next step was to try the layout in HO/OO as this would result in closer clearances. Nope, 'still didn't work. Finally I decided to try HOn30/OO9 and lo' the darn thing fit...well, almost. I had to expand the depth from 16" to 21" (although I'm sure one could compress things a little and make the plan fit its original dimensions.

I still like this plan (amazing after having a couple of previous frustrations with other Rice plans). Who knows...I may 'spring' for one of those nice HOn30 Koppel locomotives and some MinitrainS cars.


Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: on30gn15 on March 09, 2013, 02:49:07 PM
An advantage of On30 is that it allows some artistic license for representing both 3ft gauge and 2ft gauge US narrow gauge RRs, various industrial operations, Australian and others' sugar cane railways, various 600mm to 800mm gauge railways and industrial trams  - all with readily available HO mechanisms and wheelsets as well as with specialty On30 products.

And with a theme more along the lines of, instead pf Colorado 3 footers, an industrial or agricultural tram with their really small equipment, an O scale narrow gauge layout can be had in the space, or less, of an N scale standard gauge mainline style layout.

My own On30 is freelanced in the above direction and most power is HO Plymouth 4 or 6 wheel industrail switchers with scratch-bashed bodies. Freight and passenger cars are built along same principles.

Nothing quite like modeling in O scale and yet an entire 5 car train is only 30 inches long  ;D

Title: Re: New to ON30
Post by: Ed Ryan on March 18, 2013, 02:28:25 PM
I noticed that you are coming out with D&RGW C-19, 2-8-0 in 120:3.  Are you considering doing it in ON30?  It looks like Model Mouintain Imports is not going to do it.