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Author Topic: converting on3 to on30  (Read 645 times)

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« on: May 07, 2020, 06:50:32 PM »

Hi. Would somebody please be kind enough to explain the differences between on3 and On30 trains? I'm looking at trains on Ebay, and the description often says "On3/On30.I find this confusing, and the information I'm finding doesn't really explain the difference, or the conversion process.
So, what is the real difference? It is size of the cars, or is it in the wheelsets? Can I mount a set of Bachmann On30 tender trucks on a On3 car,and be good to go?
I can't find any information online about the conversion process. It looks like it may be in the distance between the rails, with On3 being wider than On30.
Is that correct, and if so, can I just put On30 trucks and/or wheelsets on the car ,and be good to go?
Thanks guys!
« Last Edit: May 07, 2020, 06:53:53 PM by RailMan63 » Logged
the Bach-man

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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2020, 11:02:01 PM »

Dear Railman.
The difference is in the gauge. On30 track scales out at 30" between the rails; On3 Is 36 scale inches between the rails, a difference of (very) roughly 1/8". Therefore one won't run on the other without regauging.
Most items that advertise as both are buildings or other non-running models.   
Both are the same scale: 1/4" to the foot.
I suggest that you pick up a copy of the On30 Annual and the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette. They are available at

The difference will not only be made clear, but you'll be amazed by the fine modeling in O Scale narrow gauge.
My favorite indoor scale is On30- I hope you'll see why!
Have fun!
the Bach-man

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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2020, 11:12:47 PM »

Thanks, Mr. Bachmann! I'll do what you suggested!
Ton N

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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2020, 05:44:19 AM »

I opted for 0n30 because of the track available and the costs back in 2006.
0n3 track is difficult to get  outside the States or is usually hand layed.
Most models in 0n3 are brass, $$$$$$$$$$.
0n30 (16.5 mm) is , what the Bachman says about 30 inch, 0n3 (19 mm) represents 3ft.

BTW I have a rake of AHM D&RGW box cars that are originally 0n3 but also came out in 0n30.
Yes  , if you compare them with the 0n30 boxcars that Bachmann produced , they are bigger.
But they go well with my Bachmann locomotives.

« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 06:02:58 AM by Ton N » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2020, 02:38:44 PM »

Hey RailMan,
Saw some of your posts and have some other solutions for you but I will post there.

The real difference between 0n30 and 0n3 is the width between the rails, but there are some subtle differences in sizing.
Bachmann cars are a little smaller than On3 cars, as you might have seen in your post about coupler heights.  On30 was designed from Dept 56 standards for under the Christmas tree displays of their villages, so they chose HO scale track for larger paired down O scale trains, thus the 30" instead of 36" between rails.

In the buying cars world, two things can happen.  When you buy an On3 model, the couplers are a but higher.  This is where you have to choose to go with Bachmann's standards (HO scale coupler height) or On3 coupler height.  If you get an Kadee coupler gauge in each scale, you can easily see the difference (although you are familiar from your San Juan Car co Build).  

I have decided to go with the On3 coupler height on my equipment.  Getting there can extend anywhere from raising truck heights, raising coupler pockets (such as on my BLI C-16 where it takes a little surgery but it can be done...The nice part is the coupler pockets are in soft metal and can easily be grinded out), removing coupler lowering spacers (found on Accucraft On30/On3 cars...They come with the spacers pre installed for the HO height, but you can easily remove the spacer to achieve the On3 coupler height) , or if you are really brave, Wiseman models sells a coupler extension piece that can be added to an On3 height coupler to allow it to couple to an On30 height coupler (it has a knuckle extender that you have to do some work to install).  

I only go with the On3 height because I have some larger K class locomotives from Mountain Models that has On3 coupler heights built in and when i went to lower them, they looked a bit strange.

If you buy On3 railroad cars, which I do quite a lot of (sometimes they are much cheaper than most On30 cars for some reason) they can be very easy to modify if you use On30 standard heights because it is always easier to lowler the to raise coupler heights.  I have found some issues when raising Bachmann couplers simply because there is not enough plastic that remains to make adjustments.  

Remember, it's all personal preference.

« Last Edit: September 04, 2020, 02:44:37 PM by RGSNut » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2020, 05:25:27 PM »

On30 was designed from Dept 56 standards for under the Christmas tree displays of their villages, so they chose HO scale track for larger paired down O scale trains, thus the 30" instead of 36" between rails.

This is not quite correct. On2-1/2 foot modeling dates back to the 1950's., It gained in popularity during the 1960's and 1970's due to two factors. First, the increased availability of decent HO sectional track,. second the many articles by Gordan North about his On2-1/2 'Denver & Western' layout in various model railroad magazines, primarily 'Model Railroader'. It wasn't until 1998, when Bachmann came out with a 2-6-0 specifically aimed at the Christmas village market, that using HO size track under the Christmas to replace the Lionel and Flyer trains of the past took off.

And somewhere along the line, because computer keyboards don't have a '1/2' key like old typewriters, On2-1/2 ft and HOn-2-1/2 ft were replaced by On30 inch and HOn30 inch respectively.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 12:34:09 AM by Len » Logged

If at first you don't succeed, throw it in the spare parts box.
J. S. Bach

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« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2020, 08:36:41 PM »

...snip...  It wasn't until 1998, when Bachmann came out with a 2-6-0 specifically aimed at the Christmas village market, that using HO size track under the Christmas ...snip...
I remember seeing one of those and a couple of freight cars when they were first released and thinking that Bachmann sure wasted their time and effort on something that would be a big flop! Grin I was quite wrong as it turned out. Embarrassed

Later Gator,


"A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do." ~P.J. O'Rourke

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« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2020, 03:04:50 PM »

Len, you are correct.  On30 did exist before Bachmann brought out the RTR trains but it was more a scratch build niech market  than a main stream product line.  Most of the people, including myself, saw this "new" scale and became interested because of space factors.  I can scoot by with 30" radius for my K's but in On3 I would have to go at least 38" to have a decent looking run.  Dept 56 did introduce the first set with Bachmann's engine and then Thomas Kincade sets and others hit the marketplace as well.  Of course these were all licensed Bachmann products.

I was in HOn3 for years before Blackstone and their amazing engines and dabbled in Sn3 for a few years but the expense was killing me.  I got really excited for On30 when I learned about MMI's engines that depicted Colorado narrow gauge road engines.  I bought a whole bunch of 0N30 years ago in New Yrk when ridge Road Station went out of business, including 1 MMI K engine way back in the early 2000's.  I found them about 4 years ago in the garage and the bug bit again.  Sold all of my garden railroad equipment and bought several cars and engines at a relatively good price. 
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