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General Large Scale Information

by Jim Murray

The large scale backyard railroad hobby consists of individuals who love railroads and who want to operate trains in as real a manor as possible. Most can’t afford to own and operate full size trains and are not satisfied operating table top trains. There are many choices about scale and track gauge to be made by the prospective large scale backyard railroad tycoon. Miniature railroads have been built in every conceivable scale from 1/2 inch to the foot to 6 inches to the foot. and track gauge from 2-1/2 inch to 36 inches. Today the most popular is 1-1/2 inch scale with a gauge of 7-1/4 inch or 7-1/2 inch. The 1-1/2 inch to the foot scale is large enough to ride comfortably, is the largest size which can transported easily from place to place, but is not so large as to be prohibitively expensive for most individuals.
We in the hobby build trains, track, bridges, tunnels, and other infrastructure items outdoors in the real world and have to deal with the same problems that the 12 inch to the foot prototype railroads do. This makes for an interesting challenge. Many in the live steam hobby do not have their own layout, instead they band together in. In that way much more extensive layouts can be constructed using the talents of all the club members and spreading the track building labor and costs around. In this scale there are two track gauges, 7-1/4 inch which is prevalent in the northeastern parts of the United States and Canada and most of the rest of the world and 7-1/2 inch gauge which is prevalent in most of the United States and Canada. Neither gauge is strictly correct for 1-1/2 inch scale. The correct gauge is 7-1/16 inch. This is one of the reasons many people build to a scale of 1.6 inch to the foot rather than 1.5 inch to the foot. For 1.6 inch scale 7-1/2 inch gauge is correct. This slight difference in scale is not too noticeable except that it gives an extra inch of interior space in equipment.
The locomotives are powered by steam, batteries, or small gasoline engines. The rolling stock can be made of wood or metal. The type of individuals involved in this hobby are varied. Some construct all their equipment from scratch, some build there equipment from kits of materials and instructions purchased from, and yet others, who not having a machine shop at their disposal, buy machined kits which they finish themselves. The last category of large scale backyard railroaders is the ones who purchase their equipment ready to run.

One Part At A Time

By ChipsAhoy:

I visited and eventually joined a group "XXX Live Steamers" And I never had a hint of an idea that I would ever build/operate a Live Steam Loco. I was encouraged to build anything that struck my fancy and was assisted by a longtime member in building a pair of Davenports with gas engines. That put me on the rails where I was able to run with the "Steamers". In a way, I was their equal, I was "in".
At the end of a long day, several of us were sitting around the club campfire. I was visiting with a well respected owner of a Steam Loco, a Heisler, in the course of babbling and drooling over the steamers I told him "I could never build one of those, I don't have the time or skill". And he said to me, "Just build one part at a time, make it correctly, make it over and over if you have to, when it is right, set it aside and build the next part...I can't do it for you, but I can help, one day you will have a fine steamer."
I currently am knee deep in building my first steamer (first steamer!!). Because of the good attitude of those fellows, there is one more engine being build and hopefully someday being operated.
Countless people have stopped by my place, viewed my work in progress and perhaps one or two of those will find an interest. When chatting with the visitors, if they POO POO on their own skills, I try to work the conversation around to what I was told... "Of course you can, just build it one piece at a time. I can help."