On30 Narrow Gauge Model Railroading

White Mountain Central Railroad

Visit the White Mountain Central Railroad in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Bangor & Aroostook Railroad State of Maine Boxcar fresh out of the paintshop at the Conway Scenic Railroad, in North Conway, New Hampshire.

North Carolina Transportation Museum

Southern FP7 at the NC Transportation Museum loacted at the historic Southern Railway Shops in Spencer, North Carolina.

Conway Scenic Railroad Museum

Steam and Diesel power on Railfan Day at the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, NH.

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Climb to the Top of Mount Washington in the New Hampshire White Mountains on the world's first mountain-climbing Cog Railway train.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Enjoy a ride along the Toccoa River in the Chattahoochee National Forest on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Trains depart from the historic depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia and travel to the GA/TN State Line and return.

South Carolina Railroad Museum

Experience the history of railroads in SC and ride the Rockton, Rion and Western Railroad (RR&W). Located near Winnsboro, SC, the museum offers hour long train rides, BBQ trains, and special events!

Monday, June 11, 2018

On30 Tunnel Portals

Are you in need of a tunnel portal or portals for your On30 layout? If so there are several options available -- either commercially available R-T-U (ready to use) or you can scratchbuild to meet your needs.

Commercially Available Tunnel Portals for On30 Layouts

Here are some commercially available On30 and O scale tunnel portals:

We have included some S Scale tunnel portals in the links above as some On30 modelers have decided on the use of S Scale tunnel portals for On30 layouts. Also please note that most if not all of the R-T-U tunnel portals still require stain/paint/weathering, and some are kits.

Scratchbuilding On30 Tunnel Portals

If you prefer to scratchbuild tunnel portal(s) you might consider these references:

There are also numerous magazine articles providing reference and how-to information for various types of tunnel portals. A few of them are listed below. For a more complete list visit the Trains.com Magazine Index - you will need a (free) account on Trains.com to use the index.

  • Select list of magazine references to be supplied after research is completed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On30 Models -- Physical Dimensions

** NOTE: The data on this page is being populated as we complete evaluations of the various models

In any discussion of On30 models, one of the topics is usually physical size of the various models and how they compare. The table below provides the basic information for the common ready-to-run engines available.

On30 Locomotive Dimensions (including other Powered Equipment)

Manufacturer & Model Length Length
Over Couplers
Width Height
Bachmann On30 14-Ton Two-Truck Stearns-Heisler 144 mm / 5.65 in 160 mm / 6.28 in 46 mm / 1.78 in 70 mm / 2.74 in
Bachmann On30 T-Boiler Two-Truck Shay
Bachmann On30 28-Ton Two-Truck Climax
Bachmann On30 2-6-6-2 Articulated
Bachmann On30 2-4-4-2 Articulated
Bachmann On30 Baldwin Forney 2-4-4
Bachmann On30 Baldwin 2-8-0 Outside Frame Consolidation
Bachmann On30 Baldwin 4-6-0
Bachmann On30 4-4-0 American Inside Frame
Bachmann On30 4-4-0 Modern Outside Frame
Bachmann On30 Porter 0-4-2
Bachmann On30 Porter 0-4-2
Bachmann On30 2-6-0 Mogul
Bachmann On30 Closed Streetcar
Bachmann On30 Railbus & Trailer
Bachmann On30 RailTruck
Bachmann On30 Whitcomb 50-Ton Center-Cab Diesel
Model Power HO Plymouth MDT Switcher

On30 Rolling Stock Dimensions

Manufacturer & Model Length Length
Over Couplers
Width Height


Model Power Plymouth MDT Locomotive - On30 Critter, Donor chassis, or both??

Many may already be aware of this but for for those who are not -- Model Power offers an HO Plymouth MDT locomotive. It's significantly oversized for HO scale -- both the shell and the wheels. In fact some in the On30 crowd use it right out of the box as small diesel or critter on their layout. It seems this locomotive has been around for a long time, but the most recent release from Model Power is a smooth running locomotive with great electronics built right in. I've purchased a few of these and have been very pleased.

It is also a great donor chassis for an On30 critter and some like Tim Moat of Coyote Flats Depot offer critter kits built on top of this chassis (kits available on eBay). If you're looking for a chassis for a critter that won't break the bank, this may be the solution for you.

On top of all the positives, right now (May 2018) Trainworld is offering these on sale at the unbelievable price of USD $44.99 for the locomotive with what we will call "Do It All" electronics built right in -- it runs on standard DC, it runs on NMRA DCC, has built-in sound, and it has wireless control and controller right in the box or just $19.99 for the standard DC version. The "Do It All" edition locomotive has MRC's very capable DCC/DC dual mode decoder with sound and also integrates its Loco Genie™ right in the locomotive (on-board electronics) and in the box (Loco Genie controller).

If one of these scenarios fits your needs/wants for your On30 layout, you might want to visit Trainworld's web site and pick up one or two...

N.B. I have no financial relationship with Trainworld except as a satisfied customer.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bachmann Spectrum On30 14-Ton Two-Truck Stearns-Heisler

The Stearns-Heisler continues Bachmann's collection of On30 geared steam locomotives along with their On30 Shay and On30 Climax. This 14-ton two-truck engine was an early Heisler, manufactured from the late 1890s.

The Heisler locomotive was the last variant of the three major types of geared steam locomotive. Its designer and manufacturers claimed it was the fastest of the three but retained the low-speed hauling capability. As such it was used in mining and logging/lumbering industries as well as other places which required heavy hauling. From a 1923 Heisler marketing catalog:

"Why you can haul at least 30% more per ton of locomotive with the modern Heisler"

Bachmann has delivered a DCC-equipped model with the fine detailing expected in the Spectrum® line, along with 16-bit Tsunami® plug-and-play sound capability. (Separate-sale Bachmann Item No. 44953, Stearns-Heisler Sound Module, required for sound on board performance)
Features include:

  • DCC-equipped for speed, direction and lighting control
  • Sound ready with factory-installed speaker
  • Dual-mode NMRA-compliant decoder
  • Die-cast construction
  • Coreless motor
  • All-gear drive
  • Enclosed gearbox
  • Heavy-duty universals and driveshafts
  • Prototypically powered trucks and gearboxes
  • Constant soft white LED lighting
  • Blackened brass handrails and piping
  • E-Z Mate® Mark II couplers
  • Choice of three stacks and optional oil bunker included
  • Contoured wheel spokes per prototype
  • Plug-and-play sound-ready (Tsunami® sound module available separately)

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler Model Information:

Manfacturer: Bachmann Release Date: 2013
MSRP (USD): $419-$450 Catalogs: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018
Length: 144 mm / 5.65 in Weight: 358 g / 12.6 oz
Length over couplers: 160 mm / 6.28 in Within On30 Clearance Gauge: Yes
Width: 46 mm / 1.78 in Height: 70 mm / 2.74 in
Front Coupler: Bachmann E-Z Mate® Mark II Rear Coupler: Bachmann E-Z Mate® Mark II
Front Coupler Height (note 2): Pass Rear Coupler Height (note 2): Pass
Recommended Radius: 15 in or greater Reported Minimum Radius (note 4):
NMRA Conformance Warrant: No NMRA S-4 Wheels (note 2): Pass
NMRA S-2 Couplers (note 2): Pass NMRA S-9 Electrical:
NMRA S-7 Clearance (note 3): Pass RP-25 Wheel Contour: no statement
RP-9.1.1 Electrical Interface and Wire Color Code:
Power Modes: DC, NMRA DCC Interface Socket: Yes
DCC: Bachmann Dual mode DC/DCC on board DCC Sound: Optional - Bachmann (Tsunami)
Sound Decoder Item No. 44953, MSRP $129
Power pickup: All wheel DCC Sound control on DC power: Automatic
engine sounds, only (no user control on DC)
Drawbar Pull (note 1): TBC Primary Construction Material: Diecast
Model Evaluated: Bachmann Item No. 28803 Evaluation Date: May 2018
Fidelity to the Prototype: Other than being a very small Heisler, it is judged excellent!
  • Item No. 28801, Colorado Mining Co. #4
  • Item No. 28802, Painted & unlettered - Black
  • Item No. 28803, Painted & unlettered - Black with white pinstripes & running board stripes
  • Item No. 28804, Painted & unlettered - Black with red windows + white running board stripes + white tires
  • Item No. 28805, Greenbriar & Big Run Lumber Co. #5
  • Item No. 28806, Midwest Quarry & Mining Co. #4
  1. Measured using Micro-Mark 84708 Digital Pull Meter
  2. Measured using NMRA HO Standards Gauge
  3. Measured using NMRA On30 Clearance Gauge
  4. May require adjustments to run through this radius
  5. For parts, contact Bachmann Trains or shop online at the Bachmann Online Store

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler: Tune-ups, Updates and Conversions

Bachmann On30 Stearns-Heisler: Additional Articles of Interest

Heisler Locomotives: Books for further reading 

Heisler Locomotive Works. Heisler Geared Locomotives Catalog. Erie, Penna.: Heisler Locomotive Works, 1923, 38 pages.
About this book from BarnesandNoble.com: In 1892 Charles Heisler received a patent for a new kind of geared locomotive. Equipped with twin canted cylinders, the engine utilized a drive shaft to power outboard axles and connecting rods to power the inboard axles. As a result of this 'vee-twin' arrangement, the Heisler was one of the fastest geared steam locomotives, providing more power with lower operating costs. Over 600 Heislers were produced from the 1890's until 1941, when the Heisler Locomotive Works closed its doors. This reproduction of the company's illustrated catalog dates from the 1920's. It shows the full line of Heisler products and presents a compelling argument for their use.

Kline, B.F.G., Jr. The Heisler Locomotive, 1891-1941. Kline, 1982, 199 pages.
About this book from BookFinder.com: Fascinating and handsomely done authoritative history of the Heisler geared locomotive. Chapters include a biography of Charles L. Heisler, a description of the Stearns Manufacturing Co., the Heisler Locomotive Works, the Whitney Engineering Co., the origins, development and refinement of the Heisler, the purpose, distribution and performance of the Heisler, competitors of the Heisler, the construction of a Heisler, Heisler's last years, detailed scale drawings, builder lists, and an owner list. Illustrated throughout with black and white photos. With bibliography and index. Some copies of the book contain an Addenda and Errata Sheet with list of existing Heislers as of November, 1982.

Heisler Locomotives: Other references


On30 Detailed Product Information section launched!

We're pleased to announce the launch of a blog section devoted to detailed On30 Product Information. This will be focused on On30 or On30-applicable products that we feel will be of interest to a significant number of On30 modelers and potential modelers.

The new section can be found in the menu bar BELOW the Blog header. It's called PRODUCT INFORMATION and features:

  • a Suppliers and Manufacturers listing which contain links to their web sites where available
  • a link to our Minimum Radius information page
  • a series of sub-dropdowns for specific manufacturers and then specific products from that manufacturer
The detailed pages for specific products will features these general sections (not all sections will apply to every type of product):
  • picture with product overview
  • Model information -- detail product specifications
  • Tune-ups, Upgrades and Conversions of note
  • Additional Articles of interest
  • Books for further reading on the prototype of the model
  • Additional Online sources ojf information about the Prototype
Also where we have electronic copies of product information sheets (manuals, reference material, etc.) those will be available from the Detailed Product Information page.
Our first product in this section will be the Bachmann Trains 14-Ton Two-Truck Stearns-Heisler geared locomotive. Watch for it to appear in the next few days!


Thursday, May 24, 2018

NMRA On30 Clearance Gauge plus more!

If you're getting started in On30 model railroading, one of the key tools to have on your workbench is a gauge to measure essential items. The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) On30 gauge will measure these items:

  • Coupler height
  • Track gauge
  • Clearance
  • Flangeways
  • Wheels
  • Points

The NMRA 0n30 Clearance gauge includes a NMRA HO gauge (for track and wheel measurements) nestled inside a On30 clearance gauge.

Get yours today direct from the NMRA's Online store (including NMRA member special pricing) or at your local hobby shop (through Walthers affiliated dealers - Walthers item number 98-9).

Additional Notes:

When determining track clearance you generally should factor in which "narrow gauge" you're modeling in On30. Are you modeling a specific prototype or prototype region? Or are you using commercial models? Or some hybrid? Maine narrow gauge cars have different maximums (esp. width) than for example Colorado narrow gauge or perhaps a specific UK or New Zealand line might. Similarly commercially available models have different car end overhang that will affect the necessary parallel track clearance (e.g., in On30 models the Bachmann passenger cars and the Bachmann Forney rear overhand will definitely impact your parallel track clearance on curved sections of track). So it becomes more important to understand what you're checking clearance for in On30. For example the NMRA's clearance for Old Time/Narrow Gauge is primarily taken from the Colorado Narrow Gauge railroads. More detail can be found in the NMRA Recommended Practice 7.1 on Tangent Track Centers and Clearance Diagrams.

Some modelers use an On3 (aka On36) track clearance gauge. If you have one of these handy, it should work as well for track clearance, although the track gauge is different. If you're interested in purchasing an On3 gauge, they are available from the NMRA Company Store.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Building an On30 GE 23-Ton Box Cab

One of the many excellent articles in the On30 Annual 2018 edition is Robb Thomas' article "Designing a Locomotive Shell to Fit an Existing Mechanism" (pp. 81-85). (If you do not already have this issue of the On30 Annual in your personal library, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy from either your local hobby shop or direct from the White River Productions' Bookstore.)

The premise of the article is to help modelers leverage 3D printing to build items of interest for their model railroad. Mr. Thomas used SketchUp and Shapeways to accomplish this task, and the article illustrates the various steps in the process. If you're interested in using 3D printing for your model train layout, you'll want to read this article.

Also if you're just interested in building a GE 23 ton Box Cab for your railroad (and not doing your own design and 3D printing work), the shell, other parts, and the instructions for building the locomotive are available from Prairie Locomotive Works' Shapeways store. The locomotive is built on top of the Bachmann On30 Closed Street Car mechanism that you provide. If you happen to prefer an electric version of this locomotive, the store also features an alternative Freight Motor version of the shell.



An active modeler in 1:64 scale (S scale) since 1998 and a relatively new On30 modeler, Michael's primary interests are in model railroading, structure modeling and control systems for model railroading. Michael is a life member of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), a member of the National Association of S Gaugers (NASG) and the Bristol S Gauge Railroaders.

Michael and his wife Deane Louise co-own Pine Canyon Scale Models, a manufacturer of S Scale and O scale structures.

Michael is a past chair of the NMRA's Digital Command Control (DCC) Working Group and was a contributor to the NMRA's DCC Standards activities. Michael continues to play an active role in the use of NMRA DCC in S Scale model railroading.

Michael previously served as the NASG National Secretary and Librarian for the NASG's Russell M. Mobley Memorial Library.


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