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!

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.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

On30 Manufacturers and Suppliers

This post is simply a list with links to suppliers of On30 products. If the supplier has an active web site it will be linked, otherwise just the supplier name is provided. Also some suppliers may not be shipping products at this time, but we've included the information for reference anyway since their products may appear on the secondary market. Additionally we've provided information on what categories of On30 products this supplier has available (note a supplier's products may vary over time and this could affect categories, so please take this as a general indication only).

Also please bear in mind that On30 modeling is O scale modeling. So many O scale items such as structures, detail parts, scenic items, circus items, etc. are appropriate for On30 modeling. This opens a whole portfolio of suppliers of O scale items for the On30 modeler.

This page is not and will likely never be complete. Within my time constraints and knowledge about a supplier this page will get updated. Supplier names prefaced by a * are known or believed to be fallen flags and no longer in business, but their offerings may still be available on the secondary market.

Supplier Categories
Accucraft (American Model Supply) Locomotives, Powered Equipment
American Model Builders, Inc. Structures, Detail Parts
American Model Builders, Inc. (Annex)
Bachmann Trains Locomotives, Powered Equipment, Rolling Stock, Track, Accessories, Detail Parts, Structures, Trucks, Scenery, Couplers
* The Back Shop
Backwoods Miniatures Powered Equipment, Rolling Stock, Turntable, Detail Parts, Conversions, Accessories
banta modelworks Structures, Detail Parts, Conversions
Bar Mills Models Structures, Detail Parts
* Boulder Valley Models Conversions, Powered Equipment, Rolling Stock, Detail Parts, Trucks, Accessories
Branchlines Powered Equipment
Broadway Limited Imports Locomotives
Brunel Hobbies
B.T.S. Rolling Stock, Structures, Detail Parts, Accessories
Buffalo Landing Locomotives, Powered Equipment
Cache Creek Scale Models Rolling Stock
* The Car Works Locomotives, Rolling Stock, Powered Equipment, Accessories
Coronado Scale Models
Coyote Flats Depot Conversions (also available on eBay)
Downtown Deco Structures, Detail Parts
EDM Models
Fast Tracks Track
* Fire Box Models Locomotives, Powered Equipment, ROlling Stock, Detail Parts, Accessories (now only doing custom work)
Foggy Mountain Models Structures
Foothill Model Works Rolling Stock, Couplers, Detail Parts
FOS Scale Models Structures, Detail Parts
Frenchman River Model Works Structures, Boats, Details
G C Design Group
Grandt Line
Hamm River Model Products
Ian Lindsay Models Rolling Stock, Powered Equipment, Trucks, Detail Parts, Accessories
International Hobbies Locomotives, Rolling Stock, Powered Equipment
Light Iron Turnout Co. Track
Kadee Couplers
Kitwood Hill Models Structures, Turntables, Detail Parts
Leetown Models
Micro-Engineering Track
Miniatures by Eric Rolling Stock, Detail Parts
Mount Blue Model Co Powered Equipment, Rolling Stock, Track, Accessories, Detail Parts, Structures, Trucks
Narrow Japan Models
On30 IMA
PECO Track, Turntable, Scenery
Prairie Locomotive Works Rolling Stock, Bridges, Trucks
Precision Craft Models Powered Equipment (Galloping Goose)
Precision Scale Company
Rail Scale Models Structures, Detail Parts
Railroad Line Models Structures
Rich Yoder Models Locomotives
Rio Grande Models Rolling Stock, Structures, Trucks, Detail Parts, Accessories
Rusty Rail Detail Parts, Accessories
Rusty Stumps Scale Models Structures, Detail Parts
San Juan Car Co. Rolling Stock, Detail Parts, Couplers, Trucks
Sergent Engineering Couplers
Sidetrack Laser
SierraWest Scale Models Structures, Detail Parts, Accessories, Rolling Stock
Silver City Models Rolling Stock (available on eBay)
Stoney Creek Designs Structures, Accessories
Train Troll
Wiseman Model Services Powered Equipment, Rolling Stock, Track, Accessories, Detail Parts, Structures, Trucks

Friday, May 11, 2018

Foggy Mountain Models releases Carsonville Station

Foggy Mountain Models has released an O scale model of the Carsonville Station in Carsonville, MI. The model structure is primarily targeted at the narrow gauge modeler. The kit is made up of two 20' cars (a reefer and a boxcar) set end-to-end - along with a small portico entrance to agent's office in the boxcar end along with windows and stove and a train order board. This will look at home on an On30 layout.

The first run of the kit is already sold out, but additional kits are being prepared. See the Foggy Mountain Models web site for more information and to order.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Silver City Models offers On30 Models

Recently I saw some On30 items from Silver City Models for sale on eBay. I ordered kits for a D&RGW 1872 17' 4 wheel flat car and a D&RGW 1872 17' 4 wheel gondola car. They just arrived so I have not had a chance to assemble them yet. But they are nice looking kits made up of a combination of resin castings, laser cut items, wheelsets and additional detail items.

Along with my kits, the proprietor included a list of available kits. For O/On3/On30, they include:

  • On3/On30 D&RGW 1872 12' 4 wheel box car kit - $36
  • On3/On30 D&RGW 1872 14' 4 wheel flat car kit - $24
  • On3/On30 D&RGW 1872 17' 4 wheel flat car kit - $24
  • On3/On30 D&RGW 1872 17' 4 wheel gondola car kit - $26
  • On3/On30 D&RGW 1872 14' 4 wheel gondola car kit - $26
  • On3/On30 Kilgore Log Loader kit - $49.95
  • O/On30 Steam Boiler/Fuel Tank kit - $39.95
  • O scale Resin Steam Boiler, multi scale - $8

Kits are Made in the USA. Look for them on eBay or contact them directly via SilverCItyModels at comcast dot net.



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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