I've dropped hints on this blog in a few previous posts about changing scales from HO to O and specifically the Proto48 dialect of the latter. Trevor Marshall's comment on my most recent post prompted me to clarify my thinking, so here goes...
First, some history. HO scale is all I've ever known and was employed in both major railroad building projects in my life. The first was a multi-year journey along with my father to recreate late 1950s iron ore railroading in far northeastern Wisconsin and western Michigan and the second was a rather faithful (if I do say so myself) recreation of the Milwaukee Road's "Beer Line" that I built with my brother, the first third of which can be found in the November 2011 issue of Model Railroader magazine.
In both cases, prototype modeling was at hand and the goals of the operation plus history, familiarity, and available equipment dictated the scale choice. The iron ore operation set out to capture a 100 miles or so of line governed by timetable and train order operation -- 600 feet of mainline wouldn't have been possible in any larger scale and much of the equipment to make it operational was collected over time or obtained for very reasonable prices.
The goal for the Beer Line was to recreate the entire six miles of the line and while N scale might've provided the opportunity to perhaps stretch things out a bit, this is where the balancing act comes in. Allow me to attempt to explain...
In my pursuit of this hobby, I've come to find that the -- albeit imagined -- immersion of myself into the environment is the most important and rewarding aspect. There's clearly a spectrum to every vector of this hobby, from the realism of the models, the level of detail applied, and the engagement in recreating the actions of an operating railroad. In my personal experience, operating sessions are more enjoyable when all of the participants are near the same end of the engagement spectrum. Consider a simple example: Yes, one can "cheat" and see the feet of the other operator in the next aisle and use that to decide if the way is clear, or they could read the timetable and think through the train orders and make the decision that way.
I've come to realize that the scale of the equipment is one factor in the equation supporting the engagement aspect. This is not to say that a larger scale strictly equals more engagement. One can certainly satisfy all of their goals with N scale and those operating it can still derive great enjoyment from it.
I believe it comes down to perspective and mass. The closer one is to the equipment, the more the models mimic the same perspective seen when viewing the prototype and the more real it, in my opinion, "feels". Us humans will always be 1:1 "standing over" our 1:87.1 or 1:64 or 1:48 trains, but if they are bigger and are brought closer, the perspective is changed, the details stand out and one can feel a bit more like they're "there".
As I've gravitated towards smaller, fully recreatable prototypes -- especially industrial spurs such as is the focus of this blog -- the opportunity presents itself to use a larger scale since the full mile of real track can be captured in ~130 linear feet. With the goal of a to "complete" model achievable, the larger scale begs to be tried for all the aspects I've (tried to) convey here.
All that being said, here's the first step:
At $25.00, this was a relatively easy "plunge". No existing HO equipment was harmed in the making of this blog post. Now, I just have to figure out the P:48 conversion aspect, but that's a subject for future posts...Stay tuned.