Monday, February 13, 2023

Modeling in O scale??

This is something you probably didn’t know about me. Though I am a confirmed HO scale modeler, and have been from the very beginning, when I built Strombecker wood kits as a boy, there is an O-scale side to me too. Fact is, O scale has its attractions, and sometimes (as I often say), looking at an O scale model makes the modeler in me just itch to build and detail such big, beautiful models.

During the time I lived in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), my very good friend Larry Kline, who was an O scaler himself, encouraged these little impulses. (Larry passed away in 2014, as I memorialized in a blog post some time back; you can see it at: .) 

And in addition, Larry had a fine O scale layout that ran beautifully, so that if I bought or built any O scale equipment I would be able to operate it. (A few photos illustrating Larry’s last layout can be found in one of my older blog posts: .)

So the bug did bite. I think the first nibble was when Paul Shimada, long-time NMRA Pacific Coast Region leader (and NMRA President in 1984–1986), passed away. I saw that there was to be an auction of his models, and couldn’t resist buying one, because I had met and liked Paul. Then there was another one, and another one . . .

The Shimada box car is a stock Athearn metal kit. Further, I know from Paul’s own notation on the center sill, that it was purchased in November 1963 and assembled by him that same month. I have not upgraded details (it lacks sill steps at present, and still has its O-scale Devore couplers!), but I did fix its reweigh date.

Larry Kline, having successfully infected me with the virus, urged me to try the InterMountain styrene O-scale kits for PFE reefers when they were released. I didn’t “get right to it,” as Larry would have said, and he built one of the Class R-40-10 ones for me as a Christmas present that year (he also build several for himself, so it went fairly quickly, he admitted). This is the car, just as built.

Incidentally, regarding this model, InterMountain clearly went to some trouble to do accurate lettering and paint colors. In fact, when in later years some of their HO models of PFE cars had a peculiar off-orange color, I told one of their people, “Go look at your own O scale model! It’s a dead match for the paint chip!”

Here’s one more example. It’s a Precision Scale brass caboose, Southern Pacific Class C-30-1, very accurately modeled. I painted and lettered it. You see it here without couplers, as it was in the midst of upgrading its original couplers.

One of my treasured possessions is one of Larry Kline’s freight cars. It’s a brass model of a GS or General Service gondola, with (working) drop-bottom doors. But the car number is imaginary, and literally none of the other lettering is correct or in the correct location, except the SP emblem (I think Larry bought the car this way and didn’t change it — he certainly knew better).

Partly in honor of Larry’s memory, and partly so I can display the car with a clear conscience, I’d like to correct the lettering. Luckily for that goal, there is a Protocraft decal set for these cars. I will take up that project in a following post. 

Tony Thompson


  1. Would you say that Proto:48 modelers do finer detail work than HO scale modelers in relation to the prototype itself? If so, I'm wondering if there are any effective O scale prototype modeling techniques that can be adopted for HO.


    1. Not particularly. O scalers are like any group of modelers: some are excellent, some average, some really don't do detail. If anything, I think the degree of refinement in much O scale modeling falls farther short of what is POSSIBLE with the size, than does much HO scale. Just my opinion. And no, I'm not aware of techniques we could borrow in HO.
      Tony Thompson