An Adventure in 1:32 Scale Modeling
After a visit from Scott Carter and his wonderful Cinnamon Creek Mining Co. layout, I became inspired to build a small, portable layout of my own. Wanting to do something a bit different from the TMMC and other modeling I had done, and following a correspondence with another fine modeler, William Dickman, who introduced my to the idea of 1:32 scale industrial narrow gauge, I landed on the idea of an outlaw trail themed mining layout in 3/8n20. In truth, the idea for something called "Bandit Canyon Railway" had been gestating in the back of my brain for a couple of years and it just needed a little push to get it started.
1:32 Scale + HO Gauge = 3/8n20
Most readers may not be familiar with the scale/gauge combination of 3/8n20, it is certainly not a common modeling scale, even to die-hard narrow gauge modelers. 1:32 scale is common enough, and is quite popular with large scale modelers to represent standard gauge trains on 45mm gauge track. It's also a common scale for model airplanes, die-cast cars and tractors, and some ship models. 1:32 scale is 3/8"=1', so it's right there in between O scale at 1:48, and F scale at 1:20.3 (there's really no such thing as "G scale," by the way, there's 1:32, 1:24, 1:22, 1:20.3, and others all running on 45mm track to represent different gauges!).
In 1:32 scale, HO gauge measures out to about 20" between the rails. This means that one can use HO and On30 mechanisms, wheel-sets, and chassis as a starting point for some quaint and chunky industrial narrow gauge equipment in what amounts to 3/8n20. This scale/gauge combination is rare enough that it doesn't even have a letter designation like O, HO, S, or N. If anyone ever asked me, I might suggest "Q" for 1:32 scale trains and that would make this project Qn20. The Q stands for "quirky." But I'll leave it up to the NMRA to sort out the alphabet soup.
Building a Planning Model
Since the BCRy is to be a portable layout, there were a few problems I needed to work out before starting actual construction. Specifically, I wanted to see how my plan for having the layout travel inside its own stand/base would work out in practice. The solution was to build a 1:8 scale planning model. As a bonus I could work out the sight-lines, color scheme and other aspects of the scenic treatment at the same time.
Using my track plan at the top of this page as a guide, I constructed the planning model from 1/16" thick cardstock and extruded polystyrene foam. The finished layout will measure 35" wide, 60" long, and 44" high with the backdrop. For travel, it will nestle securely down inside the slightly larger base, and the entire set-up will stand nearly 8' tall when assembled. The roof above the layout will house lighting, and doubles as a lid when everything is boxed up. The whole thing will roll around on swiveling castors.
Scenery was sculpted from EPF in a similar manner as the rockwork on the Thunder Mesa layout. Building the planning model gave me a chance to work out sight-lines, like views of the town of Hole in the Wall through the natural arch. The rockwork is based on formations near Bluff, Utah.
A 3/8n20 Locomotive
The next thing needed as proof of concept was an actual 3/8n20 locomotive to pull trains around the planned layout. Starting with an On30 Bachmann Porter, I quickly put together a new cab and stack to see how the proportions would work out.
The cab was knocked together from illustration board and wood scraps from my scrap-box, and the stack is some plastic tubing joined to castings from an old MDC-Roundhouse HO kit. Nothing too fancy or detailed yet, but enough to give a feel for the proportions of a finished 3/8n20 mining engine. The last photo shows a size comparison between the 3/8n20 Porter and an unmodified On30 Porter. All in all, I'm very pleased with the chunky and narrow look and can easily see it fully detailed, weathered, and pulling a string of mining gons. One question left to answer now is how to control the trains. Standard DC, digital DCC, or some form of Dead Rail battery power? Another is, what kind of track to use - Peco On3o, Micro Trains, or hand laid? Dead Rail would mean fairly trouble free operations, and hand laid track would look fantastic on a small layout like this. Stay tuned for further developments from Bandit Canyon country to see where this adventure leads!
Thanks for checking in, amigos. Adios for now!