Common carrier United States narrow gauge railroads were THREE foot. Here is how it goes, HO track is 16.5mm. If we divide 16.5 by 3 we get 5.5mm. That scales to 1/55 for an inch, strange scale right, 1/55? Military modeling has 1/56 or 28mm figures, there are figures, wagons, vehicles in the 28mm world. Why not make the models to 5.5mm/ft?
There are two narrow gauge eras: the era of narrow gauge fever and the era of survivors after the narrow gauge crash. Historians consider narrow gauge dead after 1893 because very little new narrow gauge was built in the United States. There were pockets of survivors that lasted into the 1960's.
The On30 Bachmann inside frame 4-4-0 is really too small to be a 1/48 scale locomotive. In 1/55 it is great representing a late 1880's loco. The other Bachmann On30 locomotives are suitable for the post narrow gauge crash era 55n3.
Early three foot locomotives can be made from HO locomotives. The Mantua HO ten-wheeler is a good starting point for a 5.5mm/foot three foot gauge loco.
"We DON'T need no stinkin' letter!!!"
5.5mm/ft - 1:55 - Scale 55 Sounds good
There has been modeling 2 foot prototypes. They have been modeling in 5.5mm/foot since 1963.
Here is Malcom Savage's model of Tasmania's North-East Dundas Tramway locomotive K1 - the first Beyer-Garratt.
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Forums and Associations discussing 5.5mm/ft
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What does only 10-15% scale difference mean?
A linear difference of 10-15% doesn't sound like much, right. Here is our rogues gallery of figures of major scales HO(3.5mm, 1/87), OO(4mm, 1/76), S(3/16",1/64), 55(5.5mm, 1/55), American O(1/4", 1/48). Notice the big difference in volume. That is our HO gauge track representing three foot track in Scale55 next to PSC On3 track. Big difference, more railroad in less space.
Objects aren't "N, HO...S, O, etc. SCALE". An object is what it measures.
That is the idea behind 55n3, we are taking models from other scales and converting them to 55n3. No one makes 55n3, Bachmann makes models that can be used in 55n3 because they match plans in Scale55. That is why we have a scale rule. Measure a model, if it is the right size for Scale55 it is Scale55. The Bachmann On30 equipment is small O scale narrow gauge, but put a Scale55 ruler on the equipment and it becomes 55n3. Now it is realistic three foot equipment.
55n3 gives a modeler the ability to model both periods of THREE FOOT American narrow gauge in the same space as HO scale within a realizable budget. It is a format that EVERYONE can build in and AFFORD. There is enough available to accomplish this goal, more than any other scale. 55n3 uses track available at the local hobby shop, no other narrow gauge scale can say that.
Hope you join me in this endeavor.
Real 3 Foot Narrow Gauge For Everyone
55n3 has the only affordable Ready-to-Run 3 foot gauge 4-4-0
Narrow Gauge fever swept America during the 1870's until it's precipitous crash 20 years later. There is no other scale that provide equipment to model early narrow gauge. On30 won't do it, On3 won't do it, Sn3 won't do it. This is a great idea to do it, believe me. Common carrier narrow gauge railroads in the United States were THREE FOOT gauge.
Early North American Narrow Gauge can be modeled because HO loco mechanisms, trucks and track convert easily to the early period.
Herb Kephart built these Scale55 cars back in the Mid-50's.
A graph showing the two eras of narrow gauge. The mass of extinction of "narrow gauge" began about 1885. That was the end of narrow gauge fever and standard gauging or abandonment.
The remaining narrow gauge lines existed because they were hauling coal or gravel to build the roads that eliminated the railroad.
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Won't we have to scratchbuild everything? Where will we get cars and locomotives? Bachmann On30 gives us the inside frame 4-4-0 and HO locomotives can be converted to represent the narrow gauge before the crash. Bachmann's other On30 locomotives are good representatives of after the crash. Bachmann On30 freight cars convert to 55n3 easily, becoming a more typical 29' car.
This website will post articles about modeling in 5.5mm scale on HO track. Hopefully someone will follow me in this venture.
I guess it has to have a name, Scale55 sounds good, we don't want to go into that "letter jungle" . Sorta like the proto guys with P:87 and P:48. 55n3 being a subset.
The passenger cars go well with our high drivered 4-4-0.
The Bachmann On30 boxcar matches this 1905 Unitah boxcar and is bit wide for early narrow gauge.
The Bachmann On30 gondolas and flats also match the Unitah rolling stock of the later period. The gons and flats can be narrowed a scale foot to represent a typical early era narrow gauge gondola. An hour is all that it takes to narrow a gondola or a flat car.
The Bachmann On30 stock car has no known prototype except Bachmann's large scale rendition using a standard gauge car. It will suffice.
The bobber caboose needs to be lowered but the sidedoor is fine.
Steve Jones's 55n3 layout
Ted Hawkin's pioneer 55n3 layout
Bill Allen's Bachmann On30 4-4-0 conversion was posted on Railroad-line Forum as On30 in the fall of 2010. Sure looks like that picture. Sure looks like 55n3. It is possible to model early THREE foot narrow gauge.
On30IMA offers an excellent line of kits that match early three foot prototypes in 55n3.
HO Locomotives as Early 55n3
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A Mantua HO Ten-Wheeler against a 1/55 scale plan of an early 4-4-0. Shown here with Scalelink 19mm self-quartering drivers. Here the crew is trying to get the rear one back on the track.
Roundhouse HO locomotives make it possible to model early three foot locomotives. The 2-6-0 matches the seminal three foot locomotives.
"Modern" Narrow Gauge
Modeling Narrow Gauge Survivors
HO Track IS Scale 55 Three Foot Track
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Track is what sets 55n3 apart from other scales. You can go to any hobby shop and buy 55n3 track, it is ALWAYS readily available HO gauge track!!!
The Bachmann On30 rod locomotives can be used to model the "second generation" three foot narrow gauge equipment. After 1900 the locomotives got a lot bigger mainly geared for the export market. The only On30 Bachmann locomotive that doesn't translate to 55n3 is the "Tweetsie" ten-wheeler. It is an example of a "second generation" narrow gauge motive power. The 4-6-0 is very large. The remaining Bachmann On30 locomotives represent very small thirty inch gauge prototypes. This translates very well to 55n3.
Even the Mogul moves to 55n3 even though it is a three foot prototype. It is a small early three foot locomotive that is similar to Baldwin's later catalog locomotives.
The Bachmann On30 freight cars are very small early 3 foot prototypes. They scale better as 1/55 cars of the "modern" era than 1/48. The ladders and grabs are the right size and placement also.
The On30 Mogul is mechanically close to the Brooks Colorado and Northwestern #1 and Baldwin Catalog moguls. The 44" drivers match the Brooks. A 2-8-0 can be made using an HO Bowser frame and drivers with very little work. The 2-8-0 merge is a close match to the Southern Pacific/NCNG consolidations. The tender is the right size for a typical "modern" era small 2-8-0.
The Bachmann On30 2-8-0 scales out to a Baldwin Catalog 10-28-E. It matches this NdeM locomotive in dimensions.
The Bachmann On30 2-8-0 scales could be converted to a K-27 like the large scale version of the 2-8-0.
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There are large variety of vehicles available for the 1920's to 1930's
Broadway Limited Imports "C-16" matches this Ferrocarril de la Sabana "late era" 2-8-0 Baldwin Catalog locomotive. Shown with a more appropriate Bachmann On30 Mogul tender.
The "Modern" American Narrow gauge Uintah railroad looks like our 55n3 track and flatcar, Model Power Code 83 and a Bachmann On30 flatcar. But 55n3 ISN'T about the track. 55n3 IS about the mechanisms, the vehicles, the people, the accessories available to make THREE foot narrow gauge running on HO track. If your head is in the box it ain't for you. This endeavor requires imagination and free thinking.