O gauge, 2 and 3 rail question

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by kfh227, Jan 27, 2008.

  1. kfh227

    kfh227 Member

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    I have a question. I know what O gauge with 3 rails is. Kinda what I always think of Lionel to be.

    Today at a train show, I saw what looked like O gauge, but it was 2 tracks just like HO. I asked the operator what gauge it was (feeling somewhat stupid doing so) and he said it was O gauge.

    So, when looking for products, how does one differentiate the two? That is, if I were at a manufacturers web sit, what would I look for when looking for 2 rail and 3 rail engines and cars?


    PS: I was at the in show in Massachusetts. It's apparently the largest model train show in the US. 'll be back tomorrow with my son.
  2. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

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    most will state its 2 or 3 rail, some company's make the same stuff for both, atlas O is one. i was told that 2 rail rolling stock will not run on 3 rail track, but i have read that some here on the forum says you can , so i really dont know for sure, i just stick with all 3 rail.
  3. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

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    Yes, there is such thing as 2-rail O gauge (and it has existed in one form or another since at least the 1930s). Anything that's intended for 2-rail O gauge will say so. It has to, since a car intended for 3-rail will cause a dead short on 2-rail track. Running 2-rail cars on 3-rail track is less problematic, although I understand there can be issues with some types of track, and 2-rail cars won't trip an insulated rail, if you have accessories or track detection wired up to use an insulated rail.
  4. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

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    Not to start the ongoing hassle, again, but most 2 rail O gaugers will tell you that they operate "scale" equipment, whereas 3 rail is semi scale.
    Some manufacturers make rolling stock that can be converted by changing couplers and trucks. It also depends on the level of scale accuracy that the individual manufacturers put into their equipment. Lionel has some very close to scale equipment and some that is altered to make it compatable with small radius curves. Wheel flange size differs between scale equipment and 3 rail also.
    And then there is proto 48, which is O scale with an attitude toward being very accurate.
    The above is only general info, not meant to cause any scale vs. 3 rail war.
  5. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

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    two rail O gauge/scale track looks funny to me...... if its not 3 rail ,,,its not O scale.....lol............(TEASING HERE!)

    but heres something to think about tho. i dont know but i figure that 2 rail O wiring is a lot more work then 3 rail,,,, its more like ho or N scale for like reversing loops and what not? to me the less wiring the better, and that 3rd rail makes it so much easier. just something to think about when starting a layout.
  6. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

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    Here are some pics of one of our OTTS members who has 2 rail SCALE layout.

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    AS pointed out, the flanges are scale and much smaller than 3 rail stock. It may work on MTH or Atlas track, but not on tube track. Also the couplers are scale size and will not mate with standard Lionel couplers.

    MTH does make Premier (yes scale in all dimensions) engines that run on 2 or 3 rail with a conversion set. This member of ours has several of these engines and we have run them on both his 2 rail layout and our 3 rail layouts.

    Oh - just a side note, I believe the largest train show in the us is the TCA shows in York, but I could be wrong on this.:cry:
  7. Geno

    Geno Member

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    I'm one of the 3-rail scale guys that really sits on the fence between 2 and 3-rail by running 3-rail trains on 2-rail track (stud rail down ther center for power). I have skids that I install over the rollers, and that's how my engines pick up the power. I use Atlas code 148 2-rail and older Atlas/ Rocco code 155 2-rail.

    I have tried just about every brand of 3-rail O gauge track, but ultimately they didn't look realistic enough for me. 2-rail track looks far more realistic, and when I ballast the center stud rail you can barely see it.

    I learned about this type of track setup from Hugo Pallesen, an OGR forum 2-railer. He was very helpful in getting me started, and even sold all of his remaining studrail to me. The issue I 'm having now is obtaining more of the studrail - I 'm looking for a machine or sheetmetal shop to make it at a reasonable price.

    Geno
  8. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

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    Geno, my man, you are truly a master of figuring out how to have your cake and eat it, too! Anecdotally, there seems to be more interest in 3-rail O (sometimes I feel like Atlas offers O stuff in 2-rail as an afterthought), but I just can't get past how unrealistic that 3rd rail down the middle looks. From photos of your track, I'd say studs come the closest to invisible you can get.

    Proto:48 is really appealing to me because I can actually see O scale well enough to do the detail work. :mrgreen: Plus, you can really see the difference in flanges, etc. Maybe a 'domino' in my future?

    Actually, I'd be really happy to find a nearby O scale group where I could run my locomotive and five freight cars. :oops: Right now they're on static display...
  9. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

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    Anecdotally, there seems to be more interest in 3-rail O (sometimes I feel like Atlas offers O stuff in 2-rail as an afterthought)"

    1. 3 rail O has been around a lot longer,

    2. more company's make 3 rail then 2 rail

    3. most times 3 rail is cheaper then 2 rail O.

    4. more hobby shops stock more 3 rail then 2 rail.

    but from what i hear ,,,,, if you go to Europe, 2 rail O is all over the place and 3 rail is rare.
  10. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

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    Riverotter - Just for Fun, here are some Proto railroads with a 3rd rail! ! ! :eek:

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    :rolleyes: :cry: :cool:
  11. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

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    just where are those taken at? whats the story behind them?
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

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    Gee, I see:
    -a lionel style 2-rail...an electric (normally it is either off to the side or an overhead wire)
    -Dual gauge (and a stub switch at that!
    -A cog railway
  13. Geno

    Geno Member

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    Guys,
    It's always easy to take the path everyone else takes, but when you make your own, difficult as it may be, ultimately you are much happier. Alot of nay-sayers on a few different forums have criticized me for following my own wishes regarding the persuit of the most realistic 3-rail O gauge track, but I'm not worried. I'll find a shop to make the studrail- when that happens I'll finally start building my studrail layout. If there is enough interest I'll have alot more made up so others can try it also.

    I like the idea of a track system both 2-rail and 3-rail O gaugers can use- hopefully someday it will be a reality.

    Geno