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Alan Mole’s On30 scale Mole Valley Railway

A scratchbuilt and highly detailed waterfront warehouse built based on a prototype photo highlights the wharf scene on Alan Mole's layout.

Alan Mole of Atlanta, Georgia recently held an open house for visitors to see his beautiful On30 scale layout. The layout is set in the American northwest in the 1940’s. The freelanced layout features numerous scenes including water front industries and an operating lighthouse. In addition, there are various industries along the line including a mining operation with a switchback for the geared locomotives to access the mine. Several structures are scratchbuilt while others are highly detailed kits. Alan’s layout demonstrates a great attention to detail and a fantastic layout to visit.

A narrow gauge locomotive stops at the station on Alan's layout. Mel's Diner features a highly detailed interior and lighting.

For those not familiar with On30, it is O scale (1:48) narrow gauge equipment run on HO scale track. The scale is a compromise that allows narrow gauge equipment to run on 2’6” gauge track that is slightly smaller than the standard 3 foot gauge found on most American narrow gauge railroads. Most HO scale track can easily be modified to work with the On30 scale locomotives and cars. A few manufacturers offer track and turnouts specifically for On30 which look more prototypical with larger tie spacing than standard HO scale track. Bachmann is a major provider of On30 equipment and locomotives and has been attributed to revitalizing the scale in 1998 when it introduced its first On30 locomotive. According to Wikipedia, On30 is now regarded as the fastest growing segment of the model railroading market in the United States.

There are several advantages of modeling in On30 scale including the ability to highly detail the equipment and lower cost of purchasing ready to run equipment from Bachmann. The equipment can be run on tight curves and still look very realistic and not take up much more space than a typical HO scale model railroad. The larger size allows those with diminishing eyesight to more easily see the equipment and enjoy operating sessions.

There is something appealing to watching a narrow gauge locomotive work its way along the line. I especially like the geared locomotives as they slowly crawl up and down steep grades to access the timber or mining locations. While my GNRR layout will be around for many more years, the lure of On30 is hard to resist. Stay tuned and maybe one day you’ll see if my attraction to On30 is realized.

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