Getting started in P48

There is a joke that O Scale is called the “underground scale” because newcomers don’t know where to find sources of supply or even what’s available. The best way to learn is to attend one of the annual shows or meets. There are several where you can get plugged into the O Scale and P48 networks. Primary among them is the O Scale March Meet held in the Chicago area. In 2010 it will be in Lombard, IL. Another excellent show is O Scale West for folks on that side of the Mississippi. Usually held in February, in 2010 OSW will be held in conjunction with the O Scale National Convention in California during July. Like the NMRA National Convention, the O Scale National travels from coast to coast each year being held in a different city. Back to the Midwest, the Indianapolis Fall Meet in early September is another well attended show. You can also subscribe to O Scale Trains Magazine, which often runs articles on P48 modeling subjects. Check the Related Links section for further info. 

One of the first things you’ll likely do is install a pair of P48 trucks on a freight car. This can be a ready-to-run car or a kit. My first conversions were a Lionel boxcar and an old 1970s vintage Atlas boxcar. The Lionel car was designed for the 3-Rail market, having grossly oversized wheels and couplers. I simply removed the trucks with their attached couplers and installed a pair of P48 trucks from San Juan Car Co. that I outfitted with wheels from Protocraft. The bolster design allowed for a lot of truck swing due to the tight curves common to 3-Rail layouts. This made mounting a scale truck more difficult than it had to be. In time, I will likely rebuild the entire underframe on the car, so that things are correct according to the prototype.

The next step will be some trackwork and it’s likely you’ll be handlaying it, since commercial, ready-to-run trackwork to P48 standards isn't available. This isn’t anything to fret over. If you can lay reliable flextrack, then handlaid track isn’t that much harder. Just different skills to learn is all. In fact, thanks to some great products from American Switch and Signal, handlaid turnouts are even easier to do in P48 than in other scales. These castings do away with the tedious job of filing a point on the rails for the frog and switchpoints.

Diesels, like my Red Caboose GP9, are usually a fairly simple drop in conversion of new P48 wheelsets . I don’t have any experience with Atlas O or Weaver diesels, so I can’t say how easy they are to convert. Steam locos are another story all together. To convert most O Scale steam, at the minimum, you will have to replace the drivers and other wheels entirely. Protocraft is going to the source to turn to for new drivers, and there are several individuals who will do the conversion work for a fee. This is where being part of the P48 network will be very helpful. My best advice is to join on of the online forums or groups dedicated to P48 such as the Yahoo P48 Group (listed on the links page).

While it will take some getting used to, from the standpoint of finding supplies for P48, the effort is well worth it. Modeling in P48 has become a source of great fun for me.


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Copyright 2012 Michael L. Cougill