Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Old Glory 15mm Train: Good, Bad, & Really Ugly

I first saw Old Glory's new HO scale Model Power passenger train set at Cold Wars. The set has been discontinued. Joel purchased it for their new line of largish 15mm Western figures and buildings. The set retails at Old Glory for $150, but is cheaper with the Old Glory Army discount, which I assume most purchasers will have. The Army price is about what you would pay online for such a Model Power set.

I realize Joel had a difficult time finding a decent HO set, but there are other, better choices for the same money or just a bit more. I've been a model railroader since 1976 and for the past 12 years have provided research for companies like Lionel, MTH, Atlas, and Athearn so they can accurately design their Conrail locomotives and freight cars. I have also been a fan of Western narrow gauge railroading, modeling in Sn3 back in the day.

The Good...
I guess the good part is that the Old Glory (aka Model Power) set is a train set and that it scales pretty well with the Old Glory 15mm figures. (This implies that the 15mm figures are closer to 1/87 than they are to 1/100, which is fair to say from my pirates.) I hate to say this, but that is where the good ends.

The Bad...
Where do I begin? The type of loco is totally wrong for the era. The loco is basically a 1930's-1940's 0-4-0 yard switcher with an "old time" diamond stack applied. The 1870's to 1880's, the main era of Western gaming, should really feature the 4-4-0 "American" style locomotive. Yes, most gamers are not sticklers for model railroading like I am. However, you place a model train on a gaming table--and then run it around--it will become the focus of attention for everyone for a long time. Therefore, it should look like it belongs.

The Really Ugly
My real gripe with this set is the paint scheme. The red and green look like Christmas. Worse, the entire train has "Pennsylvania Railroad" painted on every car and the loco. While as a kid I pretended that I was playing cowboys and Indians in my backyard in Central Pennsylvania, I knew that my backyard was not the Old West! The set's paint scheme is a huge problem I cannot overlook.

Once Upon A Time...
In the intintroduction to this post, I promised an alternative. Right now, there are few Western HO train sets in production. The hobby goes through these phases. My main suggestion is to pick up Bachmann's HO train set called "Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad." What? A Disney train set. Wait a minute. Walt Disney was a huge model railroad buff. This is a replica of his 1/8 scale train that he ran in his own backyard. It has the proper 4-4-0 American locomotive, correct boxcar, two gondola for your gunslingers to fight on, and a nifty "bobber" caboose. You can get the set online for about $99 from MB Klein, the same as if you bought the Old Glory Model Power set.

This Bachmann set also looks good enough and is reliable enough that you could use it as a train set during Christmas. I would be loathe to use the Model Power set for the holidays.

But what about passenger cars? I have you covered. Roundhouse, which is owned by Athearn, makes scale 32' Overland passenger cars for the Old West. Many have been discontinued but are to be reintroduced late July. You can see them at the Roundhouse website. My personal favorite is the Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad, the quintessential movie railroad. Many films used these cars, which run on the Durango & Silverton scenic railroad in Colorado to this very day. The D&RGW Overland combine car was also the first train kit I built, way back in 1976! You should be able to get these cars discounted online for a decent price.

Cut! That's a Wrap!
So while I like the folks at Old Glory, I just cannot recommend this train set. I've given some suggestions. Over time, you even could add more and more pieces and new locomotives to the Bachmann set. I don't see that happening with the lower-quality Model Power set Old Glory offers. If people ask, I will also write an article offering advice for using model trains in 28mm Western gaming.

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