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Why HOn3?

As noted above, the prototype Klondike Mines Railway was built to 3-foot narrow gauge. So the present layout, built with operation in mind, could have been built in Sn3 or On3. So why choose HOn3?

The advantages of this scale/gauge include the following: 
  • More railway can be accomodated in a given space, so one comes closer to representing the 31-mile length of the prototype, than would be possible with the larger scales. (The typically shorter narrow gauge trains and slower operating speeds also help.)
  • A good level of detail can still be incorporated into model rolling stock in this scale, and reporting marks can still be easily read.
  • Good quality trucks for passenger and freight equipment are available with metal wheels and good rolling characteristics (from MRC and Grandt Lines respectively).
  • There is available a wide selection of model HOn3 steam locomotives, (including at least one close replica of a prototype KMR locomotive). Most of these are of classic brass construction, but some newer and much improved models are now available.
  • HOn3 equipment is generally less expensive.
Narrow gauge and standard gauge locomotives.
Narrow gauge and standard gauge freight cars. The disadvantages of HOn3 include the following:
  • Derailments occur more frequently, due to the lighter weight of rolling stock. This is particularly true of locomotive pilot and trailing wheels. Remedial measures include:
    • weighting cars to at least NMRA specifications.
    • incorporating the maximum weight that can be squeezed into pilot and trailing truck assemblies. (We avoid using springs to hold trucks down, since this subtracts from the total weight carried by the locomotive driving wheels, and hence reduces tractive effort.)
    • accurately built trackwork and properly gauged wheelsets.
  • Operation of locomotive mechanisms is less smooth than in the larger scales, due to poorer contact with the rails (again due to lighter weights), and lesser quality mechanism components. Remedial measures include:
      • keeping rails and (exclusively metal) wheels clean. We avoid the use of any oils or other contact enhancing agents, since we find that any temporary benefit is accompanied by a greater tendency to accumulate dirt.
      • replacing open frame motors with can motors, and the factory gearboxes with higher quality and higher ratio ones from NWSL.
      • invoking the back EMF feature of DCC, which also helps smooth operation.

    The recent availability of the Blackstone K-27 (seen at right) has had a strong impact on the operation potential of HOn3 locomotives. The model features all-wheel electrical pick-up on the locomotive drivers, and electrical pick-up on wheels on both sides of the tender. This, together with a high quality mechanical drive, leads to exceptional reliability and smooth operation. Further, a Soundtraxx Tsunami decoder and golden-while LEDs in the head and back-up lights are already installed. With excellent detail and modest price, this product is a significant addition to HOn3 modelling.

    Blackstone K-27

    Unreliable operation can decrease the enjoyment of operation, if it extends beyond a certain critical limit. Taken all together, we appear to have suceeded in reducing the frequency of the above problems below this limit. One piece of evidence for this could be the continuing participation of the same members of the operating group over a time period of several years. However, with HOn3 it certainly takes more work, and continuing attention to rolling stock, to maintain this happy situation.