I always have several projects in the works at any one time. I like variety! One of the projects I am contemplating is a micro layout based on the copper smelting operations in northern Michigan. Inside the smelter buildings they used an industrial tram way. Both electric and diesel motors were apparently used. O14 looks like a very good candidate for any layout I might try.
I cannot remember where I first heard of O14, but I joined the yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/O14/) to look at what others were doing and from there I found http://o14group.org/. Both sites have a wealth of information and samples. Most O14 modelers are in the UK and other parts of Europe. The scale fits small and micro layouts well, which are popular in those areas. The number of companies producing track, locomotives and rolling stock is quite surprising when you consider this is a small niche market. A list of suppliers can be found at http://o14group.org/o14-manufacturers-and-suppliers/.
I decided to give O14 a try-out before settling on it for my project. I contacted KBScale (http://kbscale.com/) and ordered their WA073 – Three Platform Wagons, a WA030 – Tipper Wagon and the TSK02 – Track Sample Kit. KBScale is in the UK and I went with cheap shipping to the USA. Although I expected to wait a long time, I received all the items in good time. From a cost factor all the items were a bargain (even after exchange rate) as far as I am concerned. Niche market items here in the USA can cost a lot.
I quickly set about assembling the cars. I found the instructions clear and the quality of the items was very good. Anyone who has built a kit before should have no trouble. The only word of warning to others is to take great care in assembling the bearings and attaching them to the frame. Great care must be taken to make sure they are square and where they should be. Errors here will create a static model quickly.
I painted the cars a brown primer color close to what I had found at the copper mines. I then used various weathering powders to highlight and rust the cars. I was quite satisfied with the results for a first try at a mining car.
The next item to tackle was the track. I had never hand laid track before. I had always used flex track for my other projects. For a tram line (and to make it look correct) I will not have any choice but to hand lay. The KBScale track sample provided very good instructions and sleepers that keep the track in line. The kit also came with a track gauge to assist with keeping everything in gauge. I decided to lay the track on a scrap piece of 1/2″ plywood I had. This meant that I had to pre-drill all the holes for the spikes. This was not a big deal since we are only trying 18 scale feet of track. If I am laying a large amount I will consider other options.
A few cuss words and some bent spikes later (my fault not KBScale) I had the track down and was ready to weather it. I painted the entire base a dirty black and then went back over the track with various shades of rust and weather powders again. Then I cleaned and polished the rail surface.
I am very satisfied with the quality of the components and the results I achieved I will defiantly be doing more with O14. When time permits I will purchase more track, a couple turnout kits and a locomotive to test some more. I am sure I will paint and weather things a bit different on the final project. I hope to be able and tour the old smelter first hand and get more info on original colors, what sleepers were used and track arrangements from the prototype. you can be sure I will be doing more O14.
P.S. The track kit comes with a “I Love O14” button. Nice touch!