On this page we capture a historical timeline of how 1:64, 3/16"-to-the-foot, S-scale modeling came about, and how it evolved. When new details come to the attention of the webmaster, this
page will be updated.
W.E. Gallant of Chicago, a jeweler, built a live-steam model of a 4-4-0. It was built out of steel, brass, nickel, gold, and wood. See the December 1893 issue of the
Locomotive Engineering journal (go to page 1041 in the PDF).
14-year old Edward Bowness scratch-builds a British Midland Railway 4-2-2 made of card. 3/16" scale was chosen based on rivets available to him that matched the
size of the engine's buffers (see April 1998 issue of S/Sn3 Modeling Guide). The March 1950 issue of The Model Railway News
magazine re-published Edward Bowness' article in whole, describing how he built the model. We have captured those three pages in an image file format:
page 43, page 44,
- "American Flyer" started by a Chicago hardware store to make wind-up clockwork trains.
- American Flyer Mfg. Co. started making electric trains in O gauge.
- Charles Wynne, professional engineer, scratch-builds two British Midland Railway 4-4-0 tank engines made out of card, wood, and cast metal. He chose 3/16" because it was half the size
of "Gauge One" (3/8", 1:32 scale). It became known as "H1" (or half-one) scale.
- British modeling magazine Model Railway News publishes letters about people enquiring about the practicality of modeling in 3/16" scale.
- The National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) was formed.
- Donald M. Tiffany of Bayside, New York, develops the first U.S.-based S-scale commercial product, that of a cast-metal hopper.
Arthur Peake, in Manchester, England, starts Halfone Model Company, with the intent of developing scale standards and to start producing commercial products.
Cleveland Model and Supply, Co., a Cleveland, Ohio company which (still) manufactures wooden airplane kits, starts "C-D"
gauge ("Cleveland-Designed"), which is based on being 75% the size of American O-gauge. The company was owned by Ed Packard (who had changed his name from Ed Pachasa); he was unaware of
Europe's "S" developments.
The NMRA accepts "C-D" gauge at the national convention.
In December, A.C. Gilbert, American Erector Set toy maker, purchases the American Flyer Mfg. Co., and starts producing S-scale items riding on wheelsets widened to
fit the O-gauge standard used by Lionel under the name of "Tru-Model".
Cleveland Model and Supply produces wood and diecast locomotives, and wood and paper freight cars.
- Several scratch-built models appear in the British modeling press, but WWII put an end to the efforts.
"C-D gauge" was changed to "S" as the official name of 1:64 modeling, at the NMRA convention that year. Legend has it that since the letter "s" appears so many times in "three-sixteenths"
and "sixty-fourths", that "S" was selected over "Half-1".
Bub, in Germany, started making clockwork S-gauge trains that ran on 22.5mm gauge track. The web site linked to has some
photos of their items. The products were not a commercial success as German modelers were quickly adopting HO-scale as their favorite.
A.C. Gilbert stops making O- and HO-scale products, and starts producing S-scale items under the American Flyer brand name. The gauge was narrowed to true S-scale, purposely
differentiating it from their competitor Lionel, and to be able to advertise that they used true-to-scale two-rail track.
Wimbledon Model Railway Club displays the first S-scale layout in Britain, built by Bernard Wright.
British company Palitoy starts making plastic train sets in 1:64 scale (powered by batteries). Click here for a photo of an original set. The
photo comes courtesy of Fred van der Lubbe of The Netherlands, and posted here with his permission. The plastic used to make the bodies warped over time, so they don't really run anymore.
Fred describes this set in his free-to-download eBook, LNER Pacifics and NYC Hudsons.
Cleveland Model and Supply stops producing C-D gauge products.
JEP, Jouets de Paris (i.e. "Toys from Paris"), was a French toymaker who started producing some S-scale items after one of the employees visited the U.S. and saw American Flyer.
- "S-gauge" was adopted in Britain based on the NMRA published standards of "S".
- A.C. Gilbert produces the first plastic-bodied locomotives.
- A.C. Gilbert changes to the 5-digit product numbering system, because it is now "computerized".
The French company JEP announces clockwork and electric trains for S-scale, noting their advantages in their catalog (see clockwork page
and electric page). Note that "S" was not a known scale in Europe, so it is referred to as 25mm in their catalogs.
Claud Wade of St. Louis advertises in Model Railroader for S-scale modelers to join a circuit letter, which he started later that year (by mid-1959 there
were 30 circuits going!). The way a circuit letter worked is that a person would send his information, notes, comments, ideas, photos, etc. to the next person in the list (or "circuit").
The next person added his own info, etc., and mailed the whole stack to the next one in the list. This kept going. When the stack arrived back at your house, you would remove your old
information and add new things. Each circuit covered a different topic or aspect of S-scale modeling.
At the NMRA convention, the informal "National Association of S Gaugers" (NASG) was formed with no real formal structure, and NMRA membership was strongly encouraged. The year 1960 is the
NASG's officially recognized year of formation.
- David Bulkin starts the S Gauge Herald newsletter/magazine.
- British company Palitoy stops making 1:64 scale plastic trains.
- The French company JEP quits making S-scale products (the company went out of business in 1964).
- A.C. Gilbert dies at the age of 76.
- The Northeastern S Gaugers Association (NESGA) grew out of a meeting at Frank Titman's home in Allentown, PA.
- Wally Collins becomes publisher of the S Gauge Herald.
- The Kadee HO-scale coupler was starting to be used by S-scale modelers.
- The first S-scale convention was held in May hosted by the Bristol S Gauge Railroaders club in the back room of a linoleum store in Woburn, Massachusetts, attended by about 40 modelers.
- Frank Titman becomes the editor of the S Gauge Herald.
- Don Heimberger starts the S Gaugian magazine. He is 14 years old!
- Bernie Thomas becomes the second General Director of the NASG.
- Claud Wade produced the first full kit of parts to build a steam locomotive. These castings were the birth of modern S-scale (as the future demise of A.C. Gilbert was clear).
Frank Titman's design idea of the clasped couplers was voted as the logo for the NASG. Ed Schumacher actually created the drawing from Frank's idea (as seen in our logo in the upper left
of this web site).
The NASG's "Bernie Thomas Memorial Award" was created by the Deep South S Gaugers Association, after Bernie's passing earlier this year. Russ Mobley becomes the third NASG General Director.
Claud Wade started "S Scale Locomotive and Supply" company, to separate the parts development work from the NASG work.
The A.C. Gilbert company declares bankruptcy.
The NASG begins as a formal organization (July 1) with a General Director (Russ Mobley) and a 7-member Board of Trustees (Frank Titman, Wallace Collins, Richard Karnes, David Engle, Gene
Fletcher, Ed Schumacher, and John Sudimak).
- A.C. Gilbert's arch-rival Lionel purchases the "American Flyer" brand name and tooling for $157,000 in June of this year.
- Lionel declares bankruptcy.
- General Mills (of cereal fame) buys Lionel (and thus American Flyer), and eventually produces items under the name "Fundimensions".
- The NESGA is merged into the NASG. The NESGA's name was last used in the 1973 Convention. Russ Mobley resigned as the NASG's General Directory and Ed Schumacher took over.
The "NASG, Inc." was created in New York, established as a non-profit corporation. The NASG, Inc. approved the scale standards (different, at the time, from the NMRA's S-scale standard). Jack
McGarry authored most of the constitution, while Wally Collins did the legal work.
The S Gauge Herald publishes its last issue (primarily due to increased costs of printing, but also editor Frank Titman didn't think there was much hope for
S-scale; they were unaware of the plans by American Models, see further below).
- Then-NASG president, Dick Cataldi, starts the NASG Newsletter.
- Swede Norlin releases code 70 Sn3 flex track.
- Ernie Horr takes over the NASG Newsletter, and renames it The Dispatch.
- Tomalco releases code 100 standard-gauge flex track.
- Inspired by Sam Powell's article about his layout in the November 1975 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, Ron Bashista starts American Models to
eventually produce quality scale and hi-rail engines, cars, and much more.
- The NMRA approves and makes available the Sn3 standards gauge.
- Richard Kughn buys Lionel (and thus American Flyer) from General Mills.
The ESSENCE (S Scale Special Interest Group of the NMRA) newsletter was formed to attract S/Sn3 scale modelers from within the NMRA's
- The NMRA recognizes the NASG's S-MOD standard as the official S-scale modular standard.
- Tony Perles passed away (after whom the NASG's Perles Publication Award is named).
- Rollie Mercier re-starts the S Gauge Herald magazine (6 issues per year).
The 3/16 'S'cale Railroading magazine was started by Ed Loizeaux as publisher, Bob Werre as photographer, Billy Wade, Jr. as circulation and advertising
manager, and Dick Karnes was the editor.
The 3/16 'S'cale Railroading magazine ceased publication with the last issue of the year.
The S/Sn3 Buyers Guide magazine was started by Billy Wade, Jr. to fill the gap left by the 3/16 'S'cale Railroading magazine.
The title was eventually changed to S/Sn3 Modeling Guide.
- Rollie Mercier re-starts the S Gauge Herald magazine with the October issue.
Wellspring Associates (majority owner), along with Neil Young, purchase Lionel Trains, Inc. (and thus American Flyer), and created the new "Lionel, LLC". Richard
Kughn remains on board as a minority owner.
The S/Sn3 Modeling Guide ceases publication.
Richard Bendever bought the rights to publish the S/Sn3 Modeling Guide, and renamed it 1:64 Modeling Guide. A few years after
Richard ceased publishing the 1:64 Modeling Guide, Robert Nalbone bought the rights and ran it for a number of years, even switching to electronic versions.
Lionel, LLC declares bankruptcy due to its losing the suit MTH won against it over it using MTH's designs in its Korean factory.
Sanda Kan, which is a major manufacturer in China for model train products, and at this time was owned by J.P. Morgan, was taken over by its dominant Chinese rival Kader Industrial. Sanda
Kan was experiencing severe production and mounting debt problems. (As an aside, Kader owns the Bachmann, Palitoy, Liliput, Graham Farish, and Williams brands of model trains).
Kader Industrial, parent company of Sanda Kan, announces that it will no longer accept orders from 60 of its 80 clients. All model railroad scales were affected by this, but in the
S-scale world, S-Helper Service, American Models, American S Gauge, and S Scale America (owned by Des Plaines Hobbies) were hit hard.
- S-Helper Service announces the sale of its tooling to MTH Electric Trains.
1:64 Modeling Guide ceased publication.
- MTH Electric Trains introduces its first release of S-scale products, using S-Helper Service's original tooling.
- The digital-only magazine The S Scale Resource is created.
- MTH Electric Trains finally completes the production of all the items listed in their 2013 catalog (the F3 locomotives and turnouts).
- After 34 years, Heimburger House stops publishing the Sn3 Modeler magazine.
After 57 years, Heimburger House stops publishing the S Gaugian magazine. Don Heimburger officially retires, thereby also closing
the "Scenery Unlimited" retail store and manufacturing.
Ron Sebastian, of Des Plaines Hobbies, passes away in October. Son-in-law, Matt Gaudynski, assures us that the store, and its manufacturing arm, will continue.
References used to compile this page's content:
- "Welcome to S Gauge Herald Subscribers" article in the January 1979 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.
- Claud Wade covered how the idea of the NASG was started, in the Spring 1983 issue of the NASG Dispatch.
- "Collecting Antique Electric Toy Trains" article in March 1987 issue of Model Railroader.
- "50 Golden Years with S Scale" article in the May 1987 issue of Model Railroader.
- "In the Beginning was Rivet Scale" article in the April 1998 issue of S/Sn3 Modeling Guide.
- Bob Jackson's NASG History articles.
- December 2010 NASG Dispatch.
- the S Scale Model Railway Society web site (has photos of some of the items mentioned above).
- the Bristol S Gauge Railroaders club web site.
- Kader topic on the Wikipedia web site.
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