We live in an age where a simple declaration of belief or principle is well nigh impossible to find. Our politicians, business leaders and celebrities of every stripe are experts at clouding their position on the simplest of issues. I’m taking the opposite tack.

While I understand there are many approaches to scale railroad modeling, here are the principles that inform the work and philosophy of OST Publications Inc:

  • A scale model should be consistent from top to bottom, including the wheel profile and track gauge.

I realize not everyone will agree with this statement, which is fine. I consider this to be a fundamental aspect of scale modeling. Model railroading is at odds with this ideal as evidenced by the gross compromises adopted and considered as normal practice in every scale throughout the history of the hobby’s development.

  • If the hobby is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

In my view, this is self explanatory. Once again, I understand that people bring many different levels of skill and other resources to this hobby. What I’m saying is this: The quality of the hobby you ultimately craft for yourself is completely within your control. Why would you settle for mediocrity? There’s more to this hobby than “good enough.”

  • Quarter-inch scale can be ideal for a small space, if you manage your expectations realistically.

Quarter-inch scale suffers from the decades old stigma that says it requires massive amounts of space in order to be satisfying. That’s true only if the objective is a huge layout. We have an addiction to the idea of big: big engines, big curves, big train cars, big buildings, and so on. The stereotype simply isn’t true. I’ve proven it to be false to my own satisfaction and so have many others around the world.

Our publications reflect these fundamentals in their choice of subject matter and tone.

If these principles resonate with you, be certain to look over our Masterclass Modeling Series™ of books and our digital magazine, The Missing Conversation from the menu bar above.

Mike Cougill







  1. Dunks


    It won’t surprise anyone who has read my comments (not just here, but elsewhere) to find me in agreement with you – I went public about this myself not so long ago.

    Some of your comments reminded me of comments I have seen elsewhere:

    “Why would you settle for mediocrity?”

    Why indeed?
    The UK’s leading railway modelling magazine used to have a strapline which said, “For the average modeller”. They meant “typical”, which is what average means, of course, but it is also a synonym for mediocre. Long ago, I raised the bar and set my sights to be better than average.

    This is not elitism, just me wanting to improve myself. I am happy to share techniques I have learned or developed, and accept that this is not for everyone. Elitism would be keeping quiet and telling everyone else that they are wrong.*

    “There’s more to this hobby than ‘good enough.'”
    That depends on what you mean by “good enough”! I will settle for Tom Mix’s good enough any day…

    “Quarter-inch scale can be ideal for a small space, if you manage your expectations realistically.”

    To quote Don Boreham, in his classic book “Narrow Gauge Railway Modelling”, “the best scale to use is the largest one you have space for”.

    I would qualify that by saying that you need to decide what turns you on. If it is the majesty of a trains dwarfed by the landscape, then N gauge is where it is at. If you are focused on intensive operation, I would suggest that H0 has a lot to offer. If you like detail, and mass, then go larger. (S scale has 2.5 times the mass of H0, 1/4″ nearly 6 times the volume and mass of H0.)

    Personally, I find S satisfies my needs perfectly – having tried “Scale 7” and 1:32 scales, plus a dabble in larger scale narrow gauge, I know this to be true and it is the only area where I will “disagree” with you – but as you say, each to their own. The important thing is to try different scales to see how suited you feel to them. I could not accommodate what I wish to achieve in the space I have available, in a larger scale anyway.

    *This does not preclude me from pointing out inconsistencies, such as the NMRA/NASG standard being called “scale” by the trade and many modellers. Since when does using a more or less 0-scale wheel profile for an otherwise accurate 1:64 scale model constitute “scale” modelling? Some call themselves “Mr. S Scale”. Me, I like being Mr. Controversial… 😉

  2. mike

    Hi Simon,

    As you’re no doubt aware, the idea of “good enough” was popularized in the US from a fine series of magazine articles written in the late 1970’s by Allen McClelland about the development of his Virginian and Ohio railroad.

    Since that time others have adapted and misconstrued the concept in numerous ways, such as: if a model looks good from three feet way (typically for HO), then it’s good enough.

    I obviously disagree with this mind-set and the consequences it produces for one’s modeling and the hobby as a whole. Clearly though, it is a hobby of personal choice, and one makes such decisions accordingly. While I can state our principles as a way of letting folks know what our products are about, OST Publications is here to encourage and inspire, not dictate.

    I’m in agreement with my admiration for Tom Mix’s work and skills. They represent everything wonderful about this scale.


  3. Dunks


    “The difference between a craftsman and an amateur, is that a craftsman knows when to stop…” We are back to that restraint thing, again. (Sadly, I cannot recall the attribution.)

    My interpretation of Allen McClelland’s use of the phrase is in-line with the sentiment above – it was about knowing when to stop, not about deciding not to start!

    Over here, in S scale, we look to Trevor Nunn for inspiration: http://www.s-scale.org.uk/gallery9.htm


  4. Matt


    Could not agree with both your original essay or Simon’s follow up.

    Model Railroading, due to its cost, in both time and purchasing of all the various pieces of the layout, has become expensive. If you are going to put forth the time and money, why not due it well.


  5. mike


    Looking at the site, Trevor does wonderful work.

    Matt, I’m a bit confused.


  6. Matt


    Yes, my last comment was clear as mud to everyone but me. I should continue to work on my writing skills! My point, your one statement, “if the hobby is worth doing, it is worth doing well” struck me as the statement everyone needs to discuss before they even get started.

    Why not do it well, why not try to making one’s modeling as good as your skills permit. As you improve, go back and fix problems. The idea of oh well that is good enough has bothered me for some time. It seems to me that people rush through their building the model railroad to get to running their trains only to be disappointed with the final result. The purpose of the hobby is to have an enjoyable “past-time”, not to have frustration to no end. If one takes their time, learns to build the kit, or weather that particular car, or make sure their trackwork is error free than the final product is can be much more enjoyable.

    Many times it has been my pleasure to get an invitation to a fellow modeler’s house to “run some trains”. On more than a few of those visits the “operating” session broke down because of the “well enough” attitude with trackwork and electrical issues. This has led to helping these same modelers take down “old layouts” that just did not work right. In retrospect, wonder if spending some time on the trackwork, making sure that switch works, or that no dead electrical spots exist would have lead to a model railroad survivor instead of another landfill victim.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the Masterclass modeling series and the Missing Conversation. I feel that you are touching a group of modelers who have needed a voice in the hobby’s publications for some time, how to develop skills to build a finescale layout.


  7. mike

    Thanks Matt.

    I thought that’s what you were getting at but I didn’t want to impose my interpretation on your comment. I appreciate your faithfulness as a reader and I’m glad to know you’re getting good value from the work.