Finescale modeling in 1:48

The P48 Experience

OST Publications

P48 might be a good fit if you:

• enjoy the challenge of building an accurate model to a high standard.

• value quality over quantity.

• choose your own meaning for the craft.

What is P48?
P48 (or Proto48 if you prefer) refers to the quarter-inch finescale standards for track and wheels. It corrects the gauge from the five-foot legacy standard and refines the wheel profile to reflect prototype dimensions. As a niche practice within a niche modeling scale, P48 is shrouded in a fog of mystery and misinformation. If you’re coming from another scale you’ll have to do some homework to find the solid resources and information you need. That’s where this site comes in.

You’ll need to do some homework with P48

Is P48 For Me?
Finescale modeling in any scale isn’t for everyone. P48 is most attractive to experienced modelers who are ready to change scales or looking for new challenges and modeling to a higher standard.

While a determined beginner can find success in P48, it’s important to understand the challenges involved. 

  • Unlike HO or N scales, there is no standardized drive train design in quarter-inch scale. Three-rail equipment is wired differently from two-rail, so converting mass-market locos often means replacing the drive train and modifying the frame closer to scale standards to correct the excessively high clearance for the amount of truck swing required for three-rail curves. It can be a complicated and often expensive process. Converting older two-rail steam is even more involved. Ready-to-run P48 locomotives are mostly expensive brass imports produced in limited quantities that get snapped up quickly.

  • Rolling stock is simpler as usually all that’s needed is a change of trucks and/or couplers. However be aware that the design of the bolsters on mass-market rolling stock varies widely, making some conversions harder than necessary. It’s your choice on what to do about details like finer grab irons, ladders and running boards.
  • P48 flex track is available but for now, turnouts will have to be handlaid.

A key thing to remember is this: you need to decide what’s important to you in the craft. A truly satisfying layout can be built in P48 but if operations or getting things built quickly is your main interest, then P48 may not be the best choice for those needs.

I encourage you to think of P48 as a journey that offers an opportunity to learn new skills or advance existing ones. Model building in this scale is a joy and you can take things as far as you please. P48 offers consistent, accurate proportions from the rails to the running board. If you want to elevate your modeling and enjoy doing things accurately and correctly, then P48 will be a good fit for you.

Where do I find stuff?

These are the essential resources for P48 supplies. This is by no means a complete list and these are not affliate links. I include them because I believe in and personally use these products.

P48 Track Sources

Your go-to resource for all things track is Right-O’-Way Products. Jay Criswell is working hard to develop a one stop shop for quarter-inch scale track modeling. Right-O-Way carries rail, ties, switch kits and many excellent details that take track to a different level. He also does locomotive drive train conversions.

Protocraft offers a wide range of trucks and wheelsets along with working to-scale type E couplers. Norm also offers state-of-the-art brass rolling stock such as gondola and boxcars. He also carries a range of detail parts and decals that make P48 modeling a joy.

Rich Yoder Models
Rich Yoder also carries a good range of P48 trucks and limited run brass models.

Connecting to the community

The O Scale Resource Magazine is a free to download digital publication that is a valuable source of modeling inspiration and product info. It covers the spectrum of two-rail modeling with mostly five-foot legacy gauge and some P48 when they can get the material.

O Scale Trains Magazine is a  bi-monthly print magazine from the White River Productions family of publications.

Both magazines carry advertising from the major companies and suppliers that gives you a sense of what quarter-inch scale has been in the past and now is. Many of the vendors in this scale are very small operations, often just one to two people. Unlike the mass-market of HO or N, product runs are often limited in number and can come and go with little warning. If you see something that is useful, get it if you can, while you can. That’s the reality of the scale we enjoy.

Proto48 Modeler
An online resource from Gene Deimling that offers as complete a picture of P48 resources and supplies as you will find. Please do check it out.

May I also suggest OST Publications’ books, specifically Vol. 03 of The Missing Conversation, along with Mill Road and Detailing Track for their focus on P48 and finescale modeling.


Shows And Meets
There are several shows dedicated to quarter-inch scale that you need to know about. The March Meet is held in mid-to-late March in the Chicago area. Hosted at an area hotel, where many attendees book rooms for the weekend, this three-day show is a mecca for all things quarter-inch. Here you will see more products than you ever imagined, meet a lot of the vendors that keep the scale alive and get a good sense of what’s out there. If you can only attend this show once, it’s worth the experience.

A major show is the O Scale National Convention that is hosted at various cities around the country. Like the NMRA National this is a multi-day event with activities for modelers and family alike. All of these shows are good places to see and purchase products, attend clinics, meet people and learn about the scale.

For West coast modelers there is O Scale West, which has now been combined with S scale also. Even though I’ve never been to O Scale West, I’m told it’s similar to the others in size and scope. Do check out each of these websites for current show dates and times and, if needed, hotel information.

Two P48 Blogs of special interest.

Gene Deimling’s Blog
An informative and inspiring blog from one of P48 finest modelers. Well worth your time.

Shortline Modelers
Shawn Branstetter offers excellent work with an artist’s eye for detail and color.

Want more depth?

If you want more depth and info on P48, I’ve put together a fully illustrated, 46 page guide book that covers this information and more such as layout design issues you might not consider when working in 1:48 scale. It’s a free PDF that you download by clicking on the cover image below. No sign-up, no forking over your email, no spam. Just click, save the file somewhere on your device and enjoy.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  -Mike