Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Keeping It All In Proportion

HO Scale, 1:87, 3.5mm to the foot etc etc, it all seems rather simple if you have even the most basic grasp of maths. However there seems to be more to scaling something down than simply reducing dimensions eighty seven times., and even if we do that exactly, does it mean it will look right?

Part of the problem with the scaling issue is how our brain perceives the objects we have scaled in relation to each other. And this is where my problem appears to be.

I'm as much of a car nut as a train nut, I've rebuilt a few in my time, done a little bit of racing them around the track, have worked in the automotive industry for twenty one years, and have a very good idea about how they look and how big they are relative to other objects.

However, I have had a long term problem with 1:87 scale model cars and trucks and the way they look relative to my HO scale trains, in short, they always look slightly undersized to me. I can't explain this phenomenon, and I don't know if anyone else has the same affliction, but it got to the point this afternoon that I had to prove to myself that I was right and there was a world wide conspiracy that has meant that 1:87 scale automobiles are indeed not 1:87.

So armed with a set of vernier calipers and some dimensions for a few vehicles I have models of I got to work (and I wonder why layout construction is going nowhere!).

First cab off the rank was a lovely two tone aqua and white 1955 Chevrolet Belair two door made by Model Power Minis. I picked up this one at Train Trader at Pymble for about $8.00 and it is a seriously nice mode for a very cheap price. I know that 55 Chev's were not plentiful in Australia but they were here, so it's perfectly suitable for my late 1950's to 1960's era.

So armed with the verniers and some dimensions on the internet, I was forced to accept that this model, whilst looking too small when sat aside my 35 Class, was spot on for length, width and wheel base down to a poofteenth of a mm, and the only dimension I could fault was the track, that is the wheels are about 1mm too close together. This however does not cause the out of scale problem.

Next cab off the rank is a very cool VW Type 2 Samba Bus, complete with Caravan no less. This was also by Model Power Minis and was a ridiculous $9.25! Anyway, once again I ran the verniers over it, and double drat, it was within a couple of tenths of a mm in all dimensions except track once again, but none the less it was almost spot on.

Third cab off the rank was one of the new Road Ragers range, the FX or 48/215 sedan. By my measurements it was about 0.8mm too short although the bumper bar projection could account for this, about 0.3mm too narrow, and once again the track was about 1.2mm too narrow, but overall we are talking about it being almost spot on.

Getting sick of reading the vernier scale I came to the sad realisation that my perception of automobiles against trains is wrong. I assembled my group of cars and took a couple of shots (blury) against my 35 class. Too me they still look too small, but armed with the sad facts that they are indeed correct this is something I'm going to have to simply accept.

Still, I look at those photo's and refuse to accept that a VW Kombi looks that small next to a 35 Class ..................................


Andrew Campbell said...

Hey Darren,
Wonder if the 35 is right? Maybe try standing a six foot dude next to the car next to the train. Maybe we look at trains from a platform and loose perspective of how big a 35 really is. Hmmmmm...very interesting. I shall have to do some experiments myself. :-D
Great, there goes my afternoon now.

Darren said...

Hi Andrew,

I think you're right about us forgetting just how big these engines actually are!

The 35 has 5ft 9" driving wheels, and sitting on sleepers and then track puts the top of the wheels at about 6ft 9", so it actually makes sense that a VW sitting at sleeper base level wouldn't come up to the top of the wheels.

I think it's just one of those weird perspective things, us being able to view our models differently to the real thing.


Julian Watson said...

Hi Darren,

I too have thought exactly the same thing, and was also intending to get the ruler out. No need now! Like you, I am still surprised.

My explanation has already been suggested by Andrew: How often do we hover in a helcopter above a car parked less than 5m from a train...?