Rail for Slow Trains Down South

Lets talk rail size. What rail weight would a 30 inch gauge railroad use on their mainline, passing sidings, spurs etc? A valid question, especially since we are building a finescale model railroad. We want the “track” to be another important part of the whole model.

With that “given”, our next project has centered on rail. The kids quickly lost interest in this discussion, probably because the had no real world comparator. So what does one to look at when trying to figure out what size rail to use? The answer: rail height. My next quest was to then find a photograph of a 30 inch gauge railroad and somehow figure out the rail height. Thirty inch gauge is not a popular prototype in the United States. I could just base my rail height off of  3 foot gauge prototype, but I wondered if 30 inch gauge would use a lighter rail than even most of the 3 foot railroads in the United States.

So my journey started by looking through photographs of 30 inch lines in Brazil. One of my favorite 30 inch gauge railroads is the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas (EFOM). Over the years I have managed to obtain quite a few photos from friends and also off the internet, so off to the photo library. I have a fair amount of photos of EFOM’s #21 and #22 (old number 47 and 48). These engines are very similar to Bachmann’s On30 outside frame 4-4-0. So my next step was to find some useful dimensions from these engines to gauge the height of the rail. The book “West of Minas Narrow Gauge” by Dr Paul E Waters has an abundant amount of information in its appendices. After a short search, I discovered that #’s21 and 22 lead  wheel are 501mm in diameter, about 20 inches (19 23/32 to be exact). As luck would have it, I had a photo of number 22 on the turntable. my best estimate is that the rail is about 3 1/2 inches tall. consulting the NMRA rail standards page, I determined that the rail is 40 pounds per yard or close to code 70.

Have a look and see what you think.

EFOM 22Photographer Unknown
Photographer Unknown

2 thoughts on “Rail for Slow Trains Down South

  1. Hi Matt,

    the other way is to “guesstimate” the maximum weight on the wheels and use the charts published in the full size loco catalogues (reproductions available) to specify a rail weight, and then convert it to a model code. There is one kicking around in the MaineOn2 FAQ’s……….


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