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S Gauge History


Back in the 30's, the heyday of "O" gauge, some model railroaders began searching for a smaller scale that would take up less space but retain the advantages of detailing and the heftiness of modeling that O afforded. To them HO was too small and so it was generally conceded that a more desirable gauge would be found somewhere between O and HO, thus the 3/16" scale came to be. It appears that 3/16" to the foot trains were first made in the United Kingdom in 1919 when Charles Wynne created the M.R. 4-4-0 No. 999 locomotive, held in existence today by the S Scale Model Railway Society of the UK.

 What we do know is that S scale 3/16" model railroading was conceived in the U.S. by Ed Packard. In the late 1920s Mr. Packard owned a model airplane company known as "Cleveland Model and Supply." At about the same time as the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair, considered by the staff at Model Railroader magazine to be the event that rally launched the hobby of model railroading; Mr. Packard started a magazine called "Cleveland Model News." S scale free lance historian Richard Douglass notes, "Issue number 1 was the Jan/Feb 1933 issue, and some of the issues published that first year contained plans for railroad freight cars. The real gem for S scalers is the winter 1934 issue, which came out in the first quarter of 1934, exact date unknown. This issue contains an article on how to build a 3/16 scale model of the then revolutionary UP streamliner train, with accurate plans. How long the 3/16 scale model kit project was in planning at Cleveland Models is unclear, but it likely took a year or two to gear up for production kit releases in 1937. His kits were released as "C-D" scale (Cleveland Designed) into the so called "battle of the scales", where many versions of O, HO and OO scales were fighting it out. Cleveland Models produced 3/16 kits for several years but failed to gain a foothold in this highly competitive model railroad market. By the onset of World War II, it was clear that the winners were the long established O scale, and the up and coming HO. Cleveland Model's 3/16 trains were not a success, but his model airplanes kits were a great success and have a following to this day."

Thus, during its infancy, 3/16" model railroading became known as "C-D", originating from the term "Cleveland-Designed," the trademark of Mr. Packard's Cleveland Model & Supply Co., preceding A. C. Gilbert Company's line of American Flyer™ trains. As Douglass noted above, it was 1937 when Packard began marketing 3/16" scale wood and embossed paper kits. A year later he marketed two powered locomotive kits -- a CGW 4-6-0 and a PRR 0-6-0 switcher.  Some years later, the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) recognized the scale and renamed it "S scale" because of the “S’s” in three-sixteenths (scale) and seven-eighths (gauge).  At a subsequent 1942 NMRA meeting the designation "S" was formally adopted for 3/16" scale model railroading.

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