I think a good place to start is with questions sent to me by an individual wanting to get into The Hobby reads something like this.
Live steam scale is 1-1/2" to the foot or 1/8 size of the real item. Over recent years a lot of folks have went to 1.6 in order to accommodate the new 2 cylinder gasoline engines. I build all my equipment to 1.55 to try and fit in. This is the biggest you can go and build to a national standard. That being 7-1/2" between the rails. Of course everyone has their own Ideas and will build stuff about any size but keep the gauge at 7-1/2" That is ok as long as the weight doesn't get above about 1,500 for a locomotive. Then you start to bend the aluminum rail between the ties. Where do you get the prints? Well, I engineer my own because you won't find any. You will have to research what ever you are going to build. You could try and ask the mfg for a set of prints. This works occasionally. Also one can use some HO train information and drawings from magazines like Model Railroader. One does need lots of photos and measurements from the real item. Good luck.
Later, he writes:
You really need to go to a meet somewhere and see this first hand. Most of our rail is extruded aluminum that works fine. Lately some of the tracks are going to steel rail. I think the main reason is they want to see rust. Well that is going to be expensive rust I can tell you that. You need to get a hold of Live Steam magazine or Modeltec. See your local hobby shop. They are full of supplies of rail and materials. The gauge is measured just like the real railroad, between the railheads. Or clear span as you call it. Of course this 7.5 inches is a benchmark. We will run 7-9/16 or a slight curve and 7-5/8 on a tight curve lets say 40' radius. Most of our radii are 50 to 60 feet. Illinois Live Steamer has a spec. sheet that we all go by. Actually it is an unofficial standard. It is very good. If you stick by the measurement you will have no trouble staying on the track. Let me know where you are located and I can direct you to a club track. Later. Lee
Some of you old heads out there may or may not agree with my some of my answers. In this hobby there is not always a right or wrong way to do things. I always strive for the most practical. After all, we are not building an Indy 500 car. On the other hand, we need to keep our equipment in safe running order. So that fine line can move back and forth.
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