Frequently Asked Questions for Expo Narrow Gauge
Frequently Asked Questions at the Expo Narrow Gauge model railway exhibition.
Scale and Gauges
More so than in any other form of railway modelling scale and gauge affects the narrow gauge modeller.
Gauge is the measurement between the rails. Sometimes this was measured between the insides, sometimes between the outside and occasionally between the rail head centres.
Scale is the scale size we are modelling at.
Narrow gauge is considered to be any gauge of track smaller than that of standard gauge as you find on the mainline railways of Great Britain and much of the rest of the world (although not all 'mainline' railways are standard gauge). This is 4 foot 8 and a half inches and narrow gauge modelling concentrates on railways where the track gauge was less than this. Common gauges include 3 foot, 2 foot 6 inches (two and a half foot gauge: Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway, 60cm /1 foot 11 5/8 inches gauge: The Ffestiniog Railway) and down to 18 inch.
Scale and gauge combinations
This more than any other aspect confuses the casual onlooker and quite a lot of modellers! Often you will see a model referred to by its scale/gauge moniker. Generally this is the scale of modelling first followed by the gauge used. Often the letter 'n' is also used to indicate narrow gauge. Some examples of common combinations:
- OO9 - this is the common OO scale (4mm = 1foot), as found in Hornby products for example, and the gauge is 9mm - which represents 2' 3" track (though often used for gauges within a few inches of this).
- 7mm - O Scale (7mm = 1 foot) on 16.5mm gauge track.
- O14 - O scale on 14mm track.
- O16.5 - O scale on 16.5mm track. Popular as locomotive chassis from easily available ready to run models (Hornby, Bachman etc) OO models can be used as OO gauge is 16.5mm (this represents standard Gauge but is in fact incorrect but was chosen for manufacturing reasons!).
- Gn15 - The G name comes from the German word groß meaning "big". More recently some people have come to interpret it as standing for garden scale. 15 is 15mm track - though again there is wide use of OO (16.5mm) track and chassis. Scale can be between 1:22.5 - 1:29.
Often scale and gauge combinations revolve around the gauges of available standard gauge track as this means that track does not need to be manufactured and loco chassis are more readily available. For example, 009 is set at 9mm gauge so that the N Scale locomotive mechanisms can be used and N gauge track though specialist 9mm narrow gauge track is available. With modern can motors, 3d printing and computer aided drawing there are now many kits available enabling the modeller to build chassis and bodies which are far closer to the original rather than using a chassis from a different scale.
If you have a few moments spare then ask any of the layout operators at the show about these topics - they are usually happy to chat!
Where should you start?
There are several societies for Narrow Gauge modellers and some good quality magazines available in Narrow gauge modelling. Narrow Gauge World covers all aspects of narrow gauge railways and also has a good modelling section at the end. Narrow Gauge and Industrial is a high quality quarterly magazine looking at advanced modelling techniques and layouts. Voie Libre is a French publication focusing on narrow gauge and now available digitally in English. Often the Railway Modeller will have Narrow Gauge layouts featured and Continental Modeller always has non standard gauge layouts in abundance.