locomotives and rolling stock
Lynton and Barnstaple in 7mm/ft by Shoreham MRC
Model railways have changed beyond recognition. Time was that a few bits of
track laid on the kitchen floor and a crude clockwork tinplate
representation of a train was all that was needed: the imagination did the
rest. Yes, I had a wonderful time with it too!
Bassett Lowke produced some more convincing
models and I was lucky enough to have a couple when I became a bit older.
The highlight was a real steam engine, a Bowman. This was a trundling fire
hazard according to my mother but the house never burned down even though
I always had at least one blister!
Gradually, O gauge became more and more
life-like but few could find the space to build a decent layout. The
breakthrough came with the development of 'tabletop trains'. For its time,
the realism was, for us, a huge step forward. You could run trains around
just with an electric controller, remotely change points, couple and
uncouple and do all sorts of other exciting things. At first it was hard
to get, except in Holland for some reason, and my Dad's regular trips
there always resulted in a rapidly expanding empire that now occupied
quite a large room.
Very quickly, the trackwork did start to look
a bit silly and the coaches were rather short. Then Wren came out with three
rail universal trackwork. The third rail did making wiring a great deal
easier and many of us were used to seeing third rails on prototypes. Exley
began to produce much better coaches and with a bit of ballast and
scenery, the shift towards realism had begun and soon two rail
counterparts were in production.
Quite quickly, European models were appearing
which appeared to be far more detailed. In addition, the scale of HO made
the track gauge of 16.5mm look correct. Of course, It was a bigger
market and even today, the best of European RTR seems a bit superior.
The next big step was the introduction in the
USA of Japanese brass. The detailing was far better, with real pipe work
It was only a bit later that I learned that many were not that accurate
and did not run very well. The painting and weathering of these models
developed into an art form in its own right.
Brass models of 3ft narrow gauge rolling stock began to fill the display
cases of US model shops. They looked marvellous but mostly ran very badly
indeed. While American narrow gauge modellers were getting very frustrated
with their beautiful and expensive Japanese brass, some European
manufacturers began making some very crude RTR models of narrow gauge
locos that ran on N scale track.
While they did run better than my HN03 K27, they were fairly horrid but
did advance small scale narrow gauge modelling. Their chassis are rather
sadly, still stuffed under kit built bodies by present day modellers.
These developments gave rise to 009 and HOe
scales which are still very popular today. There are some lovely RTR
models available for the European market but as usual, the UK has been the
poor cousin and scratch or kit building as been the norm. Indeed, the
lucky Continentals have an extensive range of both H0m and H0e prototypes.
H0e Bemo Mallet - a king's ransom but what a model!
After their frustrations with H0n3, Americans drifted back to 0 scale and
some wonderful material is available both as RTR and in kit form. Bachmann
even got into the scene and have produced some remarkable models.
Bachmann two truck
As usual, the UK has not been best served
with 0 scale narrow gauge. The exception being a few RTR models
supplied by Backwoods. Of course, 0 scale comes at a price.
RTR Backwoods NG16 in 0 scale
Seeing that the average floor area of a
British home is smaller
than the American car, not everybody sees these larger
scales as an option; that is until the Brits looked outside.
An early garden narrow gauge modeller was
P.J.Olivera and pioneers such as he, launched a whole new interest.
16mm/ft is the usual scale and everything you could desire is available
provided you re-mortgage the house!
Accucraft NG 16
Of course, North European weather is not that
wonderful for such undertakings but large scale modelling is a growing
sector of the hobby.
Recently, some intrepid folks have begun to
model in N scale narrow gauge and some of the work produced is quite
remarkable. All I can say is that these guys must be very short sighted
Modern technology is helping the manufacturer
put highly detailed models into production. Prototypes can be laser
scanned and then the model built by 3D printing. It is still expensive
though and a weather eye needs to be kept on the potential market. One
does hope that these costs will come down.
Narrow gauge modelling in the UK and USA is
still a specialist sector and requires good kit building skills for the
most part. Perhaps that is the attraction.... you cannot buy it ready made
and that sets you apart from those who buy Hornby! Those who model
standard gauge, find that the latest available models which are constantly
being improved, make half your loco
stud look crude indeed. Planned obsolescence in a way. Perhaps that
is another attraction of narrow gauge modelling.
At long last, we can look forward to some
ready-to-run 009 locomotives of high quality. Hejan are due to release a
model of the Lynton and Barnstaple Manning Wardles and Bachmann have
announced the future release of a 4-6-0 WD Baldwin. Provided sales
are strong, I am sure further models will emerge.