'how to' main menu
             introduction to model locomotives
             wheels, flanges and back to backs
             how to make 009 work properly
             DCC sound and lights
             DCC tail lights
             the outside frame locomotive
             when locos get lazy
             the outside frame locomotive
             problems with the ROCO chassis
             couplings and electrical pickups
             scale narrow gauge couplings
             reliable uncoupling
             the art of soldering
             building an etched metal kit
             how to get custom metal etchings

drawings and prototypes

             how steam engines work
             Lynton & Barnstaple drawings
             Lynton & Barnstaple liveries


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 Shay

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 indeed!

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.