Why model in British Nn3?


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This is a question I'm often asked when I exhibit my work.  The short answer is "Well, why not?" which is perhaps a bit unsatisfying.  The real reason is that my Nn3 interests just  snowballed.  While I was in Germany in 1990 attending the wedding of a good friend, I made a visit to a model shop, where they had the little BR89 0-6-0 on sale for 78DM, which was the equivalent of about £27-28 at the time.  So I bought one to see what its potential was, either as a chassis donor for a small 2mm scale standard gauge steam loco or for a narrow gauge loco. On examination, I found that it was not possible to extend the axles to widen the gauge, due to a cunning scheme of compensation involving an internally splined sleeve gear and externally splined axle, so I decided to let well alone and "stored" the loco.

Running parallel with this was an insidious American influence in the shape of Tom Knapp, whose regular visits to the UK for the International Model Railway Exhibition usually brought some exquisite miniature example of US narrow gauge practice.  In fact, on my initial meeting with Tom, when we were both working on the demonstration Machine Shop stand, I managed to snap his Shay chassis block in half.  He'd spent ages milling down a Marklin chassis within an inch (more probably a thou!) of it's life and I stupidly caught it on my jumper. With superb grace, he admitted that he probably should remake it in brass anyway. I should also mention Dr. Peter Clark, who ran the Machine Shop demo and allowed me free run of his home workshop on many occasions. It was his part completed layout where I first boggled at Nn3, sometime in March 1983.  Both Peter and Tom have been good friends ever since. You can see some of their models in the Gallery section

After a while, I got interested in the idea of a 2mm scale narrow gauge feeder to my forthcoming planned standard gauge layout, so I dug out the loco and started to experiment. The idea of a feeder never materialised, but thoughts of a separate small narrow gauge project began to gel. After all, this could be a quickie project, using mostly Marklin running gear. Track would be hand laid, but I'd built enough standard gauge for a bit of narrow gauge track to be a breeze. On holiday in Devon, I visited Peco at Pecorama in Seaton and obtained both of the cast white-metal loco kits they make, although I only had one chassis at the time. I also got hold of some of the two types of narrow gauge wagon they had made but never sold, due to a lack of wheels.  However I found that by using 2mm Scale Association axle bearings, I could fit Marklin wheelsets obtained as spare parts.  So, in due course, I had a loco, a few wagons and a single 18" length of dual 9.42mm and 6.35mm gauge track.

The English narrow gauge scene is rather different countries like the US, Australia, South Africa etc. Even on mainland Europe, NG lines had a sizeable mileage. Most English NG lines were feeders to the standard gauge network and only ran for a few miles, or they served industrial concerns. This meant that locos are generally small - until recently, narrow gauge super power in the UK meant a Double Fairlie on the Ffestiniog. The means that I have to stick with the Marklin 0-6-0 steam or diesel locos for chassis donors or else build my own, something I've not yet attempted in narrow gauge, although I have done so in standard gauge. To find more chassis at affordable prices, I started  hunting around at swap meets and sometimes came up lucky.  My best find was purchasing a complete Marklin Z gauge starter set for £15. So here I am now, a few years further on, with 3, potentially 4 locos, a railcar, a coach, quite a few more wagons and a small trial layout.

Has it been difficult?  Well, no, not really. Building track seems to be an obstacle for many people, but I firmly believe that the difficulties are more imagined that real. Yes, you need to learn to solder neatly, but it's really not hard and it's a skill well worth acquiring, whatever scale you model in.

Has it been fun? Very definitely yes, as I've attended some specifically narrow gauge exhibitions and found the standard of modelling to be extremely high and pretty inspiring. Within the 2mm Scale Association, there is a special interest group for narrow gauge and we are now up to 40 plus participants, so there must be something in this narrow gauge stuff.  We could be opening up the group to membership outside the Association, but quite frankly, 2mm Scale Association membership has many benefits, not least of which is access to our specially commissioned components for the scratch-builder. I should here own up to a vested interest as I am Publications Officer for the Association. Aiding and abetting my narrow gauge interests is my good friend Phil Copleston, who is building his own US Nn3 version of "the pizza".

I hope you'll find or have found something of interest in this web site. If you want to contact me about anything you've seen then check out the "About this site" page where you'll find my contact details.


[ IndexWhy British Nn3 | LocomotivesRolling StockTrackworkStandardsControls | Suppliers | Bibliography ]