Association of


Railway Modellers

Reports prior to October 2022 can be found here.

Below are the most recent reports.

Mike Bennett:  N Gauge : the right scale?

Mike gave us an informative and comprehensive talk on modelling in N gauge.  The subtitle, “the right gauge?” suggested a controversial presentation.  In fact he offered a balanced discussion of the topic, illustrated with his own pictures of rolling stock and of his layout, Earl’s Hall.  He also brought examples of rolling stock, including wagons constructed from N Gauge Society kits.

His talk (like Caesar’s Gaul) fell naturally into three parts:

  • the history and development of N Gauge

  • recent advances

  • the advantages and drawbacks of N Gauge.

  1. History and Development


Mike talked through the early history of the scale and gauge, outlining the variations that arose right from the start as to the exact scale to be used, from 1:160 in Europe to the 1:148 adopted in Britain because of the difficulty in fitting motors into our smaller prototypes.   The one thing that did seem to be agreed was 9mm for the track gauge, which may have led to the ‘N’, it being the first letter of ‘9’ in almost all European languages.  Later, as in other scales and gauges, different scale ratios were promoted to more closely match 9mm to the desired 4’ 8 ½’’.

Although some models of approximately this size were available as early as 1927, it was not until 1962 that Arnold produced the commercially successful N gauge products which henceforth defined the scale, the gauge - and the dreaded Rapido coupling.  Many different manufacturers have come and gone, been taken over, or failed.  Progress in accuracy of detail and dimensions, and in reliability of performance was initially slow, but major advances have been made in recent years.

  1. Recent Advances


Mike went through some of the notable improvements manufacturers have made, showing how Graham Farish (now part of Bachmann), Dapol, Peco, Union Mills and Revolution Trains have set about catching up with the previously greater accuracy and better performance of foreign companies such as Arnold and Rivarossi (now both part of Hornby), Minitrix, and Kato.


Technical Developments.


Peco’s code 55 lowers the track to a more realistic height than its code 80.

Kato’s track looks less realistic, but is durable and easy to use.

Electrofrog points give noticeably better contact than Insulfrog, but the stock and switch rails should have a soldered wire connection as recommended in the instructions.  Mike prefers frog juicers to change frog polarity.  He has found Conrad point motors preferable to SEEP because of their easier adjustment.


Couplings:   The problem is to close the gap between coupled vehicles when using the Rapido coupling.  Peco’s ELCs enable closer coupling, but Mike is experimenting, and having increasing success with magnetic couplings by Dapol and Hunt.


DCC:   This was difficult initially in N gauge because decoders had to be restricted in capability in order to be small enough to fit, but this has now changed, with smaller decoders able to do all that those in larger scales can, including sound - though it can still be a fiddly job fitting them!


  1. Advantages/Drawbacks of N Gauge.


Space.   It is possible to construct ambitious layouts, with scope for longer trains, sweeping curves, and more scenery, including trees of realistic height.

Light Baseboards.   Mike has used 4mm and 6mm MDF, with PVA glue replacing screws and nails.

Trade Support.   Buildings from Bachmann, Metcalfe, Scalescenes;  scenic materials as for OO and other scales;   Peco’s Wonderful Wagons.

The N Gauge Society offers a Handbook which gives full instructions about standards and modelling techniques;  a bi-monthly magazine with articles, tips, trade news and reviews of new products;  kits for wagons, including wheels and transfers;  ready-to-run models, including their first loco.



Too small, especially for people with long sight and/or sausage fingers.

Lack of detail to models (but consider realistic viewing distances).

Poor running, particularly of steam locos, though this has vastly improved.

Couplings leave unrealistic gaps between vehicles.

DCC limitations when fitting it into small models.

Shortage of complementary models, e.g. road vehicles.

Mike ended his presentation with a short video showing his Earl’s Hall layout in operation.

After questions, he was thanked for giving such an illuminating insight into N gauge modelling.

How many of our colleagues will respond by downsizing?


If you would like more detail than has been briefly gone into here about any part of Mike’s extensive talk, he has a full transcript which he is prepared to share.


Michael Ling.