Sidebar: British N Scale

H.B. Whall of Kew, Great Britain, was a pioneer of N Scale. In 1923 he hand-built an electrically-powered model railway at a scale of 1:152.3, with a track gauge of 9.2 mm; in 1946, when he embarked on commercial production, he changed the scale to 1:150 and the gauge to 9.5 mm. Then Lone Star Toys released their line of Treble-0-Letric in 1960, which had a scale of 1:152 (or 2 mm Scale) and a track gauge of 9 mm. The 2 mm Scale Association, meanwhile, was founded that same year by H.B. Whall.

Photo courtesy of Ric Mac.

British N Gauge was formally established in 1967 by a small group of N Gauge modelers from West Yorkshire, supported by Sydney Pritchard, founder of Peco, and the British standard of 1:148 was adopted during the formation of the N Gauge Society. The reason for not using 1:160 is that British railway equipment is generally smaller than that of other countries, and the electric motors of the day wouldn't fit in typical British locomotives at 1:160. While British N Gaugers consider themselves to be "standard gauge" modelers, they're actually not; 9 mm track at 1:148 is too narrow (4' 4" instead of 4' 8").

To help differentiate the various forms of British N Scale, the 2 mm Scale Association states:

The 2FS standard defines the track and wheel geometry for 2mm scale modelling, set down by the Groves in the 1960's. Its normal form is for 9.42mm gauge (standard gauge track at 1:152 scale). Having a clear set of wheel and track dimensions means that models built to the 2FS standard work reliably; one cannot alter a wheel flange or tread dimension without also considering the impact on crossing noses and check rails.
At 1:160 scale, the FiNe standard removes 0.45mm from the track and back-to-back distances, but keeps other aspects of the geometry unchanged.
Many 1:148 modellers (British N scale) use at 9.42mm gauge, with track and wheels to the 2FS standard. In this case the track is slightly under scale gauge. But, with the overscale components in coupling rod, cylinder and bogies clearances, this anomaly can work in the modeller's favour, much like EM is used in 4mm scale as the pragmatic finescale solution. The net result is much improved appearance compared to commercial N track, particularly through turnouts.

So, to summarize, the UK has employed/employs the following definitions of N Scale-ish models:








9.2 mm

H.B. Whall

first iteration of 2 mm Scale



9.5 mm

H.B. Whall

first "commercial" 2 mm Scale



8.25 mm

Lone Star

Lone Star Locos



9 mm

Lone Star

Treble-0-Lectric "000 Gauge"



9 mm


Continental N Scale



9.42 mm

H.H. Grove et al

2 mm Scale "2FS"



9 mm

N Gauge Society

British N Gauge



8.97-9 mm*


FiNe-Scale or FS160

*2 mm Scale Association indicates the gauge is 8.97 mm, whereas FS160 claims 9 mm.

With many thanks to Richard Shirey for help with this topic.

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Copyright 2018-2019 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
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