Four millimetres to the foot (4mm:ft) is the most popular scale for railway modelling
in the UK but it isn’t often realised the OO models offered by Hornby & Bachmann
etc. in fact run on ‘narrow gauge’ track! The anomaly dates back to the 1920s when
manufacturers attempted to fit the then popular German HO (3.5mm:ft) mechanisms
into the smaller British prototype locomotives. The solution to this problem was to
make the bodies to the slightly larger scale of 4mm:ft. Rather than produce compatible
4mm:ft trackwork, the manufacturers took the easy option and used the HO track gauge
for the new British outline 4mm:ft scale models to run on!
Unfortunately this track, whilst accurate for HO, was under-gauge for 4mm:ft models
– it scales out to 4ft 1in instead of the 4ft 8½in of the prototype. The spacing and size
of the sleepers also reflected the smaller HO scale and, furthermore, compromises
were also made to the width of the wheel treads and in other areas to accommodate
the hybrid scale/gauge.
The anomaly of the incorrect gauge commercial OO models remains today, primarily
because the market for 00 is so dominant in UK model railways and it just isn’t
cost-effective for mainstream manufacturers to produce correctly gauged 4mm:ft
scale track for a much smaller market.
To overcome this situation a number of individual modellers began making their own
trackwork with the gauge increased to 18mm and beyond to give a much more
realistic appearance to their model railways. These modellers formed The Eighteen
Millimetre Gauge Society in 1955 to promote their needs. The letters EM reflect the
original 18mm gauge standard although this was further refined to 18.2mm. The
Society also supports the finer P4 standard (which has a track gauge of 18.83mm).
Conversion of models to EM
Virtually all current ready-to-run and kit locomotives and rolling stock, both steam
and post-steam era can be quite easily and quickly converted to run on both EM and
18.83 trackwork. In many cases only a basic tool kit and replacement of wheels and
axles are required (many of which are available from the EMGS Trade Officer). Or you
could go the whole way and build new loco or rolling stock chassis, perhaps
incorporating compensation, springing or other refinements – the choice is yours!
There are a number of options for trackwork. In EM, the easiest route is to use the
new ‘ready-to-lay’ EM gauge track from the Society – both plain track and left/right
hand B6 radius points. However, traditionally a majority of modellers chose to build
their own track and points With the necessary experience this remains a popular
approach. Indeed, in 18.83 for pointwork at least, this remains the only option
(though kits of parts to build pointwork are available through the relevant trade).
Whether working in EM or 18.83, the important thing is not to be put off by the
thought of building track to hundredths of a millimetre accuracy – correct use of track
gauges and various jigs available from the EMGS Trade Officer, simplifies all the
hard work for you! The EMGS Manual gives full details of the techniques used and a
full set of point and crossing plans (full size for either EM or 18.83mm) is supplied
Free to new members. The EMGS Manual also includes a full set of pointwork wiring
The EMGS Manual
On joining the Society each member receives a CD containing about 400 pages of
material which currently contains much of the information required to work in either
EM or 18.83mm gauges. The Manual sheets are produced by members, for the benefit
of the membership. Subject matter is wide-ranging with track building, loco and stock
conversion, and wiring comprehensively covered along with motor characteristics,
baseboard construction, coupling design, prototypical operation and many other
subjects. The Manual is regularly added to – you will receive any new sheets published
during each membership year together with the Newsletter mailing shots. For members
the Manual sheets are also available on-line via the website: www.emgs.org
What the EMGS has to offer
In addition to the Manual and track plans already mentioned, members also receive
four mailing shots per year, each including a Newsletter containing Society and Trade
news, Area Group reports and other interesting items. Members’ sales and wants also
feature, along with prototype and modelling articles. The Society also has a thriving
network of Area Groups, and EM sections exist within several Model Railway Clubs;
these are located in many parts of the country and contact details are provided.
A selection of EM and 18.83mm layouts from both individual members and Area
Groups or local clubs are invited each year to show their work at our two annual
‘flagship’ exhibitions; expoEM Spring in May at Bracknell and expoEM Autumn
in September at Wakefield. As well as the layouts, these events also feature ‘show you
how’ demonstrations, a wide range of specialist trade stands – including EMGS Stores,
and the ever-popular Members’ Sales. We also have at least one ‘Skills Day’ event
each year, in addition to the Members’ Day & AGM get together.
On joining the Society a member receives:
* The current Newsletter (and, subject to stocks, all the back issues for the year)
* The EMGS Manual (around 400 pages) is provided on CD.
* The current price list and order form for all goods available from the Trade Officer.;
* Reduced price admission to expoEM events.
* Society website for on-line access to documentation and our stores system.
The Society functions to promote an ever-growing interest in finescale 4mm
modelling. A wide range of goods are available for sale at expoEM events and
at the AGM but they are also available by post to members who are unable to
attend these meetings. New items are always being sought and added to the range.
Typical trade items
Ready to Lay EM gauge plain track and B6 points, track construction materials
such as sleepers, crossing timbers, turnout construction jigs, track and turnout
gauges. We also have a good selection of items to assist with converting RTR
models to EM & P4 including complete loco ‘conversion packs’, together with
axleboxes and W irons of various types, plus a variety of wagon and coach wheels
……….. and much more.
The Society’s financial year runs from 1st September to 31st August but members
joining late in the year (at expoEM Spring or later) will also receive membership
for the following year.
If you are interested in joining the EMGS you can download membership application form
or contact our Membership Secretary by post or email:-