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jhb171achill

21mm gauge track; the pros and cons?

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Folks

I'm delving here into something which is outside my knowledge or comfort zone, and I'd be interested in anyone's opinion or experience.

I am going to put together a small shunting-type layout (I know I'm not the only one here planning such things!) and once complete, while at any one time it won't accommodate a great amount of rolling stock, it's my intention to have a collection of locos and rolling stock spanning the 1930s - 1970s period, through GSR and CIE times. This will mean a lot of stock over a time, with one operating session being GSR steam era, and others being well into the "Supertrain" era.

Clearly, 21mm gauge track looks WAY better than 00 and in an ideal world I would see this as the only show in town. I have a SSM J15 which would require doubtless very awkward surgery to convert its gauge, and a MM 141; that's all so far. I'm wondering is it all worth it, as with an eventual collection of wagons, locos and carriages, every single thing will have to be converted.

Then there's the track, which I presume would all have to be handmade - again, not something I have any experience in whatever, and not something I would think I'd make a very good job of.

So the question is, how does one find out what the easiest (or, should I say, least difficult) method is to (a) convert loco gauges, for example, and (b) laying track? If it all ends up a huge lot of hassle, or very expensive, it'll be 00.

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Hi JHB

Your existing J15 and the 141 should convert relatively easy, the 141 as far as I know has bogie sides that allow the wider wheel sets! Any new build can allow for at the onset.....

C&L Finescale, Marcway, etc do parts to build yourself or build to order- although C&L are in a slow down with ownership change! and it costs a lot more.... Edit; Actually I'm told C&L are back up to usual speed

You should talk to baseboard-dave on this he builds C&L layouts, there maybe a solution there!

Eoin

Edited by murrayec

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8 hours ago, jhb171achill said:

Folks

I'm delving here into something which is outside my knowledge or comfort zone, and I'd be interested in anyone's opinion or experience.

Then there's the track, which I presume would all have to be handmade - again, not something I have any experience in whatever, and not something I would think I'd make a very good job of.

So the question is, how does one find out what the easiest (or, should I say, least difficult) method is to (a) convert loco gauges, for example, and (b) laying track? If it all ends up a huge lot of hassle, or very expensive, it'll be 00.

JhB,

I was in the same boat some time during the year and although it always sounds like a pleasing challenge, I found it difficult in every way. This is my personal opinion and I wouldn't want to put you off. If you really want to explore it I have a few items that I will gladly give you without any cost. I bought some track work and sleepers off the S4 Society shop when I joined and I bought them as a sample just to see what lay ahead of me. Just some fine scale track, sleepers and 21mm gauge. They are sill in the original cardboard tubing, free to a good home. If you want them, PM a postal address. If not, theres no harm done.

Edited by TonyMcGartland

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Good questions JB. This could be a very informative thread. Will follow with interest. Recently I've also been wondering about a 21mm gauge diorama or even a tiny shunting scene.

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No prizes for guessing my view on this JB - just do it!

If wary about track, phone Marcway in Sheffield. They custom made my points for Arigna for not a lot more than Peco. They are robust and self isolating, so no extra switches required and can be operated by wire in tube so overall cost no more than if points motors are used .

 Plain track can easily be made using copper clad sleepers, or C&L components, which only require glue. A 21mm roller gauge will be needed, but again, Marcway could turn one of those for you if you didn't"t want to make your own. For Arigna, I filed a thick piece of brass to 36.75mmish and have no derailments whatsoever.

 As Eoin says, locos and stock need not be a problem if you choose carefully. With only a couple of locos needed, it should not be expensive to pay someone to convert them anyway.

 Everything else is the same and with a small layout, there is little to lose and everything to gain. Remember, 21mm gauge does NOT mean P4 standards. You can specify finescale flangeways on points so they will take mainstream wheels.

The main reason though is why model 4'1 when the gauge is 5'3, especially on a small layout? 

 It bugs me that there are now only three 5'3 layouts being exhibited. Mine, Valencia Harbour and Ballyconnel Road. Correct gauge really isn't anymore difficult once you get started, but as Henry Ford famously said 'if you think can, or if you think you can't - you are right'.

 I would also say, ' come on in, the water's lovely!'

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43 minutes ago, David Holman said:

 It bugs me that there are now only three 5'3 layouts being exhibited. Mine, Valencia Harbour and Ballyconnel Road. Correct gauge really isn't anymore difficult once you get started, but as Henry Ford famously said 'if you think can, or if you think you can't - you are right'.

While Murphy Models, Provincial Wagons and IRM rtr models have opened up modelling Irish Railways particularly CIE/IE from the 70s onwards, the number of modelers willing to experiment with a wider gauge and finer standards than OO is a very small subset of the Irish Modelling community, just like the EM & S4 modellers of British outline.

While I admire David and Andy's ability to build interesting broad and narrow gauge layouts in double quick time, it does take much much longer and a lot of determination to build a layout where everything including the trackwork has to be assembled by hand or re-gauged compared to ready to lay track. I guess on of the options would be to build for eye level viewing in OO where the deception with the narrower gauge and tighter curves than possible in 21mm becomes less noticeable. 

Maybe time to try a mock up with Peco bullhead track or Code 75 flatbottom for an Irish eye level  layout and see how it compares to Peco Code 100 Steramline.

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4 hours ago, TonyMcGartland said:

JhB,

I was in the same boat some time during the year and although it always sounds like a pleasing challenge, I found it difficult in every way. This is my personal opinion and I wouldn't want to put you off. If you really want to explore it I have a few items that I will gladly give you without any cost. I bought some track work and sleepers off the S4 Society shop when I joined and I bought them as a sample just to see what lay ahead of me. Just some fine scale track, sleepers and 21mm gauge. They are sill in the original cardboard tubing, free to a good home. If you want them, PM a postal address. If not, theres no harm done.

Very many thanks, Tony. I'll consider this.

 

2 hours ago, David Holman said:

No prizes for guessing my view on this JB - just do it!

If wary about track, phone Marcway in Sheffield. They custom made my points for Arigna for not a lot more than Peco. They are robust and self isolating, so no extra switches required and can be operated by wire in tube so overall cost no more than if points motors are used .

 Plain track can easily be made using copper clad sleepers, or C&L components, which only require glue. A 21mm roller gauge will be needed, but again, Marcway could turn one of those for you if you didn't"t want to make your own. For Arigna, I filed a thick piece of brass to 36.75mmish and have no derailments whatsoever.

 As Eoin says, locos and stock need not be a problem if you choose carefully. With only a couple of locos needed, it should not be expensive to pay someone to convert them anyway.

The main reason though is why model 4'1 when the gauge is 5'3, especially on a small layout? 

 It bugs me that there are now only three 5'3 layouts being exhibited. Mine, Valencia Harbour and Ballyconnel Road.

Interesting - and highly persuasive! 

The layout can be operated with a max of two engines, but what will end up being the main issue is that there will eventually be a collection of about 15 locos, steam and diesel, possibly 20 carriages and about 40 goods stock. They will represent the GSR era, the grey'n'green and the black'n'tan eras. Conversion of all the lot is daunting, and 21mm will preclude any possible visits by stock from a friend's layout!

I like Mayner's idea of eye level too - that is indeed something which had occurred to me.

Do ye know what. Once I've walked the dog I'll go into town this afternoon and browse in the land of Mark's Models in Hawkins St. 

Edited by jhb171achill
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If of any use.

Peco code 100 side on.

TrackBedBallast00.jpg

Side on with rolling stock.

IMG_3393.jpg

 

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Hi JHB

Incorporate a section of standard track into the layout for visiting locos, and keep a bit of stock to run with it, it could be an automatic straight shuttle section??

Layout just below eye level is right, but do keep in mind it's nice to be sitting down when running trains....

Eoin

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I suggest assembling a short section of track including a point or crossover on a piece of plywood and a couple of wagons to test the waters. The Dapol tank wagon kits mag be a good choice since they are inexpensive and if all went well can be detailed with the SSM detailing kit. John Mayer posted some information on this conversion somewhere on the site. If all goes well convert a loco and take it from there. As regards high/eye level baseboards, set up a section of track some rolling stock and some vehicles figures or structures on a high shelf and see for yourself how effective this approach is. 

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Totally agree with David,steamers especially look odd,the photo in the Modeller of the Loco Works U says it all with the wheels so far in they would virtually inside the firebox.Just started laying track on Courtmacsherry which will at least increase Broad Gauge on the circuit by 25%(Due at Warley next year so no pressure then!).Start small and have a go Andy.

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Hi all,.     To the uninitiated what is the main visual or otherwise difference with 21 MM. Gauge and oo gauge.

                 I have never given it much thought or read much about it before this thread as it looked way above 

.                what I could do.

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I'm convinced. The only issue will be budget. If I can afford the track, it's 21mm. If I can't, it'll be 00.

I hope that whatever results will also appear at exhibitions once it's in a state fit to do so. Next challenge: proper 6-wheelers. I'll start with some old botch-job wooden stock in green, just to get things going but the intention is to have the likes of Worsley 6-wheelers behind J15s - thus, a proper GSWR train, none o'those oul Mk 2, 3 or 4 tin-can yokes for me!

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8 minutes ago, jhb171achill said:

. . . . Next challenge: proper 6-wheelers. I'll start with some old botch-job wooden stock in green, just to get things going but the intention is to have the likes of Worsley 6-wheelers behind J15s - thus, a proper GSWR train, none o'those oul Mk 2, 3 or 4 tin-can yokes for me!

Classic JB laugh.gif

J15s = yummie 

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Good for you, JB, all power to your elbows!

John-r, the answer to your question is a scale 1 foot two inches. 00 track is a gauge of 16.5mm in 4mm to the foot scale [1:72]. In this scale, the correct gauge should be 18.83mm for 'standard gauge [4'8.5"]. In other words 00 track is around 7 inches too narrow. Irish track being 5'3, to use 00[16.5mm] gauge track means you are modelling at 4'1 inch gauge, or 14 inches too narrow.

 Now, I sincerely hope I don't offend anyone here, not least because so many on this site have been incredibly helpful and complimentary to my own modelling. However, I do find it extraordinary that apart from the late, great, Tony Miles' Adavoyle, I do not know of a single layout built in the island of Ireland that is to the correct track gauge of 5'3, in any scale and it seems to be a handful of people in Britain who have flown the flag. Please tell me I'm wrong!

 Indeed, I will hazard to opine that railway modellers in Ireland prefer to find excuses not to work to the correct gauge, rather than attempt to do the right thing. I find this doubly strange when there are clearly many talented modellers out there, as this website illustrates so well, with many real sticklers [rightly in my opinion] for getting everything else right, yet happy to work in a gauge that is 25% too narrow!

 Now, I very much appreciate the reasons why folk might stick to what is available - commercial support and ease of modelling, the latter especially important to those who are not confident at building locos or adapting mechanisms.Be that as it may, I must stress that I was not born with a silvered soldering iron in my mouth. I have no formal training in wood or metal work and am essentially self taught. By that I mean reading widely and having a go - not being put off by failures [and there have been a few, believe me], plus talking to those who have succeeded to find out how it is done.

 I am sure for most that the hardest thing in contemplating 21mm gauge will be the combination of making track and widening the wheels to suit. In 7mm scale, the latter is a piece of cake. You go on the Slater's website and order the appropriate loco axles, while the wagon and coach wheels simply get pushed out to the wider gauge. In 4mm scale, I can't see that track should be a problem for anyone willing to have a go. C&L do point kits with ready assembled crossing vees and machined blades. All you have to do is slide chairs on to the rails and then weld them to the plastic sleepers with solvent. The only soldering will be to add the tie bars. The single issue is that of a track gauge. It ought not be too difficult to get a 21mm roller gauge turned up somewhere. C&L may be able to do one on request. Alternatively, talk to Marcway [phone number in their advert in Railway Modeller]. They  do custom track for pretty much any scale or gauge, using soldered, copper clad sleeper construction. Plain track is easy to do: make a simple jig using card to get sleeper spaces. Solder one rail in place, then put this half track on the layout and then solder the second rail, using a 21mm gauge. On Arigna, my 36.75 [ish]mm track gauge is a piece of flat aluminium I filed up. The layout has never suffered from derailments because of this, while the Marcway points I commissioned have been superb and the layout has its 30th exhibition outing in January.

 Now, I have no experience of building 21mm gauge locos or rolling stock, but I am fairly sure I've read in several places that replacement wheels/axles for Murphy's diesels are little more than a drop in. However, if not, then this is probably where the main barrier lies. A wagon kit [or indeed regauging a proprietary wagon] should not hold any terrors. Chop off the narrow gauge W-iron/axlebox castings and fit new ones wider apart. If 21mm axles are not readily available, buy some brass/steel/nickel silver rod of 2mm diameter [an internet search will soon find you some] and cut some yourself. This is what I have done on Fintonagh, using 2mm brass wire/rod and making 'pinpoint' ends [to go in the bearing cups] by spinning the rod in my fingers while holding it against a slitting disk in a mini drill. It takes less than a minute...

 The issue with a locomotive is that [if steam outline], the wheels need quartering, to ensure they turn smoothly when the coupling rods are attached. Not the case with diesels & I would think that something similar to the wagon exercise could be done - you just need to make sure the main gear is a good fit. However, I'm sure this must be the heart of the problem - where do you get 21mm loco axles from, that are easily quartered [like, say Romfords] because they have square ends? Fear not though, because the Scalefour Society website tells you how to do it with plain ended axles & it is very simple. It must be, because I've done it several times. If a kit of your chosen loco only comes with narrow frames, note that , by fitting the wheel bearings back to front, you get the right spacing, without the need to resort to making new frame spacers.

 I could go on & no doubt some of you will be thinking 'its alright for him, he has years of experience'. Remember though, I started with zero knowledge and zero experience and has simply persevered and learned as I've gone along. What I do really isn't that difficult - otherwise I would have given up years ago. 

 Believe me when I say I am in no way criticising those who want to stick with 16.5mm track. It is your hobby, to do with as you wish & as long as you enjoy it, so much the better. I guess what does disappoint me though is that there appear to be so few people doing 5'3 [in any scale] & it really would be wonderful to get a few more on board. Currently, its lonely out here! It does look rather splendid after all & makes the extra effort so worthwhile.

 There, I've said my piece and sincere apologies if I've offended anyone.

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1 hour ago, jhb171achill said:

I'm convinced. The only issue will be budget. If I can afford the track, it's 21mm. If I can't, it'll be 00.

I hope that whatever results will also appear at exhibitions once it's in a state fit to do so. Next challenge: proper 6-wheelers. I'll start with some old botch-job wooden stock in green, just to get things going but the intention is to have the likes of Worsley 6-wheelers behind J15s - thus, a proper GSWR train, none o'those oul Mk 2, 3 or 4 tin-can yokes for me!

jhb, I have to take my hat off to you, it's a great idea. 

The argument for modelling 21mm and not 16.5mm is as valid as re-painting British outline wagons and slapping a G N transfer on the side.
 

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It most certainly is. I think that for those with either the skills to hand-build everything to that gauge, or with the wallet to pay for it, 21mm is the way to go. I'm at "costing" stage now. My own skills are most certainly not those of Mayner, David Holman, Eoin or others of this planet, thus some stuff I would have to have made. It's as simple as this. If I can afford it once all the bean-counting is done, I'm going for 21mm. If practicality dictates, through a melted credit card, that I can't afford it, 00 it is.

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I often thought about a simple board 1.5m x 300mm, with a length of track and one siding built in 21mm and used as a test track to get you started.

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Hi guys I have been considering this myself as I really fancy a 21mm gauge layout, nothing fancy you understand, just something very simple to start with.

One bit of advice I can give since I have build some 009 track work and that is don't rush the first point or section of track.

The second bit of advice is to build some cardboard jigs for the track and point work,  cardboard from the wheatie bangs or other breakfast cereals is good enough for this.

For best results use a bit of 9mm or deeper plywood as a base for the give me a few days to sort all this out and I will try try and do an article on how to build track over Christmas.    

Edited by Colin R
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Building a small layout in 21mm gauge certainly won't melt the wallet, especially if you go for handlaid track. Its more a question of investment in time in acquiring and developing new skills with potentially a greater sense of achievement in building a unique model rather than going out and buying a mass produced rtr model regardless of the quality.

The biggest decision would be in whether to work to S4 or the coarser OO/EM standard. The S4 Society have an established set of standards for laying trackwork including pointwork and setting up wheelsets for 21mm gauge where a modeller is largely left to their own devices if they work to the coarser OO/EM standard where different modellers use differing back to back and check gauge standards.

SSM loco and coach kits including the GSWR 6 wheelers can be assembled to 21mm gauge, 28mm coach and wagon axles suitable for 21mm gauge can be sourced from the S4 society or Northyard in New Zealand, alternatively a standard OO gauge axle can be extended out to 28mm by cutting and sleeving with 2mm inside dia brass tube from Eileens Emphorium.

Converting the majority of rtr coaches and wagons is a greater challenge as the chassis/bogies will need to be replace, but not to significant a factor on a small layout with a small amount of rolling stock.

Steam locos are more of a challenge than diesels, but apart from a handful of types most Irish steam locos have to be scratchbuilt or built from kits anyway.

The simplest approach would be to build a test track using soldered construction with copper clad sleepers available from SMP/Marcway in Sheffield, re-gauge a Murphy Models diesel and some IRM ballast or cement wagons to get a fell for the gauge and the work involved. Ardfert or Spa would make a nice simple test track/diorama to test the concept. SSM produce a very nice GSWR/GSR/CIE whitemetal open & a 30t van which would go nicely with a black and tan B141 or 181 on a North Kerry beet train

John

 

8 hours ago, jhb171achill said:

It most certainly is. I think that for those with either the skills to hand-build everything to that gauge, or with the wallet to pay for it, 21mm is the way to go. I'm at "costing" stage now. My own skills are most certainly not those of Mayner, David Holman, Eoin or others of this planet, thus some stuff I would have to have made. It's as simple as this. If I can afford it once all the bean-counting is done, I'm going for 21mm. If practicality dictates, through a melted credit card, that I can't afford it, 00 it is.

 

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This picture at Omagh shows the broad gauge head-on, you can see why it is visually much better looking than 00.

 

 

GNR076.jpg

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Alternatively, for anyone seeking a completely fresh start, a simple shunting layout in 7mm scale would require the following:

One Tyrconnel/Alphagraphix loco kit. Approx £200 with wheels, motor, gears.

About £2-300 for track. Assume points at £60 each if custom made, half that if you build them yourself.

Assume around £35 per wagon. Wheels are £10, couplings, axlebox/Wirons, brakes, buffers about £5 each set. A kit is the same as a scratch building in this scale, with the wagon body costing almost nothing if you make it yourself from plastic or card. An Alphagraphix wagon kit, made from card will cost maybe a fiver less, with their white metal fittings and Slater's wheels

 A workable model can be done in around 8 feet, so total cost would be approaching £1000 (say it quick) and occupy around a year or so to complete. Compare that to a 4mm scale layout with a dozen locos, 20 coaches and 40 wagons and it is not quite so scary. Less is more, especially with the added satisfaction of making it yourself.

 Beware though, 7mm scale is VERY addictive!

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To be honest David if i didn't have so much invested in 4mm 00n3 and all my other stuff then I would have gone 7mm many years ago, if you want a simple 21mm gauge shunting layout in 4mm it is possible in 4ft x 2ft  two points and 4 meters of track will get you going, OK it is not a continuous run but it will give you something to work on and to have some fun shunting wagons or coaches with one engine in steam.

I would agree with David it is so important for the Irish modeling community to show just what so many people are missing out on, the biggest problem is of course if you wasn't brought up on the Irish railway system then it will be harder to get into the mind set of the Irish Railway operation, as for me i got caught and was dragged kicking and screaming into that world occupied by the Donegal and I have to say what a great place to be, it has the best of both worlds, British influence, but with a great amount of that famous Irish charm and that Black creamy liquid too.

 

Colin 

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A few points (Pardon the pun) about doing 21mm gauge,like most things its a lot to take on board at first,however it really isn't that difficult.For a start my first attempt at track building was a 21mm point,The way i did was to buy an SMP point kit ,they come with a full set of instructions plans copperclad sleeper strip,rail,and even a crossing gauge.then what i did was blew the point plan up to 21mm gauge and built a point,and heres the scary thing it actually worked!up to that moment trackwork had been a black art worshipped from afar,incidentally the second one was a complete disaster as i was overconfident.I would sugggest as first go copperclad construction has a lot going for it as its easy to adjust track after construction with a touch of the soldering iron.My way of building the track is to mark the centres of the tracks directly onto the baseboards then lay the sleepers using double backed sellotape(the type used for laying carpet tiles).a 3ft steel rule on its side helps with marking out as bending creates its own transistion curve.Obviously a couple of roller gauges are needed,now the Scalefour Society do them,but they are easy enough to make yourself with some tube cut/filed to length and some washers with a bolt through the lot.There is a set of dimensions in Alan O'Rourkes "Modelling Irish Railways".I would suggest sticking to the EM standars then at least you can see the flanges.Back to Back gauges are usfull but a Vernier caliper does the job just as well,incidently i jst checked my back to back      gauge which came from Terry McDermont back in the day and that comes out at 19.6mm. A lot has been said about the cost but especially if you build your own track it shouldn't cost any more than doing it in 00,especially if get into kit building.Andy.

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Excellent advice from all, and greatly appreciated.

I'm more than happy enough to go down the 21mm route at this stage, and may do so with some stock, but the principal sticking points (pun, again!) are that while the layout will be small, over time there will be a considerable (I hope) variety of locos and rolling stock taking it in turns to traverse it. And - depending on cost. The cost of the actual layout in 21mm will not, as intimated above, be a killer, but over a period of time the awkwardness at best, and cost at worst, of converting every single thing tends to favour 00 gauge. I await answers to a couple of emails about the price of a couple of aspects of this, and that will ultimately decide.

A possible project for a small manufacturer of Irish stuff might be four wheeled and bogie chassis in 21mm gauge, or at the least bogies. I know that for me, if such things were purchaseable, I would defintely go for 21mm. The comments made by others above about aspirations to great accuracy in other areas, and then setting things on unrealistically-gauged track is very valid indeed.

In the long run, perhaps a solution is (money permitting!!!) the above, with 00 gauge and stock, for operations involving a great variety of stock taking it in turns to visit the terminus, with a separate layout for a much a more limited run of 21mm gauge and maybe one or two locos and a dozen wagons or so. I always thought a 21mm layout based on the Dublin & Blessington would be well worth looking into - two tramcars, two covered vans and two alternating locos would do the lot more than adequately. My sticking point right now is that I intend to have eventually quite a variation of stock which will cover various operating periods 1930s - 1980s. 

Edited by jhb171achill

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 It has been good to see that there is some genuine interest in doing 5'3 in these pages. Maybe a good step forward would be for someone to do a blow by blow account of how to convert a Murphy's diesel to show that such things are not in the realm of watch making. A similar thread or two on basic wagon and coach conversion might be valid too. All my fingers and toes are crossed for you, JB.

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3 minutes ago, David Holman said:

 A good step forward would be for someone to do a blow by blow account of how to convert a Murphy's diesel to show that such things are not in the realm of watch making. .

I'm fairly sure that that has been done before, possibly in an earlier period of history......

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Coach bogies are dead easy MJT do a range of basic compensated coach bogies in various wheelbases the two sides and centre bolster are connected together by wire so all i do is make the wire longer then solder up the whole lot,they work a treat and you can fix whatever cosmetic frames you want.As for wagon chassis i don't know  whether SSM still do their 21mm RCH w irons but those plus the wheel spacing jig from Brassmasters makes the job easy,Andy.

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JBH, this thread on 5'3" has got me interested too. In the absence of a do-able representation of Omagh I just could use my 2.9m shed length for a 21mm test track and sidings. Building wagons and locos has much more appeal to me that running 00 gauge locos round in circles. 

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Hi Tony something you could consider is a cross over of Omagh and a test track, as a suggestion why not build Omagh with very short sidings to take say no more that four wagons and the platform loop no longer than say 4ft, this would create a big 21mm gauge shunting puzzle layout, this would allow you to play trains if you like but at the same time let you work your locos and rolling stock with a timetable as well, I am working on the same idea for an Irish/IOM style 00n3 layout.

Colin

 

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Colin, anything is possible - there are no rules!

I have a running space of almost 6metres x 350mm, enough to provide a 21mm shunt.

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