Photo of Chee Tor
Chee Tor by the Manchester Model Railway Society

About 2mm Scale

2mm Finescale modelling is about producing high quality models in the smallest practical scale. The term finescale is perhaps defined not just by the improved track and wheel standards, but is also characterised by a desire progressively to improve one's modelling ability, strive towards a greater degree of realism and thus derive a greater satisfaction and enjoyment from the hobby. 2mm Scale is pre-eminent in allowing the modelling of vast landscapes with trains moving through them, and ideal when space is at a severe premium.

2mm scale means that models are built to a consistent ratio of 1:152 or exactly 2 millimetres to 1 foot, with track and wheels to finescale standards on the correct 9.42mm gauge. 2mm scale is very similar to, but fractionally smaller than the later commercial British N gauge with a scale of 1:148 and slightly larger than the American and European N scale to 1:160, both of which use 9mm track gauge. We justify this apparently odd scale on two main counts - we started before commercial N scale appeared and see no need to change, and most British prototype drawings are in Imperial measures, so a scale relating model millimetres to prototype feet is very convenient. That said, we recognise that many modellers work to 1:148 (British N) or 1:160 (European/US N), and support those modellers with useful components, techniques and methods.

Working in 2mm finescale is much easier than you may think, especially when using Association components. Many N gauge items are visually compatible and can be upgraded or rewheeled, making conversion an easy step. The great advantage in modelling in so small a scale is that it enables the construction of truly portable layouts, or alternatively a railway modelled in a realistic landscape setting. It can capture the spaciousness of the prototype which is rarely practical in larger scales.

photo of crossing nose
A 2mm scale turnout crossing. Remember, the track gauge is only 9.42mm!!

2mm standards are much finer than any commercially available N scale. For example, our rail is 1mm high (Code 40), and crossing & check rail clearances are 0.5mm (20 thou). A 2mm standard wheel has a tread of 1mm and a flange depth of 0.5mm. The finest N scale ready to run (American, European or Japanese) sometimes matches the rail height and flange depth, but does not approach the tread width or crossing clearances. Converting N items results in both better appearance and better running; wheels no longer drop into the large crossing clearance.

Although our standards are high, they are also practical. With a few simple gauges (available from the Association), track can be built by a careful modeller. The tight standards of the track actually has an operational benefit - rolling stock will run through crossings more smoothly as the wheels are supported on the rail at all times, whereas coarser standards have to run the wheel on the flange through crossings. Proof that 2mm finescale looks good and works well in both domestic and exhibition environments can be seen in the many working layouts featured in the model press and at shows.

A number of UK members work with British N items, particularly diesel/electric period. The most recent N models are of good appearance and have excellent mechanisms. By adopting 2mm track standards, those modellers get better track appearance and better running.

Other members use 1:160 scale for European and North American prototypes. The current approach is to reduce the Association track standard (9.42mm gauge, exact scale at 1:152) by 0.45mm, but maintain the wheel and crossing standards. Obviously, the back to back of wheels is also reduced by 0.45mm.

Members of the Association receive our bi-monthly 2mm Magazine (sample available for download), gain access to our product ranges and can draw upon the wealth of experience from fellow members.

The 2mm Magazine, sent to all members, concentrates on modelling articles, layouts and product reviews and builds into a comprehensive and invaluable 2mm modeller's reference library, whilst the Newsletter section contains news, comment, notice of area group events and members' letters, sales and wants.

Click to see larger image
A 10ft wheelbase wagon chassis built from an Association etched kit

The Association's mail-order Shops offers members nearly 500 different items for sale. Just to give you an idea, we can supply all you need for finescale track, such as templates, jigs, roller-gauges, Code 40 rail and sleepers. For the loco builder, we have locomotive kits, components covering split-axle driving, bogie and tender wheels, gears, motors and axle muffs. Our shop also sells carriage and wagon kits, a range of rolling stock wheels, etched W-irons, castings and turnings for buffers, axleboxes and many other detailing parts. In fact, we aim to make available to our members all those otherwise difficult-to-make but essential components that enable anyone (without the need of a workshop) readily to model in 2mm finescale. As you can see, the hard part is mostly done for you!

A quick entry into finescale modelling is to convert an N-gauge loco using the wheel reprofiling service. Commercial wheels are converted to Association finescale standards and returned ready for immediate re-insertion, this works particularly well for bogie diesel prototypes.. N-gauge rolling stock is easily converted using our replacement wheelsets.

photo of Somerset and Dorset locomotive
Somerset and Dorset locomotive scratchbuilt by Denys Brownlee. The locomotive is approximately 65mm (2.5 inches) long. Winner of the Groves Trophy in 1993.

Our Area Groups' meetings offer practical experience of 2mm modelling and a chance to meet other members. The Association's membership of over 650 includes beginners and skilled modellers from all walks of life, so you will be made most welcome. We have groups in many parts of the UK, who meet regularly to exchange ideas, give demonstrations or build group projects. In addition there are groups for members with common interest, such as narrow gauge modelling. Some groups also organise regional members-only 'mini-meets' with members' layouts and selected traders - there may be one near you! There is an Internet based Virtual Area Group, open to all members, which communicates by email and has a repository for documents, pictures and other material.

Our Publicity Stand is often in attendance at public model railway exhibitions to promote and demonstrate 2mm scale modelling. But don't just take our word for it, look out for 2mm finescale layouts at shows and see how realistic they are! Even better, come to our annual public Expo-2mm, as advertised in the model press: a whole exhibition of 2mm finescale layouts, demonstrations of 2mm modelling techniques and specialist traders. Members can also enjoy our AGM each Autumn, which includes the annual Model Competition, members' layouts and the Association Shop, or the regional meetings of our Area Groups. Exhibition organisers may book our Publicity Stand or members' layouts via the contacts address page.

Our publications are aimed at helping you build better models. The 2mm Handbook is our essential guide, outlining finescale standards and all the basic construction techniques you need for 2mm modelling, from proprietary conversion to scratchbuilding. Our other 'show-you-how' booklets explore techniques in more detail, such as finescale track building, N-gauge conversions, modifying wagon kits and more advanced 2mm modelling. Our booklets are available to members and non-members alike, either from our Publicity Stand at exhibitions or direct from us by mail order.

We have members who model in scales other than 2mm. British N (1:148) running on 9.42mm gauge is very common. FiNe is an emerging European standard for finescale N. This uses 2mm Scale Association wheel standards, but with the track gauge reduced to 8.97mm (scale for 1:160). Many Nn3 modellers use 2mm Scale Association parts for their models, as do other narrow gauge modellers operating in larger scales such as HO, Scalefour, etc.

If you would like to join the 2mm Scale Association, please see our application form below:

You may wish to read the Association's rules before joining.