Starting in 2mm FineScale (2FS)

2mm modelling is arguably a state of mind, where details and fidelity matter whatever the space available. The 2mm Scale Association has the products, services and proven techniques to help beginners quickly get a feel for the scale. But 2FS is definitely for those who like making models.

Highbury Colliery:
Jerry Clifford's Highbury Colliery epitomises the way that 2FS enables a convincing scene to be created in a small space

Modellers with previous N gauge experience are typically aiming at the improved appearance and running from our proven track and wheel standards, plus better access to detailing and scratch-building parts. Those coming from 4mm or 7mm scales are typically looking to fit a railway into a more practical space, without sacrificing too much detail and appearance.

We outline below some suggestions for getting started in 2FS, but although we mention typical issues for those with experience of other scales, you may not be "typical", so feel free to read it all!

Scale and gauge

2FS is a scale of 2mm/ft or 1:152, with a standard gauge of 9.42mm. For comparison P4, EM and OO are one scale (4mm/ft) with three gauges, while N is one gauge (9mm), with three scales (1:160, 1:150 and 1:148).

How do I start? - Basic advice

The concrete FB version of our no-solder Easitrac
Easitrac, with Flatbottom rail and concrete sleepers. Easitrac is also available with wooden sleepers & bullhead rail.

We recommend starting with something simple, to gain that important "feel" for the scale. Try a wagon and some track, and if all goes well, move on to a loco and even a micro-layout. In 2mm scale "micro" really does mean small. Classic Inglenook layouts easily fit a small shelf. See our Beginner's Handbook for some step-by-step instructions for an easy first project.

Whatever your master plan, we recommend tackling a few basic kits and perhaps conversions of RTR N gauge items first, to get something moving as soon as possible. A yard or two of Easitrac, a couple of wagon kits and a converted Farish bogie diesel can be ready in an evening or two.

Let's be clear though. Building points and building or converting steam locos requires some modelling. There are services and products that have dramatically eased the process, but the challenge is often part of the appeal of 2FS. Although modern adhesives are excellent, sooner or later the typical 2FS modeller learns to solder. We run soldering workshops from time to time, but innovations such as the drop-in conversion wheels and Easitrac flexible plastic-based track mean that you can try 2FS without even owning a soldering iron.

The starting point for 2FS is probably:

Coming to 2FS from N gauge

Annedale Town:
Brain Hume's Annedale Town illustrates how converted N gauge stock can be a useful starting point for a beginner's 2FS layout.

Solid, 3-hole and spoked wheelsets are available for many RTR N gauge wagons and coaches. They are an easy way to get some rolling stock for your first 2mm layout.

N gauge modellers will have a feel for the space benefits, and probably have some experience of kit construction, but have often only used Ready To Run (RTR) chassis for locos and stock. Most bodywork experience will be directly applicable to 2FS, and many of the best new N wagons can easily be converted with drop-in wheelsets.

If you have kit-built stock on Peco chassis, you can use our replacement wheelsets, but we recommend our replacement etched chassis for a much finer appearance such as tie bars and correct brakes! Most Association chassis etches use similar construction methods, so once mastered, chassis skills apply to most 2FS wagons.

N gauge kits are typically adapted to fit available chassis, but 2mm kits usually have a specific chassis designed to suit (See the example below right). Often there is more than one chassis type, or a versatile chassis that can be built to represent different variants. We also have a host of components for scratch-builders.
Easitrac has transformed 2mm trackwork with an alternative to soldered track. This plastic-base flexible track offers Code 40 flat-bottom and bull-head rail, plus wooden or concrete sleepers, so you can choose the right combination for your project.

A typical wagon chassis built from an Association kit

Some members offer a bespoke "RTR" 2FS point-building service, but our shops offer an extensive range of components and jigs for both Easitrac plastic-based points and soldered construction. There are also instructions, articles, videos and a Track Handbook (anticipated in Q1 2012) to help you gain the skills to break away from fixed geometries, and achieve prototypical flowing track formations.

Suggested starter project those with N gauge experience, in addition to the four basic steps above:

Drop in replacement 2FS wheels (left) compared to N gauge (right)
Drop in replacement wheels fitted in a locomotive.

The drop-in conversion wheels for Farish diesels can give you a working 2FS loco in minutes. With a few feet of Easitrac and a 2FS wagon, you will be able to produce a simple diorama to compare 2FS with the N you are used to. Once you have "got your eye in", you can explore some of the more exciting possibilities such as a steam loco chassis and a larger layout. We expect to have a number of chassis conversion kits for recent higher-quality N gauge steam locos by early 2012, enabling steam era modellers to get that important first loco running as quickly as possible.

Coming to 2FS from 4 or 7mm

EM, P4 and 7mm modellers are probably used to building track and stock, and most of those skills are directly transferable to 2mm. Our soldered track (including chairplates and cosmetic chairs) and Easitrac plastic-base track (with moulded flexible track and individual point chairs) are similar to approaches in larger scales. Rolling stock typically features an etched chassis with etched, moulded or plasticard bodies.

It may also be useful to emphasise that 2FS is to N as EM is to OO, rather than being an equivalent to P4. 2mm tolerances equivalent to P4 or S7 would be extremely hard to maintain, but 2FS has been proven over 50 years to be a practical way to get a convincing railway in a small space.

This fine loco was built during the development of the Association Black Five kit

The standard technique for 2FS locos is split-chassis construction, with insulated half-axles and pickup via live, insulated frames on each side. This is a proven approach for ensuring effective electrical pickup in our small scale, and it is fully supported by jigs and our handbook "An Introduction to Split Frame Design".

One other difference is that electrical motors do not scale, so fitting a motor, gearing (and increasingly a DCC chip) into a 2mm loco usually requires that the gear meshing is specially arranged for each model, as there is not room for an off-the-shelf gearbox, even if one were available.

Apart from discovering different suppliers, size is often the biggest learning curve when moving from larger scales to 2FS. Trees can easily be a scale 60 feet (5 inches), and even double track railways can be surrounded by some scenic context on a 12 inch deep baseboard. Most of the small dimensions (track gauge, point clearance and chassis spacing) are set by jigs, and you will probably just search the other end of the K&S metal stand for raw material!

For many it is the appearance and smooth running of 2FS track that provides much of the appeal of 2FS. This turnout built with soldered chairplate track illustrates what can be achieved

Even if you are used to soldered track in larger scales, we recommend that you try the Easitrac plastic-base system, because it is so much quicker for plain track. For points, we offer support for both soldered and Easitrac points, with jigs, videos, and a major trackwork Handbook due for release in 2012.

For someone scaling down from 4mm or 7mm (or indeed with advanced N gauge experience) we suggest that in order to get a feel for the scale it can be useful to:

Recent N gauge designs feature improved detail, but while many 2FS modellers start with N stock, that small difference in scale can jar if stock is mixed. So consider any N stock to be a convenient stop gap while you build up your 2mm models.

It is important to be aware that N gauge models, and especially kits, have evolved over the last 40 years, and early N gauge models can be quite crude.

2mm bits and knowledge

Don't worry about the size of 2FS - our hands are the same size. We may etch thinner sheet than 7mm modellers, but 0.35mm wire just represents larger prototype tubing in 2mm scale, and we can neglect the smallest details without losing fidelity. It is useful to remember that viewing 2FS from one foot is 150 scale feet away. This can help decide what to model, and what to leave to the imagination. You really can't count rivets at 50 yards.

Presflo wagon kit, available from Association shop

Our shops offer an expanding range of high quality kits (Such as the Presflo illustrated right), components and scratch-building parts (currently around 600), with a number of members and cottage industry suppliers actively supporting the scale, too. In addition to information on our website, an updated list of these suppliers is included in our printed Yearbook.

We also produce reference booklets for various aspects of 2mm modelling, explaining proven approaches and providing core 2FS information. Up to date inspiration is available in our bi-monthly printed magazine, which includes colour photographs and descriptions of layouts, models and techniques. We have also scanned every past issue of the 2mm Magazine, and produced a CD containing an indexed set of around fifty years of 2mm articles. It is a treasure trove of ideas and methods, and is available from our shops.

Modelling is a practical hobby, so if you can, it is worth attending a local Area Group. Don't be afraid, we're all quite human really, and generally quite friendly! Beginners are definitely welcome, with many groups running mini-workshops on aspects of 2FS modelling. If you don't have an Area Group nearby, our Virtual Area Group is a web and email based discussion group where help and assistance is only a keyboard away.


Henk Oversloot's sweeping countryside

2FS modelling has never been easier, but it remains a modeller's scale. Perhaps that is why so many N gauge modellers join the Association to develop their skills and access our scratch-building parts.

From conversions of RTR N gauge stock, to kits and components for wagons, coaches and locos, the 2mm Scale Association is dedicated to supporting beginners and experts alike, and helping improve skills over time.

With an annual 2mm Expo, workshops and active Area Groups, we encourage hands-on modelling and learning from each other, while the magazine, website and Handbooks develop both core and advanced skills. Most 2mm modellers use no more than hand tools and perhaps a mini-drill, so there is no need for expensive machinery.

If you are looking for better track and smoother running than N; or want more railway than you can fit in 4mm or 7mm; without sacrificing too much appearance and detail; why not give 2FS and the 2mm Scale Association a try?

Grab a sample pack of a 2mm wagon kit and length of Easitrac at a show, and perhaps a Handbook or two. Better still, why not join up and try us?