Friday, 18 January 2013

The Gauge Issue

Railway gauge is a big issue, especially for an Australian. We Australians still have not figured out how to have a ‘standard gauge’ across our country. We’ve got three major incompatible gauges which has historically made rail transport across the country inefficient. This was because all the states originally only thought of themselves as individual colonies and selected the gauge solely on local considerations in isolation of what the other colonies were doing. Standardisation of new interstate lines has recently been adopted but there is still a huge variety of gauges.

Main Gauge
Other Major Gauges
New South Wales
Standard (UK)
Wide (connecting Vic)
Northern Territory
Standard (UK)

Narrow (Cape)
Standard (connecting NSW) , 2ft (sugar cane trains)
South Australia
Wide (Irish)
Standard (connecting NSW and WA), Wide (connecting Vic)
Narrow (Cape)

Western Australia
Narrow (Cape)
Standard (connecting SA and in the Pilbara mining region)
Wide (Irish)
Dual Standard/Wide (connecting SA and NSW)

Creating a model railway using any of the above gauges requires a lot of room… many kilometres in fact! So I’d best look at scaling down.

Some of most common railway modelling scales and gauges are:

Name of Gauge/scale
Gauge width
G and ‘1’
Numerous (G), 1:32 (1)
1:43.5 (UK), 1:45(Europe), 1:48 (N. America)
’00’ and ‘H0’
1:76.2 (00), 1:87 (H0)
1:148 (UK), 1:160 (most of the world)
Note, that there are many variations based on real life scales and gauges.

It given the range of gauges and scales it seems that model railways are as standard as the Australian Railway system! But, the gauge I like most is N. That is 9mm gauge which is 160 times smaller than standard gauge. The reasons for this are:
  • The gauge corresponds to N-scale which is 1:160 (or 1:148) which are commonly used scales good for scenic model railways;
  • N-gauge allows a lot to be packed into a small area including fairly tight radius curves;
  • Because it is commonly used there are many manufacturers of 1:160 and 1:148 scale products meaning it may not be as necessary to scratch build too much stuff, especially locomotives.
  • N-scale products are often available set up for either DC or DCC operations, with only HO and OO scales being better represented for DCC. This allows me to decide whether I want DC or DCC.
  • I also already have two DC locomotives in British N-scale (1:148) as well as coaches, wagons and some scenic items that I’ve previously used for my small experimental DC layout.
Because of all the above points N-gauge is my choice of gauge. Now… that is figured out… where will I set my layout? Australia, UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Argentina or somewhere else? This will also help me to answer what scale I’m going to use.

1 comment:

  1. England sounds like a good place to set your model railway, Rod. Distances in Australia are too great, but there's much more within a smaller country if you choose somewhere in Britain.
    Perhaps the west coast, going north from Wales - that would also give you a better idea of the country where some of your ancestors lived. :-)