16mm scale but not outdoors

This 16mm scale stuff is cool. I’m getting hooked. Not so much that I’m perched, ready to proclaim a new identity, but enough that I can wander into into its realm with little regret for time spent “discovering it”. Models in this scale seem to popularly be live steam and outdoors. My decades old, read and reread, year after year and decade after decade books by Peco that introduced this scale to my (then) young eyes related it in those “live steam” and “outdoors” terms…but then they also introduced the beautiful indoor railway Henry Holdsworth built. His Lynbridge was based on the real life Lynton & Barnstaple Railway and built the same way we’d approach modelling in the smaller scales. I’ve been curious to find out if there were others who have built traditional model railways in this large scale? Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Fen End Pit is another example that came to mind. I’m pretty sure I no longer remember the magazine (issue or even title) but there was an article published in which Fen End Pit’s David Barham described scratchbuilding a Simplex loco for the railway. That’s a magazine I sure wish I hadn’t discarded. Perhaps someday I’ll remember it…that article contained drawings, full scale templates, and a completely enjoyable story of building the model in styrene.

While roaming around YouTube looking for other video of Fen End Pit I found Campbell’s Quarry. Because, in this hobby, we’re terrified of being caught playing with our trains we’ve adopted the term “operating” so what we’re doing sounds like proper work that serves real purpose. It’s ironic because we’re probably only doing this hobby to reconnect or otherwise connect our child self… We congregate in anticipation of an invitation to do things that are more like play than work. We want to share in the joy of play with others who enjoy what we do. Wandering around the model train show floor we pause to study the work of fellow modellers; stay just a little longer if it’s close to what we pursue; linger just a little longer and make up awkward smalltalk all while secretly hoping we’re invited to join in on the game. May I play too? There’s no question in my mind that in layouts like in Fen End Pit or Campbell’s Quarry there’s some serious modelling but this scale introduces play in a way that could be a little more awkward if executed in any smaller scale. I think it attractive to see this balance, in examples like these, where the thing we create serves both our analytical mind while determining how to make the exact scale model and then further rewards with something completely opposite: to use the model to do something realistic. Really do something realistic not just emulate doing it.

In a post about bookmarking layouts I felt like interrupting because this little model is just so damn cool. Not just DCC control and sound but the detail of the radiator fan is timed to spin. How freakin’ cool is that?! I love it. I couldn’t help but start to sketch out code to see if the model could somehow pretend like it’s reading it’s operating conditions to further emulate when the fan should spin and how fast. And if, instead of a linear increase-decrease in speed if the speed curve of the curve could be changed to match the gear changes in this simple engine’s real life gearbox?

I hadn’t heard of Melin Llechi until I started on this quest for 16mm scale scenicked layouts. I like it’s clear design and the rolling stock is wonderful. Such simply delightful examples of the “very big models of very small things” paradigm. From working on my Ruston I can see how well models like these could run. Even small engines would appear to have room for proper motors, fantastic gear ratios, control hardware, and still room leftover for as much weight as the heart desires. You know, all those things that seemed unimaginably inconceivable to 1980’s Chris.

Obviously that’s not video I produced but it’s a layout I have seen in person.

Both those two videos above feature iterations of Roy Link’s Crowsnest Tramway. There’s a book on the model and the story if it’s many iterations. I’ve ordered a copy and, according to Canada Post, it’s already waiting at the post office. This review of the book was what sealed my interest in buying the book: https://dominionandnewengland.wordpress.com/2019/01/03/the-crowsnest-tramway-co/

Kathy Millatt introduced Steve Bell’s The Adit in this article. At six feet long by what looks like about a foot deep The Adit is both a detailed model but in a space that we commonly use for smaller scale layouts. It’s plan looks a lot like what I sketch for myself and that feels kind of intriguing.

For a long time I’ve enjoyed following Claus Nielsen’s Nystrup Gravel. He originally worked in 1:32 scale but has now replaced that with a completely new iteration in 1:19 (“16mm scale”). I’ve been reading, rereading, and studying this new iteration so enthusiastically.

Just as I did with Coy, I think it would be really fun experimenting with various media to model the scene. Exploring media beyond the hobbyshop formula not out of any sense of acting cheap or acting contrary but as an exploration of media and interacting with it in a fundamentally creative way (i.e. is it right because it feels right not because the label on the package says so?). I don’t want to completely stop buying models from model companies (I find collecting kits and models an equally enjoyable hobby) but the singularity of the model railroader paradigm (model railroad hobby proprietary solution > buy copy of solution > apply as patch) isn’t itself completely what I’m looking for to feed my creative self and I think it feels a little more right. I think that in the Ruston and in reading articles on 16mm scale modelling this is something that feels like a better interpretation of that balance. Certainly one compound that is intriguing enough to explore in tactile form. Learning to understand that my work in this craft is non-linear is perhaps the most powerful lesson I’ve learned this last year…unlocking this creative potential energy one subroutine at a time.

Categories: 16mm scale 32mm gauge, How I think

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2 replies

  1. Not 16mm, but I often return to this 7/8ths creation:
    It’s an excellent example of layout display, not to mention creativity. It’s interesting to me how the proportions of the narrow gauge subjects tackled in these scales works well with a typical bookshelf’s proportions.

    • Good morning. Thank you for the link out to the Von Leipnik Interplanetary Transportation Company. That is such a very cool project. Those 7/8th models feel even more huge than the 1/19 I’m trying to adjust to now but I love (love, love, love) the way Martin is using them in that context to create this neat model railway. I hadn’t seen it before. The whole project is exciting but these photos really fired my imagination:

      That’s a photo of the observatory model. Current model railway design is often about containing the layout within a volume defined by the layout’s fascia. That surround of Masonite we paint black to create an invisible fence or walled compound the railway is kept inside of. Any time a modeller breaches this wall is exciting to me. Even more so when the model doesn’t just project beyond the “wall” but actually wraps around it is fantastic!

      Isn’t it neat how, despite how small this area is it feels right? Not like a pile of big things jammed onto a shelf or into a too small box but related so closely to make them feel like shared, if only limited, space.

      Thanks again


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