How to build 2mm Model Railway Layouts (Q and A)

First what does a beginner do to start getting into 2mm model railway layouts?

– The 2mm Scale Association website (

– A booklet called “The Beginner’s Guide to 2mm Modelling” from the 2mm Scale Association.

And you’ll pretty much have to join the 2mm Scale Association to get the bits you need to make the model.

If you are quick off the mark, you could sign up for a day-long tutorial on getting started in Oxford in December

Can I use Steam or use a diesel shunter?

Its slightly harder for both DCC and 2mm in that there are not many easy to convert small N steam locos around. Would a Farish 04 diesel be acceptable; its a bit easier to convert ?

If happy with a bigger locomotive, a new Farish class 37 runs excellently, converts to 2mm very easily, and has a DCC decoder socket inside it.

If you are willing to build your own locos (or assemble 2mm kits) then steam is practical.

I want to do the inglenook layout like the one above, and I think I want to go straight to DCC because of the better slow operation it allows (is this correct?)

Yes in my experience. Clive Road runs extremely well under DCC, I was using it a few weeks ago with its current owner.

But DCC won’t hide basic mistakes; track needs to be level and clean. Locomotives need to pickup from all their wheels, etc.

But I don’t yet know enough about 2mm – what exactly is different in scale – everything? Do I need to get 2mm specific everything? Or just the gauge?

Depends how pedantic you get about scale. Officially 2mm is 1:152, whereas British N gauge is 1:148. If you are a total purist you will therefore build all your stock to 1:152. However, most modellers I know use a mixture, at least when starting out.

At a minimum you will be:

1) Building your own model railway layouts, or commissioning someone to make it for you (not expensive, around £15/turnout from the track builder I know).
2) Rewheeling N rolling stock, a simple matter of removing old wheels and dropping in
new ones.
3) Converting N locomotives. In some cases the wheel tread can be turned to a 2mm profile and the back-to-back adjusted. This tends to work better for diesels, though is possible for some steam locomotives.

Optionally, you will be:
4) Building finescale kit rolling stock; either for items not available commercially, or because you think the finescale item looks better than the commercial one (eg. contrast Stephen Harris kit mineral wagons with any plastic ones, and appearance wise, the Harris ones win. But they cost more and take time to assemble).
5) Building finescale locomotives. There are a handful of complete 2mm scale locomotive kits, the majority being North Eastern prototypes.
6) Changing the couplings on N stock to something smaller and capable of remote operation. The Clive Road pictures will show DG couplers which are opened by an electromagnet below the baseboard, once open the wagon can be propelled into a siding and left behind. There are numerous coupling options with various pros and cons.

For the DCC side, you just need a decent chip in your locomotives. Suggest you buy either Zimo 620 or CT Elektronik DCX74 or DCX75. They run really well with small motors at low speeds. If picking a DCC (or analogue) controller for such a simple layout, then don’t go overboard on keys; you’ll only have one or two locomotives so won’t need to select from a thousand ! Feeling good in your hand is the critical issue; there are quite a few decent and not overly expensive options.

> Finally, what books/resources can I go off and read and then get going I don’t yet even though what sort of stuff I should be putting on an inglenook, as I do want it to be realistic, so don’t want to just go off and fo my own thing, if it is unrealistic and not what such siding would be used for.

In some respects you are starting from the wrong position; the Inglenook concept was a “trainset” shunting puzzle. If looking for a prototype, you need to dig around to find a small siding or industrial yard of about that arrangement and work up from it. In steam days before Beeching, there were many on minor branch lines (I can think of half a dozen within 8 miles of my home in rural Suffolk).

Alternatively, look at more modern items such as loco stabling and refueling points.


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