The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Great EM Layout

I recently had a tip from a reader about a large EM layout that has inspired many British enthusiasts. It is the Pendon Museum, and looking at the website I have to see this if I ever get to England! There is no large layout of this type in 1/76 in the United States.

I should first briefly note what EM is. I have been curious about this gauge for many years, having first read of it in a book that was distributed in the United States pretty widely, The World of Model Trains by Guy R. Williams. Published in 1970, my parents gave me a copy in the late 1970s. EM is 4mm scale and a type of OO scale model except that instead of 19mm gauge track like we use over here (which scales out to 4’ 9”, only ½ inch off!) on their side of the Atlantic they chose to use a gauge of 18mm (or 4’ 6” gauge), calling this EM for short (as in eighteen millimeters). It is closer to correct than the hybrid gauge/scale of HO/OO, but is an error that Scalefour enthusiasts set out to correct by using the exact gauge for standard gauge, 18.83mm, as described in this previous post.

The Pendon Museum houses a large EM layout that has been there for many years, and it is well worth looking over the website for the great photos especially. This one, linked from their website, is an overall view of the 70’ gallery that houses the Pendon Vale Scene. Looking further in the site it caught my attention that the late Guy Williams, who wrote that book I mentioned above, actually built several of the EM locomotives in the photos. He was very active with this museum and with EM from its beginnings in the early 1950s.

For more on EM do check out also the website of the E.M. Gauge Society. I am sure that there are many EM products that could be used in some manner in American OO; it may be worth the effort to check them out further, they have quite a long list of parts on their website and apparently will ship overseas.

There still is the question, why 18mm? I suspect from having converted HO wheelsets to 19mm myself that 18mm was deemed the practical limit that you could easily widen some types of HO/OO equipment, especially keeping car wheelsets on their original axle and with minimum alteration of the mounting. One less millimeter would give many more options for simple conversions.

UPDATE: For more on Williams and the Pendon Museum see this article.

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