TT?

Triang TT Class 31

Back in my teenage years I used to have a TT3 gauge layout. It was all dismantled when I went away to University, and when I returned to the world of model railways in my late twenties I switched to the more readily available N gauge. The track is all long gone, but most of the rolling stock, such as this class 31 diesel, survives.

TT3, three-quarters the size of the already extablished 00 gauge, was introduced by Triang in 1957. But sales never reached critical mass and production ceased by the late 60s, by which time the significantly smaller N gauge had appeared on the horizon. TT3 never completely died out, but has long become a specialised scale reliant on kits rather the 50 year old ready-to-run models. Even now you still regularly see TT layouts at exhibitions; there were two at the Eastleigh show last weekend.

It was a different case in the former East Germany, where TT became a popular scale in the days of Communism. Manufactured by Zeuke, who later became Berliner Bahn, and are now Tillig, it remains in production today. Just as in OO vs HO, British and German models shared a track gauge of 12mm, but have different scales, Britain’s 1:100 to Germany’s 1:120. The reason, as in the larger scales, is that it’s impossible to get a dimensionally accurate model of a British steam locomotive to go round corners, and having an underscale track gauge is the least bad compromise.

In recent years, other manufacturers have entered the 1:120 TT market, including Arnold, the long-established Gernan brand now owned by the British Hornby group.  Prompted by this, and by rumours that some of the original Triang tooling still exists, there’s been a long thread on RMWeb about the possibility of Hornby bringing back TT in some shape or form.

It’s not going to happen, and the realist in me knows it makes more sense for Hornby/Arnold to follow up their N Gauge Brighton Belle with more British N. Which is precisely what they’te now planning on doing.

But it’s always fun to speculate. If Hornby did venture into British TT, what should they make? And should it be 1:100 to match the old TT3, or 1:120 to be consistent with the continental models?

Were they to stick to the old 1:100 scale, I’d suggest models representing the same steam/diesel transition era as the old Triang range. The possible initial models might be the following:

  • Class 47 diesel
  • Standard class 5MT 4-6-0
  • Mk1 coaches, initially TSO, CK and BSK
  • 16t mineral, Vanfit, 5-plank Highfit and BR brake van

That’s essentially a cross-country secondary main line in a box. You could even sell the whole lot as a train set, perhaps with two of each wagon for a decent length train, along with a double-track oval. I chose the 47 as the most numerous diesel class, and the Standard Five because it ran on multiple regions.

Were they to choose 1:120, the fact that there already is a British outline ready-to-run locomotive in the shape of the class 66 diesel made by Hobbytrain suggests a very different approach. Instead of the mid 1960s, go for the present day. Start with a range of modern British loading gauge wagons that run on both sides of the channel; intermodal flats, Cargowaggons, Polybulks, steel carriers etc. If successful, then perhaps expand the range to include some British multiple units, perhaps a Voyager or 170.

But all this talk makes me want to get out my old TT3 stock and see how much of it still runs. I’ve considered both a small shunting layout using Peco HOm track (Designed for HO scale metre-gauge models), or just getting an oval of Tillig sectional track to use as a test circuit.

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