A mile is 1760 yards, or 80 chains, or 8 furlongs, or 5,280 feet. Miles have been the unit of measurement, in the UK, since the Roman times, where it was measured as ‘a thousand paces’.
We measure distance in miles, speed in miles per hour and fuel consumption in miles per gallon (though we now buy in litres).
But how big is a mile in OO scale and does it have any affect on our modelling?
Read on, as we go the extra mile to explain…
Table of Contents
- How long is a mile in OO gauge?
- How can we represent distance on our model railways?
- How can I get more depth to a scene?
How long is a mile in OO gauge?
Using a quick calculation, a mile in OO gauge, or more accurately 4mm/ft scale (or even 1:76.2 scale), is a massive 69ft 4 inches, or 21.11m. That's longer than the space we have available at Scale Model Scenery HQ!
Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley is about 392 miles. In 4mm scale, that would need over 27,000 ft, or approximately 5 real length miles.
To put that into a bit of context, the longest single platform in the UK is 1,977 ft 4in (602m) at Gloucester, which would need almost 26ft of space in 4mm scale. In contrast, the shortest UK platform (Beauly) is only 15m, which would need about 8 inches in 4mm scale.
How can we represent distance on our model railways?
Not many of us have enough space for an accurate portrayal of length for our model railway, so how do we compress scenes to make them look longer than they are?
One method is to reduce the distance between regularly spaced markers alongside the tracks, such as telegraph poles, or modern catenary masts. In fact, setting these at scale distance looks wrong anyway, as they appear too far apart.
The general consensus (from trawling the internet) is telegraph poles should be between 125ft (urban) to 300 ft (rural) apart, and alongside railway anything from 180ft to 210ft apart.
Scaling 180ft to 4mm gives a spacing of 2ft 4 in, which would mean only you'd need very few on a simple branch line layout. But, by adding several more poles, with an un-prototypical shorter spacing, it gives the impression of much more distance between the poles, and therefore makes the line itself look longer.
In a similar way, and if you have sufficient space, making platforms longer than the longest train you'll run, even if only by a couple of inches, will help disguise their actual shortness.
How can I get more depth to a scene?
Another method of introducing perception of scale, is to use smaller models to the rear of a scene. Whether this is buildings, trees, a low horizon on the backscene or just having roads or rivers become much narrower. Care must be taken to keep all items at the same distance to the same smaller scale, to harmonise the overall appearance.
As we discuss in the How tall are OO gauge figures topic, putting smaller figures towards the back of scenes helps give the impression of distance.
Using N gauge (or 2mm scale) buildings at the rear of a 4mm scale scene has always been a bit more difficult to make believable, due to the size difference, but with the introduction of TT120 scale buildings, their slightly smaller size does allow more scope for perspective modelling.
These are both KX074 “Dylington” Cottages, in 4mm scale and TT120 scale.
How long is a mile in OO gauge?
Long, far too long, but we can fool the viewer in thinking it's somewhat smaller, by clever use of perspective and shortened distances. You just need to let your creative ideas run with a few carefully chosen scenic items.