In many ways it is the original narrow gauge scale.
The scale was developed by GEM Model Railways in 1963, when they introduced a range of white metal kits of narrow gauge prototypes running on the
smallest commercially available gauge of 12 mm.
At that time 009 had not been developed commercially, so using TT (12mm) gauge offered modellers, who wanted 2’ – 2’3” gauge prototypes,
an alternative to scratchbuilding.
The Gem range comprised kits for the Festiniog Railway’s double Fairlie ‘Earl of Merioneth’,
‘Prince’ and ‘Linda’, and the Talyllyn Railway’s
‘Dolgoch’, as well as FR and TR coaches, wagons and figures.
5.5mm scale is an ideal size for narrow gauge modelling, being halfway between 4mm and 7mm. Many observers at exhibitions remark that
‘it’s a really nice size’. As well as using 12mm (TT) gauge to represent 2’ – 2’6” railways, 16.5mm (H0/00) gauge is perfect for 3’ prototypes.
In both cases, you can get a layout in a reasonable area with the reliability of running that is not always available in the smaller scales.
As a general guide, modern Festiniog coaching stock in 5.5mm/ft is about the same size as 4mm/ft- (00) standard gauge stock.
The development of 009 in the late 1960s led many narrow gauge modellers to abandon 5.5mm scale and GEM withdrew the range in
the early 70s. A few dedicated modellers continued working on their own, scratchbuilding or ‘model bashing’ to augment the range of GEM kits.
In the October 1984 issue of
Railway Modeller, Malcolm Savage’s ‘Gwynant Valley Railway’ was the featured railway of the month.
This article was followed by a series on Malcolm’s locos and stock, and as a result of the interest shown Malcolm began moves towards the
formation of the 5.5mm Association. Members comprise both established 5.5 modellers as well as those new to the scale.
The Association exists to aid those modelling in and around 1/55th scale. Although the bulk of members model 2’ or 3’ gauge prototypes there is room for everyone; one of our members has even built a standard gauge tram in 5.5mm scale.
Association members keep in touch through the quarterly newsletter ’55 News’, which contains articles, hints and tips,
advance notice of exhibitions, featuring 5.5mm scale layouts, and details of new products.
Until recently you would have been hard pushed to find much for 5.5mm scale, other than whatever you may have been able to pick up at swapmeets
The 5.5mm Association.
All that has changed in the last few years, as the Association has promoted and developed new products. The introduction of 12mm gauge track
by PECO, a few years ago, has been a great boost for the scale. Also check out
Worsley Works ‘scratch aids’ and
Blackham Transfers (Selected items from both these manufacturers are stocked by Malcolm Savage and are given in his
Things started quietly in 1991, when a limited rerun of ‘Linda’ was produced in collaboration with GEM, complete with a new chassis.
This was followed a few years later by a new etched nickel silver chassis for the Double Fairlie, cast coach bogies, 4 – wheel stock chassis and
a range of accessories.
In 1996, Malcolm Savage purchased the 5.5mm patterns and moulds from GEM and is now actively engaged in gradually upgrading and re-introducing
the range. The first model to appear has been the old ‘Prince’ kit, now available as
‘Palmerston’, followed recently by an etched nickel silver
chassis kit, which contains some body parts and extra cast details, and accompanied by FR coaches, vans and wagons.
The next loco to be reintroduced was ‘Dolgoch’, also with matching TR coaches and wagons. More new products are on the way,
including prototypes from the Corris Railway and the industrial railway scene. There is now a white-metal casting service from members’
In fact there has never been so many 5.5mm products available before!
Since the scale uses trade supported gauges (12mm and 16.5mm), modellers can use ready to run chassis if they do not want to build their own.
Together with Malcolm’s range of kits, figures and accessories, there is plenty on offer to get you started easily.
In addition, there are other sources of models available in 1/55th scale. Most surprising of all is the SIKU Super Series range of vehicles,
which are made to 1/55th scale. Other close to scale sources are Preiser’s range of diorama figures to 1/50th scale,
the Corgi bus and lorry range (1/50th again), and even some of the old matchbox range, In other words, your layout will be different!
Why not join us? Membership costs only Ł10.00 a year.
For this you get ‘55 News’, the Association’s quarterly newsletter, discounts on Association products and the chance to meet fellow 5.5mm modellers both at exhibitions and the AGM.