Authenticity and “Finescale Renegades”

Saw this on a forum, from a modeller whose work I do admire:

Finescale 00 used to be a thing. For some of us it still is. It’s a state of mind as well as a set of measurements.

I always thought that a finescale version of 00 was EM, given that “finescale”* is a state of mind about getting things closer to the prototype, and a track gauge that is 96.7% of the prototype measurement is closer than one which is  87.7%. I mean, would you accept such a measurement error as big as 97% in any other respect of the prototype, leave alone 88%? I say this not to start a gauge war, but to make the point about the degree of error involved in modelling the track – the one thing that above all else differentiates this hobby from other modelling disciplines. Those who advocate narrowing the gauge to 16.2mm only exacerbate the issue…

”Finescale 00” is an attempt to make the best of a bad job without having to re-wheel steam locos. Given the profile of modern RTR wheels, some diesels and most rolling stock can be regauged to EM by moving the wheels out (and older stock probably needs it replacing with something concentric anyway!) so it boils down to steam locos and track. Since you have to build your own track for this standard, that leaves the locos, and if there are kit-built locos, which can be built to other standards, it just boils down to RTR steam. That and the fact that when you started out, you chose this standard and now have an awful lot of model railway, and getting it changed is not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong: I realise that we all have choices to make over these things, and I am all for improving the running by tightening up the tolerances (i.e. “flangeways”, flanges and B2B) of any set of integrated track and wheel standards, but I can’t see how something so far off scale dimensions can be called “finescale”, and given the definition of finescale as a mindset about getting closer to scale, and the measurement error in the track gauge, well, how is 00 ever going to be finescale? Finer, yes. But finescale? I think not. YMMV, of course; that’s my personal view.

* See “Proprietary to Scale”, C J Freezer, Railway Modeller, January 1974, for this – indeed the only to my knowledge – definition of “fine scale”, where he makes the point that “scale model” was first applied to differentiate away from “toy trains” and meant (in his words) “authentic”. I think realistic might have been a better choice: “like the real thing”. His point was that unless you accepted this definition, then “fine scale” was meaningless, but (in précis) actually means “even less like a toy”. This was down to Greenly, who advocated a larger scale than that used for the track to accommodate the crude wheel standards in use for tinplate trains. Because modelling railways is about more than individual models, most people prefer to start with something already made, and ”improve it” rather than starting wholly from scratch and enjoying the journey, and ”purchasing” is frequently used to mean ”modelling”.

If you define “finescale” as “improving the running of 00 without changing the gauge, but otherwise working to EM standards”, then that works, but how could that definition be applied to, say, military modelling?

4 thoughts on “Authenticity and “Finescale Renegades”

  1. maxfees

    I suppose the closest other modelling disciplines come to this is “stand-off scale” I must admit the first time I saw Albion Yard I was convinced it was EM, probably because of the controlled viewing angle. I do like the Scalefour definition “As the name suggests, finescale describes an attitude to modelling, the aim of which is that models should be as accurate and realistic as possible. Many of the techniques the Society has developed, and the components it sells, work well with all 4mm standards, including 00 and EM. However, we believe that finescale standards begin with wheels and track, and for that reason the Scalefour Society promotes the P4 standards that produce trackwork to an accurate standard gauge of 18.83mm, and use correctly-profiled wheels.”

  2. paul greene

    Ah, but where does Ambergate fit in Simon? Beautiful landscape, scenery and buildings to rival Pendon, but old girder style OO track and fantasy stock. I’m not sure myself!


    1. Simon Post author

      Hi Paul,
      Amberdale is what it is, and what it’s owner/builder has set out to build. I don’t think Philip Harvey claims it to be finescale, and he openly states that he simply isn’t concerned about quite a few aspects.
      It’s a wonderful, whimsical model railway, and as the builder is completely honest with himself and us about what he set out to achieve and what did and didn’t concern him, it works very well, despite historical anachronisms. (They jar for me, but not for him, so not my problem.)
      Since Philip has not made great claims to anything, I don’t see a problem: it fits into a category along with the Madder Valley and Craigshire of inspirational impressionistic interpretation modelling.
      But no, it’s not finescale but since it doesn’t claim to be, so there’s no issue.

      Thanks for commenting – these points all serve to help clarify what I am trying to say: finescale is all about getting closer to authenticity, which means defining a consistent tolerance about measurement, be that physical or with respect to time and location.


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