If you’re building a model railway around a particular point in history you’ll want trains that only ran during your chosen period but how do you know what trains ran when?
Luckily, the handwork of researching when trains when built and running has been done for you and the model train manufacturers (Bachmann etc) have defined nine eras of train history and make and style their locos accordingly.
(You don’t of course need to stick any particular time and can mix and match as much to your heart’s content but if you keen to keep your rolling stock authentic to a point in history you’ll want to buy just trains that were in operation at that time)
The 9 eras are:
- Era 1: 1804 – 1875 Pioneering
- Era 2: 1875 – 1922 Pre-grouping
- Era 3: 1923 – 1947 The big four – LMS, GWR, LNER and SR
- Era 4: 1948 – 1956 British Railways Early Emblem
- Era 5: 1957 – 1966 British Railways Late Crest
- Era 6: 1967 – 1971 British Railways Blue Pre-TOPS*
- Era 7: 1971 – 1982 British Railways Blue TOPS*
- Era 8: 1982 – 1994 British Railways Sectorisation
- Era 9: 1995 onwards – Post Privatisation
When buying locos look for the era classification on the packaging or description (many websites allow you to search and sort trains by era) to be sure that each train is appropriate for your layout.
So my late 19th Century themed layout should run era 2 trains and the beautiful Graham Farish GWR pannier engine from Bachmann above is sadly era 3 so wouldn’t be appropriate (I still love to take it out for a spin when no one is looking…). The 2-6-0 shown right and also from Bachmann would be appropriate for the time (being era 2) but isn’t GWR – ahhhh!
* I’ll cover TOPS (Total Operations Processing System) another time but for now it’s a logical system for classification for trains.Previous Model Railway Factoids: #1 The First Model Railway
#2 The world's longest indoor model railway track
#3 The Smallest Model Railway
#4 The World's largest model railway
#5 Whyte Notation
#6 Origins of Ballast
#7 Everything You Could Want To Know About Sleepers
#8 The Biggest Model Railway Mountain #9 The Man Who Built 600 Model Trains
#10 Model Railway Eras - A Question Of Time
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.