009 scale model railways – everything you need to know

Evaleight Light Railway 009No, 009 is not the successor to James Bond but the modelling of narrow gauge railways. Here’s what you need if you’re thinking of starting 

For most railway modellers, OO, HO gauge and N gauge offer everything they could want with locomotives and rolling stock to cater for just about every taste. From modern intercity and suburban EMU’s trains to the ever popular steam era with the giants such the Flying Scotsman and Mallard to the smaller but more charming tank engines, there are models to match.

Notice I say most modellers, however.

There is one sort of railway that OO, HO and N gauge don’t cater to.

I am, of course, talking about narrow gauge railways.

What are narrow gauge railways?

These were diminutive railways that operated in mountainous regions or the confined spaces of industrial areas where it would have been too expensive to build bigger ‘standard’ gauge railways. Occasionally, they could also be found in small rural communities where low passengers numbers again didn’t justify a “proper” railway.

Instead, railway builders opted for railways with a narrow track and smaller locomotives that didn’t cost so much.

And these little railways are a delight to model.

The engines were often unique, there’s something charming about little locomotives trundling around on even smaller track, and the settings they operated in was invariably picturesque. They were particularly common in North Wales, Ffestiniog, Welsh Highland, Llanfair being the some of the of better known, but could be found tucked away across the UK.

What is 009

Unlike EM gauge which I’ve mentioned before, 009 isn’t a more accurate representation of Standard gauge but a scaled down version of narrow gauge railways.

The track is actually N gauge is width — 9mm between the rails — while the locomotives are roughly OO scale (4mm to the ft). So locos, buildings, the scenery are to 4 mm scale with the track at 9 mm (0.354 in) and when combined are given the name 009 in the UK, sometimes 00-9. (In mainland Europe, narrow gauge railways are similarly created using 9mm track gauge but with HO scale trains where it’s called HOe. In the US, it’s  HOn30 or HOn2 12.

These combinations of narrow track gauge and larger scale produce a good representation of narrow gauge railway sizing.

The ideal combination

So that’s what 009 is, but what I haven’t mentioned is that 009 is an ideal layout for model railways.

Through using 9mm gauge track with 4mm (OO scale) models means you can pack a lot of track into a small space that wouldn’t otherwise be possible yet the models are larger than N gauge.

It’s also a nice way of exploring more intricate aspects of model making. If you’ve built model railways in N, OO and HO using off-the-shelf track and trains and want to do something more creative and learn along the way; making rolling stock with the kits available isn’t too difficult but very rewarding.

You can also incorporate 009 into an existing OO, EM or HO layout, having a small narrow gauge railway servicing an industrial area to add variation. If you’re feeling up to it, Tillig also do a range of dual HO/009 gauge track for narrow gauge and standard gauge can cross over and run along the same sections of track.

What products are available for 009

Although there isn’t the huge range of track and trains available for 009 as there are for its big brothers OO and N gauge, there’s more than enough to keep most modellers content.

What track is available in 009?

It is possible to use standard N gauge track, from Peco etc, to create an 009 layout however while the track width is correct the sleeper size and spacing isn’t right. It will work but won’t look great.

For this reason, Peco also produces 009 specific track.

This is the same gauge as N (9mm) but with more authentic sleepers that have wider spacing and larger sleepers, especially in the case of Peco SL-400 which has a worn and battered look compared to more “maintained” SL-404 track.

>Improve standard N gauge track now by adjusting the position of the sleepers.

What ready-to-run 009 trains are available

Of course, using N gauge track with 4mm scale models means OO gauge rolling stock won’t work or look like right on 009 and N gauge stock looks too small.

Luckily, there’s a growing range of locomotives, wagons and passenger coaches available. Fourdees and Heljan produce a number of 009 locomotives and Bachmann Europe have a wide range of beautifully detailed locomotives, passenger coaches and wagons available.

Peco meanwhile makes a range of wagons and coaches and many of the loco kit sellers below also sell wagon kits.

model railway HOe 009 locomotive

An HOe locomotive running on Peco 009 track.

Update: HOe rolling stock has the same gauge and and a close scale to 009 and work without problem.

While the they are slightly smaller than they should be they are closely enough for many of us.

Roco and Minitrains both doing reasonable range of locomotives, wagons and passenger cars.

DIY 009 trains

What makes 009 appealing to many modellers is making their own rolling stock.

This sounds harder than it is. The body is assembled from kits and into which prebuilt chassis units, with motors, from Kato and others can be fitted (with minor modification). Personally, if you’re just starting I’d avoid the metal kits and stick plastic style kits (Narrow Planet, CW Railways etc).

009 Kits are available from:

I also recommend joining the 009 society for its regular newsletter.

For a good introduction to narrow gauge modelling, I used Modelling Narrow Gauge Railways in Small Scales by Chris Ford and I blame him and this book for my current addition to them! 🙂

009 Scale figures, structures and scenery

Of course, track and trains are just part of a model railway. It’s the houses, track side detailing, other buildings, trees and people that make a model railway. And being 4mm scale, you won’t have any problem finding suitable people, buildings, scenics and non-railway vechicles for your 009 layout. Any OO (Hornby-style) model will fit perfectly and look right at home.


In summary, I find 009 has all the advantages of 4mm (OO layouts) and 9mm gauge (N) layouts while also being challenging and rewarding than both.

009 is now the scale I build most of my layouts in. How about you? Do you, or are you planning to, use 009 for a layout?


Picture, Gryndene Halt, a station on the fictitious Evaleight Light Railway, by the Sussex Downs 009 group. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence,

> 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.

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Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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