Model eras and trains

The wonderful era 3 Bachmann Graham Farish Class 64xx 0-6-0 Pannier Tank engine, 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
N Gauge 2-6-0 810 SECR Grey

An era 2 Graham Farish loco.

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.

Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of 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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