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NZ120: A Bizarre Scale Not Just for Kiwis

February 26, 2010

Photo from NZ120org
(Photo from

NZ:120 or New Zealand 42″ (3foot 6″ gauge) Narrow Gauge Modeling in TT scale (1:120) was brought to my attention by a prospective client this last week, and it thrust me into a facet of our modeling world I hadn’t the faintest Idea even existed.

The Request was innocent enough “Hi, I’m from the Netherlands and I’m interested in having you build me a model of a General Electric DX Class (think Narrow Gauge GE U23C) locomotive for New Zealand N Scale.” I immediately thought, “Wait! It’s not just 3 foot gauge, it’s meter gauge, so Nn3 would be out (thankfully) so what then. A couple minutes of pondering and I had the idea, well, what about TT scale and N gauge track, surely someone has done it”…and was I in for a shock.

Not only was there a following for such a uniquely brilliant scale, they are an incredibly industrious and devoted group of people. They easily rival American Traction and Narrow Gauge modelers in their fervency to have obscure prototypes recreated in their respective scales. This combination of fervency and motivated industriousness has produced not just one, but an entire group of very productive manufacturers producing a really impressive variety of NZ:120 equipment, all designed to fit US prototype N scale chassis and work with micro-trains couplers.

The most fascinating part of these manufacturers is because they’re all smaller specialized modeling companies they mainly have their kits lasercut from cardstock, wood or plastic. The locomotive and rolling stock kits are either cast resin or etched brass. Since this is a modeling scale that seems to have gained most of its popularity after the rise of Computer Aided Design, a lot of these kits are precise and elegant.

Plus, what better subject for modeling than an island nation with ridiculously diverse and spectacular scenery, most of it not far from the ocean, a unique architectural style and atop all that, modern narrow gauge?

If you want to peruse the selection of interesting NZ:120 resources, I highly suggest you check out “Motorized Dandruff” the main blog concerning the NZ:120 movement which also happens be informative and pretty witty to boot. Of Course, don’t forget to check out NZ:120 dot org. Of course, there’s a Yahoo! Group dedicated to NZ modeling. Also check out AutomatioNZ and the main manufacturer, Trackgang Products. Of Course, you might not want to forget NZ Railway Model Journal.

Interestingly, another facet of New Zealand modeling is to model in Sn42 with is 1:64 scale running on HO track which also accurately models meter gauge, which would definitely be another interesting scale to consider.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. B Small permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:18 am

    I came across these scale combos when I was considering modeling the Newfoundland Railway which was also 42 inch gauge. These scales are also used in Southern Africa for the same reasons. Interesting stuff.

    Slight correction to your article though. 42 inch gauge and meter gauge are two different animals. Meter gauge works out to a little over 39 inches and was used extensively in Europe Asia and Africa.

    • February 26, 2010 8:23 am

      Yeah, it’s so neat how adaptable modelers are, building entire modeling worlds alround something as simple as available track. I was thinking about the New Foundland Railway as I was typing the original article, and I think that would be an incredible model railroad for either NZ:120 or Sn42. So much neat equipment in that operation as well.

  2. Tate Pumfrey permalink
    June 6, 2011 3:22 pm

    Thanks for Info on 42″ scales, I am planning on doing 42″ gauge modeliong, as it was the most popular narrow gauge in eastern Canada, where my railway is set. I have a hard time with HO, and anything smaller, and would like a bigger scale, what about Sn42 and On42? What can you tell me about them? Could you make a post, like this one, and could you email me when you have posted it? Thanks, your site is the best!

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