History of TT

History of TT

Postby scaro » Tue May 03, 2011 12:21 pm

Some history. I was looking into the origins of 3mm as opposed to TT. We already know the TT story but the origins of 3mm are more murky.

From what I can work out, it looks like 3mm and 1/10”/ft (1:120) have been tied up together since the start. There was co-operation from day one, by the looks of it, with the unifying factors having been a small three-pole motor developed in the UK and 12mm gauge track made in the US, but for a British market which never really took off.

It looks like 3mm started first, around 1937-38, with track and wheels being made and promoted by a Stewart Reidpath, of Herne Bay in Kent, who was one of the pioneers of OO scale here The idea of British 3mm was that it would use 12mm track, despite the gauge disparity; as with OO and all other British scales, there was virtually no other way of having running gear that would work with the small loco shells, and still navigate train set curves.

Reidpath worked with Mantua to develop a tiny three-pole motor for 3mm that was passed to HP Products (though HP used Pittman motors later.) Some 12mm track, interestingly, was made by Mantua and was fibre based, very little was sold but it was available from 1937-38 in the UK.

Activity was presumably stopped or severely curtailed shortly thereafter by the efforts of one Mr A Hitler of Germany.

In 1945-46 a London model shop called Hamblings (which had owned the largest model railway factory in the world prior to the War- it was requisitioned and used to make refrigerators) started to source some production from Stewart Reidpath’s plant, and to sell parts from Reidpath’s business, ‘Essar’- or ‘S-R’ (for Southern Railway, most likely).

Reidpath also provided catalogues of his more esoteric bits and pieces. The Essar/S-R parts and some other 3mm bits and pieces done by Hamblings were referred to as "3mm to the foot, 12mm gauge" products, with the qualification that they were ‘Table Top railway gauge’, which was, by that point, a copyright name of HP Products and should have referred to the smaller 1:120 scale.

So they were using the TT name incorrectly, but perhaps one can understand it as they were saying that their products were for the 12mm ‘Table Top railway gauge’ rather than the scale. For what it’s worth, I understand this made Hal Joyce rather angry!

It is doubtful many items were sold. Because of rationing, it was illegal to sell ‘toys’ in the UK at the time. Hamblings only continued small scale manufacturing in cooperation with Reidpath, and running their shop in Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross Road and about half a mile from where I work. This state of affairs continued until 1949. Whatever 3mm items were sold were sold as ‘parts’. I am not sure if there was any direct link between this early 3mm and Triang's later TT-3. However, in the early 50s, Reidpath was involved with Rovex, and this may have been the genesis of the Triang TT-3 range; Rovex did motors for Triang.

I am indebted to a poster called ‘bertiedog’ or Stephen, on the RMWeb forum for this information.

The other interesting thing is that often N gauge is blamed for the demise of TT, but this was not so in the UK. In the main, it seems to have been an 'own goal' by Triang themselves. Triang manufactured and promoted OO initially then added TT-3, with the idea that TT-3 would be a ‘niche’ scale. Unfortunately people liked it more than OO, and it started affecting OO sales, so Triang started to downplay it in favour of OO where they had the majority of their investment in dies etc. The other factor was that when competing with Hornby, TT-3 was an advantage for Triang as they had the market all to themselves. Once they’d bought Hornby in 1964, they had the mass-market OO toy train market sewn up too, and there seemed (to them) no sense in promoting two scales when they were the only major player.

Triang's scuttling of their TT-3 range probably provided the impetus for Minitrix N to get a foothold in the UK; people didn’t like being told what scale they had to use. Had Triang stuck with TT-3, which was after all gaining popularity in relation to OO, N may not have taken hold in the UK.

I hope some of this is interesting.

Last edited by scaro on Wed May 04, 2011 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: History of TT

Postby richardedmonds » Tue May 03, 2011 2:46 pm

Very interesting Ben, and that fills in a lot of holes regarding certain things I knew about the motors etc etc etc. The original Triang factory was in Thanet Kent close to Herne bay so all that is very likely to be true.
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Re: History of TT

Postby ConducTTor » Tue May 03, 2011 3:04 pm

Interesting indeed!
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Re: History of TT

Postby Robert22 » Wed May 04, 2011 3:16 am

This was very interesting! Thanks for sharing.
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Re: History of TT

Postby dileTTante » Fri May 06, 2011 5:22 am

scaro wrote:started to source some production from Stewart Reidpath’s plant, and to sell parts from Reidpath’s business, ‘Essar’- or ‘S-R’ (for Southern Railway, most likely).

My guess is S-R is more likely Stewart Reidpath's initials. Thanks very much for the information.
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Re: History of TT

Postby scaro » Fri May 06, 2011 8:11 am

quite possibly so. or it may have been a bit of both. herne bay at the time being in the heart of SR territory.

there are quite a few TT3 models of former SR or BR southern region prototypes.

http://www.3mmsociety.org.uk/MemberLayo ... llHalt.htm

i was speaking with the 3mm society membership officer last weekend and they only have about 3 members in wales and scotland each, so 3mm seems to be a very english scale.

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