Modelling in Nine Mill: a summary

Philip Sharp

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Videos
  3. Comparison with other scales
  4. Technical standards
  5. Suppliers
  6. Contact information
  7. Published Articles

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1. Introduction

Nine mill, also known as NZR 9mm, is one of the three main scales used to model New Zealand prototypes. Nine mill means nine millimetres on the model represents one foot on the prototype. Since one foot is exactly 304.8 millimetres, the scale ratio is 1:33.8667 to four decimal places. Many nine mill modellers work as closely to the 1:33.8667 as is practicable and are not tempted to round 1:33.8667 to 1:34.

There are no formal clubs or a national association in New Zealand solely for nine mill modelling. Some nine mill modellers are members of local model railway clubs or the New Zealand Model Railway Guild (NZMRG), or both. The NZMRG, to quote from the About Us page on their website, '... provides a link between model railway enthusiasts with a focus on modelling the New Zealand prototype ...', and '... is a club which has always focussed on modelling the New Zealand prototype, whether the government or public railway, or the myriad of bush, coal and other private railways that have been constructed in New Zealand over the last 150 years.'

Although there are no formal organisations for nine mill modelling, there are groups of modellers. Auckland has had a group since nine mill modelling began in the 1970s. Other areas that have or have had groups are Christchurch and Waikato / BoP.

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2. Videos

A 4:32 YouTube video of a modular layout at a train show in Hamilton, New Zealand, October, 2015.

A 3:52 YouTube video of a modular layout at a train show in Te Awamutu, May 1, 2016.

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3. Comparison with other scales

Nine mill with its scale ratio of 1:33.8667 is one of the largest indoor scales used for model railways. This large scale makes the manipulation of model parts easier than most scales, and means more detail on models is possible, although adding detail will often require using smaller parts.

The number of active nine mill modellers is small in both an absolute sense and relative to the number of modellers in most other scales. Modellers who like hobbies with few participants should find nine mill to their liking. Modellers who prefer the hobbies with many members may not.

An apparently obvious disadvantage of nine mill relative to the smaller scales is that more space is needed for a layout. If you want to model a significant part of a prototypical mainline, you will need a lot of space. One well-known layout in Auckland occupies a 16m x 7m shed. Fortunately, there is very interesting nine mill modelling to be done in far smaller space such as along a shelf or around the walls of a small room. The possibilities include modelling

The above possibilities assume you are modelling prototypes with a gauge of 3'6". Some people working in nine mill model prototypes with a 2' gauge. There were hundreds of such prototypes in New Zealand. The prototypes often had short rolling stock and steep gradients, permitting tighter curves and shorter lines on the model and hence smaller layouts.

Another possibility is to model aspects of prototypes that are more difficult to model in the smaller scales. A striking example of this is a hump yard. Hump yards have been modelled in scales as small as N but the smaller the scale the more difficult it is to get some semblance of reality, particularly with the speed of the wagons as they approach their designated stopping place in the yard. A realistic model of a hump yard remains a challenge even in a large scale such as nine mill.

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4. Technical standards

There is a technical standard, know as NZR P34, for nine mill track and wheels. At least two different statements of this standard are available:

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5. Suppliers

Below is a short list of suppliers for nine mill. The usual disclaimer - the information below is provided as a service and should not be taken as an endorsement of the supplier.

NZR Model Railways

The Shapeways shop NZR Model Railways has a selection of 3D printed products.

Von Strapp Forgings Co-operative

The Von Strapp Forgings (VSF) Co-operative supplies nine mill scale kitsets & accessories. The VSF has a limited internet presence. The most recent price list, from 2011, is available here. The present prices will likely be different. The postal address for the VSF is P.O.Box 28-133, Remuera Auckland 1541, and the email address is vonstrapp@vodafone.co.nz

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6. Contact information

There is no formal contact for nine mill modelling in New Zealand.

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7. Published articles

Below is a list of some early articles that have appeared in the NZ Model Railway Journal, the main publication of the NZMRG.

Bob McCully, The 9mm Society, Dec 1970/Jan 1971, pp 204-205.
Phil Rzoska, Casting Wagon Sides, Oct 1987, pp 14-15.
Don Weston, Scratch Building a Garrett in 9mm Scale, Oct 1988, pp 6-9.

Karl Morris, A 9mm Ud Wagon, Feb 1989, pp 6-11.
Ray Funnell, 9mm - Two Foot Gauge, August 1989, p 29.
Kerry Willard, 9mm Narrow Gauge, April 1990, pp 23-25.

Peter Hodge, The Nine Mill Valley Tram, April 1992, pp 6-9.
John Harrison, Vulcan Railcar, a 9 mm Model, June 1993, pp 18-21.
Stu Brown and Nick Kaveney, 9 Mill Signal Box, Feb 1994, pp 18-19.

Terry Bradley, 30ft Plough Van in 9 Mill, April 1994, p 9.
Terry Bradley, What’s in a Scale? A look at 9 mill Modelling, April 1994, pp 14, 15 and 37.
John Whyte, Auckland 9 Mill Group’s Layout, April 1995, pp 6-10.

Notown, Oct / Nov 1996, pp 22-25. A 9mm Scale NZR Layout Based on the Scenery of the West Coast of the South Island.

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Acknowledgements

The author thanks Alan Curtis, treasurer of the NZMRG, who recommended a change in the way I linked to external webpages.

Revision history

March 5, 2017. First version uploaded.

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