I’ve fallen hard

for the TT model train scale, that is.

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I had given up on HO scale, because of the space requirement for running prototypically long trains. My attic just was not large enough. Running an HO scale ICE 4 just looked ridiculous. N scale seemed to be the answer. However I quickly realized that I neither had the patience, nor the dexterity to deal with something this minute. It was no fun. And once a hobby ceases to be enjoyable, why bother?

As I was packing up some of my N scale items for sale, I found a starter set of the Berliner TT Bahnen company in one of the attic corners. It consisted of an East German type steam locomotive and four two axle freight cars, with a small track oval. The set must be at least forty years old. I vaguely remember buying it in New Hampshire, while on vacation, sometime around 1995. It sat quite forlornly in a corner of some hobby shop up there. Apparently nobody was interested in this kind of thing and the shop owner just basically gave it to us.

The Berliner TT Bahnen Starter Set Locomotive. Model train technology from 40 years ago.

The whole set came in a very interesting carton in the shape of a big T. I suppose for TT! I can kick myself for not keeping that box.

In any event, I started to set up the track oval and it slowly began to dawn on me that this might just be the model train size I am looking for.

Model Train Scale Comparison

TT scale seemed small enough to really work in my attic, but large enough to have HO scale quality type detail. So I spent some time researching all this. Sure enough, like always, a couple problems cropped up.

Even though TT scale was invented here in the US, it never took off. But it sure did in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. I surmise that there was plenty of room in the huge suburban US homes to run a proper HO layout, hence no need for a smaller scale. Most Europeans live in smaller homes and apartments, so no surprise that TT took a hold there. Consequently it is also no surprise that there are virtually no TT scale trains modeled after US prototypes. This is not really a problem for me, since, even with my HO stuff, I tended to model European trains, with the occasional exception:

Norwegian State Railways Class 17 used on the Flamsbana

And I just could not pass up purchasing one of these while visiting Beijing:

Chinese Railways Class DJ Electric Locomotive

The problem is getting any kind of TT scale rolling stock and equipment at all here in the US. There are a handful of model train shops which list TT scale equipment for sale. However, even though items are listed for sale on their respective websites, they are rarely in stock and must be ordered.  Reynauld’s in Illinois is one of them. I have been dealing with them for many years during my HO and G scale phase. They are reasonably priced. However their website will not tell you if an item is actually in stock until one has clicked on the “purchase” button. Then the confirmation email will tell you that the item is out of stock.  On top of that one has no clue on when said item will eventually arrive. This drives me nuts and I wish they would change that.  Euro Rail Hobby does a bit better in that regard. They will show you wether or not an item is actually in stock:

 

The big TT model train scale producer is Tillig Modellbahnen out of Germany. PIKO has also gotten into the TT act during the last few years. In a recent video, the owner of PIKO stated that TT has really taken off during the last couple of years. Let’s not forget that even Roco has now gotten TT fever.

Those three are the big boys. However there are quite a few niche players in the TT scale market. Here is a link to TT scale manufacturers: TT Scale

The most difficult part was getting TT scale track. Naturally I kept looking for TT scale track and turn outs. All those were hard to find. Eventually (sometimes it takes me a while) I figured out that TT scale track is the same width as HOm scale track: 12 mm! HOm being the 1:87 scale version of meter gauge track. Purist and assorted rivet counters will probably have a fit about me using model narrow gauge track as a stand in for model main line track. Oh, well…it’s my railroad!

I tend to use a lot of “Flex-Track”. It usually comes in 3 feet or 1 meter lengths and can be bent. Flex-track allows for a much more interesting track layout than standard track pieces. Sweeping curves are possible and large radii are easily done. The UK company Peco, as well as the German company BEMO, which specializes in narrow gauge rolling stock and track, have flex-track available. Of these two, the Peco track is much easier to work with and I would recommend it over the BEMO flex-track. The BEMO track separates easily, with the rail coming of the cross ties. Tillig also has TT scale track, but again, it is rarely in stock at model train shops and has to be ordered.

The turnouts are also Peco. I am still “throwing” them manually at this point. None of the rolling stock seems to have any issues negotiating the turnouts. What a difference from N scale!

Since it was a bit of a pain to get TT scale stuff from US based shops I tried an outfit in Germany: Modellbahnshop Lippe. They have a huge selection at reasonable prices. Making the prices even more attractive is the fact that non-European customers do not have to pay the VAT (value added tax) on their purchases. That can quickly add up, since the standard VAT rate in Germany for things like model trains is 19%. Modellbahnshop Lippe charges a flat rate for shipping to the US. If I remember correctly, it was a bit under $30. They also ship via UPS. I had my package at the front door within four days! I shudder to think what would have happened to my stuff if they had to rely on the United States Postal Service for the last leg of the delivery.

So here are the latest additions to the TT scale fleet:

Three České dráhy (Czech Railway) coaches. This is the future railway station site. Another view:

Then there is a Deutsche Bahn AG Siemens “Vectron” class 247 diesel locomotive:

The Siemens modular “Vectron” locomotive platform has been incredibly successful and reliable. Amtrak uses the “Vectron” diesel version adapted to the North American market in the form of the SC-44, as well as the electric version called ACS-64.

Amtrak’s ACS-64 electric locomotive. A derivative of the Siemens “Vectron” modular locomotive platform. This is an HO scale model.

Amtrak’s SC-44 “Charger” diesel electric locomotive. Also a derivative of the Siemens “Vectron” modular locomotive platform. This is an HO scale model.

The other TT scale locomotive new to the roster is a Deutsche Bahn AG class 245 diesel:

These are produced by Bombardier and have proven rather troublesome for the German railroad. Apparently the reliability became so bad, that Deutsche Bahn refused further deliveries of this class.

All locomotives have DCC installed. Never having had a Tillig product I was initially somewhat skeptical. No need to be: they run flawlessly and I am quite happy with them.

I finally finished laying one track all around the attic the other day. Nothing else has been done yet. A work in progress, I suppose, but it’s finally running!

 

All video and photos by Ralf Meier (iPhone 12 Plus and Sony a7c)

 

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