While most of the site's content is offline, here are the original Q&A session that Emrys held with Carl Arendt and an interview with Steve Bennett and Stephen Warrington of Sidelines, both from 2002.

The GnATTERbox forum is still bustling with activity, though, so please pay a visit! Prospective new members are advised to read this post before tackling the registration page (you'll struggle if you don't!).

Reproduced here are a combination of the first questions Emrys ever asked Carl Arendt about 15" gauge railways plus a few questions received via the site over the past 12 months or so. The answers given haven't been updated since 2002, though, so may not be still accurate - especially any prices quoted!

Kirklees Light Railway. Photograph © Dave Enefer
Kirklees Light Railway

Surely there weren't any real 15" gauge railways?

On the contrary. Sir Arthur Heywood pioneered this gauge at Duffield Bank, Derbyshire (UK) starting in 1874:

Starting with a line leading from the drive to the workshops near the house, this grew during the next seven years to a length of a little over a mile, including sidings, and was designed to test thoroughly the potential of the gauge. The extension from the workshops climbed for about a quarter of a mile on gradients of 1 in 10 and 1 in 12 as it rounded a severe curve and doubled back on itself to reach old quarries 80ft. higher, where there was space to lay a 'main line' with a loop at each end, part of it level, part on a gradient no worse than 1 in 20. Here there were three tunnels, two bridges, a timber trestle viaduct 19ft. long and 20ft. high, and six stations. The line was equipped with interlocking points and signals which were worked from two signal boxes linked by telephone.
-from "Narrow Gauge Railways: England and the Fifteen Inch" - Humphrey Household

The gauge became popular for both private garden and estate railways - the Duke of Westminster saved £225 per year - a significant amount in those days - compared to road cartage when Sir Arthur persuaded him to install a three mile line linking the Duke's Eaton Hall estate to the nearest station on the GWR Shrewsbury-Chester line.

Photograph © Dave Enefer

Ah yes, but that was over 100 years ago - how about today?

There are still tourist railways operating to a 15 inch gauge in the UK including the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in Cumbria and Kirklees Light Railway in West Yorkshire.

This site, however, is interested in modelling the working 15" lines - minimum gauge working trains, rather than miniaturised versions of the standard gauge.

Where did Gn15 come from? Who invented this scale?

It was generally assumed that Steve Bennett (of Sidelines) invented and named Gn15, but Steve's come clean about who really invented the scale - check out his interview with us to find the real culprit!

Where can I find out more about 15" gauge railways?

Books we recommend are:

"Fifteen Inch Gauge Railways", by Mosley and van Zeller
In my opinion this is the best overview book of the subject.
"Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway", by W.J.K. Davies
The official biog of the line, full of great photos both historical and contemporary. Originally published in 1968, reissued in 2000 as part of the 125th birthday celebration - both editions are worth having, there are substantial differences!
"Sir Arthur Heywood and the Fifteen Inch Gauge Railway", by Mark Smithers
The classic in the field. Chock full of photos, plans, information, and inspiration. He also follows Heywood''s influence on other lines like the R&ER, Eaton Hall, etc.
"Narrow Gauge Railways: England and the Fifteen Inch" by Humphrey Household

There are a number of mailing lists at Yahoo! that cover 15 inch gauge prototypes. These include Minimum Gauge and Estate Railways, Modelling Minimum Gauge, Extra Narrow Gauge Railways and/or Small Layout Design (the last for layout ideas - most Gn15 layouts are relative small affairs).If you prefer your information in print, why not subscribe to the "Modelling the Minimum Gauge" newsletter?

This is edited by Howard Martin (of Avalon Models and Chairman of the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association) and replaces Owen Ryder's "Ratty Modeller" newsletter. Published twice a year (the first issue under Howard's editorship was published in July 2002), it will cover modelling and prototype topics of any gauge between 10" and about 21", rather than sticking strictly to the Heywood 15" definition and costs just £1 per issue. You can order your copy or subscription from Pepper7.com.

Where can I get these book?

There are at least three "networked" online out-of-print booksellers, each of whom represents hundreds of bookshops worldwide and lists just about everything you can imagine! I've used them all and found all three to be honest and reliable.

They all do worldwide mail order. Sometimes only one has what you want, sometimes two or even all three ... at a variety of prices, so it pays to check thoroughly before you order!

For Plateway Press Books (e.g., Smithers), you might also try the delightful Transport Diversions Emporium (U.K.) at TransportDiversions.com.

To mark the launch of Gn15.info in 2002, we held an e-interview (a series of emailed questions and answers) with Steve Bennett and Stephen Warrington of Sidelines.

Emrys sits down to take notes
Emrys sits down to take notes

Emrys: Hi, Steve and Stephen. Welcome to Gn15.info. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself and your modelling?

Steve Bennett: Well, my entry into railway modelling all started with an innocent day out to Pecorama - which is an exhibition hall and minature railway attached to the Peco (the track people)'s factory - back in 1991. I was really taken by the idea of a layout at home and came away clutching a Hornby trainset. A very brief dabble in 00 scale came to a very abrupt end about six months later when a holiday in North Wales introduced me to narrow gauge railways.

Stephen Warrington: I have been an avid-G scaler for many years and basically started my business "Back 2 Bay 6" as I was fed up of seeing the same boxes on different dealer's stands making a show visit just a bargain hunt. I decided to produce and buy-in G scale scenic items and have something different to sell. I had toyed with the idea of Gn15 sometime ago, but didn''t pursue it until I saw Steve Bennett's castings in 0-9. Until I met Steve Bennett I didn't realise that 15" gauge railways had such a following. My Rio Grande Southern library has been greatly augmented by miniature railway books!

Steve, I can tell from the Pepper7 site that you're behind the Black Dog Mining Company (1:43 scale, On30) and are involved in the Avalon Line (1:43 scale, On30) range, so is the "Sidelines" range a relatively new departure for you?

Yes it is. The Sidelines range has been going now for about 18 months. I''m predominently an 0 scale modeller. The Black Dog Mining Company is my own business for which I do all the design and manufacturing. In addition to this I also do design work and manufacture cast resin parts for several other ranges, of which the Avalon Line and Sidelines are probably the best known. Anyone looking at the kits from these ranges will be able to see a close family resemblence.

What led you to produce your first Gn15 kits?

Well here I have to come clean and state publicly that Gn15 was not my idea. Credit for this must go to Steve Warrington, my partner in Sidelines. Steve is a retailer in garden railway equipment and trades under the name "Back2Bay6". It just so happens that we were both at the same exhibition one weekend and he was really taken with the charm of the small 0 scale layouts and stock that I had on display. After numerous visits to my stand during the day, he went back to his hotel that night and put his thinking cap on. The following day he approached me with a big grin on his face and asked if I would be prepared to scale up some of my O scale products to G scale and to run on 16.5mm gauge track thus depicting the same 15 inch gauge equipment I was producing in 0 scale. From that chance encounter the Sidelines range was born.

As Steve says I went back to my hotel, pulled out a piece of paper and began calculating and doodling in ernest. The next day I put the idea to him and he was very keen to give it a go. Within a month a parcel arrived at my door containing a loco (Gnat) and some wagon kits so - thanks to SB - Gn15 became a reality.

What sort of reaction do you get at shows or from modellers?

The best example comes from a recent email from Gn15.info's Carl Arendt - Carl wrote to say "increasingly I'm getting e-mail that says, "My wife really thinks Gn15 is cute, so I'm gonna get some more of it" or words to that effect". Well, I get exactly the same reaction at shows, the wives/girlfriends/daughters love the Gn15. I have had several wives ask their partners for a Gn15 garden line for their dolls' houses and had many instances of them trying to talk the husbands out of buying a live steam loco and to buy Gn15 instead, (though whether this is due to the monetary difference as well I don't know <grin>. Now you have got me thinking, that's what fired Steve (Warrington)'s imagination - seeing a crowd of the fairer sex around a model railway. Of course, why didn't I figure that one out before ...

If Gn15 brings in the ladies that can't be a bad thing. Think of it as a positive and unexpected side effect!!!!!!! We may have created a monster, but it is a friendly one, which is still growing <grin> A special mention of Carl's "Square Foot Estate Railway" (see the layouts page - EH) is due as the first known Gn15 layout.

At the time of writing the Sidelines range has a couple of locos and nine different wagons. Are you working on any new items that you can tell us about?

Now that one I can answer as we have just introduced two new items on the rolling stock side. First off is a very small two seat open coach based on Sir Arthur Heywood's very first passenger vehicle. This is tiny, the overall dimensions were 4' long by 2' wide. We have cheated a little here and made it slightly wider in order to accomodate two G scale figures. The other is a freelance timber bolster very loosely based on a Heywood design. Looking to the future the list is endless and is continually being added to. At the moment it looks like the next item will be a small railbus/inspection car followed by a small Boxvan. We are always open to suggestions, though, and if we get inspired and time permits for development, this could all change.

Now, there are many items we would like to produce, it is just finding the time. Steve has done a stirling job and got me well and truly hooked. Our new loco kit, a model of Heywood's "Effie", will be available soon. This a move away from resin and will be in brass and whitemetal. It also gives Steve time to earn a living. A Heywood 6' x 3' Tops wagon is also well under way, again with a whitemetal chassis. This range of prototype models is being christened "Sidelines Classics". Research on another loco has already started for release next year. All I will say at present that it will be another steam engine.

Finally, do you have a Gn15 layout at home?

So far since the introduction of Sidelines I have not had the time to start on a home layout in Gn15, but I do have a small demonstration layout which I take around to shows and exhibitions. This is a mighty 36 by 18 inches in size and consists of a simple loop with a siding off it. This was built very much in a hurry over a ten day period in order to get it ready in time for an exhibition.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions - and don't forget to let us know about further additions to the range!

Questions posed by Emrys Hopkins, between 10th and 12th June 2002