NZR in OO - building NZR on a budget

This site is intentionally simple, nothing flashy, with the emphasis on information, not looks.

It is a record of my many attempts, failures, and successes at scratch-building model railway wagons and bashing other models into NZR shape, in the hope that I can share lessons learnt and generally promote and foster the building of NZR prototype rolling stock and locomotives.

-o- Rivet-counter-free zone -o-

Scratch-built (and wanna-do) projects

E works wagons   H-4 Cattle wagon   J-5 Sheep wagon   Kc-1 Box wagon

Kp-1 Box wagon    La-8 Open wagon    Lc-2, Lc-3 open wagons   Mc-2 Low-sider   Nc Flat-deck
Rb Bogie open wagon   S Bogie sheep wagon   T-4 Bogie cattle wagon
Ub Bogie flat wagon   Uc Bogie tanker wagons    Ur Bogie flat wagon   Urc Bogie bulk cement wagon
Vb, Vr, Vs Bogie insulated box wagons  W-(various) Insulated box wagons   Xa, Xc, Xp Ventilated wagons
Yc-1 Ballast wagon   Z-13, Z-14 Bogie box wagons
30ft Guards van   47ft 6" Wooden coach    47ft 6" Guards van

Bash/conversion (and wanna-do) projects

Dx Phase I from a Frateschi U20C     Da from a Frateschi G-12
Ds from a Dapol Drewry 06   L Open wagon from a Dapol 5-plank unpainted body
M Open wagon low side from a Dapol 5-plank unpainted body
Ob from a Frateschi Baldwin 2-8-0   Standard Railcar from something
U-2 bogie flat wagon from a Frateschi flat car "kit"

Uc-what? Bogie tanker wagon from an old Tri-ang look-alike
Ud-1 Bogie well wagon from an old Tri-ang look-alike
Wab from a Triang Baltic

Yd side tipper from Walthers kits or RTR

Make your own chassis - 4-wheel or bogie

Time for a layout!
Gracefield goods transfer shed and its yard office
Woburn station

Information, links, and other references

and other reference material

Materials  Tools   Finishing - detailing - paint - decals
   Techniques in general
Making corrugated material


Favouritest links


Last updated : 24th March 2022 -

ANOTHER diversion - Wab loco from a Triang Baltic

Last updated : 4th September 2021 -

Prep work for building Woburn station

Last updated : 2nd September 2021 -

Making corrugated material for the Goods transfer shed

Last updated : 28th August 2021 -

And even more work on the Goods transfer shed

Last updated : 2nd August 2021 -

More work on the Goods transfer shed

 Last updated : 11th July 2021 -

 Apologies for any stale external links. Will fix eventually

Last updated : 11th July 2021 -

. . . . finally back - New layout plans
  . . . . finally back working on the Goods transfer shed

Last updated : 20th December 2019 -

It's been a long time! More coming in 2020. . . maybe



In the very beginning, a young lad's first steps -
Triang track and rolling stock, with scratch-built station, platform, and signal box.  OO on the lawn in 1968.



This was followed by many many years of building and bashing model aircraft kitsets.


Then I returned to model railways with a hankering to do NZR, and as we all seem to do, set in the years of one's growing up. For me it's the 1960's, but then was put off by the cost of readily available kitsets and in some cases (no offense intended to anyone!) not that fussed by what I saw considering the cost. So what to do?

A few years ago I remember seeing the Frateshci NZR look-alikes at reasonable prices. Their locos turned out to be more OO scale (slightly larger) than HO, and the "Da" a reasonable model of the NZR prototype.

The "Dx" is reasonable too except for the too-large schnoz, but the "DC" looks more like a way-too-short DF.

All look kit-bash-able though, and bodies are available separately - and relatively cheap too.

Maybe they're not the best mechs but they do run very nicely indeed. This came later, but check out this video on YouTube of all my stock at the time, running around the deck hauled by a lone Frateschi Da! And many of those wagons were very poor runners. So yeah, tonnes of grunt.



Frateschi GM-12 (posing as an NZGR Da) almost straight out of the box


So the purchase of one Frateschi "Da" in classic red is what kicked me off into doing NZR in OO (4mm to the foot) scale.

So far all I've done to the Da is fit the not-so-good, supplied handrails, and swapped the couplers to body-mounted Kadees for test running rolling stock and to see how the general NZR "look" was progressing.

One day I'll attack it with some weathering, and a few details e.g. proper (black for my era) wire handrails and a better looking, more complete headstock with separated paraphanalia and colour (plain for my era). And fix the "receeded hairline" white roof too - that should be light grey.

And the body is in not quite the right proportions - a bit of research required.

From studying photos the hood ends are the earlier style Phase I (note the headlight mountings) while the bogies are later so maybe that gets addressed too - don't know yet. Is that counting rivets?

What to do about rolling stock then? I do want to capture the proper look of NZR, not just tart up American or British models.

The Frateschi locos' intended matching NZR look-alike bogie rolling stock just didn't do it for me either.

For a start NZR rolling stock is quite low-slung compared to other countries. British and American models look like they're on high horses in comparison. Plus I want four-wheelers too.

The only thing left to do was build my own.


Quite pleased so far


Sticking to OO scale, I wanted to keep things simple and relatively easy, so am staying with the HO 16.5mm track gauge so there's no mucking about with sourcing narrower (14mm to be totally accurate in this scale) track and mechs and wheels. Hey 16.5mm scales out as 4ft 1.5ins. so not too wide. It's not like it's really 4ft 8.5ins as it is in HO scale !

HO gauge track and points are readily available and mostly cheap. And I like the compromise between amount of detail you can do in OO scale, and layout size.


Speaking of scale. . .
OO scale, at 4mm to the foot and used mainly by British modellers, sits nicely in between American and European HO scale at 3.5mm to the foot, and American S scale at 4.76mm to the foot.

In old-school fractions, OO scale is 1/76th, HO is 1/87th and S scale 1/64th.

Many NZR modellers use the larger S scale, so they can use standard HO track that is correct for their narrower 3ft 6 inch gauge.

The OO scale British modellers generally use HO track, which is too narrow for them by about the same amount it is too wide for NZR in that scale!


So for those who are happy with their look-alike Frateschi diesel locos in various NZR colours, running around on HO gauge track, you can make them even more convincing by having them haul your own scratch-built, or bashed, genuine-outline, NZR rolling stock.

At first it sounds daunting, but we're not entering finescale modelling competitions here! We want models to be relatively easy and cheap to produce, to very well capture the NZR look, and to be robust enough to take the knocks of running on a layout.

Most of you may find it easier than you first thought. Especially with the availability of plastic sheet and ready-cut plastic and brass strips of all shapes and sizes, and specialist detail parts.

And for that little extra help, laser cutting and rapid prototyping / 3D-printing are becoming more and more availabe to everyday peoples at reasonable costs.

If you've never done it before, pick an easy subject first. For example, I chose the La class steel open wagon. Two ends, two sides, and a bottom - a box with no lid and a bit of detailing.

What would you choose if you were modelling a more modern era? Using the "Ozzie" chassis building method, you could easily and cheaply build bazillions of those container flats. It's all easier than you think! Give it a go!


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