BRITISH N0.2 GAUGE
British No.2 gauge has always been 2 inches (that’s a sensible 2 inches for gauge 2) or 50.8 mm in gauge, typically at a scale of around 1:27 (7/16″ to 1′). Earliest models in this gauge date to the end of the 19th century.
CONTINENTAL NO.2 GAUGE
Continental European gauge 2 was originally 64mm (2.5 inches) and was then standardised to 2 inches in 1909. However, several German makers of gauge 2 models took a slight liberty with this standardised gauge width and locomotives are often marked as II / 54 – meaning gauge 2 but running on 54mm gauge track – which is actually 2 1/8 inches wide. In fact, that width is the same Standard or Wide gauge used by Lionel and others in the US, and was primarily an attempt by German manufacturers to attract US enthusiasts, and capitalize on the huge domestic US market, and to confuse simple collectors like me. And, as you may have guessed, US Standard gauge scale is around 1:27, the very same as British No.2 gauge.
Further, because no manufacturer wants to lose out on any potential market, many continental European manufacturers also made models specifically for distribution by resellers like Bassett-Lowke and Gamages in the UK, and so attribution of some models includes both the maker and designer/commissioner/seller (for example, BING & BASSETT-LOWKE). Those were made to the British 2-inch/50.8mm No.2 gauge and not the European 2 1/8-inch/54mm No.2 gauge, what we should probably call CON2.
In all forms, though, the gauge was short-lived.
Its substantial size gave it a most inconvenient indoor space requirement (a line of five coaches and a locomotive would be around twelve feet in length) which Gauge 3, used typically outdoors, avoided. It also fell between the two fast-developing gauges; the US Standard or Wide gauge (that 2 1/8″ gauge that the German manufacturers tried to appeal to) and the European Gauge 1 (at about 1 3/4 inches and 1/32 scale, a more suitable indoor size), and was squeezed out of the market. The relative high cost of these large No.2 gauge models combined with these barriers to acceptance led the gauge to its quick demise around 1915, after only fifteen commercial years, and us to a scarcity of models.
TYPES OF NO.2 GAUGE
Several types of 2″ gauge stock were produced. There are the earliest mainly-brass models by British builders like Model Dockyard, Steven’s Model Dockyard, and the Clyde Model Dockyard; the early crudely-scaled US models of makers like Carlisle & Finch, Howard, Voltamp, Boucher, Elektoy, and Beggs; the classic hand-painted and lithographed tinplate models made famous (and now highly-prized) by German manufacturers such as Marklin, Carette, Bing, and Schoener; and the more prototypical, to-scale efforts of builders like Bassett-Lowke and WH Jubb, as well as (possibly) Mills, Carson, Leeds, and Bonds O’Euston. For the history of many of these go to TCAWestern and peruse their excellent manufacture index.
This site is primarily concerned with that last group – British No.2 gauge scale models.