As a child I was given a Triang TT train set and ever since then I had various attempts at 3mm scale modelling. After travelling to China in search of steam, I came across a cheap Bachmann QJ in the US and this set the seed. Seven years ago, following the sale of a piece of railwayana which had been cluttering up the garage, I funded the basic components for Ni-Hao. Things, as they say, “grew like topsy”!
Ni-Hao is a Chinese model railway inspired by a visit to China in 2005 to see the sunset of Chinese steam. In the event, steam lingers (just) into 2021, but the classic provincial railway has now disappeared.
The decline of steam on the national railways (CNR) coincided with a transfer of many provincial operations to regional government. Locos and stock were cascaded down from CNR and these lines continued business as usual. In fact, some regions were still building new lines – such as the Ji -Tong line which ran for hundreds of miles across Inner Mongolia and was totally steam worked from day 1.
Elsewhere, industry kept the steam flag flying including the vast opencast pits of Jalainur and Sandaoling. In fact, the latter is still going strong and, currently remains the “steamiest” place on earth!
While the primary inspiration is the Nanpiao railway in NE China, the setting is purely imaginary and aims to provide a flavour of a latter-day Chinese provincial line running with hand-me-down stock. In the custom of naming Chinese railways the NiHao line runs from Nihai to Haodu and the layout represents the former where traffic is interchanged between CNR and the local railway.
This allows a good range of stock to be observed with modern diesels and air-conditioned coaches giving way to older diesels, steam locos and the YZ22 coach—equivalent to BR’s ubiquitous steam-heated Mark 1s.
The branch to Haodu has a variety of industry along its length and hosts a regular passenger service.
Scattered around the layout are a number of vignettes of Chinese life— all based on observation—such as a pig on a bike and open-air pool tables. However, there are also a few compromises where the “real” Chinese article has not been available!
Due to limited space, the layout started as a “portable” 12 foot terminus with fiddle yard which represented Nihai station. It was then supplemented by a running layout in the garage where the stock could be exercised more readily. After a couple of exhibitions, it became apparent that Nihao was not very portable so a new, smaller exhibition layout, built to classic American lines, was built to represent the yard at Haodu.
This allowed the other 2 layouts to be integrated.