London Model Tramways

4mm scale model trams

The model tramways of John Howe



- A London Tramways exhibition layout in 1/76 scale OO gauge 

Click HERE for details


Home based shelf layout click HERE for further details


Previous layouts from John Howe

The previous layouts Kingsway Subway and Dog Kennel Hill were exhibited until 2010

In 2004 I built the first part of the Kingsway Subway tram layout, which depicts  the unique tram subway that was operational from 1906 to 1952.The layout is in 4mm scale 'OO' gauge. The prototype still exists, albeit disused underneath Kingsway in central London. The original layout was soon extended to include a section of the Victoria Embankment with it's reserved track alongside the Thames passing Cleopatra's Needle.The layout was exhibited at a number of shows in the south of England until 2010. 

In 2008 I built a second layout, this time depicting Dog Kennel Hill, in Dulwich, south London, which had a unique four track layout designed to reduce the likelihood of collisions on the steep (1 in 10) hill. This layout has hopefully benefitted from the lessons learnt from Kingsway. It too was exhibited at a  number of exhibitions until 2010.

London conduit

Both of the layouts are built to 4mm scale although the distances have been reduced to a manageable size. The aim for each layout has been to achieve a 'flavour' of the real location as it was in tram days. I wasn't born until 1958 and so the only London Trams I have seen have been in museums and black and white photographs. In fact I often think that they look 'wrong' in colour! Thankfully it seems that at least for some of the viewers of these layouts, they do seem to look the part. Unusually in London, much of the tramway system used the conduit method of power transmission instead of the more common overhead wire. After the war most of the remaining system was on the conduit. This has the advantage of being more straightforward to model with the trams on the layout being powered in the conventional two rail fashion. 

Both of the layouts show sections of London's tramways that used the conduit system. After the war the majority of the remaining network was on the conduit. This had been forced upon the LCC when the tramways were electrified, in order to avoid the unsightly overhead wires that would otherwise be required. 

A slot less than an inch wide with two slot rails could be seen centrally between the track rails and below this in the conduit were two T-rails energised at 600v DC. The diagram below shows the plough and conduit as it would be in position below the tram. Two electrodes passed up the thin body of the plough taking the power to the tram.

Further out from the centre of London the cheaper overhead wire system was used. At the boundary point there would be a change pit where the conduit would cross one of the running rails and as the tram passed the plough would be ejected. At the same time the conductor would raise the trolley pole to make contact with the overhead wire, and the tram would continue on its way.

When returning towards London the tram would stop at the change pit where a ploughshifter equipped with a fork-like implement would position a plough between the angle irons under the centre of the tram. As the tram moved forward the conduit slot would revert to its position between the rails drawing the plough underneath, and once the trolley pole was stowed, the car continued under conduit power. 





I've attempted to show the intensity of service on these two parts of the London Transport tramways network. Both of these locations could see tramcars passing at a rate of one a minute in the peak hours. Much as I admire the beautifully detailed model trams on other layouts, my own are rather less beautiful, being workhorses that have a job to do. As you will see, to achieve this I have taken one or two liberties.


An essential part in setting the scene is the design and construction of the buildings that frame the picture. Both locations have distinctive buildings that can identify the location before any tram enters the scene. The buildings have been built with reference to the original, but with modifications where necessary, thus some of the Kingsway buildings are reduced in size by means of missing out a floor or bay of the building here and there

The Dog Kennel Hill flats are more accurately modelled, but there are not enough! If truly to scale the hill would be twice the length that it is. On Kingsway, a great part of the street of Kingsway, and the Aldwych (with the second tramway station) is missing. The buildings on Kingsway are mainly constructed from plasticard with some from card. Those on Dog Kennel Hill are from card using similar methods to those employed for producing my range of bus garage and Underground station kits available under the Kingsway name. Look at the Kingsway Models page for further details.

Otherwise go back to the top and use the menu on the left side to see further pictures and details of the layouts, or read about the history of the real places. On the video page you will find a selection of relevant videos, including one which describes the Kingsway layout in some detail, which was originally given away by Railway Modeller.