5.5mm Association

The ideal narrow gauge scale

Malcolm Savage 1946 - 2018

Malcolm passed away on the 19th of March after coping with cancer for some time. It's entirely down to his efforts that we exist and that we know each other. His contribution to narrow gauge modelling cannot be overstated, not only in 5.5mm scale, but across the entire narrow gauge community. One thing that has become apparent since the announcement of his passing is the esteem and appreciation that he was held in by fellow modellers of any persuasion, and some notable names have come forward to express just how influential and inspirational he and his work was to them.

Malcolm and Carol Savage 1998

You can read all of Malcolm's published articles from the Railway Modeller and Continental Modeller magazines in the Malcolm Savage Archive.

From conversations with fellow modellers at his funeral, it appears that his early work was in 009, trying to get Lone Star mechanisms (with the infamous rubber band drive) to work, and giving up the fight to move to the original Gem kits. He described in his articles for Railway Modeller how the rubber band driven Fairlie would exhibit jack rabbit starting, and on stopping would rock back and forth due to the rubber bands behaviour. He later built his own chassis using K's mark 2 power. It was his scratchbuilding work in plasticard in 5.5mm that would be featured in his articles in RM that would ensure his standing.

Railway Modeller - October 1984

Possibly like the rest of us, I assumed that I might be the only surviving 5.5mm scale enthusiast in the early 80s. When in October 1984 Gwynant Valley appeared in RM, I was delighted, astounded and hooked. It meant I was no longer alone and that there was someone doing groundbreaking work, even down to real moss for the scenery that actually required watering! Gwynant Valley had originally been started as a terminus (the track plan is included in the original article) then developed to the format that was suitable for exhibitions. Gwynant Valley took a 'showcase' approach to presenting locos and stock, with representative rakes of FR, TR, W&L and GVT models to show what could be done in our scale.

Malcolm followed up the layout description with a series of articles on each model, and towards the end of the run there appeared a notification that he wanted to start the Association. I joined up soon after. From a slow start, things gradually developed, with the News getting off the ground by 1990. You'll see some of the early models from the 1994 AGM listed in my rmweb posting 'Fun in 5.5mm scale'.

In 1990 and in association with Roy Dock at Gem models, a limited edition re-run of 'Linda' was produced with many enhancements. In 1996, and against the advice of his accountant(!) Roy Dock sold the Gem 5.5mm masters to Malcolm, and so started the MSM range that is the lifeblood of the Association today. From there, Malcolm updated most of the range, and introduced brand new kits that we know today. He also branched out into providing material for 009, 00n3 and 7mm scale, and working with Mike Chinery produced the etched chassis and motor bogies that are so highly regarded.

Malcolm's next layout was Llugwy Valley. Gwynant Valley was sold in 1990 to an FR member and installed in Minnfordd Hostel on the FR. When I asked Malcolm when he was going to write a feature on it for RM, he stated that he didn't really enjoy writing that much, so I was offered the opportunity to write it, and the results appeared in the May 1995 issue of RM. A long phone conversation, copious notes and a wide range of pictures provided by Malcolm assisted in an enjoyable article to write.

Malcolm with Bronaber Sidings and the Association Stand

Over the years, Malcolm was a familiar figure at exhibitions with Llugwy Valley and Mike Chinery's demo layout Bronaber, usually with the 5.5mm sales stand. Quiet and unassuming, this giant of a man was an authority on all aspects of modelling, highly regarded by all, with his products being regarded as some of the best in the business. In fact Malcolm told the committee when we visited him in February that he once showed Roy Dock one of his new kits, and Roy said in effect "you're not supposed to be able to do that in whitemetal' - but of course, he could, and did!

Malcolm was always a perfectionist in modelling, and it showed in his kits and models, which speak for themselves. I'm not sure how he regarded my freelance and easy going approach, but he once cautioned Andrew Wilson in an e-mail, after I'd introduced Andrew to the delights of freelance, that 'you must try to resist Dave's corrupting influence'. So it was that I became 'chief corrupter' in 5.5mm scale. Malcolm later denied having made that statement, but I still have the e-mail to prove it! That said, he wasn't above providing an 00 Thomas body on a Triang TT chassis for Llugwy Valley to entertain the younger punters at shows, so he wasn't always as serious as he might make out...

Outside of the hobby, Malcolm worked in the Veterinary Pathology department at Liverpool University, and had interests including narrow boating, vintage clock repairs and a reputation amongst his family as someone who could literally fix anything. Malcolm was always friendly and knowledgeable, and I'm proud and grateful to have known him. I like to think that he's now at the great model railway exhibition in the sky, conversing with George Mellor and Roy Dock, who would be surprised and delighted at the current state of 5.5mm modelling. They're probably pointing accusing fingers at me as 'chief corrupter'!

Malcolm's reputation, influence and legacy will last as long as people model narrow gauge.

David Etheridge