Protofour – a chronology

by Joe Brook Smith
1941    - J S Brook Smith (JBS) introduced to Douglas E Jones (DEJ) with a mutual interest in 00 gauge model railways.

1953 Aug 'Brook Smith' method of track construction devised using ply sleepers and cobblers hand tacks to which the rails are soldered. Tooling made by JBS.

1956 Apr First Brook Smith designed triangular track gauge, giving gauge widening to curved track. Made available to members of the EM Gauge Society (EMGS), which had been founded in 1955.

Jul DEJ and JBS first met Malcolm S Cross (MSC), all founder members of the EMGS. JBS had contacted MSC following his article on trackwork, published in the Model Railway Constructor.

1957    - Brook Smith track method publicised by MSC in a Model Railway Constructor article.

Apr JBS introduction to prototype permanent way details. Given 1st edition copy of 'British Railway Track' by friend and GWR permanent way engineer John Reed.

Supplies of sleepers, crossing timbers and tacks first produced by JBS for sale to EMGS members.

1960 Apr Combined EM layouts, Maidstone West by DEJ and Low Dale by MSC exhibited at the Model Railway Club Exhibition.

  late Decision taken by MSC/DEJ/JBS to work to a track gauge nearer to scale than EM 18mm or American 00 19mm. 18.8mm gauge adopted.

1961 Feb Standard track and wheel dimensions for EEM (Eighteen Eight mm) drawn up by JBS specifying use of British Railway Modelling Standards Bureau (BRMSB) bullhead rail and Manchester Model Railway Society wheel form. First mention of EEM in the 'press'; caption beneath a photo by MSC in the Model Railway News.

1963 Jan First of a series of computer-aided Data Sheets produced by JBS for the MRSG.

1964 Jan EEM 4 wheel contour drawn by JBS. Slightly nearer to scale than the 'Manchester' form.

W Loch Kidston (WLK), a fellow EMGS member and model railway historian, became associated with the development of EEM.

Mar EEM 5, a new set of standards incorporating tolerances on track and wheel dimensions, drawn by JBS (19 Mar 1964).

Apr Brian Morgan (BM), fellow EMGS committee member, became associated with EEM development and assisted with the compilation of standards.

Jul Decision to use the true 4mm scale track gauge, 18.83mm (JBS report).

The name PROTOFOUR (protos-first, four-4mm) invented by MSC. (Letter MSC-JBS 23 Jul 1964.)

Aug JBS meeting with Mr Keith Dann of the Model Railway (Mfg) Co Ltd to discuss EEM trade requirements. (29 Aug 1964)

Oct JBS contacted by Bill Richmond of New Zealand, who is embarking on the building of a large LMS mainline layout in EEM.

1965 Feb Consortium MSC/DEJ/JBS/WLK/BM, referred to as the Model Railway Standards Study Group. (Letter MSC-JBS 2 Feb 1965.) Name later shortened to the Model Railway Study Group (MRSG).

Apr MSC first met Dr B E Weller (BEW) at the Model Railway Club Exhibition. Expressed interest in EEM developments.

Aug First 4mm correct scale bullhead rail introduced by the Model Railway (Mfg) Co. Endorsed by the MRSG in letter from MSC to the Model Railway News, published in October issue.

Sep EEM 6 (now P4-2) dead scale BS 276 wheel contour for Protofour drawn by JBS (30 Sep 1965).

Present series of Data Sheets in A4 format commenced by JBS.

Dec BEW accepted invitation to join MRSG.

First EEM 6 form ground wheel tool contour tools obtained by JBS. MSC produced first 4mm dead scale prototype contour wheels from one of these tools.

1966 Feb First samples of trackmaking rivets to JBS design obtained from the Bifurcated Rivet Co. Basic principles of Protofour track system finalised by MSC/JBS.

Mar Present Protofour track and wheel standards (dimensions and tolerances) calculated and drawn by JBS.

Aug First publication of the concept and principles of EEM/P4. Article in August and September issues of the Model Railway News under the byline Model Standards Study Group (sic).

Nov P H J Elsie (PHJE) wrote to JBS expressing interest in Protofour (14 Nov 1966).

1967    - WLK forced by ill health to retire from MRSG. (Died 1971, age 63.)

Jan First meeting of PHJE with MSC/JBS/BEW, at Borough Polytechnic. Accepted invitation to join MRSG.

First of nine consecutive articles on Protofour published in the Model Railway Constructor under the byline 'Model Standards Study Group' naming JBS/BEJ/WLK/MSC/BM/BEW. All articles were written by MSC and vetted by JBS/BEW.

Mar Model layout independently built to Protofour Standards by Mr Barrington of the Luton Model Railway Club and exhibited at their local show.

Apr First public showing of Protofour by MRSG. MSC's model of a Midland Pullman Car, built by DEJ, on static display scene shown on the stand of the Historical Model Railway Society at the Model Railway Club Exhibition.

  Aug Decision by the MRSG to accept offer by PHJE to trade on their behalf through his printing company, Studiolith Ltd. (WLK and BM unable to take part in this.)

Sep JBS tooled up and commenced production of P4 sleepers for sale through Studiolith.

Oct JBS crossing timber added to production.

Nov Announcement of trading in Protofour components published in the Model Railway Constructor under the heading 'Model Railway Study Group and Studiolith Ltd....'.

Partnership formed between MSC/DEJ/JBS BEW and PHJE of Studiolith Ltd. Registered 27 Nov 1967 under the name Protofour Group. No. 1331876.

1968 Feb First production samples of Protofour wheels. Disc pattern wagon wheels in plated brass with plastic bush insulation produced to JBS design by Kattner & Botham Ltd of Bexleyheath. Pinpoint axles by Muller of Cleobury Mortimer. DEJ withdrew from all involvement with P4 and MRSG (7 Feb 1968).

Mar Disc type coach and wagon wheels available for sale.

Jun 4mm correct scale bullhead rail to JBS drawing P4-1 manufactured by Rigby Ltd for Studiolith.

1969 Feb First meeting of informal committee of proposed Protofour Society (5 Feb 1969).

Apr Announcement of the formation of the Protofour Society published in the Model Railway Constructor.

Protofour products shown for the first time at the National Model Railway Exhibition.

Aug First working Protofour layout at a Model Railway Club exhibition. 'Ashburton' built and shown by Protofour Society members. First display of Protofour plastic-centred wheels, GWR 4'7" driving wheels, 3-hole wagon and Mansell coach wheels.

Dec First Protofour plastic-centred, steel-tyred wheels available for sale. Mansell coach wheels.

1970 Mar The word Protofour registered as a Trade Mark.

Jul First Protofour Society Seminar. The Red Lion, Hatfield (12 Jul 1970).

Oct First production mouldings by JBS of 'split-spoke' wagon wheels, a type of wheel never before commercially available.

1973 Feb Protofour Model Railway Convention. Caxton Hall, London. (24 Feb 1973)

Nov Protofour Group partnership dissolved by PHJE (19 Nov 1973)

Dec JBS removed from the Management Committee of the Protofour Society (6 Dec 1973). 

1974 Mar The Model Railway Study Group dissolved.
Meeting of MSC/JBS/BEW 26 Mar 1974.
From hereon JBS not associated with MSC/BEW/PHJE.

1975 Nov Entire Executive Committee of the Protofour Society dismissed by the Management Committee. (Notice 7 Nov 1975.)
DEJ renewed contact with JBS and P4 (3 Jun 1975).

1976 Feb Inaugural meeting of the Scalefour Society (14 Feb 1976).

Apr 'Heckmondwyke', the large Protofour exhibition layout of the North London Group of the Scalefour Society, shown for the first time at the Model Railway Club Exhibition.

1982 Studiolith Ltd ceased trading and severed connection with MSC/BEW and the Protofour Society. Tony Hagon of the Protofour Society formed Trans-Europ Models Co to take over the distribution of P4 products.

1983 Protoscale International (MSC/BEW) carried on after the demise of Trans-Europ.
Exactoscale Ltd set up by MSC and BEW to design and market Protofour products.

Mar Retired Heckmondwyke layout installed in the Model Railway Gallery of the National Railway Museum at York, opened by The Reverend Peter Denny on 10 Mar 1983. (Layout scrapped 1985.)

1985 Jun First production of JBS-designed Combined Punch and Rivet Tool for use in the Brook Smith method of track construction.

Dec Studiolith company dissolved (19 Dec 1985).

1986 Jan First ever P4 dead scale flexible plastic trackwork designed and produced by Len Newman. Marketed by Alan Gibson.

1987 Aug The Scalefour and Protofour societies unite.

2003 May Malcolm S Cross died in Australia. 

2004 Sep Bernard E Weller died.

© Joe Brook Smith

Editor's note: The above is a transcription of a Joe Brook Smith document, which he first produced in 1981, and updated from time to time until 2004. This html transcription by Russ Elliott, January 2005. Joe Brook Smith died on 15 August 2007.