Photos by the author
Jeffrey White and Stan Jones would like to show that a Z-scale layout can be made comparable to those layouts seen in some of the larger scales when it comes to craftsmanship, scenery, prototype fidelity and operations. The result of their efforts is an approximately 10' x 20' island style, Jshaped, sectional layout with sweeping wide-radius curves, handlaid turnouts, well done scenery, backdrops and close to 100 scratchbuilt buildings. Z scale (1:220) was invented and popularized by Märklin, a long-time manufacturer of high quality model trains and toys in Germany.
One of the advantages of Z scale is its small size, which allows a modeler to build a layout in small spaces or conversely build a large layout with a high ratio of scenery to track. Jeffrey became a Z-scale modeler by accident while living in Florida. He began modeling in N scale. One day he went to his local hobby shop and bought some MicroTrains rolling stock. When he got home and looked at his new equipment he realized it was smaller than the N scale he had. Upon further investigation he found out it was Z scale and decided this would be the answer for his model railroading ambitions and would allow him to have more railroad in less space and run long trains.
Jeffrey met Stan at a Ztrack convention in Dallas, Texas. Ztrack is an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Z scale and has a network of modelers and clubs across the US and internationally. Ztrack regularly participates in NMRA national and regional train shows/conventions. In July 2005 Ztrack held its first national convention as a precursor to the 2005 NMRA National Train Show/Convention in Cincinnati. Moreover, there is also a magazine dedicated to Z scale called Ztrack and there are modular standards in place, ZBend Standards, for modular railroading.
Since Jeffrey was living in an apartment and did not have the space or the tools, Stan agreed to help him build a layout which they would store at Stan's home until Jeffrey could relocate it once he had a home with adequate space to house the layout. Stan was responsible for layout construction and scenery. Jeffrey provided the design input and project funding. What is interesting is that though both modelers lived in different states, Jeffrey in Florida and Stan in Texas, they were able to complete this project. Jeffrey made several visits to Texas to help Stan, and through phone calls and the mail, they were able to communicate regarding the layout design, its construction progress and other areas of concern.
The layout was constructed following standard practices for open-grid framework using sheet rock screws and dimensional lumber, 1x3s for the sides and cross members, 2x2s for the legs, and 1x1s for the leg bracing. The backdrop is a commercial photo-mural product glued to Masonite backing. The fascia was made from Masonite and painted green. The layout height is 50" from the top of the rail to the floor. Eyebolts (3/8") are inserted into the bottom of the legs to aid in leveling.
The theme for this freelanced layout is modern western railroading. Jeffrey is a big fan of the Union Pacific, and Stan likes the Western Pacific. Six-axle diesels predominate, EMD SD40-2s and SD45s, and GE C44-9Ws. However, on occasion steam specials are run featuring a Southern Pacific GS-4 in the Daylight paint scheme. Scenery on the layout is mountainous and features tunnels, rock cuts, and greenery as might be seen out in Colorado. The mountains are a combination of plaster cloth and foam board. Rock cuts were made using plaster castings. The greenery, ground foam, polyfiber and trees are from Woodland Scenics. There is a high level of detail that includes telephone poles, figures, vehicles, etc. Most of the structures were scratchbuilt out of cardstock from plans drawn by Stan or found in various magazines. The rail is all flextrack from Micro-Trains that has been painted a rusty brown. Mainline radii range from 16" to 18", and all turnouts are No. 6, handlaid in place using Caboose Hobbies ground throws to control the points.
The layout trackplan is designed for continuous running with two parallel mainlines. There are plans to convert the layout to Digitrax DCC, but at this time it is wired for cab control using three MRC DC power packs. Operations emphasize mainline running with through trains (mixed freight trains, unit coal trains, container trains) and helper service. Trains originate and terminate in the yard after completing their schedule.
Due to the small size of the equipment and rolling stock, car cards or switch lists for the spotting and pulling of individual cars are not used to forward freight to the industries located on the layout. Jeffrey is contemplating a system not dependent on reading car numbers whereby like cars or groups of cars are spotted and pulled at the industrial spurs.
In the future the layout will be expanded to feature staging opportunities to give the impression that the model railroad is truly a transportation system, a concept popularized by Allen McClelland on his HO V&O layout.
Both Jeffrey and Stan are enthused about the hobby of model railroading and Z scale. Initially most of the products available for Z scale were of European prototypes, but in recent years there has been a growing selection of US-based prototypes that continues to increase. Micro-Trains has been a force in the market development of the latter. Some of the companies offering Z-scale products based on US prototypes are American Z Line or AZL (brass locomotives made by Ajin in Korea), Harold Freudenreich, Alan Curtis, Pennzee, Micron Art, Nansen Street Products, and Mountaineer Precision Products.
Hopefully this article will encourage modelers to consider Z scale as a viable option to some of the larger scales because it consumes less space, more products are becoming available, the equipment runs well and there is an opportunity to have a higher ratio of scenery to track. Union Pacific trains on the move.