The Art of z Scale Model Trains

In the world of model railways O Gauge, HO/OO and N Gauge have long dominated the scale of layouts being made by enthusiasts. In recent years though, an improvement in technology and a general lack of space for layouts has seen the emergence in Z scale modelling.

Z scale, or Z gauge, model trains are a recent development and were first introduced in 1972 by the Marklin model train manufacturer for that year’s Nuremberg toy fair. At a scale of 1:220 it was then the smallest scale available commercially, running on track of a 6.5mm gauge. The name Z scale was given as it was thought that nothing smaller would ever be available, although Japanese firms have since produced the T scale (1:450) and ZZ scale (1:300).

Z scale models are no different to any other scale of model railways in that a layout can be simply made, but to get a good layout needs time and attention to detail. The first major advantage of modelling in Z scale is that you can get a lot more layout into a smaller space, and as a result you can model large buildings, including major stations into your layout, something that does prove impossible in HO/OO gauge layouts. The running of track can also much closer mirror real rail tracks with broader curves that are more common in the real world than normally appear in model train layouts.

Z scale modelling may not be for everyone though as there are disadvantages to building in Z Gauge. There are relatively few manufacturer making models and accessories to include in any Z gauge layout. Marklin of course lead the way in terms of range and quality, although if you look around Europe, America and Japan you will find less well known firms also making locomotives and rolling stock. This lack of range does mean that either accessories need to be scratch built or modified from existing kits; this does require both skill and a lot of spare time. The scale of Z Gauge also means that unlike N Gauge and HO/OO there are very few additional models, the likes of vehicles, people and aeroplanes with can be easily added to any layout.

With any Z scale layout a lot of care and attention is needed in keeping tracks clean. The locomotives are extremely light, hardly surprising considering their size, but as a result they are easily derailed by a piece of dirt on the track, something which those modelling in HO/OO or similar scale may never have experienced.

In my own experience I have to say that Z gauge is too small and there is not enough range in locomotives and scenery accessories to truly create a perfect layout. As a result my preference is still for N Gauge. N gauge is pretty much universally compatible no matter which continent you buy stock from, and there is also a large selection of locomotives, carriages and rolling stock available from the likes of Graham Farish, now part of the Bachmann group. An increase in products for Z scale though could serious challenge my own point of view.