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Getting Started in Z Scale - Part 2

John Chandler

JOHN CHANDLER explains how to get started in this diminutive scale.

The Story so Far

In Part One, I looked briefly at the history of Z scale, its pros and cons and also at some of the starter sets available.

This time, I'll take a look at expanding on these starter sets to build a larger layout and also consider the wider world of Z scale.

Whilst attending the recent Zedex show, I also discovered that there is at least one company producing British outline body shells to fit on Märklin chassis!

The Next Stage

Marklin Z Scale Track

Whilst both Märklin and Rokuhan produce starter sets, they also produce a wide range of fixed track, straights, curves, points (straight or curved), crossings, as well as lengths of flexible track. Peco in the UK also produce lengths of Z scale flexible track! Whether you use the fixed track or the flexible track is your choice, but for longer straights and gentle sweeping curves, flexible track makes a good choice.

I would however add from personal experience that connecting flexible track to continue the curvature of points in this scale is not recommended. The stiffness of the flexible track causes the joint with the points to misalign and results in poor running of trains. I found that it is always better to come off points with a fixed piece of track before hitting the flexible track. This greatly enhances the running of trains and the smooth operation of the layout.

Gradients

Generally a layout can look more impressive and interesting if it is spread over several levels. Given, as mentioned in Part 1, that Z scale locomotives are light and thus lack much pulling power, gradients should be restricted to no more than 3% or, in round figures, 1 in 40. This will also restrict the length of trains possible but techniques such as double heading and/or banking could help out. It is also possible that, by using DCC Concept's N Scale PowerBase, this could be overcome, provided the magnet fitted to the locomotive does not foul on any points or crossovers.

DCC Concepts Powerbase

Powerbase is the answer to gradient problems.

If you are considering gradients, it might be an idea to purchase the spirit level wagon produced by Märklin, part number 86191. This was produced for the Märklin Insider Club and only limited numbers were produced, but it may be found on the second-hand market.

Control

Both Märklin and Rokuhan have their own control devices and I would recommend that you use the appropriate ones for the track system that you have chosen. Both have their own DC voltage controllers for the trains as well as specialist controllers for their points and other track devices.

If you have a simple layput design which requires no points or crossings, then Gaugemaster can offer a range of controllers specifically designed for Z scale: GMC-100MZ, GMC-DSZ, GMC-DZ, GMC-PZ, GMC-QZ and GMC-TSZ are suitable examples.

Points and slips may add a complication.

In common with other Japanese manufacturers, such as Kato, Rokuhan has chosen to use a two wire solenoid in their points. This needs a DC supply and a switch which reverses the polarity of that supply to change the point direction. Internally, they have a single coil and a magnetised armature to operate the point.

This means that, electrically, they are incompatible with the Märklin point motors which, in common with most European manufacturers, use two coils and three wires to operate the point motor and usually operate from an AC supply. Using two coils negates the need for a magnetised armature.

In either case, a CDU is not required and could, if fitted, cause damage. (There goes my bonus!)

DCC

Yes! Believe it or not, DCC is possible in this scale! Whilst Gaugemaster do not support this, there is a decoder manufacturer in Austria and a specialist in Germany who provides replacement circuit boards for most Märklin locomotives.

Scenery

Faller Buildings

Faller produce a good range of building kits for Z Scale.

Most of Gaugemaster's scenic materials are suitable for Z scale; the only area where caution is needed is trees, but I'll leave you to form your own opinions of what is right for your layout.

Various of our ranges, Märklin, Vollmer, Faller, Noch, Viessmann, and Preiser, provide Z scale accessories such as buildings, signals and figures. Märklin also offer a range of catenary, albeit restricted to German style.

Specialist Clubs and Shows etc.

Märklin operate an "Insider Club" for all scales that they provide. There is an annual membership fee but in return you are kept up-to-date with the latest Z news and are eligible to recieve an Insider Club wagon each year. The spirit level wagon, 86191 was one such gift.

In America, Ztrack magazine caters for the Z scale enthusiast.

As previously mentioned, there is an annual exhibition hosted by the Oxford Model Railway Club and known as Zedex.

Parting Words

Z scale can open a whole new world, especially if the "domestic authorities" restrict the space in which you can construct a layout.

As we've seen there are starter sets available as well as additional track, buildings, scenics and controllers so, as far as track plan is concerned, the sky's the limit.

I respect that there are also other manufacturers in the world-outside-Gaugemaster who offer Z scale products; these are beyond the remit of this article.

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