Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Zzzz ...

A Märklin Z gauge layout in a briefcase
Well, there is no time to sleep as I am clearly on a roll with regards to scales and now turn my attention to Z gauge. This is the smallest commercially available model railway size, with a scale of 1:220, which nominally represents 1.38 mm to 1 foot and a track gauge of 6.5 mm.
As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of excitement when Märklin introduced their Z gauge to the world at the 1972 Nuremberg Toy Fair for it was presented as something quite unique. This was supported by illustrations that appeared showing a Z gauge railway running around the rim of a hat, a locomotive inside a light bulb and a complete layout for the professional person ... in the top drawer of their desk!
Apparently the letter Z was chosen because it was thought, at the time, that no-one would commercially produce a smaller model railway scale. Therefore, with Z being the last letter of both the German and English alphabets it was chosen to represent the newest and smallest scale. 
Since 1972, however, there have been a few attempts to bring even smaller scales to the market but these remain niche products without a wider following at this time.
Due to its very small size there are, understandably, very few enthusiasts who are prepared to model in Z gauge using scratch built items and other traditional techniques.
Despite this the gauge has caught on and, now, Märklin, the leaders in the field, produce an extensive range of items with enough choice to suit a variety of enthusiasts who wish to model the European scene. Unfortunately, though, there are no British outline, ready to run, models available and very few British retailers stock Z gauge continental equipment.
In 1984, Micro Trains Line Co of Talent in Oregon, under the name of Kadee, introduced a range of detailed wagons and, now, produce a nice selection of rolling stock as well as a variety of locomotives. They also make flexi-track with correct sleeper spacing and a Code 55 rail section.
Because they are so small one mustn't assume that these products are cheap; on the contrary, in fact since, relatively speaking, they are all quite expensive. However, we must not forget that they are, in reality, fine pieces of craftsmanship that are built to a high standard of quality and, therefore, perform extremely well.
So, if you are wanting to build a small but fun model railway in either a European or an American scene then doing so in this gauge is not that difficult. Although, as you can probably imagine, you do have to be fairly dexterous and have good eyesight! Simply connecting the track and placing locomotives on to it is not easy and requires a keen eye and a steady hand!
This railway system is, therefore, not ideal for the beginner but is more suitable for someone who already has experience in building a layout and would like, now, to build something in the smallest of locations, whether that be as a diorama in the home … or the office!

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