Hi, I’m new here and have not entered the world of Z Scale but am thinking about it.
I am a retired railroader (Frisco, BN, BNSF) and have always had model trains.I have had Lionel, HO scale, N scale (for over 50 years), and am back into HO
The problem that I have always had is, like many of you, not having the space for a layout, not even N scale.
I like to see my trains running and more often than at Christmas around the tree.
I have been looking through this forum and have appreciated all of the tips and ideas as well as the kindness shown to newbies. I have looked online at the AZL, Microtrains and other Z-related websites.
I would like your help in deciding whether to go to Z scale. I just want a simple, and small layout (starting with about 2’x4’) with a few switches. Are there any plans out there?
Welcome to Z!! One of the easiest ways to start would be one of AZL's "Starter Sets, with track and all. Depending on what railroad you wanna' model, (not much in the way of the Frisco), it's pretty easy to get started!
The Rokuhan site has the largest collection of sectional track plans: www.rokuhan.com/english/layout/index.php Ztrack Magazine has published a number of track plans as well as entire layouts. You might want to check them out.
It sounds like you're experienced in other scales, so you could also consider converting an HO or N scale layout to Z. Many 4x8' HO plans will reduce to 2x4'.
Hi Jim Welcome to the forum. Rob will get you set up and running in no time. I also notice you liked Frisco. Rob will have some used MTL GP 35 loco’s on his Ztrack resale site or eBay . You could pick one of any railroad and swap shells. Cause Anthony at Zscale monster has some Frisco GP35 shells on his web site. Plus one nice thing about this forum is you can get an answer on about any thing about Z scale.
You can have a blast in Z scale in such a small space. I am a complete newb myself but this is a great little community. I only have Rokuhan track but it works very well. I love my "instant" collection of fascinating 5 pole Marklin trains and cars but honestly, my best runner is a Rokuhan engine, the European one with traction tires. I went all European for my locos but I think the AZL trains run like the Rokuhan ones. Low power consumption and great traction. So if you use AZL trains and Rokuhan track I don't see how you could go wrong as far as operations. The Rokuhan track layouts are easy to understand and you could fit quite a bit onto a 2x4 board. You just won't have the super long AZL trains with multiple engines and yards of cars that are often seen in online videos. From my research it sounds like Rokuhan has the most variety of plug and play tracks and the most reliable turnouts but I have nothing to compare it too, it's just what I read. The Rokuhan tracks have a thick plastic roadbed which is less realistic but aids in support and functionality. The last thought is to realize that Rokuhan sells track in very tight radius curves that could be unrealistic with big AZL locos. This may be the same in any scale and you may already know all of this but if you are designing your own layout you might want to stick with 195R or greater. Less than that and you really need short cars and engines to have it look scale.
Hey, thanks for your extensive thoughts and suggestions. I really appreciate it.
I failed to mention that I’m sixty seven yo and I liked going back to HO because of the size. So I’m struggling with the idea of a layout that I can have with Z scale, and the size of Z scale...🤨 (I have made numerous speling...er...spelling corrections to this pist...post...because I have fat fingers...😬) But the idea of having a layout is slowly winning out. 🙄
Okay, I know that I am on the AZL site, but I have the obvious questions that I’m sure we all had when we started:
- Equipment: AZL vs Micro Trains - Track: Micro Trains vs Rhokuhan - Power Pack: MRC?
As for equipment everyone of the companies from AZL,Rokuhan,Micro trains offer great stuff. It’s A preference of what era your modeling. As for track a lot of guys on here like Rokuhan. So do I . Atlas has also step in to the z scale with switches and flex track. Power I like Rokuhan But the MTL loco’s use 10 volt and new AZL use 12 .Again Rob will steer you to what suits your set up.
I use my MRC power to run my MTL engines and earlier AZL GP 7 with different motor. Rokuhan on the rest of my AZL’s
AZL is really rather good at supporting any Z scale/prototype discussion as long as it's not flaming. Simple questions with long answers. I'll start by saying that all the manufacturers mentioned are good and you're choices are more a matter of your preferences.
Rolling Stock: MTL has been in the business for over 30 years and has produced a large number of styles and road names: www.micro-trains.com/publicfiles/databases/zdatabs.pdf Since they have been around for a long time, some of their models don't take advantage of newer modeling techniques and their inventory predominately classic era. If you are interested in switching operations they produce rolling stock with magne-matic couplers. They also produced weathered and graffiti cars.
AZL produces a more limited number of over a wider range of eras into the modern. They take advantage of newer manufacturing techniques that allows for better details. Also they're the major producer of passenger car styles.
There are also some smaller manufacturers such as Full Throttle (FT) and Intermountain which have been producing some nice specific model cars.
They all run well and interchangeably.
Both AZL and MTL run well. AZL has produced a wider range of eras while MTL has been the classic era. The MTL F7 is a 20th century design that runs well but a bit noisy, and requires a fair amount of maintenance. Their GPs and SD are newer designs and can be easily DCCed. The AZL are the newest designs, excellent performers easily DCCed. The newer models from both manufacturers are nearly maintenance-free beyond keeping the drive train clean.
Track: MTL is produced to U.S. track standards and Rokuhan to the Japanese. The difference is noticeable and some people find it unacceptable. Rokuhan has a much wider range of section types. Generally the Rokuhan turnouts have fewer problems than MTL. Something you may want to consider is flex track. Both MTL and Atlas make good U.S. style flex track and Atlas makes accompanying turnouts.
Power: Z scale requires very little power and small, battery powered throttles are common. Rokuhan makes several which are PnP with their track system. There is also the Snail which is rep'ed by a number of dealers. I'm not familiar with the MRC beyond my feeling that it's more power than I need (or want).
This should give you something to start with and hopefully others will fill in more details that I missed.
AZL has the largest selection of North American locomotives on the market. Plus the quality of AZL is simply the best. AZL puts many prototype specific details into their products. AZL locos come with traction tires, directional controlled LED lighting, optional add-one parts (depending on the loco) and are DCC ready.
Both AZL and MTL have a wide selection of rolling stock. It really comes down to era. You can mix and match rolling stock, but only MTL has the Magne-Matic couplers. AZL on the other hand has more details and metal wheels. Also definitely look at Full-Throttle products. They can also be mixed in with AZL and MTL products.
Track is Rokuhan, hands down. The look of MTL track is better, but Rokuhan has an extensive track line with the largest variety of track from any of the manufacturers. Their turnouts are extremely solid and the best on the market. If you are starting out, this is definitely the way to go.
I would use Rokuhan controllers if you decide to go with their track line. The plug n play nature of the line is extremely nice and easy to use. That is why I would use the controllers for their line.
I do wish that AZL products had Micro Trains magnematic couplets, though.
I'd suggest you direct that comment to Eric Smith at Micro Trains.
How do you do your uncoupling?
My primary interest is just plan running trains so I don't do much uncoupling. I use a wooden skewer to manipulate the AZL couplers.
For MTL couplers an/a (electro-)magnet under the track will uncouple when cars are pushed over it. If I really want that capability cars for cars from other manufacturers, I find I can generally replace the coupler or truck with an MTL version.
There have been rumors that other people are developing an alternative to the MTL coupler since 2012, but so far no iron (or I guess actually plastic).