Take time with your track
Regardless of the scale you are modeling in, it is worthwhile taking time when laying track. It
can be a bit fiddly especially with the smaller scales.
Z scale is one of the smallest scales in the railway modeling world, with a ratio of 1:220. The
benefit of Z scale is that you can pack so much track, scenery, and structures into such a small
area. Some hobbyists can pack a layout into a suitcase or briefcase and transport them wherever
they desire. Within a Z scale layout is the small track which can be placed in multiple fashions
and use less space. Z scale model train supplies are more limited than the wide range of trains and
accessories on offer with the more popular HO, OO, and N scales. However, there is still plenty to
satisfy most in the hobby.
What to know before you lay track:
The track you use is strictly based on your personal preference. Track is measured by code,
which determines the height and size of the railing. On your mainline track you will tend to use
larger track, which is of a larger code. On your branch lines you will use smaller code track. To
make sure your track runs smoothly between each code, you will want to use extra ties and wood to
push your smaller code rail up to meet the larger code. As the branch line gets further away from
the connection with the mainline you can reduce the extra ties and lay the track as normal. The
reason behind using extra ties is to keep your train from having derailments at those transition
You can find multiple codes of track at your hobby shop and online. Again, it really varies on
your preference and what you plan on doing within your scale layout.
Difference in track:
- Sectional track—these pieces are sold as straight or curved sections. They are made to be
connected section by section but you are restricted to the curved radius of the curved track,
which can cause some issues within smaller scale layouts.
- Flextrack—these pieces are exactly what the name implies - flexible. You can bend and shape
these sections to the exact radius you need on turns. This is helpful because you more options
of customization. However, they do not come with roadbed installed like sectional track
Maintaining your track is one of the most important aspects of a good layout. Within a Z scale
layout for example, there are many tiny pieces and connections, and any small disruption to those
components can cause derailments and a loss in functionality. Below are some tips to keeping your Z
scale track (or any scale for that matter) clean and functioning the way you want it to.
- Dust and wood particles can build up on your track, especially if you have recently been
working on your layout. These particles will derail your train if you do not clean them. To
prevent these disruptions it is recommended to vacuum your railing on a regular basis. This
will keep your rails smooth and without blemish.
- The problem with the build up of dust is that it can disrupt electrical connection and get
in the engine of a locomotive and hinder performance.
- Grime is your one of your greatest enemies. Grime is a sludge that contains oil and dirt
together. This sludge builds up on Z scale track faster than any other and cannot be prevented
by vacuuming. You will need to wipe down your track to remove this grime.
- Over time you will have to deal with rust. As railing gets older and more weathered, rust
will begin to develop and cause issues. Any cleaning methods that you use to get rid of grime
you can also use to get rid of corrosion.
Track can get dirty so keep a good eye on your layout and don’t let it be neglected. Even though
Z scale may be one of the smallest, it can pose larger issues when it comes to maintenance.
Talking of scales, another even more popular size is N scale (N gauge). Again, this rating
refers to the scale of the locomotives and train cars (with the scale ranging from 1:148 to 1:160)
as well as to the gauge of the rails. In N scale (or N gauge) the distance (gauge) between the
rails is 9 mm (0.354 in). N scale trains and railways give enthusiasts the freedom to assemble and
design railway layouts that do not use as much space as larger scale models. This allows hobbyists
and enthusiasts to build model train sets that are more visually expansive when space is not an
issue, and when space is an issue, then the N scale sets allow builders to use their space in the
best and most functional way possible.
As mentioned earlier, N scale is not the smallest model railway size in use. The Z scale
measures in at 1:220, and the even tinier T scale measures in at a very small 1:450 to 1:480. N
scale is more popular than either of these scales because it is easier to work with and to build
the layouts and designs you want.
If you are interested in viewing one of the largest N scale railway layouts, you’ll need to make
a trip to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Pacific Desert Lines is a 1,200sqft. railway layout
– one of the largest N scale layouts in the world. There are several other famous N scale layouts,
some are available to be viewed publicly, and some are privately owned and displayed.
If you need to buy parts, accessories, paints, trains, or any hobby supplies, then have a good
look through the products on sale on this site.