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  1. #1

    Z Scale Versus N

    This past weekend, for the first time since my surgery, my wife and I were out doing some errands. I had to go to the local hobby shop to pick up a couple of things, and while there, my wife was looking at all the N and HO scale engines and cars. After a few moments of that, she came to the Z scale where I was and asked me why I decided to go into Z and not return to N scale like I had several years ago. Her argument was, that N scale stuff appeared to be far less expensive then Z especially the engines, and there seemed to be much more variety.
    I tried my best to explain to her that Z scale engines are so expensive because of the tiny parts that go into them and the general overall engineering of them. As for the variety, I was at a loss to explain it as I too don't understand why there is so much more available in the other scales then in Z.
    It is a fact that there is an abundance of box cars, gondolas, flats and tankers, but there is very little if anything at all, in utility cars like cranes and tool cars, and ballast clearners, and of course, snow plows offered by either AZL or MTL. Even passenger cars are confined to 4 basic designs which is unfortunate. The only crane and tool car in Z scale I've come across is made by Marklin and they just don't look right on North American Z scale layouts.
    I suppose that Z scale being relatively new to these parts, hasn't fully come into it's own yet and the handful of manufacturers haven't really paid much attention to putting out the odds and sods of any railroad, choosing instead to concentrate on the standard issue stuff. To that I say, WHY NOT? If you are going to produce this stuff, then why not go whole hog? Makes perfect sense.
    Anyway, after trying to explain the situation to my wife, I started questioning my decision to go with Z scale. I knew what I was getting into when I started, but in looking forward, I don't forsee any changes to the thinking at AZL, MTL et el in producing untility cars of any kind or expanding on their passenger car sets. Thus my layout will never truly be complete without these. Perhaps I should have gone back to N where there is so much more available. If I can only get the pieces I want in N or HO, perhaps a change is in order. Maybe I need to re-evalute the benefits of Z. But you know, I really hate the thought of starting all over again.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    St. Johns, Oregon
    Blog Entries
    I am an N scaler, but one reason to not go into N vs. Z is this. In Z scale the prices can be high because there is no junk. In general, your locomotives are much more precise machines than our average machines, but that comes at a cost.

    I say go Z if that's what you're thinking.
    Secret Compliance Ninja *** Visit Portland Area N-Trak. *** Visit Logging and Mining Fans and Modelers.
    (GIFs courtesy of David Epling)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Northwest Montana
    Blog Entries
    I am also an N scaler. Your wife's observations are true. What Adam has noted above is good information.

    If Z fits your needs, keep on. If not, N is there.

    Boxcab E50
    Books & More For Sale: N Scale For Sale:

    Railroadiana, RR photos & more- Please visit my TRAIN ORDERS web site!
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying!" "The handyman's secret weapon- Duct Tape!" (Red Green)
    - (#1,10,11,15)-
    (GEC-ES #12, 18, 25, 51, 55, 64, 67 ,68, 79, 89, 90, 93, 110, 119, 127, 132, 136, 138, 144, 147)
    Do you issue Model Railroad passes? Let's trade!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Fremont, CA. USA
    Why not do both? Build a small Z Scale layout for home, and N-trak modules for the trains show?

    I model N Scale at the Niles club, and have a home N Scale layout, but build Z-Bend Track modules for train shows. I'm at about 80% Z and 20% N these days.
    If you see it, get it, for tomorrow it will be gone!

  5. #5
    Hi !
    I am from Czech Republick and I am fourteen years old. In my country, we´ve got lot of TT-modellers, H0-modellres. But we haven´t got "small scale" modellers. It is sad, because small scales are beatiful and the details are in small scales are great !
    Would you like to have railroad on your "coffee table" ? When you get Z scale, you can have it ! :-) :-)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    San Diego, California, United States
    I remember back to my n scale days. My very first cars were Minitrix and they were "okay". The U-30 Minitrix Santa Fe worked pretty good. That was the 70's.
    Got back into N in the late 80's. Bachman sold crappy engines. Then Bachman Spectrum came out - better crap. Then Kato started coming out with engines - these were the best! And up till 2007-2008 when I switched to Z scale, Kato was still the best.
    I compare Kato to AZL in the engine department - not the early brass shell AZL (I have a 9-44CW Santa Fe I am DCCing right now - no frame cutting involved) but the SD70s and GP-7s. POWER and details.
    Don't get me wrong - MTL has nice engines too, but no traction tires.
    My point is that if you want a good N scale engine - you pay for it. This is pretty true for any scale actually.
    David L.
    ZoCal member

  7. #7
    I used to model N scale many years ago but because of many reasons, I had to give it up. As I recall, I did have some Bachman engines, but I never had any problem with them. I had some others two but can't remember who made them.
    Just to clarify, I am currently modeling in Z scale and have been for a few years now. I can't imagine myself doing two different scale layouts. My wife would have a fit. I'd have to find a new place to live. Besides, I don't have the space for something like that.
    I question whether Z scale engines are any better then N or HO. I have problems with Z scale engines and have cursed them up and down. Fortunately, I have managed, through one source or another, to get them working properly again.
    Like I said in my original post, is I'm disappointed in the availability of some items. They don't seem to be important to current z scale manufactures. Availability of road names in different engines is another sore point with me. You can get a certain road name in one type of engine such as a GP9 but you can't get the same road name in an SD40 or GP35? It ticks me off because I could use both. But I guess it comes down to forward thinking by production staff or the design team.
    Be that as it may, N scale and others have a lot more to offer then Z. Even structures are not as plentiful in Z as in the others. Perhaps as Z scale gets more popular, maybe the current manufacturers will get on the ball and start producing stuff other as well as their regular cars.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Somerville, VIC, Australia
    I went from H0 to Z becauce it's less space intensive and another, very important reason: not everyone is doing it! It's a small numbers of people, always a challenge and discovery. It's for me a journey, N or H0 are the final destination, everything is available, only your funds are setting limits=boring (may opinion) Not in Z. New releases are always exciting because it's REALLy new, not no. X from manufacturer Y.
    In my case the scratchbuilding and kitbashing is the biggest fun, doing new things never seen and showing what is possible to make/look our little stuff real.
    If you miss a a certain roadname, yes, can be re-painted, yes costs a bit more but: hey, it's yours, maybe even exclusive, you are the one in the world owning this. I guess it feels pretty good.
    For me is no alternative in the model train world, it's Z

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Fremont, CA. USA
    That's why i got into Z in the first place, because everything has already been done in N Scale, where in Z, You could do something before anyone else.

    I had the worlds first Z Scale GP30, kitbashed from a GP35, one day after the first release arrived. Nothing really amazing, but a first, and that in itself is satisfying, which is why others are into Z too. Blazing new trails with models nobody else has! :D
    If you see it, get it, for tomorrow it will be gone!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Medford Oregon
    I still do both. I keep z for the shows and noodling around, but for a home layout I am doing N scale because so much is available and I can see it a bit better :o) I've been through the phase of wanting to scratch build everything and you never happens. So I take the best of both and am enjoying the hobby a whole lot more. I move between the scales (even some HO) and do the things I like.

    Keeping my head down

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