Considering a switch from Z to N - is the grass greener?

Taymar May 13, 2018

  1. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    The selection of small switching locos is also a lot better in N. The Arnold SW1, Kato NW2, Life-Like SW9/900/1200 and the Micro-Trains SW1500 are all great running locomotives.
    BALOU LINE and Kurt Moose like this.

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

    You know based on what you are describing you want to do with your layout, N scale would probably be a good fit. Don't think you could go wrong with N. I know the Z stuff now runs as good as N now but selection wise, as you noted, it is still small. No pun intended. It's basically where N was 30+ years ago. If you have the time and the patients, what you want can be built or will come along.
    I know I am guilty of this but I have always looked a Z and said that will never make it. It's way to small to work with, etc. and so on. 35+ years ago when I was really starting to get into N scale, those were the same things the guys who model in that Horribly Oversized scale were thinking and saying about N. Hopefully I'll still be around here in another 30 years to see if Z lives up to it's potential. (n)
    Kez likes this.
  3. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

    Taymar, I like to use insulation foam on my shelf layout before I install track. The first thing I do is cut a piece of 3/4in. Birch plywood and then using caulking as glue put down a 1/2in. blue foam and then a 1 or 3/4in. pink foam. By doing this you will have enough foam to model below track level scenery. For N scale that's about 17 to 20 feet, enough to model a small stream. I use a keyhole saw to carve out the foam and the blue foam will act as a warning track, to borrow a baseball term, so you don't go to deep. The saw makes quick work but you may want to do it outside because it makes a mess. For safety reasons do not use a rotary wire brush because the dust is really fine and can get into your lungs.


    Module 5 coal trestle and all buildings.jpg
    BALOU LINE likes this.
  4. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

    Hi Taymar,

    I've had HO, HOn3, N, Nn3 and Z scales. I started as a kid over 50 years ago in HO and at that time N scale was just being introduced to the United States. N scale was a 'novelty' back then... hobby shops and department stores which carried model trains went out of their way to discourage the sale of N scale. HO was king and O scale was queen... everything else was just ignored. Ironically... Z scale got introduced to the U.S. in the early-mid 1970's and was not ever expected to survive into the next decade. I took a model train hiatus from 1972 till 1983... and to my surprise both N and Z were still around when I got the 'itch' again. Z scale was then the 'novelty' item and HO or N were the preferred choices (in that order). I really was hesitant to choose N scale but... space constraints made the decision for me. I've been in N scale (happily for 35 years). About 10 years ago I got curious about Z scale... the 'novelty' scale (LOL). Unlike N scale, Z scale has not had the following of manufacturers and breadth of choices which N scale as had over the past 45 years (since "Z" was introduced). I seriously doubt the success of Z scale will ever get to the level of N scale... it would take an enormous effort from manufacturers to make a dent into either N or HO scales market share. Even HOn3 has struggled to move forward over that same time. N scale will probably never upstage HO's commanding lead and the amount of 'hobby discretionary funds' are probably not heading to Z scale any time soon. SO... after all that... I am essentially saying that N scale will be far more satisfying than Z scale... and HO will likely continue to dominate the landscape. I have a large collection of N scale. Only a 'sampling of' Nn3, HOn3 and Z scales.
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  5. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

    Interresting comments... As a Z-scaler I won't say otherwise to what has been said. Far less choice of motive power, rolling stock and structures than N, but that scale is really in an improving status. Some major players (Atlas, Intermountain) are now beting on Z scale. AZL, that started from scratch less than 20 years ago, is now by far first supplier of US-prototype stuff. I've no experience with N but as far as I'm told running caracteristics of N scale locos are roughly the same as AZL's, thus excellent. Let's keep tuned. For those who want to build a scale Tehachapi Loop, I did a plan, consider a little bit more than a 5-foot diameter for the Loop itself in Z scale. Worth trying, no ? ;)

  6. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

    And yes, it's really possible to work on Z scale stuff. Kitbashing, superdetailing, repainting, etc. ;)

  7. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    Ah, but what about Zn3 narrow gauge ?!!
  8. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    At least they have a full set of NCL in Pine Tree paint with matching Fs and a NYC full set plus several other name trains.
    Kez likes this.
  9. Calzephyr

    Calzephyr TrainBoard Supporter

    Really... I have not seen the Pine Tree scheme locomotives or passenger cars!
    I have the Micro-Trains F units and passenger cars in the Loewy NCL scheme.
    I also got the AZL heavyweight passenger cars in the Rio Grande 4 stripe scheme... very nice too.
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  10. SP_fan_1951

    SP_fan_1951 TrainBoard Member

    I once scratch-built a DRGW Zn3 gondola as a joke- used human hair for the truss rods, cut down Z scale trucks and wheels, and hand-laid a section of code 40 track. My eyesight was much better then...

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