Build yourself a little flat top baseboard with a softwood top
surface that can be put away in a wardrobe...
Buy (lots of) trains, set track, how-to and prototype books and
The experience of "playing" will give you a better idea of what is
practical and possible.
The prototype books will allow you to identify what you want to
At the risk of sounding arrogant..........consider going into
N scale instead of Z. Z scale is EXPENSIVE and hard to
keep running and hard to work on. If you are set on Z scale
by all means go ahead; there is more available in Z now than
ever before. But N scale has so much more and at lower prices.
Gee, MTL rolling stock is cheaper in Z than N. And there are locos available
cheaper than Kato N scale locos. True, track costs a bit more than N.
But the 1200 members of the Z_Scale list on Yahoo don't seem to have massive
"running" problems with Z. Clean track is all it really takes. But that
applies to all scales.
True, you will have to scratch build a few things, but as you point out, that's
getting a lot better in the last year or two.
Z scale isn't just for coffee tables anymore. Give it a try. Look at this
If you are just starting out, I'd recommend N scale. You'll find a lot
more hobby shops with a nice selection, more books related to N scale,
and it is a lot less expensive. Take a look at what some others with an
apartment layout have done in N scale. N scale Webring has several
My N scale railroad is along a bedroom wall in our apartment:
Z-Track Magazine has several Z scale railroads:
Bill's Railroad Empire
N Scale Model Railroad:
I'd like to hear how this works out: I keep going nowhere fast because I keep
feeling that I should plan everything out in advance, but then it starts
sounding too deadly serious, so the whole project stalls! The only time I
actually got something going was when I just picked up tools and built something
which felt sorta right, and I didn't worry too much about the specifics. I'm
starting to suspect that this kind of happy chaos is an essential part of the
learning process, and that as a beginner, it's not realistic for me to have a
razor-sharp focus on what my layout will be; that maybe I ought to just be
content to start with an interesting hodgepodge of terrain and eras, and over
time, by weeding out stuff that I don't enjoy modeling as much as I thought I
would, the layout will hopefully become more focused, without any "work" on my
part. I figure a good-sized shoebox will hold a lot of temporarily retired
I currently have hardly-used Swiss-prototype Marklin items, as well as
USA-prototype by Micro-Trains, but think maybe I could've made life simpler by
buying one of the smaller Marklin starter sets with the tiny German tank engine
and a couple of cars: A short engine and 2-axle cars would look okay going
around tight turns, and unlike my Swiss electrics, you don't have to give a
thought about catenary wires! And though I already own electric switches, I'm
thinking that maybe I should just start by building a glorified oval. Have you
picked up the latest Model Railroader magazine? There's a Z layout featured
therein; no switches, and no buildings either, but the trains look great as
displayed in that sparse landscape.
Two things I will probably AVOID for now? Modern USA railroading, for one (well,
a branch could have possibilities, given shorter trains and more varied rolling
stock). I live outside of Denver, and as pretty as those SF warbonnets and
orange BNSF paint jobs are, capturing the feel of a modern coal train, which may
involve 5x of the big 6-axle locos, and 100+ identical BN aluminum sided hoppers
just ain't going to look good on any layout that I can accomodate right now. The
other thing I'll avoid for now are long passenger cars: They just look strange
on a smallish layout.
I thank all of you for your comments. I find that they are giving me
much to think about. I have been looking into both N & Z. Both are
interesting and challenging. I do like the challenge of something
By the way, Bill K, (ZBendTrack), I also live in Houston near the
Galleria on Chimney Rock.
Perhaps we could get together?
Jeff and Jim:
First, consider the use of view blocks (in any scale) when you turn a train.
Not only does it cover up the "Lionel" look of overhang, the philological
effect is outstanding -- the train that "emerges" is not the train that
"disappeared" even though we know it is. Use mountains, buildings, trees,
tunnels or terrane that partially or fully hide the train in the turn. Almost
none of us (in any scale) can match the prototype radiuses.
Second, both of you (small and large layout goals) may find value in this Z
It discusses a concept that covers modular layouts from 36 inches long to 36
feet long that can "connect together." At the 2002 NMRA National Train Show we
cobbled together 30 scale miles of mainline from groups around the country who
practice Z-Bend Track.
Where's some photos:
Hope some of these ideas help. Emails to me at firstname.lastname@example.org are always
PS: Jim, we are less than 2 miles apart.