Z Scale Versus N

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by newtoscale, Jan 3, 2011.

  1. newtoscale

    newtoscale Permanently dispatched

    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. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    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.
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Administrator Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    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
  4. rray

    rray Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    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.
  5. JanJuranek

    JanJuranek New Member

    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. zscaler

    zscaler TrainBoard Member

    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.
  7. newtoscale

    newtoscale Permanently dispatched

    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. minzemaennchen

    minzemaennchen TrainBoard Member

    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. rray

    rray Staff Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    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
  10. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

    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 :eek:) I've been through the phase of wanting to scratch build everything and you know...it 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.

  11. newtoscale

    newtoscale Permanently dispatched

    Happy New Year Joe:

    Since you are an MTL employee, then perhaps you can answer the question as to why MTL hasn't bothered to produce utility cars such as a working crane, tool car, and other such equipment found on every railroad in the world? It would seem to me that if MTL is going to product boxcars, tankers, etc, then going the extra mile to produce the other less seen cars as well. Forgive me if I think MTL has been a bit short sighted on this.
    I also don't get why MTL produces GP9's in certain road name, but doesn't produce a GP35 or SD40 in the same road name? Makes sense to me that if you're going to do one, you should do them all. That gives a much broader choice for those who want it. It would take very little to set it up. Since all of this is done by automation and conveyor, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to put the GP35' and SD40's or others on the same run as the GP9's then run them altogether.
  12. newtoscale

    newtoscale Permanently dispatched

    I don't do kitbashing although I know a lot of people here do. It's just something I have no desire to attempt.
  13. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

    Happy new year back at ya.

    First, while manufacturing is somewhat automated the paint schemes are not. All hand work including the masking and printing. Sales are not stong enough in z to warrent doing too many road names on a loco each month...just the nature of the beast. I'd like to release like the big boys do in n and ho, but our market is different. And while AZL will normally do a new body style in multi road names, their manufacturing is in China where doing that is cost effective and to their advantage. I suspect the runs are smaller for each road name than ours, but they can put out a lot of names. Also, several of the engines have been done in all body styles...F7, gp 9, gp 35 and SD-40-2...SP, UP, CN to name a few...others, due to weak sales have us looking to expand the road names to smaller roads to better serve the community. You also have to factor that some roads had all these engines and some did not...another limiting factor.

    As for MOW...no market at all in Z...or N really. How many cranes are you going to buy and how many 50' boxcars are you going to buy...the question answers it'self. We did the scale test car in N and it was a poor performer. We have to think in terms of number of units possible and the number of road names we can exploit. A heavy lift crane is an eye catcher, but I wouldn't need more than one regardless of the road name. I do need a fleet of 40' boxcars in all flavors and styles. Simple really. Not to say someone can't do it on the low end and provide some nice stuff...but for our business plan, it wouldn't be feasable.

    Thanks for the input though



  14. PuppySnacks

    PuppySnacks TrainBoard Member

    Feasible Business Plan.

    Dear Joe at MTL,

    With your companies business plan, do you think it would be "fesable" to produce some more 220mm Straights? Any new upcoming track releases?
  15. Loren

    Loren TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Administrator Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter


    Welcome to TrainBoard!

    Boxcab E50
  17. newtoscale

    newtoscale Permanently dispatched

    Well I guess then it is unrealistic to expect these items to be produced by anyone anytime soon. Too bad because I could use at least one snow plow for my layout since the bulk of it is all mountainous terrain. And the area I'm modelling is prone to heavy snowfalls and avalanches and it is not uncommon for snow as much as 20 feet deep to cover the exposed tracks.
    Perhaps I should take another look at Marklin's crane and tool car. Maybe there's a way to convert it to a north american style crane.
  18. SteamDonkey74

    SteamDonkey74 TrainBoard Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I don't know what era you are looking at, but Tichy Trains has an N scale crane and boom car in kit form that you may be able to cut down or bash into something useable in Z scale. In N scale, this is a small-ish crane, much more appropriate to the 1920s-1940s than now, but maybe you could update its looks a bit and when you scale it out to Z it will already be bigger. You'd probably be cutting down the width of the cars and then putting on your favorite couplers and trucks anyway.

    Just an idea. I built one of these sets (tool car, crew car, boom car, crane car) just when I was getting back into the hobby and it worked out pretty well for me.
  19. Fred Ladd

    Fred Ladd TrainBoard Member

    I made a couple of conversions about 15 years ago from marklins- not exactly prototypical but better than nothing.

    Attached Files:

  20. K.P.E.V.

    K.P.E.V. TrainBoard Member

    One way or another I will have a MOW train. I am sooooo waiting on those heavyweights to come out. Strip them, cover a couple of windows, paint them a faded orange and a silver roof, add some smokejacks and weathering, and there you go. Maerklin crane I am still fiddling with, it might be beyond my skill levels.
    I am still toying with the idea of adding some RSLASER windows and doors and adding them to an old style reefer or boxcar, to make MOW cars. I know it's done in HO, perhaps somone else will take the plunge.
    I am pretty sure that I am one of those that have been accused of wanting,wanting,wanting stuff from the main companies. I know that a few years back, on open forums, I was one of those who cried for new cabeese, and was politely told it would not be possible to produce, as who would buy more than one? (Try to get one, they are sold out the same day they come out)
    I also remember crying about no steam, an RDC or doodlebug type of set, and probably a few other things. If it wasn't for some unforseen problems we would have those thing now (and I hope in the near future)
    I really don't know if the sqeaky wheel gets oiled or the nail that sticks out gets hammered in the Z world, but I will still want, want, want, and I can be ignored, or a happy coincidence will happen and POOF, I will get my wish.

Share This Page