Help! Beginner Seeking Assistance

BeeDee Mar 2, 2021

  1. BeeDee

    BeeDee New Member

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    Wanting to get back into trains after a 45+ year absence. Due to space limitations thinking Z may be the way to go. Thinking using a corkboard as a base (either 18x24 or 24X36). Want to start small and develop modeling, operating, and electronics skills. Since I'm not 100% certain of future plans I want to keep initial investment low since this initially is just a learning and "fun" endeavor. I'd like something more than 'just an oval" have looked at Rokuhan track and plans and think this is a good place to start.

    Aside from any advice to may give---one of my first questions is what do you think of Rokuhan's Shorty? thinking this way for low cost. Any pitfalls with that thought process? I see its designed for "micro" layouts...but I assume I could use the "bigger" radius plans, and when ready add a standard loco and rolling stock. Also are the Shorty's easy to swap/install the outer shell?

    Ill be quiet for awhile and listen and learn. Thanks
     
  2. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    Welcome back to the hobby BeeDee!

    I model in N scale. I don't have any Z specific answers.

    When you say a cork board, do you mean an actual hang on the wall, old school push pin and thumbtack board?

    The boards like this that I have seen usually are made of thin Masonite or other hardboard under the cork and might warp without a simple wood frame added underneath.

    A simple frame from some pine or poplar would be inexpensive.

    I've seen others here use pre cut module kits for a base. I've never looked into that.

    I'm using a salvaged hollow core door. I kind of scoffed at the idea for years. Now I'm a believer. It's perfect for my particular situation
    They can be trimmed to size easily with hand tools.

    Good luck and keep us know what you decide.
     
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  3. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    BeeDee,

    Welcome to the forum and hopefully welcome to Z scale. I think you can have a lot of fun with Z once you get accustomed to the small size.

    The Rokuhan Shorty is interesting although I don't own any. I don't care for the fantasy motif of the product line, but that just a personal thing. Technically it runs at a lower voltage and uses a special coupler, making it incompatible with just about everything outside the Shorty product line.

    As far as a small layout, consider my 24" x 36" test bench:

    012.JPG

    The outer oval is Rokuhan track using the 270mm and 264mm curves. The inner oval is Micro Trains (MTL) track using 195mm curves, which is the tightest curve I would suggest for most U.S. prototype rolling stock. As you can see, even on this small table, there is a lot of room for sidings and spurs.
    While this is meant mainly as a test bed, I have typically run 10-15 car trains on the ovals.

    I will point out there is not a lot of literature available on Z scale beyond manufacturers' instructions and a 1980s book "Guide to Z scale" which is available on-line at: Home (guidetozscale.com)

    There is a wealth of information on-line on the manufacturers' sites, their distributor sites and of course forums such as this one. Finally, ask questions. We are happy to answer them.

    Mark
     
  4. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    There are many sites that have some suggestive layouts. For an oval, you should vary the straights and add a little straight in the loop ends.
    Here are some from David K Smith's site: http://davidksmith.com/modeling/resources/track-planning/room.htm

    Rokuhan has a vast assortment of curve radii and other pieces (Micro-Trains, a.k.a. MTL) has only 2 radii (the standard 195 and 220mm) so very limiting.
    There are many 'short' locomotives, like a GP7 or GP30 or GP38 and and lots more, including steam if you look at märklin's European options.
    The freight cars are easy and if you place magnets in strategic locations, you can take advantage of the MTL freight cars for switching (but not with the AZL locos without a coupler modification or a buffer freight car with AZL on one end and MTL on the other).

    The MTL and Rokuhan track that you see in Mark's photo, include roadbed, like the Kato track so no cork needed. If you truly want that 'laying track' look, then Atlas makes 24" long Flex track and manual operated switches (these need a toggle switch to power the frog). Rokuhan, MTL and märklin make switches that are remote and manual, without the frog power issue. Märklin and Rokuhan track have the exact same code 55 rail but the tie spacing is wider, like European. Atlas (and MTL) track of more realistic American tie spacing. I used the Midwest Product's N cork which is pre-slit, using one half to lay the flex and swithces on. Once ballested, looks correct.

    Z is powered with 0-10 volt power. There are several commercial models from big MRC 1300/1370 or Rokuhan's (although designed for their products) or just use a $5 LED dimmer with a 9 volt wall-wart.

    We all have answers :p Keep asking !
     
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  5. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

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    The Rokuhan Shorty is a great starter unit.
    There are some shells you can get on Shapeways that just snap over it.
    They run from $12.00 to 60.00. You will have to paint them thought.
    I understand the Rohukan track is great for starters and is good for modular layouts as well.
    Shapeways links:
    https://www.shapeways.com/product/7WBD8BDNR/boxcab-zscale?optionId=65024488&li=marketplace
    https://www.shapeways.com/product/2...revised-n-2?optionId=192403474&li=marketplace
    https://www.shapeways.com/product/Q...ine-z-scale?optionId=111484928&li=marketplace
    Have fun!
    Scott
     
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  6. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

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    BeeDee,
    First off let me preface my response by saying that I find Z-scale to be an incredible and fun challenge. While the small scale may be difficult for some to deal with, those of us involved in Z relish the ability to pull off incredible scenes in such a small scale. And you will find me to be the biggest advocate for Z-scale, and I always encourage anyone to jump on board.

    Your post mentioned one thing which raises a little concern, and that is cost. If you are budget limited, then I will be honest and tell you Z-scale may not be where you want to start. Rather I would say consider N-scale because the costs in my opinion are substantially lower. At least by what I see on eBay. Just my blunt and honest opinion.

    I’d rather see you get into model railroading as a whole and be able to afford it and enjoy it, rather than getting in and feeling as though it’s too expensive and then getting out.

    Now, if you are spaced constrained, such as living in a small home or an apartment, then Z scale is the way to go, but you just have to deal with the slightly higher costs. There is so much you can do with Z and cover a lot of ground with even a small layout.

    On a final note, the one thing I would say is, if you’re going to get in and you do have a little bit of budget to work with, then make your plans to go big over the long run. Or as big as space will allow. And by that I also mean go big within your financial means and modeling abilities.

    Far too often I see people proposing to start with a simple little oval, with a few trees and a few buildings. And once that small layout is completed, people quickly get tired and push it to the side and think that’s all there was to it. Rather I would prefer to see someone dream big and go big and if it takes a little longer to achieve, so be it. Model railroading it’s not an overnight hobby.
     
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  7. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    I agree with Lance that it's good to have expansion capabilities. Consider my test bed image above. If you replace the outer most curve track coming off the turnouts with straight track, they become spurs in an initial layout but can then become extensions into an expansion at a later date.

    Here's a couple of sources for Z scale layouts from the manufacturers:

    two series.cdr (micro-trains.com)

    Layout | ROKUHAN

    If you really like the Shorty trains, Rokuhan offers a starter package: Shorty | Products | ROKUHAN

    AZL also offers complete starter packages of U.S. prototypes: Starter Packages (azldirect.com)

    MTL has also offered starter packages (minus the throttle) which you may find in the on-line auction/resale sites. For example:
    Micro-Trains SD40-2 Starter Set with Ztrack Snail controller 99403625 (ztrackresale.com)

    Hope this helps,

    Mark
     
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  8. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    A thought I had this morning. I should point out that there is a popular format in Z scale called T-Trak-Z. I know very little about it, but as I understand it, it's based on 12" square modules that are connected together to form a layout (someone help me here on the details). It seems to me that you could have a layout that you run on a kitchen table, then put away for dinner. Also the modules could be put on a shelf for a display diorama.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2021
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  9. BeeDee

    BeeDee New Member

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    Yes...the push pin type....the style that has a small pine frame around it...less expensive and lighter(hopefully stable enough). I want something 2x3 that is temporary and movable. Thanks for the reply!
     
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  10. BeeDee

    BeeDee New Member

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    Thanks for the replies and advice. Hopefully a follow-up you or others can answer...Given a 2X3 size(usable space 21in X 33in) and startin with Rokuhan's 195mm basic oval....would a track plan like below work? what size curve for the two outer spurs? Any other opinions or guidance welcome.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    I wanna' say it was Joe S. on here that built a beautiful little layout on one of those corkboards you hang on the wall, really inspiring back in the day when he built it!(y)
     
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  12. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome back to the hobby, BeeDee. May I suggest using foamcore or "Gator" board for your layout? Gatorboard in particular is as rigid as plywood but light as foamcore and is easily painted, drilled, cut, etc...you could even frame it. Lance has given you some good advice. N may be a better place to start if you are in a hurry to get going and running trains. N-scale is much easier to acquire and less costly. That being said, Z-scale is really fascinating and a bit more of a challenge than other scales but I think it is the most realistic looking. It has come a long way. You are coming in at a great time for Zee. There are many top-notch modelers on this forum. Keep asking questions and you will get an answer from someone. Best, Jim
     
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  13. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

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    You can use a free CAD program: SCARM, easy to learn/use: https://www.scarm.info/index.php for up to 50 connections.
    It contains the Rokuhan, Micro-Trains, märklin and Atlas (although Atlas has only 24” flex, L&R switch and X-Int). You draw a border size and cut/paste, rotate and auto-align flex (and then tweak it too).
     
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  14. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

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    I have found the Shorty chassis very versatile and useful. It does not really like working off a marklin controller as the starting voltage is a bit high but it is a smooth runner, quiet and will go round really tight curves.

    it has attracted 3d print designers to do a range of shells to fit it, King of them is the Central New Jersey boxcab in brass that fits straight on

    [​IMG]

    packed full of detail and not difficult to paint

    painted with car aerosols and in service on my Republic steel layout

    [​IMG]

    Kev
     
  15. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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    I did indeed use a cork frame for my first Z layout think it was back in 2003 and it worked out well. I did brace the bottom though with strips otherwise it would sag just a bit. The advantages was you could drill right through it and cork deadened the sound.

    I wanted a sturdier base so I used hallow core doors for my next layouts. I like the strength and light weight of the door much better. I will say for about a year I really enjoyed using the cork board though.
     
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  16. Rick Z

    Rick Z New Member

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    Hi BeeDee

    I recently took up the model railway hobby having been 'suggested' a few YouTube videos. I'm not even sure why they may have been suggested.
    i'm at the time of life that needed a pass-time and so I looked into it.
    I didn't want to take up too much space so I chose Z gauge.
    I am now a few months in thoroughly enjoying myself learning about model trains and modelling.

    I'm in Europe and with Brexit stuffing my UK Amazon habit I looked at the Z scale range from Marklin. It's readily available from the Spanish and German suppliers, Ebay and of course Marklin itself.
    I'd suggest you won't find anything better tooled or made. The Germans really know how to do this sort of thing.
    There is a price to pay. You need fairly deep pockets.
    Probably beyond Europe there might be better alternatives in terms of choice and budget but have a look at Marklin for inspiration alone and you'll get hooked on Z scale too.
     
  17. Rockytop

    Rockytop New Member

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    Like BeeDee, I haven't done anything with model trains for about 40 years. It was N scale back then. About 15 years ago I discovered Marklin Z scale in a hobby shop in Germany and was hooked. Currently building a small layout (2' x 4' because that's an off-the-shelf plywood size and an interesting challenge) using Marklin track.

    For the roadbed I'm using a cork/rubber gasket material sold by McMaster-Carr. It's available in various widths and thicknesses. I've found that the 3/4" width works very well for Z scale. With 25mm track spacing, there is 1/4" spacing between the cork strips. I used a piece of 1/4" square tubing as a way to set the spacing between cork strips when laying down long strips for a yard. Worked great.

    These strips come in 100' rolls and thicknesses of 1/32", 1/16" and 1/8". It has an adhesive back so no glue required. I'm currently playing with the 1/32" material and it's working well. It's a bit stretchy so it can be laid down on a curve without cutting. I remember the N scale cork was cut down the middle so 2 pieces side by side could go around a curve without buckling. One key here is cost. The 1/32" strip 3/4" wide and 100' long was about $12 (#94545K17). 1/16" is about $16.50. I think I saw cork for Z track at a few dollars for 18"...

    One objective I have is to implement DCC and automate the layout. JMRI is very interesting. A lot of work has gone into that software. The commercial electronics for DCC seem a bit dated with the exception of TCS, which doesn't have a command station yet - only prototype with no intro date. Any suggestions for DCC to drive Z scale? I may have missed something. DCC++ looks interesting and may try that. Arduinos are fun and flexible so that's an option.

    One other thing - I've found AnyRail 6 easy to learn and it works very well. The Marklin track library provided everything needed.
     
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  18. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    While DCC++ may be cheap, it's still more satisfying to have a polished system like a Zephyr or Power Cab to start in DCC.

    If I were more adventurous I would start with a Digikeijs DR5000 command station, and connect to a PC running JMRI, and use Engine Driver on my phone. What I like about the Digikeijs command station is it supports every major protocol, and has USB, WIFI, and Ethernet built in. With this system, whatever you choose as your favorite DCC and LCC system in the future, this system is compatible with the accessories. And they have all the accessories too. I feel it is the most advanced DCC solution out there.
     
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  19. Rockytop

    Rockytop New Member

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    Thanks Robert. That's a new system for me. I'll check it out.
     
  20. Rick Z

    Rick Z New Member

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    @rray
    My first project is a Marklin based DC analogue layout and there’s still a bit to do.
    However I’d love to simultaneously start a second project that’s totally digital. There’s a dearth of information for Z scale digital especially here in Europe.
    Any links or leads you may have I’d be very grateful to hear. Bear in mind I’m a complete novice in this area.
     

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