Zscaleplanet Feb 5, 2023

  1. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Just tapping the forum to see if others have the same observation and thoughts as myself. Although this subject below has come up before, I am looking at it from today's perspective.

    So Z-scale seems to have it's peaks and valleys in regards to availability of product, popularity among modelers, and overall interest. We've seen it over the years as modelers come and go, although there is always that die-hard group that never leaves. Then there are the vendor/manufacturers that come and go as well, making their mark in the industry, selling a fair amount of product, then closing the doors a few years later.

    However, today things are very odd.
    • On one hand, we have AZL introducing PA's, F7's and switchers so fast, that we can't even keep up with the road names.
    • On the other hand, Micro Trains supply of freight and and passenger offerings is down to a trickle if that (although we've sadly seen this playing out over the past 5-years or so). Marklin seems to be holding steady though, with some new product introductions here and there.
    • We see ARCHISTORIES releasing excellent European and Americana products that have long been wished for. We see MILLER ENGINEERING re-releasing their iconic line of buildings and houses.
    • Yet, we have seen a dozen or more other suppliers of structures and other products close their doors.
    At present, I believe interest in Z-scale is growing quite steadily, but the supply and availability of certain products, especially rolling stock, is diminishing rapidly. I mean, what what good is a shiny new AZL loco when you have no freight to tow along behind it? And although Ebay is what it is, there is very little listed, and way over-priced on both the product and shipping. Add to that, many of the on-line websites inventory is either depleted or very sparse.

    So here is where my concern grows, and that is for the Z-scale newbies. Every hobby (trains or otherwise), needs a new crop of enthusiasts to keep it healthy and robust. But at the same time, it needs a supply line of quality products, fairly priced and geared towards the interest of the entire base.
    Granted, there are some good things, and not so good things happening in Z-scale, and hopefully the good can outweigh the bad for the sake of newbies.

    What is everyone else's thoughts? Are we in a peak, or a valley, or just cruising along the prairie?
    rray, CNE1899, bostonjim and 2 others like this.
  2. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

    You hit it right on all accounts!

    AZL is pumping out more stuff than my wallet can handle!

    M-T is almost silent in the Z-scale dept. Keep watching every 1st of the month, they're N-scale stuff is crazy good, but Z is either a lousy reprint, or the "special runs" of un-prototypical stuff.

    and yeah, sad we've lost a lot of good smaller makers of Z-scale stuff that is now super hard to find, or 200% mark up on Fleabay....:unsure:

    Hopefully some newer generations are willing to come out with more product lines, and odds and ends that are missing these days.

    Atlas is doing some street lights now, they're switches are great, and hopefully they're still interested in Z enough to start some other products for us.
    rray, CNE1899 and Zscaleplanet like this.
  3. SJ Z-man

    SJ Z-man TrainBoard Member

    Don’t forget Rokuhan. They made a large investment and continued rollout of Track which now is essentially ‘complete’, excepting a Wye, or a game changing larger radius turnout/switch to match with the 245-270 radii.

    Atlas needs to add a turnout/switch control, whether top-side or universal under/over mount. This could be made with adaption of their current one.
  4. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Another Z-scaler and myself were chatting about the very fact that "Fleabay" (hahaha - love it) prices are ridiculous, and the selection is nill. That's what kinda' prompted this post.

    As some may know, Brooklyn Locomotive Works closed their doors about a month ago, with closeout prices on everything. Needless to say, folks were buying at his closeout prices, and instantly posting to Fleabay at your noted 200% mark-up. Hey, I believe in a free market, and let those that can make a little $$$, more power to them. BUT, I also encourage others (especially newbies) not to get burned by profiteers -- unless they just don't care....

    Although we hashed over the fact that MTL no longer cares about the Z-side of their business, I wished they'd see our dilemma and begin at a minimum to start reproducing many of their classics. If anything it would infuse more interest into the community, and offer those newbies plenty to chose from at factory level pricing, instead of black-market prices. But alas, I already know the "business model" lecturing I am gonna get regarding MTL.....:unsure:
    rray, Kurt Moose and CNE1899 like this.
  5. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Good point on ROKUHAN. They do deserve credit, where credit is due. Seems to be, the Z-industry is well situated on track, with plenty of supply from all the names --- MTL / ATLAS / ROKUHAN / MARKLIN. And prices are somewhat reasonable I guess. So we do have that going for us.

    Although I guess my angst is more directed to rolling stock and structures too. But this seems to be an ongoing struggle for Z.
    rray, Kurt Moose and CNE1899 like this.
  6. rray

    rray Staff Member

    I guess I'm different than everyone else. If I want something, I either make it, or offer trades to people who can. The ONLY things I need are trucks, couplers, wheels, and track. I can make due with building materials designed for other hobbies. I have pretty much stocked up on enough stuff to last a lifetime, and then some.
    Kurt Moose and CNE1899 like this.
  7. mdvholland

    mdvholland TrainBoard Member

    Yes, you are :p
    But don’t let that stop you. It’s most inspiring!

    I concur with the observations, my assessment is that we had some peak years with for example NZT en Stone Bridge Models bringing great z scale scenery. Better motors and new locomotives helped growth of the market, it seems. Currently, in the US market there’s little expansion….? ‘Prairy’ ….? Little to no news from the well known scenery producers for example; good thing Archistories is bringing their US-themed kits.

    European Z is steady I think, with lately some newcomers, like AZAR in France. Marklin is innovating motors and shells and bringing updated models of the well known locomotives, lesser so with all new models Understandable from cost point of view, but also with the silly tendency, if they do, to bring out models that were introduced a year before by small producers. Seems MTL (couplers!) and Marklin equally prefer to monopolize a small market instead of enlarging the market by encouraging new kids on the block.

    Shapeways seemed a great impulse for scenery items but prices aren’t fun anymore and the site and individual webshops are cluttered, unclear, confusing. As observed in this forum before, many suppliers don’t structure their shop by scale, or, if they do, not by type; so you have to skip through many pages to find the z scale items you’re looking for. Plus why do designers think we need sets of 20 mailboxes or dozens of whatever specific item? I would like to see more z scale sets with a themed collection of different scenery items, I think that would raise turnover.

    The lockdown of course put “marketing” by showing great modules and layouts on train shows on hold as well. Trainboard and a few other forums are lovely niches, but I am not sure how many people outside z scalers they’re reaching. On many European forums as well as the railwire, we’re stuck under ‘other scales’ of ‘N and Z’, which doesn’t really help.

    My 5 (euro)cents…

    rray, CNE1899 and Zscaleplanet like this.
  8. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    I think things are actually as good as they’ve ever been. Having started when you could only get MT f-7 or marklin mikado or pacific for locos. Only MT or marklin for rolling stock and track was only marklin mt flex or peco we got a lot of options and products available like never before.

    I really enjoyed MT locomotives GP 35 7 and SD 40-2. I have a couple of each maybe one day they’ll redo these. They are solid robust runners. But AZL has quite the selection like I never thought we would ever have! Those SW 1500s are just fantastic!
    Also AZL has quite a selection of rolling stock I still find MT rolling stock available and boy we got passenger equipment. Heck I still have marselous (sp?)passenger cars that were produced before MT and AZL.

    Structures come and go. While it’d be nice if we had a Bachman type manufacturer putting out generic plastic yard structures like they did in N we do keep getting new players in game.

    So perhaps maybe the niche will be 3D printed structures that are printed as wanted?

    So would I like more? Sure but I definitely appreciate the choices we got today.
    rray, Kurt Moose, CNE1899 and 2 others like this.
  9. ztrack

    ztrack TrainBoard Supporter Advertiser

    Oh trust me.. it's growing.... big time... :)
    rray likes this.
  10. Kez

    Kez TrainBoard Member

    Not asking for industry secrets or anything, but something other than your enthusiastic chiming in as evidence would be nice. :love:

    I'm seeing the typical post-holiday burst of activity, but what evidence is there that it may take hold this time? I'm still extremely frustrated trying to find ANYONE to pitch in with the club, even on a totally voluntary, no obligation basis. I almost feel like we'd be better off making demands, and holding meetings, and charging dues. At least there might be some feeling of commitment/investment by others. Going on twenty years now of the same struggle. Just wondering when it trickles down to the local level.

    Sorry for venting, but I'm really wondering how this moves forward.
    CNE1899, rray and Zscaleplanet like this.
  11. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

    I actually agree club type settings are tough. Even if there was one in my area I wouldn’t join. I got limited time with boys involved in sports and my work schedule. So my modeling is very sporadic on no clock. I Did a lot of work on my layout Thursday from 7:30-11:30 then life takes over.

    So my thought is there is a lot of enthusiasm but individually. Most clubs started cause people didn’t have space for large HO layout at home. With Z I think you can just based on size. I would not be surprised if most clubs are low on participants just as a result of so much going on.
  12. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Venting is fine. After all it is a forum, and that is in essence of what I was doing by starting this post. I was venting my concern for newbies, entering into Z-scale, and not having any choices when it comes to rolling stock, or extremely expensive choices that are far and few between.

    I’m probably like some on this forum that I’ve been collecting for over 20 years. So I have a healthy amount of rolling stock, structures, supplies. And I gathered up all of the road names that I chose.

    However, take the example of a newbie today that is attempting to find the D&RGW road name today. Locos or somewhat available through AZL, but rolling stock only pops up occasionally, and any MTL locos that are available are stupid expensive.

    As for clubs and the trickle down effect, point well noted. I was involved in, and ran car clubs for many many years. There was about five of us that were responsible for making everything happen, and the rest pretty much just showed up and paid their dues, which we did charge. That seems to be the nature of clubs, and I doubt it will ever change. At some point as I have done, you, just walk away from clubs. I won’t ever officially start another club, rather, I would just have it be a loose knit group of guys getting together and running or talking Z-scale.
    CNE1899, rray, bostonjim and 2 others like this.
  13. Kez

    Kez TrainBoard Member

    Which is EXACTLY what we have, and try to maintain, because we thought it would be more appealing in the long term. As I said, after twenty years, it hasn't paid off for us. It's still just the core group, and if ANY of us can't make it, then show plans have to be altered, as is happening for our upcoming Boy Scout show that we've been a part of for 15 years(?). It's just disheartening, with as much of myself as I've put into this.
    CNE1899, rray and tjdreams like this.
  14. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Understood. I feel your frustration - been there with the car clubs. There comes a time and a place when you just have to hang it up. If it’s no longer fun anymore, then it’s not worth the effort. Go back to the things that are fun.
    CNE1899, rray and tjdreams like this.
  15. Doug A.

    Doug A. TrainBoard Supporter

    My "state of the union" on Z:

    1. MTL isn't "reading the room" very well. I think just at the time Z went on another upswing, they just bailed. It really is head-scratching. They have tooling that they haven't even touched with the combo-door boxcars and business cars only having a handful of releases each. There are dozens if not hundreds of boxcar schemes that could be done on their older tooling. Heck, do nothing but weathered releases going forward, for all I care.

    2. Yes, AZL's firehose is on full blast. I'm the cautionary tale of "careful what you ask for". They dropped two HUGE intermodal releases on top of a pending new SD40-2, new Tunnel Motor, and SD70ACe re-run. I was looking at easily 4x my normal model railroad budget over the course of the next year. (and with three kids in college, not happening) And as you all know you can't just skip something and hope it's still there in Z, especially with the continually shorted runs of popular schemes like UP and BNSF.

    And at the end of all of that, I still can't get enough BNSF ES44's to do justice to the rest of it. (even if I had unlimited funds...the BNSF Swoosh's literally sold out in a few hours and I was able to buy ONE. At that point I still thought we were getting Heritage-II units as well, or I might have tried a little harder to get the other road numbers at least.) Popular opinion was the the ES44 release would eventually spawn a plastic C44-9W from AZL too, but I understand that is unlikely now.

    So I had to completely abandon my "dream layout" plans for Z and started a migration back to N. I'm still in Z for the short term but I'm not sure how that will play out as time goes on. I'm now in a Free-MoN group and that's likely where my focus will be from here on out.

    3. Yes, the cottage manufacturers will come and go. That's been the reality in model railroading from day 1. And as the percentage of market drops (from HO to N to Z) that translates to greater frequency of the cycle. But especially with Z on the uptick, we should see more entering the fray, which is good. 1000% agree that Archistories has been a great addition to the Z arsenal. Don't discount the continual improvements in the 3D printing realm...good quality and reasonably robust 3D resin models are primed to really shine in Z in the coming years. Especially for rolling stock like variations of the ubiquitous MTL boxcar prototypes.


    Off topic, but regarding the club most things these days, you can blame attorneys for this one. The insurance and other administrative red-tape requirements for a bona-fide, organized club of any kind have become too much for most hobbyists groups to handle. About the only ones that are able to do it are groups that have a few very wealthy individuals. (and an attorney or two in the group is a bonus. Like beer, lawyers are both the cause--and solution--to all our problems. :rolleyes: ) Or at very least, space that is gifted to them to permit setup. This provides stability, and defrays the cost of rent to help with the other exorbitant costs. This in turn encourages participation, and thus supports a large enough group whereby the costs can be split enough that it becomes workable.

    Having said that, I've belonged to dues-paying clubs back when it was still feasible, and nothing much got done there either. :eek::confused:;) Our Free-MoN group are go-getters thus far so I'm hoping that carries forward. I will say it would be nice if we could formally organize, but that's not currently in the cards. We'll see I guess.
  16. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Great points on all, and well noted on MTL. Would love to see them get back in the game.
  17. sumgai

    sumgai TrainBoard Member

    Better start a Tontine: Z is a hobby for rich older men, last one standing gets to pop the cork

    When was the last time a 12 year-old budding trainman(oops, trainPERSON) introduced themselves to this forum?..........Crickets.

    Kudos to the West Coast train showmen, and the Englishman with the awesome dioramas, and the European clubs. The kids go to their shows and get soooo excited, begging for that train high. So parents run out and try to find RTR Z train sets.....$200! Gasp, and well, 1950's Marx would be right at home with the dated technology of these RTR Z sets.

    But on their way to feverishly browsing the Amazon website for Z sets, the parents stumble upon this:
    RTR train set, NIB, $174.99 new in box, FREE SHIPPING!
    • TRAIN FEATURES – Controlled by remote (control - included), or via Bluetooth (can you say Digital Decoder and sound board INCLUDED and INSTALLED!); Puffing smoke; Switch for background, horn, bell, Thomas announcements and steam chuffing sounds.....SOUND!; RailSounds RC sound system; Operating couplers; Powerful maintenance-free motor, Working headlight.
    Yep, Lionel be smilin like old Thomas here. Lionel must have hundreds of variations of this Lionchief brand: Scale, Fantasy, you name it. Produced right in the same good old place as all commercial Z scale now. And when the kid grows older, the O Gauge Train hobby grows with him, culminating in 2-rail, rivet counting, brass-so-heavy-you-get-a-hernia-lifting-it, train models.

    I can't advise how Z competes with this. Marklin folded its tent with Chapter 11 in 2009, so did G scale LGB. MTL hunkered down, survived, but spends their scarce R&D money where the hobbyist's spending is, but that is not their Z line. Both Marklin and LGB are baaaack, chastened, and Marklin circa 2023 does not see the track to their profitability running through Z Scale America.

    Z Scale America has never had a greater selection of fantastic product offerings, both from the Godfather and the thousand points of light craftsmen in the Z Cottage Industry. But its as if the Godfather may one day visit a certain bicycle shop in Ohio, and learn about that wonderful technology called "flight" with Orville and Wilbur: the move in Z to technolgy is so 1903, "every Z head do it yourself, just like the Wright Brothers!" Meanwhile, the technology offerings right out of the box in other scales of Model Trains are so bright (and CHEAP!) you gotta wear shades. Except for the Z niche market - gotta get new batteries for your Optivisor light bar in Z scale.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2023
    CNE1899 likes this.
  18. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Good points. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say that Z-scale’s target audience is young kids. Rather, I would say the target audience is the adult crowd looking to get into Model Railroading, or has some prior experience, such as those in the N-scale crowd looking to cross over. But your point is well noted in regards to the economics of the situation, and where the money is obviously at.

    You are correct to some degree that Z–scale is for "older rich guys" and or gals. However, hasn’t model railroading always been somewhat for those with extra money? Or might we say it’s always been for those with a passion for railroading, but who will spend their money on it regardless of how much they have.

    However, I also say that Z-scale is way too small for young hands to handle. Not saying they don’t have the dexterity, just saying they don’t have the necessary patience or mechanical understanding. Although at a very young age, probably 10 or 11 years old, I was servicing my own N-scale Locos. Heck, I had no choice. I was too poor to afford to buy a new loco.

    So, on that note at the last train show here in Sioux Falls, I picked up two complete boxed N-scale sets that needed just a little work, lots of extra track, and a handful extra rolling stock, an Extra ATSF F7 that runs strong and was out the door for probably $180. In fact, I befriended a father and his early junior high aged son, doing the same thing.

    But for many like you say, they will turn to the high-tech kits at a decent price and ready to run.

    On that note, I just started a poll to find out how old our Z-scale community really is.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2023
    CNE1899 and mdvholland like this.

Share This Page