Adventures in Z Scale: Re-beginning the Model Railroading

I had a train set growing up. We inherited it from my Uncle Harry, who had a room-sized HO scale setup, and it lived in our basement for a few years before being disassembled and put into boxes. 30 years later, those boxes of tracks, locomotives, rolling stock, and the odd bit of scenery now live in my attic. We don’t have space to set up a large set like that.

But what we do have is a shelf. And I discovered Z scale, which is about 2.5 times smaller than the very popular HO scale.

So I’m going to put together a shelf-sized Z scale railroad!

First, the layout. Inspired by this European mountain scene, I figured I could get a nice little loop, a tunnel, and maybe a couple of spurs out of the small area. But how to figure out what tracks I need?

Actually first, the layout software! I’m doing this on a MacBook, so I needed something that ran on Mac OS. The options are RailModeller Express and RailModeller Pro, which is the paid version of RailModeller Express. RailModeller Express it is!

Track layout software (at least, RailModeller Express) comes with track databases, so you can just pick a manufacturer and drop track into a layout. My small shelf is about 30 centimetres deep, so my maximum turn radius would be less than 15 centimetres, ideally more like 12. And the shelf isn’t a rectangle, its depth shrinks down to about 25 centimetres so one end of the loop would have to be tighter. The only company that makes curved track with tighter radii is Rokuhan, a Japanese company. Rokuhan track it is!

I came up with a little layout that has a loop, a tunnel, and a couple of spurs, with a nice little spot for a train station.

This gave me an inventory list, and after a failed attempt to order from my local model train shop, I found the only other Canadian train shop that sells Rokuhan track and put in the order. Four to six weeks shipping, of course, because they need to order some of it from Japan.

But then I heard in some YouTube video that larger radius curves are more visually appealing, so I had a bad vision of having to redo the layout to put the tunnel over the left side, which means rearranging the spurs, which potentially means I’d ordered the wrong switches!

Luckily I figured it all out and came up with the layout I’m going to put together.

The larger blue block is a railway station and the smaller one is a bridge that I’m planning on putting over a small river that’s coming off the mountain to the left.

Next up: trains!