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Model Train Resource: Z-Scale Track Plans To Inspire Your Own Layout Designs

Updated on February 13, 2017

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

At a scale of 1/220, Z-scale is the smallest easily available commercial scale in the U.S. The size allows running long multi-car freight or passenger trains even on a standard 4x8-foot sheet, or switching empires and yards in the area of a letter-sized sheet of paper. Check out these track plans to get started in this fascinating scale.


Animator’s Special

Measuring only 34-inches square, animator Jan-Eric Nyström has put his gem of a Märklin layout inside an acrylic coffee table that is only 4 inches high. It features European style structures, tunnels, a girder bridge, rural vistas and rocky outcrops. Check out the videos and the step-by-step instructions, which include using latex-based filler for the hills and acrylics for the painted rock surfaces. This miniature world glows at night with light from within structures and street lamps.


James River Branch

Measuring only 15x36 inches, the James River Branch, by David K. Smith, is a popular attraction at model railroad shows because of its town and country setting. What at first looks like a simple figure-eight displays some hidden circles when you move your cursor over the track plan. A river divides the scene into a town packed with just under 20 buildings, and a rural area with a farmhouse, cornfield and forested hill. Click the title bar on the top of the page to reach the index. Then click “Construction” to see how he built each part of his layout.


Val Ease Central Railroad

The Val Ease Central Railroad, created by Jeffrey MacHan, puts three layouts in easy-to-carry suitcases. Setting them up together produces, in Z-scale terms, a behemoth measuring 2x8 feet, complete with backdrop. Each of the divisions can run separate loops, but together they produce 65 feet or 2.7 scale miles of track with 15 switching locations. This recipient of the Golden Spike from the National Model Railroad Association has a roundhouse and car shop, elevation changes of up to more than an inch, a small town, factories, steel arch bridge, mines, granary and a small town. It has visited shows in Canada, the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands and England.


American Layout

Istvan Molnar has a nicely modeled American-style layout spanning 1880 to 1950 in 27-by-67 inches. He has a roundhouse, Wild West town, coal mine, farm, lumber mill, city and stock pens. Much of the pike’s charm comes from the multitudes of people and vehicles that cluster around every scene. Istvan also boasts at least 72 pieces of rolling stock including steam locomotives, diesels, freight cars and passenger cars.

Click the Videos link in the left margin of the website for an overview trip on a steamer with sound effects.

Carl Arendt

The late Carl Arendt pioneered micro-layouts less than 4-feet square in scales up to G. In Z, that limitation allows many spacious options. Witness a handheld switching layout measuring only 5.7x3.5 inches. Or an island with a car ferry and rotating turntable that fits in a shoebox measuring 13x9x15 inches. Or a birthday present that fits inside a guitar case measuring 40x12.5 inches. A Tymesaver industrial layout, pioneered by John Armstrong, takes up less than one-square-foot and measures just under 4 inches by just over 36 inches.


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    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Wow, Purple Turtle, that is great. Does he have a website showing his layout? Would love to see his carrying case.

    • Purple Turtle profile image

      Purple Turtle 6 years ago from Home

      Wow this is a great Hub one Z Scale Trains. My dad and I tinker with his model train set from time to time. He has built a train set inside of a caring case so that he can take it with him. All he has to do is find a wall outlet and he can show off his Z Scale Train. Voted Up