In 1972, at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, German toy manufacturer Märklin introduced the tiniest model railroad yet in Z scale, which has a 1:220 ratio and a gauge of 6.5mm. Featuring a locomotive so small it could fit into a walnut shell, this new scale allowed full train sets to be built in briefcases, jewelry boxes, and guitar cases.

The letter Z, the last character in both the English and German alphabets, was selected because at the time no one believed that a smaller model railroad would ever be made. In fact, the T scale (1:450) has since emerged from Asia, but it is still a niche line and is not widely available.

Märklin branded its Z scale line, invented by the company's head design engineer, Helmut Killian, as Mini-Club. Because it was a brand new scale, Märklin had to produce everything model railroads could want—locomotives, tracks, rolling stock, buildings, and toporamas. For a few years, Märklin was the only Z scale game in town, but eventually, other manufacturers got on board.

The 150-year-old company made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1978, when one of its Z Scale engines, pulling six cars, ran 1,219 hours and 720 kilometers nonstop before the motor died.

Also in the late '70s, Nelson Gray in upstate New York produced a highly detailed Z scale model railroad inspired by American prototypes, the F-7 diesel locomotive and its freight cars. He sold this line to Micro-Trains of Oregon in 1982, which soon updated his work and manufactured a popular American line of Z scale trains.

This competition prompted Märklin to release American trains in Z scale, including an F-7 engine, a box car, a gondola, and a Santa Fe caboose in 1984, as well as Santa Fe prototype passenger cars in 1985. Later, the company also manufactured a 2-8-2 Mikado steam engine and a 4-6-2 Pacific steamer.

The small size of Z scale demands precise engineering—for that reason, there’s no such thing as a low-end Z scale train. The diminutive scale allows for long, realistic curves, a...

One of the most collected manufacturers producing high-quality replicas in Z scale is American Z Lines, formerly known as Rogue Locomotive Works, which has made about a half-dozen modern diesel engines. Other current Z scales manufacturers in the United States, Germany, and Japan include Railex, PennZee Freudenreich Feinwerktechnik, Bahls Modelleisenbahnen, and Tokyo Marui.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Airfix Model Railways

Airfix Model Railways

Dave McCarthy's Airfix Model Railway treasure trove is an in-depth archive of the company's plastic railway kits fr… [read review or visit site]

Gateway NMRA

Gateway NMRA

This great reference site for model railroaders, from the Gateway (St. Louis) division of the NMRA (National Model … [read review or visit site]

HOseeker.net

HOseeker.net

This site is a treasure trove of HO scale model railroad manufacturer catalogs and other reference information, inv… [read review or visit site]

Postwar Lionel Trains Library

Postwar Lionel Trains Library

Bernie Schulz’s Lionel Trains Library focuses exclusively on postwar Lionel trains and accessories. The site cont… [read review or visit site]

Eric's Trains

Eric's Trains

Eric Siegel's site displays his collection of O-gauge/O-scale trains, tracks, turntables, and other accessories. A … [read review or visit site]

Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT

Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT

MIT's model railroad club, as one might expect, has one of the best websites for learning about how people play wit… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Obb Electric Locomotive. Marklin 67271 120v Transformer - Z Scale LnMarklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Obb "jaffa Orange" Passenger Car Set (rare). Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Wle Diesel Electric Locomotive MhiMarklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Diesel Locomotive.Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Electric Locomotive. NewKibri For Marklin Z 6998 100 Anniversary Large Oil Refinery Structure Kit N/obxMarklin Spur Z Scale/gaugetank Locomotive (new).Marklin Z Scale Freight Cars-set Of 6Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Belgian Switch Engine (rare). Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains Gp35 At&sf Rd#2893, Item #98101040Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Steam Locomotive & TenderMarklin 8165 Z Scale Train Freight Car Set Ln/boxKhs - Z-scale Micro-trains F7a Powered And F7b Dummy AlaskaKhs - Z Scale Micro-trains Gp9 At&sf Rd#2926, Item# 98201061Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Electric Locomotive.Marklin Z Scale 8892 Locomotive 4-6-2 With TenderMarklin Z: 82521 New In BoxMarklin Z Scale Passenger Cars-set Of 10 CarsMarklin Spur Z Scale/gauge King Ludwig Ll Train Set. Rare.Marklin 88490 Prr Pennsylvania Ggi Engine #4935 5 Stripe Z Scale New In Box LqqkKhs - Z Scale Micro-trains Passenger Dome Car Alaska #55100040Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Electric Locomotive.Misc Z Scale Lot. Mostly Marklin. Loco's , Transformer, Rolling Stock Etc.Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains Gp35 Penn Central Rd#2289, Item# 98101111Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains Passenger Coach Car Alaska #55200040Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Sbb Container Car Set. Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains Passenger Baggage Car Alaska #55300040Marklin Z #88604 Atlantic Coast Line F7 Diesel Locomotive SetMarklin 8182 1996 Starter Train Set #8182 Ln/boxMarklin 88060 Z Scale Marklin Winter Layout LnAdler Z Scale Train Railex 8770a Special Edition Marklin Z Scale Train W/ SoundMarklin Z Scale Mini-club Locomotive 88447- Brand New Very RareKhs - Z Scale Micro-trains Passenger Sleeper Car Alaska #55000040Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains Gp9 Guilford Rail System Rd#54, Item# 98201082Khs - Z-scale Micro-trains Passenger Dome Car Gn #55100030Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains At&sf 50' Std Box Car Dd Rd#10089, Item#13740-2Khs - Z-scale Micro-trains Passenger Coach Car Gn #55200030Marklin Z Scale Train Car Set Of 4Z Gauge Marklin Db Br260 Red Diesel 0-6-0Micro Trains Line Z Scale LocomotiveMarklin Z Scale Freight Cars-set Of 7Marklin Z 81413Khs - Z-scale Micro-trains F7a Powered And F7b Dummy At&sf WarbonnetZ Gauge Marklin Db Br50 2-10-0 With Cab TenderMarklin 00832 Halloween Starter Set Ln/boxKhs - Z-scale Micro-trains F7a Powered And F7b Dummy Pennsylvania RrKhs - Z-scale Micro-trains Passenger Dome Car Amtrak #55100050Z Scale Z Gauge Marklin Mini-club 2405n Miller High Life Beer Car No Reserve!8x Nos Noch Spur Z Scale Trees Hedges Fences 4205 4207 4270 4281 4282 4406 A631Z Scale Marklin Mini Club Z Scale Locomotive Chessie System F-7 Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Baden Wurttemberg 50th Anniversary Set.Marklin Spur Z Scale/gauge Electric Locomotive. Khs - Z Scale Micro-trains At&sf 50' Std Box Car Dd Rd#10197, Item#50600600Marklin 8800 Locomotive In Blue-very RareMarklin Z Scale 4-6-0 Steam Locomotive Illinois Central #373Marklin Z Scale Freight Cars-set Of 7Khs - Z-scale Micro-trains F7a Powered And F7b Dummy AmtrakMarklin 8192 T1 Extension Set Ln/boxMarklin 8193 T2 Extension Set Ex/box