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 Mini-club Z Scale Assorted Tracks11 Piece Lot Marklin Mini-club Z Scale Train Tracks W/ 220 Volts TransformerZ - Marklin 8992 Rail Road Crossing - Original Box *36Azl American Z Line 62506 Csx Gp38-2 Locomotive Z Scale Train Engine *new* 2533Marklin Z 88053 Steam Heavy Freight LocomotiveMicro Trains Rolling Stock Lot-26 Cars-up, Wp, Sp, Soo, Pen, Ats, Bn, Bo,etcAzl American Z Line 62506 Csx Gp38-2 Locomotive Z Scale Train Engine *new* 2534Z Märklin 8801 Locomotive 96 002 / Marklin Mini-clubKato/mikado 2-8-2 Steam Engine 88199 Marklin Z Us Diesel Electric Loco Three Unit Motive Power Combination NewMarklin Steam Locomotive Excellently Detailed Kibri B-6818 Oberhofen Goppingburg Cathedral Z GaugeFlying Hamburger Diesel Express Rail Car, 5 Pole Motor/z Scale Z Scale Layout 16"x20"Noch 38860 "winterzauber" Finished LayoutMarklin Z 8861 Southern Pacific F7a Black Widow Locomotive Brushes And Lightbulbs For Locos 8988 8989 8953 Marklin Z Gauge Z120Used Micro-trains Track, Turnouts, Bridges, Portals & SpikesMarklin Z - Misc. ItemsZ Märklin 8800 Locomotive 89 Db / Marklin Mini-clubZ - Marklin 8994 Transfer Table - Original BoxAzl Z Scale B&m Rdc 662207 And 662208 Lot Train Cars 6208 6207Marklin 8842 Db 111 Electric Locomotive Z Scale. In BoxZ Scale Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus 1907 Mtl 980 01 521 Locomotive CarZ - Kibri 6720 - Train Station "bad Nauheim" - No Box *56Marklin Mini-club Series #8885 Z Engine & Tender With 5 #8700 Passenger CarsMarklin 82338 Freight Car SetMarklin Z 88892 Steam LocomotiveMicro-trains Amtrak Train Gp9 Dcc Loco & 5 Passenger Cars Lightly UsedZ - Marklin 8663 Munich Beer Car Set - New No Box *70Marklin Z 82522 Railion 3 Car Tarped Steel Cars 2004 Export Model NetherlandsMarklin Z 8980 Modern Locomotive Shed With Two StallsBig Ztrack Magazine Lot - 29 Issues88281 Noch Z Scale Briefcase Layout Tessin With Rokuhan Tracks 78 X 54 Cm - NewMarklin Z Scale F7 Southern Locomotive And Passenger Cars Form SetMarklin 'z' Gauge Set Of 5 Different Beer Wagons, New/ob'sMarklin Mini-club Z Scale 8621 Crane Car Marklin Z 8888; Streamlining Loco Br 10 Db, BlueMicro-trains Southern Pacific Gp9 Weathered Dcc W/ Sp Caboose Marklin Z; Rare American Box-car "b&o" Rr, New/boxed /l890Marklin Z; Rare American Box-car "great Northern" , New/boxed /l976Marklin Z Scale 8895 Db 2-6-0 Steam Engine # 74 701Marklin--usa Milwaukee Road 3-car Freight Set With Truck --z ScaleMarklin Z Scale 8594-d Mini Club Box 10 X 660mm Flex TracksMarklin Z Gauge Mixed Lot Of 6 Freight Wagons, 2 Are Limited Editions, Kb8Marklin Z; Rare American Box-car "ontario Northland" , New/boxed /l977Marklin Z; Rare American Box-car "the Rock" , New/boxed /l978Marklin Z; Rare American Box-car "dmd" , New/boxed /l979Marklin Z 8827 Db Class 41 Freight Steam Locomotive W/tender In Original Box Marklin Z 8885 Db Class 003 Passenger Steam Locomotive W/tender In Original BoxMarklin Z 0296 "das Gleisplanbuch" Z Scale Track Plans English/french/germanMarklin Z Scale Southern Pacific/milwaukee American Flat Cars C-9 Factory NewMarklin Z 8980 Modern Locomotive Shed With Two StallsZ - Marklin 8996 Yard Accessories - Nib *58Mtl Z Scale 14701 Pennsylvania Caboose Nib Marklin CouplersMarklin Z Flat Car With Alpha Auto New Year "alles Gute Fur 1989" Boxed NttMtl Z Scale 13605-2 Great Northern 50' Stndrd Plug Boxcar NibMarklin Z Anhalter Bahnhof Station Plastic Kit 89200Marklin Z Scale Huge LotZ Scale Powered Union Pacific M10000 Streamliner