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    

Vintage 1987 Marklin Mini Club "z" Scale Train Set Model 8165 Germany EucMarklin Z ScaleZ Scale Marklin Mini Club Spendenanteil Dm 15 125 Jahre Rotes Kruez Electric SetZ Scale LocomotiveZ Scale Marklin Mini Club 81780 Starter Set Steam Locomotive With Freight CarsZ Scale Mtl Up #753 Gp35 Diesel LocomotiveMarklin Z Gauge 6 Assorted Green Passenger Cars LnobMarklin Z-scale Lot Of Unused Track And Lights In Original BoxesMarklin # 8850 Z Gauge Green W Silver Roof Electric Locomotive LnobMarklin Z Gauge # 8116 Diesel Starlight Express Freight Train Set Nice! LnobMarklin # 8811 Z Gauge Green Electric Locomotive LnobZ Scale Train Steam Engine Tanker Box Car Track Union Esso Bananan UsedMarklin # 8800 Z Gauge 0-6-0 Vergoldet, (gold), Steam Locomotive LnobAzl 91906-1 Ps2-cd 4750 Cuft 3-bay-covered-hopper Canadian National Cn Ic 769384Z Scale-marklin 67271 Train Transformer Ac 10v-dc 0-10v- New In Box Z Scale Micro-trains Railbox - Alaska Northern Central Western Lot Of 4 #15Z Scale Engine, 3 Cars And CabooseZ Scale Mtl Special Run Shawnee Rr Rbox 50' Box Car Rail Box Micro Trains 5 PkZ Scale LocomotiveMarklin Br89 Steam Locomotive Z Scale **runs But Jerky**Z Scale Micro-trains W.maryland Norfolk & Western 60" Flat Car Sps Lot Of 4 #16Azl 91909-1 Ps2-cd 4750 Cuft 3-bay-covered-hopper Csx Csxt 259966, MibZ Scale Mtl Special Run Shawnee Rr Prr 40' Box Car Pennsylvania Micro Trains 5 PMarklin Z Mixed Lot Of 6 Freight Cars, Kb3Marklin Z Mixed Lot Of 6 Freight Cars, Kb5Z Scale Pennzee Np 2011 & Dubuque 2013 Lot Of 2 #17Z Scale Mtl 14312/2 Noel 1997 Holiday Gondola Car #19971 19972 Micro Trains 2 PkMarklin Z Mixed Lot Of 6 Freight Cars, Kb4(5) Marklin Mini Club Z Scale Train Baggage Passenger Car Lot Z Scale Will's Full Throttle Wdw Mix Prr Nyc 51' Cyl Hopper Usa Canada 2 PkZ Scale Uncle Will's Full Throttle Wdw Mix Atsf 51' Cyl Hopper Usa Canada 2 PkZ Scale Micro - Trains - Norfork & Western Canadian Pacific Lot Of 2 #21Z Scale Uncle Will's Full Throttle Prr 51' Cylindrical Hopper Pennsylvania 2 PkZ Scale Full Throttle Wdw 2014b Set #1 Lv #25255 33' Ribbed Twin Hopper - 1 OnlyMicro Trains Z Scale 20th Anniversary Box Car #13615-2 Marklin Z-gauge Auction Lot, Db Diesel Rail Bus & Trailer 8816,8817 With Track89003 Marklin Z-scale Display Case New In Box Mtl Z - - F7a - Powered - Santa Fe Red Warbonnet (no Box Or Paperwork)Z Scale Uncle Will's Full Throttle Wdw 1024 #1 Cr 51' Cyl Hopper Conrail 2 PkZ Scale Uncle Will's Full Throttle Wdw 1006 #3 Prr 51' Cylindrical Hopper 2 PkZ - Marklin 8619 Six Axle Wood Carrier - Lnib *2Micro Trains Z Scale Canadian Pacific Tanker #14420-2Azl Z-scale F59phi & 4 Surfliner Bi-level Passenger Cars-amtrak-modifiedKibri Z Scale Trucks 6980Z Scale Uncle Will's Full Throttle Wdw 1024 #2 Cr 51' Cyl Hopper Conrail 2 PkZ - Marklin 8722 Inter City Baggage Car Green - LnibZ - Marklin 8712 Baggage Car - LnibMicro Trains Z Scale Up Caboose "go Big Train" #14716-2Micro Trains Z Scale 40 Ft Box Car Canadian National #14150-2Z - Marklin 8780/8781/8782 Passenger Car Set W/ Illuminated End Car - No BoxMarklin Mini Club Northern Pacific CabooseMicro Trains Z Scale 40 Ft Box Car Chicago Great Western #14919-2Micro Trains Z Scale Up Pullman Sleeper Car American Haven 550 52 100Z Scale Micro - Trains - Chesapeake & Ohio Chicago & N.western Lot Of 2 #20Micro Trains Z Scale Burlington Northern 2 Bay Covered Hopper # 531 00 142Z - Marklin 8655 Stake Car - New In Replacement BoxZ - Marklin 8721 Inter City Passenger Car 2nd Class Livery / Green - Lnib *1Z - Marklin 8721 Inter Regio Passenger Car 2nd Class - No Box*15Micro Trains Z Scale 40 Ft Box Car Chicago Great Western #14139-2Z - Marklin 8721 Inter City Passenger Car 2nd Class Livery / Green - Lnib *3