I have been around model railroading since I was a little boy. My father was an avid model railroader, modeling the steam/diesel era on his own prototype, the Credit River Northern. But I have to admit, that when it comes to z scale, I am relatively new to the hobby. So with that in mind, I wanted to offer some very basic information on modeling in z scale to hopefully get you interested in this awesome little gauge train that is growing by leaps and bounds. This first in the series is on controllers.
Z Scale Controllers
I know, the controller is really a boring thing to start with, but when you understand why we started with this, you will see that even before the track and your first locomotive, the controller must be taken into consideration. Z scale locomotives are incredible little pieces of equipment. While the detail on these little gems is absolutely incredible, especially when compared to the first z scale locomotives Marklin introduced in 1972, one thing has stayed the same over the years, they use tiny little motors that can be fried by controllers made for larger scales. Buying an oval of z scale track, a locomotive and a few cars and then hooking it up to your controller used in N scale or HO scale, can make for an very disappointing z scale experience. Not to worry, there are several good good choices for you, all fairly inexpensive. Let’s start with the original, the Marklin Mini Club controllers.
Marklin Mini Club Controllers
When Marklin introduced z scale,they were smart enough to offer a complete set that came with the correct controller. The familiar 6272A is available used on ebay, usually for around $40-$60 and is a real work horse. The model 67271 usually sells for $125 or so new and used on ebay for around $75. These are both excellent choices, I lean towards the 67271 as it is the more modern version and has easy to use hook ups.
The Rokuhan Company continues to add value and versatility to the z scale line. Currently they offer the RC02 and the RC03 controllers which both offer the constant lighting feature. They also both are expandable in that you can snap on turnout controllers and other controllers on the end of the controller. The RC03 comes with two turnout control switches already installed. Both can be operated on AA batteries or you can purchase a AC adapter. Cost ranges for about $40 for the RC02 and $75 for the RC03.
While MRC does not offer a z scale controller per say, the MRC1300 is available modified for safe use for z scale. Usually they are easily identified by the yellow sticker on the front of the controller. Usually selling for around $50-$60.
DCC control has been around for years now and the pricing is starting to come down. Most modern locomotives offered by AZL are very easy to switch to convert to DCC with simple drop in decoders. We won’t spend time here on DCC, again, this is basic info to help you get your feet wet in z scale.
So there you have it. Boring yes, important absolutely!!! When you consider you will be spending between $100 to $250 on any given z scale locomotive, you want to make sure you have the correct controller. In part 2, we will move on to locomotives. Locomotives are much more fun to talk about and offer much more to look at.
Getting started in z scale? Check out our store, Zgauge.com