ETAT Class 231 Express Locomotive

The 2008 mini-club release of an Era II French State Railways (ETAT) class 231 express locomotive was included with trainset 81080 (“International Long-Distance Express Train”) which also included 4 coaches and a baggage car painted and lettered for International Sleeping Car and Dining Car Company (CIWL).

The operating number for this locomotive (231-997) indicates it was originally a class C Wurttemberg with 4-6-2 wheel arrangement. Following WW1 three class C’s were given to France with operating numbers 231-997, 231-998 and 231-999 assigned by Chemins de Fer de l’Etat. In service until 1937 all three locomotives were destroyed by bombing in 1944, Marklin’s 81080 locomotive preserves the prototype of the class 231-997.

The model is beautifully painted and lettered with hand-painted bands. Excellent weight and 5 pole motor make this a locomotive with very good running performance even at slow speeds.






Micro-Structures and American Prototype Architecture for Z

Miller Engineering released a line of buildings kits years ago called Micro-Structures designed along the lines of typical architecture found in many small American towns. If you visit Main Street in many USA towns the original buildings haven’t changed much since they were built in the late 19th century, the towns themselves have changed dramatically and some buildings have gone through facelifts and demolition here and there, but for the most part the old buildings are intact thus modeling most any era of American railroading is possible with these building kits.

V101- Victorian House: “Empire” (note: additional scoring is required with this kit)

V606- Victorian House: “The Victoria”

The concentration of the line was on Main Street, but it also included a few Victorian houses that rounded out the line nicely. Note: I am using the past tense because unfortunately the line was discontinued with only a few new kits available here and there from dealer old stock. Ebay is a good source as is I found a local dealer who had a few left over kits which were very popular in their day and should be today; they are well designed in historical scale and detailing plus well made out of heavy gauge etched brass.

303- K.C.’s Hardware Store (note: features printed windows with store logo) lime sometimes appears over time in mortar joints and bricks, I applied diluted white paint followed by wiping off to give this effect

404- The Triangle Hotel & Bar (note: features printed window masking for the street level windows as well as clear acetate for the other windows) building as it appears right after painting but before window glazing. Typical building type for a mid size town, but this design first appeared in NYC, that building is called not surprisingly the “Flat Iron Building”

505- Crestline Theater (note: two options for marquee include a solid marquee with etched movie now showing or a cut out marquee designed to hold a paper now showing sign, this building was built with solid marquee) detailing is so good with this kit that a depiction of can lights above the doors is included that look great lit

With a few exceptions the kits go together quite easily, but I found the large Victorian “Empire” House to have shallow scoring lines for bending in this case further scoring was required. Overall the Empire house was the most difficult of the group to make.

606- Pitman’s Deli (note: excellent detailing with printed store windows and beautiful awning, plus recessed door)

I found some kits came with acetate for the windows while others did not, and a couple had just enough for street side windows with very nice printed signage.

901- City Fire Station (note: I tried building this kit years ago with the recommended Super Glue, it was a disaster and tried these kits again until this Fall. Solder is the way to go for me!)

One obvious advantage with these kits is lighting, they will not leak light as the metal is opaque, but you must fashion windows masks or partition walls for realistic effects.

801- Townhouse #2 (note: under construction the model is assembled but prepping it for painting will include sanding solder joint smooth and bending to make the building sit flush, followed by a good cleaning with diluted Dawn, warm water and a soft toothbrush, green residue on building is flux which washes off easily with warm water and original blue Dawn)

Prepping the kits for assembly takes time, any rough edges must be sanded or filed. And after assembly the buildings need thorough cleaning to remove solder flux or other debris. Super Glue or soldering are the choices for assembly, but I prefer soldering due to the speed and control of this method. Soldering is easy if you use flux in addition to the solder with flux. I solder at 750 degrees and place water soluble flux at the area to be soldered with a toothpick. Note: solder melts and follows the source of heat, try to avoid applying solder directly to the soldering iron tip.

100- City Scoop (note: this is the only kit that requires Super Gluing, it is made of stainless steel and solder will not adhere) this building features great detailing including ice cream machines and work table on the interior, plus picnic tables, air conditioning unit and trash cans on the exterior. I had fun with this kit and painted a whimsical ice cream cone. I also left the interior natural stainless steel, but I painted the ice cream machines with silver solvent based paint and painted the outer edge of the ice cream cone with metallic copper solvent based paint just to catch a sparkle there. (note: if you discover a build-up of Super Glue after its cured it can be removed easily with a razor blade and wear gloves working with Super Glue!!!!!!!!!!)

Note: preparation of the building will include sanding or filing smooth any solder ridges or residual glue that will otherwise show up under a thin layer of paint.

Window glazing is glued in place after painting with 5 minute epoxy. As stated earlier acetate was missing in some kits I bought or not enough was included, if you build Archistories kits use some of the leftover acetate as they are very generous at Archistories.

5 minute epoxy might be the best option for securing these buildings to the layout if it is portable otherwise they sit flush to the surface and anchoring may not be required.

The small buildings in this line-up require simply cementing window details in place then folding buildings sections together and cementing. The roof requires bending along sides and molding embellishments before attaching to building. Note: fold the front section of roof first before side sections, a separate folded section goes over the front of the roof thereby giving a nice finishing touch thus do not cement the roof until this part goes on! Note: everything is outlined well in the instructions, my notes are simply to highlight important aspects that arose for me.

These buildings look better in person, and even better with a GG1 rolling by capping off the hard work and meticulous attention to detail involved with their construction. And your family will be proud of your good fortune!

No complaints about these kits, they were fun to build and modify as needed!!! And soon to be very collectible!

Siding: essential brass bending tool is “The Bug”

The 1935 NIEMAG GLEISBAUKRAN is monumental!

Crane, maintenance of way railcar, or a crazy thing with lots of hooks? All of the above, but what stands out is its sheer size and without a description who knows what it is?!?!

The railcar with the big boom installed over a million window cabin is for track construction, assembled track sections could be offloaded from a flat car, traverse through the car above the cabin and placed on other side for installation.

Winding drum and machines are modeled inside the cabin. I chose to paint the machine in dark brown with weathering along the lower part of cabin as a disused railway vehicle on a siding.

Constructing the model was relatively easy compared with others by Behnke although I found the cabin to be a tight and difficult fit on the chassis. The mistakes I made with this kit was installing the cabin higher on the frame than it should be, but I found the fitting too difficult, it did not readily slide into place. The second mistake was installing the hooks too low in the boom, they should have been attached higher inside the boom frame to realistically allow track to slide through channel above cabin. One day I will receive buffers for this and maybe then correct the hooks, but in the meantime it is a pretty cool contraption!


Battery Powered Locomotive from 1929? YES Behnke!

A locomotive that will surely garner attention on a Z layout is this small battery powered locomotive and trailer based on the prototype from 1929: Behnke release “1929 AKKUTRIEBWAGEN Muller.

Built by G. Muller in 1929 the locomotive appears to have been used for MOW service and yard work. Standing room only in the cabin this was a no frills work a day probably every day workhorse.

I sprayed the completed model in a dark red brown, followed by an inky black to top structures and finished with dry brush in a very dark gray to accentuate the details of the trucks and platforms. Headlamps are rendered in bright white paint with very fine brush.

Note: Behnke kits do not provide couplers, wheel sets or buffers, this model is awaiting buffers from FR available later in 2018.

Nagel & Kamp railway crane by Peter Behnke

Another interesting railway vehicle is this early railway crane by Nagel & Kamp released in Z by Behnke.

As with other Behnke kits wheel sets and buffers have to be purchased separately, they are available from FR and Marklin.

An interesting and early crane that will add interest to a siding or alongside a railway building.

Assembly was easier than other Behnke kits but still challenging as the parts are small and bendable joints easily break. A little weight was applied to the inside of cabin to prevent it from tipping over. Window glazing can be installed although I chose not to.

Crane boom has a fixed pitch and a winding drum is not depicted , I used a fine brown thread for the rigging line affixed to a beam that I had to supply.



Faller Z “Laser-Cut Series” further advances with Townhouse

Faller’s recent release of a townhouse designed to corner a block is striking and suggests a well appointed architectural style of the early 20th century: 282782.

A simple straight forward kit to build this model will complete the earlier releases of 282780 and 282781 for a complete city block with many interesting and varying architectural elements and styles.

If I am correct these laser-cut paper kits seem to be limited in release as earlier releases suggest so claiming yours should come before they sell out. So far there has been not enough releases of urban residential architecture so completing the surrounding grounds of a large city station was only possible with scratch built constructions.

Our choices and options in Z have always been rather limited in comparison to other scales but all that is changing with the very interesting recent releases by Marklin, Faller, MBZ and of course Archistories.

More buildings and more choices I forecast for ‘Z’ in the New Year! Stay in touch with this hobby as it is evolving in new ways and avenues.

Marklin’s set of die cast cars, vans and truck makes its appearance around the busy intersecting avenues framed by Faller’s new corner building 282782. Marklin’s three releases of die cast cars covers several eras this one being the earliest of the three, item #89020 includes 7 cars and trucks plus 2 kiosks/advertising columns complete with theater posters! Even though very small the casting of these vehicles is superb and paint flawless as we expect with Marklin. The shiny paint surface juxtaposes nicely with the matte finish of laser-cut buildings. Even some cars sets and train sets have included these die cast jems that include Era III.

If you decide to add this building to your layout I recommend Noch Laser-Cut Cement, the glue and the applicator is truly the best available for assembling these kits. Glue is readily available from

Cranes Cranes Cranes! by Peter Behnke

Awhile back I featured a MOW vehicle for the SBB available as a printed shell through Shapeways, it is the design and handiwork of Peter Behnke who’s designs for numerous interesting Z are available at Shapeways.

Mr. Behnke prior to the printed Shapeway models produced small batches of nickel etched build kits for rail vehicles and industrial machines including cranes here we have four of those cranes:

1. 1944 KRUPP ARDELT Dier 1 




Finely detailed etched kits originally delivered without assembly instructions are now available with limited instructions from Scandinavian Shops or qualitytoytrains on Ebay. Numerous filigree parts and thin metal make for some challenges, but they get easier after the first one or two as does most things. Various levels of expertise will be on display for those who take on these kits including soldering and painting skills, but most importantly prepping and bending parts before assembly.

First: orientation to the parts sheet or as one person has said looking at a puzzle with no idea how it goes together

Second: separate parts from sheet and gently sand any rough edges

Third: gently fold parts following photo guides here or in the instruction sheet provided with current purchases through Scandinavian Shops *each kit will have unique challenges and instructions will become more of a distraction from common sense as anyone may attest that assembles these intricate and delicate kits

note: best tool for bending etched metal parts is “The Bug”, it is part of my essential Z toolbox:

The Bug is available at

Fourth: soldering or super glue are the choices for assembling, I prefer solder because it is quick and gap filling

Fifth: a cleaning phase follows before painting, I use original Dawn liquid (blue) diluted in warm water and using a soft toothbrush gently go over all surfaces to clean off any debris or flux followed by thorough drying

Six: determine your paint color and either spray or brush water based paints, I do not recommend solvent based model paint for these kits, I have found it easier to apply layers of color with water based model paints and the flat surface appearance takes better to aging and weathering

Seventh: spray a diluted water based lacquer over the model to add durability to the painted surface followed by rigging the lines from hook to winding drum

Note: the kits do not provide some required parts including pulley wheels so some extra effort is required to fashion the essential parts for securing rig lines

Note: weighting the cabin is required for some cranes, test before securing cabin to deck, if it topples over maybe cement a small hex nut inside

Note: cranes can be assembled to allow the cabin to rotate on the deck of the crane, pre-drilled holes are provided, but tiny machine screws are not, I determined the placement of the cabin and soldered in place, I also soldered in place the boom which can also be assembled to move, but I do not recommend it: parts are to flimsy for continuous movement at the joint where the two meet

Note: the crane boom in all the kits is one piece featuring bending seams, I soldered all seams to ensure a solid construction, due to the nature of the parts SuperGlue will not work for this step as a gap filling material is required.

Note: soldering is easy with flux, I use water based flux applied to the area I want to solder with a toothpick, heating the material with a soldering iron makes the solder flow toward the heat and to the area to be joined *solder is not applied directly to soldering iron tip unless the area to be joined is too space restrictive *solder with a flux core is recommended with additional flux applied to the area to be soldered

Siding: the right tools make all the difference as with soldering the very best tool I have found is the Hako FX-951 soldering station, it features interchangeable tips, solder resistant pad, sleep mode with iron craddle, and multi function control box *best tool I bought in 2017!!!



FR New Release: timber hauling in Sweden 46.820.01

Last Fall FR continued their program of timber cars for Scandinavian railways with the release of 46.820.01 thus the 2nd for SJ preceded by 46.817.01, but the third release for a Scandinavian timber car including the earlier release of NSB’s 47.805.01 which is still available!

Two stacked loads of rough cut timber make up the load for this car which is a modified flat car type Kbps-X and current prototypical timber car manufactured by TAGAB in Sweden.

Model features filigree frame and injection molded stakes with fine painted detail work. Currently not available due to quick sell out of the 1st release, a second release is scheduled for 2018 according to the FR website.

This car comes packaged in a clear plastic box with FR lettering and dense foam insert which is typical for all FR releases. This handsome packaging securely and safely allows for display and storage of these limited release Z items.


New SJ L5 steam locomotive build kit from FR: Part 2

Not long ago I posted about FR’s recent release of the class L5 steam loco for SJ, it is a build kit, and I just received mine today! The kit is a well designed precision kit, it provides a rarity for Z modeling.

The kit comes packaged in a plastic container with numerous parts enclosed along with visual instructions. It is a kit that requires a Marklin 8801, 88956 or 8803 for motive power along with modification of the side rods and painting the wheels black. The cylinders were placed within the locomotive chassis in the prototype thus the cylinders are removed for this model.

Note: Marklin tender is not required for this kit which provides the correct prototypical tender for the loco.

For those experienced with building rolling stock in Z or working with nickel silver this kit is self explanatory, but for the inexperienced modeler this kit should not be the first. Accumulating some experience with building etched metal buildings should probably come first for new modelers: gaining soldering experience with bigger parts first will be invaluable for assembling the small parts in this kit. I am in the process of learning to do these kits starting first with the excellent non powered Behnke kits offered by Scandinavian Galleries Quality Toys. Behnke kits do not provide instructions and careful interpretation is required to fully understand how they go together, but they are excellent kits that combine gluing, soldering and bending of small nickel silver parts; they provide a good place to start before tackling the very interesting L5 kit.

The packaging of the L5 kit separates parts according to their purpose instead of throwing everything together thus taking care of the guesswork. The beautifully cast metal boiler and cast plastic tender trucks are included with etched nickel and add-on parts such as the buffers which are brass. The tender also includes a tiny circuit board to allow it to pick-up power with its three axles.

Note: The age old technique of picking up additional power from the tender’s wheelsets is a very effective way to increase performance of small steam locos through turnouts and the like!

Some of the add-on parts are super tiny so I highly recommend a very fine tip soldering iron as well as 5 minute epoxy which work hand in hand on models. Until I build this kit I won’t exercise a preference for using glue over solder and vice versa for specific steps, suffice to say solder will be used more.

Paint finish will be applied with airbrush and water based paint followed by decals provided.  A finish coat of clear water based acrylic is always required otherwise the finish and decals would wear.

The kit is FR Item #46.140.91, it is currently available.

What you need to complete the locomotive: 1. Marklin 8801, 88956, or 8803 2. water based paint best suited for airbrushing 3. patience 4. time 5. soldering iron and/or 5 minute epoxy 6. tweezers 7. Xacto blade for cutting parts from sheet 8. time 9. patience 10. magnifying binoculars

Be the first kid on the block to own an L5 SJ steam locomotive in Z!

Stayed tuned for my future post on the completed L5 along with some tips on building the kit.


Streamlined Tank Locomotive BR 61 001: “Henschel-Wegmann”

The legacy of Marklin Z collecting is the historical heritage charted with unusual locomotives such as those we can no longer see in person. Germany’s BR 61 001 was one of two locomotives used for express train service for the Henschel-Wegmann trainset: Dresden-Berlin Route. Two versions of the BR 61 001 have been produced by Marklin for Z gauge: original prototype version (81436 trainset) and post-war version (88610).

photos: Marklin 81436 – Henschel-Wegmann BR 61 001 (DRG)

Built in 1935 the BR 61 001 (DRG) was a carefully designed locomotive for speed and efficiency, its lightweight and streamlining including coaches allowed increased speed, plus hauling just enough coal and water for one-way travel allowed further weight limits thus replenishing supplies in Berlin or Dresden was an efficiency standard implemented by its design.

photos: Marklin Z BR 61 001 (DRG) *originally released by Marklin as the “Henschel-Wegmann” trainset 81436 included 4 streamlined coaches with matching paint scheme not pictured.

Note: Marklin 81436 was the 2005 One Time Release for Insider Members.

Speed was everything in the mid 30’s with the BR 61 001 competing with the speed record set by the 1932 “Flying Hamburger” of 99mph seen here as Marklin 88870: 


The BR 61 001 was no slouch setting a record 109mph which would remain unbroken for the Dresden-Berlin route through the next century.

photos: Marklin 81436 – BR 61 001 (DRG) original prototype

Post War the BR 61 001 was repainted and lettered for the German Federal Railroad and allocated to Bw Hannover. Its use was limited to 6 months in the late 40’s followed by 1 year of service logging thousands of miles between November 1950 and November 1951 whereupon it suffered serious accident damage, a year later (1952) it was retired and finally scrapped in 1957.

photos: Marklin 88610 – BR 61 001 German Federal Railroad (DB) post-war version

Streamlining of early German steam locos was perfected with the class 61 incorporating the tank locomotive concept with bold body contouring which allowed fast express train service, it was state of the art in the mid 30’s whose life was cut short in the early 50’s. Another example of preserved railway history in Marklin Z.

photos: Marklin 88610

Note: fine detailing and large brass steam whistle

Will there be a BR 61 002 released in mini-club? The more powerful locomotive built in 1939 featured larger water tanks, smoke deflectors and 3 axle bogie, such a release would complete the historical record of this locomotive class.