The Val Ease Central Railroad ©
Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)
Manufacturer Profile: Micron Art's Reynard Wellman
One of the most agreable aspects of our hobby is that there are so many
interesting and talented people contributing to Z-scale. One of our
most dynamic, innovative and responsive Z manufacturers is Reynard
Wellman, owner of Micron Art. Fortunately for readers of Ztrack, Reynard
agreed to answer a few questions that will help us to get to know him a
Ztrack: What is your favorite word?
Ztrack: What is your least favorite word?
Ztrack: Who is Reynard Wellman? Give us a little background.
RW: Painting and sculpture are a large part of my past, but ever since
the age of 12, I was a model railroad enthusiast. I trained in painting
in Taos, NM and in sculpture at the College of Marin in San Anselmo,
Calif. My father taught me Mechanical Engineering and how to use the
various functions found on the slide-rule.
Ztrack: How long has Micron Art been in business?
RW: 6 years.
Ztrack: What did you do before you started Micron Art?
RW: For the previous 25 years as an Electro-Mechanical Designer, I just
bitched about my various jobs. But this does not mean that I did not
enjoy working as a designer. It just means that I like to gripe a lot.
Sometimes this harping led to changes that improved things and even
fattened up the bottom line.
Ztrack: What product lines do you offer, in what scales?
RW: Structures, vehicles, accessories, Zscratch, Nscratch and 99% of
these items are metal. I started with Z, then N and now HO.
Ztrack: How many employees do you have?
RW: One guy, me. I have hired associates / customers to build some of
my models, but fortunately they are regularly employed elsewhere. And
this is one of the reasons that I continue to hold off sending assembly
work to Asia. I consider companies that make overseas outsourcing a
policy to be cutting their own throats. They are essentially firing their
But the greatest contributor to my business has to be my wife, Liz. She
gets on the horn to hobby shops and very pleasantly tells them about
our products. Not only that, she understands what goes into these kits
and how much work I do to design them. She is an immearsurable asset.
Ztrack: How and when did you discover Z scale?
RW: In 1972 I saw my first Z-scale train set at a hardware store in
Berkeley, California. It was not until 1996 that I purchased two Z-scale
Ztrack: What encouraged you to enter the Z-scale market?
RW: I was annoyed (griping again) about the awful American structures
that were touted as "Z scale" when they were clearly way out of scale.
Then I saw Chris Miller's offerings in Model Railroader Magazine. I quit
griping for a while, put those kits together and then I looked around
for a decent watertank and coaling tipple. Not a thing was out there!
Ztrack: What are your hobby interests (other than model railroading)?
RW: I read a lot, mostly non-fiction. Watch TV. We are "Survivor" fans.
The Micron Art business takes the lion's share of my time.
Ztrack: What do you consider your favorite part of the model
railroading hobby? business?
RW: Building interesting layouts and making things operate according to
plan has to be near the top of the list and then building our kits and
building other makers' kits also fits the enjoyment grade.
In this business I get to share ideas with customers and fellow
manufacturers. It's the best of both worlds because everyone is civil, amusing
and takes the time to listen.
Ztrack: What do you consider to be your highest achievement so far?
RW: Normally I would say the "1888 Capital City Depot" but since that
project was completed I have since come out with "Zscratch" and it truly
represents new innovations in photo etched brass. Those who have
designed some of their own structures using these etched patterns, have
created items that are prototypical yet unique. I find the material is
easier to work with than styrene or wood, especially when it comes to the
tiny details needed in Z scale. Brass and metals, in general, outlive all
other materials used in model railroading.
Ztrack: How would you qualify the current business climate for model
railroading manufacturing? For Z scale in particular.
RW: Model railroading is growing and will continue to grow but only as
long as some of us experience real trains as a part of our lives.
Z scale has some great new engines and rolling stock but is stymied by
a lack of good quality track products. If this problem is not addressed
soon, I fear Z scale will always be looked upon as "toyish", a label it
does not deserve.
Ztrack: What are your short, medium and long term goals as a business
RW: Immediately: I am experimenting with a new technology for our
brass kits. If this is successful I will broadcast it very loudly.
Medium wise: The Diesel Engine Shed and Machine Shop is still in the
hopper. Some of the structure has been prototyped already.
Long range: Many projects are being kept under wraps to avoid
disappointment if they do not work out and to keep the competition off guard if
Ztrack: How do you see Z scale evolving in the short, medium and long
RW: Z scale is a beautiful and challenging way to model. The benefit of
doing more in smaller spaces attracts many to the hobby. Good Z work
requires patience and skill. Sure, "off the shelf" train sets are
available and that is as far as some of us want to go, but I don't see it that
way. I see it as an opportunity to build spectacular scenes without
having to own a 5000 square foot mansion to accomodate such a fantasy. If
the track problem is solved, the future looks bright.
Ztrack: What gives you the most pleasure when you go to work every
RW: Well this is not every day but often enough: Breaking open a new
prototype brass design, putting it together and finding that it goes
together exactly as planned. About half the time this proves true, but
very complex designs often require a second run and that's just the nature
of the beast.
Ztrack: In your opinion, has Z changed in the last few years? How?
RW: I've changed, that is to say, my understanding of it. I now know
just how difficult it is to produce these items and why they cost a bit
more to produce. Some of the items we offer are real bargains. But to
more completely answer your question I'd say that other scale modelers,
publications and even manufacturers are beginning to respect the fact
that Z scale is out there and that we are doing some serious modeling. We
are beginning to have an impact.
Ztrack: What surprises do you have in store for Z?
RW: It won't be a surprise if I tell you now. But I can tell you that
one of these projects I have been researching off and on for about two
Ztrack: What does Z need today to continue growing?
RW: I pretty much answered earlier concerning better track, but I would
like to add that as long as there are great customers for these
products there will be guys like me trying to fill the order.
Ztrack: How does it feel to have won the Z_Scale / Ztrack Best New
Product Award two years running?
RW: I was very pleased with the first one and pleasantly overjoyed by
the second award. These guys and gals are very astute when it comes to
appreciating good quality work. It never ceases to amaze me how
supportive our friends are and it is folks like these who will encourage us all
to make the Z scale future.
Reynard Wellman can be reached at
Micron Art, 8400 Washita Drive, Austin, Texas, 78749