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

Reynard Wellman
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 little better.

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 potential customers.

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 train sets.

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 person?

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 it does.

Ztrack: How do you see Z scale evolving in the short, medium and long term?

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 day?

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 years.

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
Telephone: 512-292-7065