The Val Ease Central Railroad ©

Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan)

Last Spike: Presenting Z Pioneer, Manfred Jörger and his "Million Passenger" Layout

Jeremy Brandon and Manfred Jörger.
Jeremy Brandon and Manfred Jörger.
European Z-scalers are very fortunate to have within their midst one of the world's foremost "Z" craftsmen and layout builders, Mr. Manfred Jörger. A master metal wright by trade, Manfred has taken his metal-working expertise and applied it to "Z", the smallest of electrically-operated model railway scales.

Manfred’s products are all designed and assembled in his workshop.
Manfred’s products are all designed and assembled in his workshop located in Puchheim, Bavaria.
His exploits in model railroading are extraordinary not the least of which is his huge modular layout. The appropriately named, "Manfred Jörger's Z-scale Modular Layout", is legendary in Germany and the Netherlands mainly due to it's excellent scenery, impressive size and flawless automated signal-controlled operations. However, Manfred's contribution to "Z" is even more significant. Manfred has always been a strong public supporter of "Z". He is a pioneer in promoting "Z" at major train shows and exhibitions with his ever-growing modular layout. With his participation at the Cologne Train Show in October 2002, Manfred became the first recorded Z-scaler to have surpassed the landmark "million passenger" threshold. By any measure, in any scale, Manfred has done something truly remarkable.

Diesel service.
Diesel service area
Manfred's first outing with the layout took place in 1993 at his EFW Club in Wurmtal, Germany. But for the general public, his layout can most often be seen as part of the Märklin display at the Göppingen "Modellbahntreff" and at the Cologne / Munich train shows.

The following table provides a glimpse of Manfed’s show schedule leading up to his “million” threshold.

EFW (@ 2k = 10k): 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001

Köln (@ 110k = 550k): 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002*

Göppingen (@ 40k = 160k): 1997 1999 2001 2003

Speyer (@ 10k = 30k): 1994 1995 19961993

München (@ 110k = 330k): 1999 2001 2003

Dortmund (@ 110k): 1999

Utrecht (@ 40k): 2001

* The Million mark was reached at the Cologne show in 2002. The total recorded number of "passengers" is 1,230,000 and growing! (22 shows including Munich in November 2003).

Here is a quick look at the staggering pace at which Manfred shared his Z world with the model train-loving public (Show # in parenthesese).

1993(1st) 1994=100k(2nd) 1996=250k(7th) 1999=500k(11th) 2000=750k(15th) 2002=1000k(20th

Despite his unmatched reputation in Europe, Manfred is a relative unknown to North American Z-scalers. With the help of Jeremy Brandon who had a chat with Manfred shortly before the Munich show and also provided the stats, let's learn something more about him.

ZT: Mr. Jörger, would you please tell us how you first became interested in "Z"?

A: It was when I first saw Märklin's picture of the BR89 in the walnut shell. I think that was in 1974.

ZT: You appear to have a close working relationship with Märklin in Europe. How did this come about and what projects have you completed for them?

A: A photographer from the Märklin Magazine saw my layout at an exhibition and wanted to photograph it for publication. The Märklin exhibition people saw the pictures and asked me to show the layout on their stand at the next Köln exhibition. I was then asked to make a modular layout for the Märklin museum. [Note: Manfred has produced several Z display layouts for the Märklin Museum. He has also done displays in other scales, most notably a floor-embedded HO-scale operating display in the lobby of the Fischer Hobby Store in downtown Munich.]

ZT: When did you begin your modular layout?

A: That was in 1992. All I had at the beginning was the Landwasser Viaduct, the main station, and a level crossing. It couldn't have been more than seven metres long.

ZT: What do you consider to be your most satisfying accomplishments to date? A: My favorite module is the old Grosshesseloher Brücke. [Note: this unique bridge model is constructed entirely from etched brass and was assembled by Manfred at a cost of several thousand euro. It remains a masterpiece of modeling in any scale]. And then there is the model of the old village of Germering which now stands on one of the two large end modules. [Note: and more recently, a complete Bavarian 'Oktoberfest' scene with dozens of reveling drinkers on scratch-built benches].

[Author’s aside: I had the privilege of visiting Manfred's workshop in 2002 and running trains on his modules. I have to add that his two-module engine servicing facility is a wonder to behold. Being particularly partial to motive power of any stripe, I must say that these modules are my personal favorites. JM].

ZT: What "Z" goals do you have?

A: The most important is that Z-modelers should have fun from running their layouts. This can be achieved only if every component functions well.

ZT: Has anyone else helped with your layout and what was their contribution?

A: I make the modules, lay the track and add the scenery. So far I have constructed about 40 metres of modules. But I'm no electrician. All the original electrics and electronics were installed by Christian Barschow. More recently Jeremy Brandon has maintained and extended the electronics side of the layout.

ZT: Congratulations on reaching the "million passenger" plateau. Z-scalers from around the world look forward to enjoying your contributions to Z and to seeing your work at your next shows.

Steam service.
Steam service area
Manfred is a man of few words but of immense talent and accomplishments. In addition to his modular masterpiece, Manfred has invented, designed and manufactured several ground-breaking products for the avid Z modeler. His "System Jörger" line includes a track cleaning car (offered by Märklin), a track cleaning wand, traction tyres for Märklin steamers, an under-track double slip motor, and Jeremy Brandon designed electronic speed controllers for 9-volt battery and mains DC portable layouts. These are just the products that I am aware of. I'm sure that he has many unique and innovative solutions that he has shared with the lucky members of his Z-stammtische group in Munich.

Manfred's passion for Z is an inspiration to modelers, craftspersons and Z- scalers everywhere. If you ever get the opportunity to be in the Göppingen, Cologne or Munich neighborhoods when Manfred has his layout on display, make sure you see it. You'll be amaZed...not to mention that you'll regret it if you don't!

Engines at turntable
Perfect trackwork is a hallmark of Manfred's modules