The Val Ease Central Railroad ©
Taking Z Scale to the Public Around the World
(Text and photos © Copyright Jeffrey MacHan
Last Spike: WARNING: Highly addictive in small doZeZ!
This issue of Ztrack is being distributed to unsuspecting readers via
the nation's hobby shops. As a public service to humanity, this special
edition of the "Last Spike" presents an essential self-diagnosis tool
to all of you who are reading Ztrack for the first time.
The following checklist is designed to help you determine if you have
any symptoms of a rare and all-but-impossible to eradicate condition
known internationaly as "Zedsterism" or "Zeesterism" which is the American
Be warned! Now that you have discovered Z-scale and Ztrack Magazine,
you may be a candidate for infection. For your own peace-of-mind and
the wellbeing of your loved ones, it is very important to do a monthly
self-diagnosis. Simply photocopy the following checklist (nobody in
their right mind would deface a "Last Spike" column by cutting it out),
keep it in your wallet or purse or taped to your refrigerator door for
easy referral. The test is quick, easy and painless, unless you do the
test while driving heavy machinery or crossing the street against
Instructions for the self-check
1. Read the following list of statements.
2. Without hesitation, answer "yes" or "No" to each statement.
3. If you hesitate at any point, consider the answer to be "Yes".
4. When you have completed the list, count the number of "Yes" answers.
5. Compare your result to the diagnostic chart at the end of the
6. Depending on your result, follow the instructions for care.
Answer "Yes" or "No" to each of the statements that complete the
You know you're a Z-scaler when...
...your heart starts to race when you see the numbers - 220
...you wonder how N-scalers can handle such massive trains
...every two months you go into withdrawal until your Ztrack arrives
...your wife finds trains not cash in your pockets
...you really believe Z trains are an investment, not toys!
...you "save" all the "Z"s before eating a bowl of Alpha-bits
...you list your favorite hobby as micro-ferro-equinology
...you start naming your kids "Zoe", "Zero", "Zelda", "Zorro", ...,
...your forehead has a permanent indentation from your optivisor
...coupler springs get picked up from your hair (or beard!) by your
comb every morning
...you visit train shows and haughtily declare to N-scalers that their
trains are "too BIG"
...you have a bumper sticker declaring that your "other vehicle is a Z
...you include your thumb in photos of real trains to see what the
1:220 model would look like in your hand
...you can list from memory every piece of Z at all your local hobby
...you email the world when you find a way to add 1-10th of an ounce
more weight to your newest loco
...you suspect that post office employees are all reading your Ztrack
...you can place your rolling stock on the rails at arms length
...you're hobby motto is "familiarity breeds magnification"
...you know what Göppingen is famous for
...the clock on your VCR flashes 2:20
...you say "thank you" when visitors call your trains "cute"
...when going through customs you hope you'll be asked to open your
...you carry a Z Scale-Card in your wallet because "you never know when
you'll need it"
...you've mastered the fine art of Google translations of German Z
...you can explain what the "Z" in Z-scale means
...you've Ztarted to write emailZ uZing ZedZ inZtead of eZZeZ!
...you INVITE kids to get CLOSER to your trains
...you understand that "N" is really a sleeping "Z"
...your heart starts to race whenever you see a glass-topped coffee
...you wonder what you did for FUN before you discovered Z
...you've joined every Z-related Web forum
...you agree that "Z don't get no RESPECT"
...you've successfully "harnessed" a Z-Bend Track module
...you proudly tell your new girlfriend that "Smaller is Better!"
...you can never get enough ZZZZZ!
Count the number of "Yes" answers to get your score. Compare your
score against the following diagnostic scale. Immediately follow the
instructions for care, if any!
0 - 10
It's still not too late! You can still return that starter set. But
hurry, there's no time to lose! Whatever you do, do NOT set up the
track and run the train!
11 - 20
You have been bitten by the Z bug and have entered Stage one
Zeesterism although symptoms may not appear for many months, years even. This is
the incubation period and the Z bug may appear to be dormant. With the
support of family and friends, you may delay the onset of Stage 2
Zeesterism for quite some time. However, signs of infection are clear to
specialists in the field. You will continue to pick up Z bits and
pieces, a car here-and-there, bargains all (in your mind that is). You will
rationalize these acquisitions by telling yourself that they make nice
souvenirs. However with each Z addition to your "collection", you are
surely slipping towards the next stage of Zeesterism.
Researchers have reported some success in eradicating First Stage
Zeesterism although the treatment is experimental and presents serious side
effects. It appears that infection may be overcome by a super-high
level of hormones brought on by strong amorous feelings for another member
of the species. Although it appears that this hormonal treatment has
excellent short-term effects, many researchers have reported high rates
of re-infection due to the patient's weakened resistance to the Z bug.
Unless strict security measures have been put in place, at some point
the previously symptom-free individual will likely open a dusty box in
the closet and will "discover" the Z collection. At that point
re-infection is instantaneous.
21 - 30
Second stage Zeesterism is characterized by the urge to pick up Z
bargains on eBay and your first foray into a small preformed layout or a
module. At this point there is no going back. The Z bug has fully
infected the higher order thought areas of the brain, making it impossible
for you to resist all things Z. You are now a subscriber to Ztrack
Magazine and you write the editor to ask when it will become a monthly
magazine and to complain about slow delivery. Your strong bond with your
family may prevent you from converting large portions of your living
quarters into a "true-scale" replica of the Swiss Alpine railways, the
Frankfurt am Main yards, or the Tehachapi Loop.
Final stage Zeesterism consumes you. Z is your fully declared hobby,
your passion, your one true love, okay, your second true love! You have
several Z layouts in various sizes, American, European, modules under
construction and you offer to help your neighbors build their modules.
You are a Z Ambassador! Your summer vacation plans revolve around the
NMRA National Train Show and the monster Z layout gathering. You dream
of travelling to Modellbahn Treff some day and, why not, to Sinsheim,
Utrecht, Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart to "hang" with the ZClub92 gang. It
goes without saying that you belong to every Z web forum, and you
regularly encourage Micro-Trains Line and Märklin to produce your favorite
locomotives in your favorite road names. Finally, you shop at the
thrift store for your kids clothing so that you can make the payments on the
next AZL or SZL locomotive.
It is possible to live a long and happy life as a full Zeester.
Eventually you'll come to ignore the snickers and strange looks from
mainstream model railroaders. You'll be secure in the conviction that Z is the
WAY. Nothing left to do but to create a web site to warn the world of
your affliction because you know that Z is "highly addictive in small