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 strain.

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 traffic.

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 self-check.
6. Depending on your result, follow the instructions for care.

Answer "Yes" or "No" to each of the statements that complete the phrase:

You know you're a Z-scaler when...

...your heart starts to race when you see the numbers - 220 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 really believe Z trains are an investment, not toys! "save" all the "Z"s before eating a bowl of Alpha-bits list your favorite hobby as micro-ferro-equinology 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 visit train shows and haughtily declare to N-scalers that their trains are "too BIG" have a bumper sticker declaring that your "other vehicle is a Z train" include your thumb in photos of real trains to see what the 1:220 model would look like in your hand can list from memory every piece of Z at all your local hobby shops email the world when you find a way to add 1-10th of an ounce more weight to your newest loco suspect that post office employees are all reading your Ztrack can place your rolling stock on the rails at arms length're hobby motto is "familiarity breeds magnification" know what Göppingen is famous for

...the clock on your VCR flashes 2:20 say "thank you" when visitors call your trains "cute"

...when going through customs you hope you'll be asked to open your solar-powered briefcase carry a Z Scale-Card in your wallet because "you never know when you'll need it"'ve mastered the fine art of Google translations of German Z websites can explain what the "Z" in Z-scale means've Ztarted to write emailZ uZing ZedZ inZtead of eZZeZ! INVITE kids to get CLOSER to your trains understand that "N" is really a sleeping "Z"

...your heart starts to race whenever you see a glass-topped coffee table wonder what you did for FUN before you discovered Z've joined every Z-related Web forum agree that "Z don't get no RESPECT"'ve successfully "harnessed" a Z-Bend Track module proudly tell your new girlfriend that "Smaller is Better!" 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.

31 +

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 doZeZ!".