The Val Ease Central Railroad ©

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

Women of Z: Report from Amherst BIG Train Show 2007

Last January 27, I had the great pleasure of attending a major train show as a “civilian”, i.e. not as an exhibitor. The site of this event was the annual Amherst Railway Society BIG Train Show held at the Eastern States Exhibition in West Springfield, MA. For more information about this show, see

The BIG Train Show is ranked in the top three in North America for size (three buildings full of trains and attendance over a 2-day weekend of 20+ thousand) and probably number one for entertainment value. Although the show offers 36 operating layouts in most scales, including Z, the main attraction is the huge number of vendors (305) and the presence of national and regional manufacturers. Most of the major brand names in model railroading are present. In the Z arena, visitors to the 2007 show could come face-to-face with Eric Smith, CEO and President of Micro-Trains Line, Fred Gates, President of Märklin USA and Chris Miller of Miller Engineering.

Needless to say, I made it my personal mission to hunt down these three pillars of Z-scale model railroading and get their impressions on today's Z universe.

Two Women of Z

Sorry guyZ but for me the real story of the event was meeting two talented women who were making their very first appearance at the BIG Train Show, Brenda Hensleigh (Märklin) and Vicki Travis (Tri-State Z Modelers). Allow me to introduce them...

Brenda Hensleigh is the marketing coordinator for Märklin USA and has been employed with the company since 1990. She is one of the rare women in the model train industry.

Brenda is working hard to help grow the model railroad hobby. She explained to me that train shows are a very important part of the Model Railroad Industry Association (MRIA) strategy to reach a large and affluent audience. Märklin is taking to the road at all four of the World's Greatest Hobby Train Shows in 2007 and started the year off with their first ever participation at the Amherst Show. Brenda brought along her boss, Fred Gates, and colleague, Tom Catherall, the Märklin DCC guru, to help mingle with the large crowds around their display area.

Brenda is responsible for the Märklin Club and works closely with hobby associations such as the European Train Enthusiasts (ETE). She also helps to organise the bi-annual trip to Modellbahntreff, the Märklin model train extravaganza held in Göppingen, Germany, home to the Märklin corporate headquarters, their major factory and the Märklin museum. She mentioned that the 2007 Treff was moved to mid-September in order to bring it closer to the model railroading season and to avoid the high-traffic summer holiday period.

Brenda confided to me that she often receives comments from male hobbyists who would very much like to have her job with Märklin. She also mentioned that she has no intention of leaving any time soon. For the record, she does have a Z connection...she collects Z souvenirs on her travels, the latest being the ICE art deco dining car.

Brenda Hensleigh, marketing coordinator, Märklin USA has been with the company since 1993 and is very attached to her job, thank you very much!

Vicki Travis is the newest member of the Tri-State Z-Bend Track module group. She was introduced to Z by her father, Cliff Travis, who, at 83 years of age, puts most of us to shame with his enthusiasm and curiosity about all things Z.

Vicki was no slouch when it came to interact with the crowds at the BIG Show. She was happy to point out the things she enjoyed most about building a module. Her scenery talent was obvious but she is a real star when it comes to building structures and putting together a believable scene such as her Amish farm. Incredibly, she only began work on her module three weeks previously.

Vicki is looking forward to returning for the 2008 edition of the BIG Train Show. Imagine what she can do in 12 months!

Vicki Travis put her artistic talents to good use at the BIG Train Show.

Vicki's 4-foot Z-Bend Track module is the home for several Miller Engineering etched-brass structures that form the basis of an Amish farm scene. Vicki also used kits from Shire Scenes, Nansen Street Models, as well as scenery materials from various sources.

The Tri-State Z-scalers were a big hit at the BIG Train Show. Visitors of all ages enjoyed the action on the modules. Z Ambassador Cliff Travis (83 years and going strong) was always ready with a smile and an answer to questions from novice to veteran alike.

Z-Scale: minimum size, MAXIMUM enjoyment