Layout design is an art unto itself, and there are large numbers of books on the subject. In particular, the newer books written by Iain Rice are quite interesting. Several books have been published on the subject of Z-Scale layout design.

Märklin currently offers one layout book, the 0296. There is an an older book published when Z-Scale was in its infancy, the 0290. Many of the layouts in this older text are very formal, which was the German approach to layout design for many years.  Its text is written in German, but Märklin’s 0292 contains several translations, including English.

Courtesy Märklin

I must admit a certain affection for the 0290, for in the early days of Z-Scale, this was the only book available on the subject. Many of the plans have a certain geometric quality to them. You must remember that these plans were drawn by Germans, and the orderly model train layout represents the acts of an orderly mind, very important to the Germans. In particular, I love this small layout:

Courtesy Märklin

I think that this is the layout that I will eventually build for myself. Everything’s there without the layout being excessively large. This small railroad allows for independent train operation, with one locomotive taking its power from the rails and a second locomotive using the overhead catenary wires. The trains are also controlled by color light signals or semaphores, so a third locomotive can switch the small marshaling yard in the upper right while the other two trains remain in the station.

To be sure, I’ll modify things just a bit here and there, and make sure that the station scene itself is visually isolated somewhat since it is an interesting area.  The road in front of the station would be an important visual element, and I would probably have it gently curve at each side of the area in front of the station itself. The yard gets isolated just a bit, perhaps with shrubs and roads.  The siding at the upper left would probably be straightened out and made into a container terminal with the 8972 container crane or else make it a petroleum facility to use all those wonderful tanks cars available in Z.

A newer layout book (0294) became available from Märklin in 1992. It has been supplanted by the hard bound 0296, which is in English and is currently available.

Courtesy Märklin

The new layout book is a delight, since it contains beautiful perspective drawings of various layouts which use structures from the various manufacturers. Here, an industrial scene heavily populated with Kibri industrial structures:

Courtesy Märklin

In another example, a very small railroad (80 cm by 40 cm, or roughly 32” by 16”) representing a branchline station:

Courtesy Märklin

Here, a twisted double oval of track:

Courtesy Märklin

This book also features some plans for Z-Scale modules.  In all, the 0296 is a worthy addition to your library, certain to provide pleasant evenings of armchair model railroading. There are other resources, too.

The late John Armstrong was considered to be the dean of model railroad design and has written several books on the subject. I particularly like two:

  • Track Planning for Realistic Operation
  • Creative Layout Design

These books discuss both the theory of good layout design as well as the reasons real railroad tracks are laid the way they are.  Creative Layout Design goes further and shows you some unconventional layout locations. Armstrong also has an article in the January 1984 issue of Model Railroader magazine which is specifically for Z scale. Copies of this article are available from Kalmbach Publishing.

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