Z scale layout

Olar has been in touch with his Z scale layout – and I absolutely love it:


Greetings from across the pond (and a pretty big chunk of non-pond)…

My name is “Olar” Maksin (pronounced “Oh — Lair”) and I live in the Great Pacific Northwest, USA.

I have been enjoying your site for quite a while and like others am constantly amazed at the talent and level of detail that the other modelers on your site achieve on their layouts. The things that can be done with a little bit of plaster, foam and whatever is laying around is remarkable.

What`s not remarkable is anything I`ve tried over the years using a little bit of plaster, foam and whatever is laying around. Any attempts for scenery have always ended up looking exactly like what it was— a pile of plaster and foam that looked like plaster covered foam.

There, however, is one exception to the “stuff laying around” category. I do have quite a bit of exotic hardwood scraps laying around so when I was trying to figure out how to add real eastate to my desk at work I came up with this idea.

I`m a Structural Designer at an engineering firm in Bellingham, Washington State, USA and most of our work is in the Oil and Gas Industry so when I decided to make a shelf to hold plants, etc, and still have room for an architectural “D” size shjeet of paper I thought “Why not break out some of my Z scale stuff that`s been in a box since before Queen Elizabeth was Queen.”

Keeping with the theme of my job I came up with this:

The second pic is looking into my office (to give some perspective)

The next couple Pics are an overview

The control panel uses bi-colored LEDs to show when the blocks are powered, red is off/green is on

The second row is for the turnouts, the slider is the direction and the round one is momentary to throw the switch

The bottom switch is master on/off

The rest are self explanatory

The hardwoods used are mostly Teak, Sapele, Jatoba, Maple, Oak, Ash and ???

One last tour point: “Stonehenge” is hand carved from a chunk of oak and as close to scale as I could do with a knife and a Dremel

As a result of sometimes being left unsupervised I am in the beginning stages of a 8’x3′ Z Scale layout similarly modeled with hardwoods. More on that later, probably much later…

I`ve rambled on enough, I hope you enjoyed my little 40″x20″ Z Scale Layout…

That`s my story and I`m sticking to it…

Peace Out,


z scale layout

desk for z scale layout

control panel for z scale layout

z scale layout

Z scale layout:

z scale freight

model railroad

z scale freight

model railroad stone henge

model railroad gas station

z scale train layout

Now on to Carl:


I have a 5′ x 8′ layout with a tunnel in one corner. I have two ways to access the inside.

The two sides are open, covered with black cloth to keep the tunnel dark. Brush aside the cloth and I have access to fix derails.

The top has an irregular shaped removable hole. Good for cleaning the track, etc. When I cut the hole in the foam, I cut it at an angle, so it rests like a bowl in the surrounding foam.

To remove it, I can reach inside behind the cloth access area, and simply lift it up and off. Since the opening is irregular in shape, it is easier to hide the edges with foliage, etc.

If you have trouble removing a cutout like this, then you could add a lifting handle or two. A well-secured fallen tree could make a handle, as could a strong, small building or shack.

Carl in Kansas”

Next, Richard:


Just a quick tip I am using to make n-scale traffic cones used by police and utility companies etc. when they need to block off traffic.

I just purchased a 30 inch dowel the diameter of a plain old wooden pencil for 49 cents. I sharpen the end using a little cheap pencil sharpener, then cut the cone height to desired size and paint them orange.

I then cut small squares of black card stock and then a tiny dab of glue is all it takes to put the orange cone on the base. Took me about 45 min to make about three dozen traffic cones and I still have over 1 foot od dowel left.


n scale traffic cones

A big thanks to Richard, Carl and to Olar for sharing his Z scale layout.

That’s all for today folks.

And if you liked these tips, don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is packed full of em.

Keep ’em coming.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

43 Responses to Z scale layout

  1. John says:

    Love your office setup, OLar. Train layout is great but I am even more impressed with the timbers!!

  2. NJ Mark says:

    Thanks to all for the great tips! Olar, yours is one of the most imaginative layouts I’ve seen. The Stonhenge is remarkable and I really like the photo of the incline by the BP station. Cheers! NJ Mark

  3. Roy Forbes says:

    Wow!!! If I’d tried even placing a box of my model railway things on any polished top I would be crucified, hung, drawn and quartered and I would have deserved it but each to his own and it looks good anyway.

  4. Hemi says:

    Thaty GREAT!!!!!!!! NICE table and looks the part and gives you that “Layout Feeling” when you want to run! -Plus side, is that it fit right into the center of your living room too and look GREAT being there!!!!!!

    The N scale traffic cones look GREAT too. those little details sure add to the looks of a layout however to buy then isn’t exactly “cheap” specially those that ook good, and you killed 2 birds with one stone, they’re decently priced, and look good. GREAT job!


  5. Cary B says:

    How unique Olar, I love it. Thanks for sharing

  6. I’m tempted to go on a longer “ode” of praise here but suffice to say… It’s perfect in my opinion.

  7. Malcolm hodgson says:


    Your woodworking is fantastic, and very imaginative. A work of beauty. Thanks for sharing.

    As for the traffic cones. Great tip, if you’ll pardon the pun!


  8. Brian Messenger says:

    Olar, nicely detailed “z” scale layout. The “office” area looks very clean to be an office but fantastic the way you have slotted it all together. Brian the HOn3 guy 🇿🇦

  9. John Douglas says:

    Love Olar ‘s layout. A great take on the “Plywood Pacific “!

  10. Susan Cannon says:

    Olar, you must be one popular fellow in your office! The cleaning people must love you. All that to dust! LOL. Do you cover it up for weekends/holidays to keep it neat?

    I am truly envious of your ingenuity. The ‘rocks’ look wonderful. Your tank farm is so realistic! Truly a work of art….and it works to boot! That’s probably the best part. I’m sure if I worked near you, you would be quite tired of me asking to come by and see the trains run!! 🙂


    I love it… 👍
    Great job…..
    Sheldon. Phoenix. Az. 🇺🇸

  12. Rob McCrain says:

    What a fun layout and great woodworking skills too. Rob

  13. Kirkoops says:

    Olar, what a great imagination…and as a woodworker myself, I really appreciate the time and detail…a lot of time invested there. Very Cool!

  14. Joe Kincaid says:

    Just unbelievable. What a bunch of talented folk. There must be an extra creative gene passed on to modelers. Richard, Olar, and Carl just hit the creative tip ball way out of the park.
    Sometimes, in our effort to be “right in scale, era, or “politically prototypical,”” we lose sight of the real purpose….giving our minds a much needed break, and JUST HAVING FUN!
    You guys made my whole damn day. A huge thank you to Alistair for publishing all this great stuff.

    Joe K
    Lake Tahoe, NV

  15. Peter Evangel says:

    Love that little Z-scale layout. Very imaginable to get all that in one tiny space. You even have a track map on the face of one leg with lights!! Great attention to detail. Also love the idea of the N-scale traffic cones. Cut out a section in the “bowl” shape! That keeps it from dropping into itself! So simple. Only a genius could have thought of that! Thanks for all the great ideas

    Pete-Silicon Valley CA.

  16. Cal says:

    I absolutely LOVE Olars layout. Wow. Just wow. An exorbitant amount of planning went into that masterpiece. Very very creative indeed. I can’t say enough about. Very original, clean and inspiring. The use of different woods and their finishes make it a very unique layout. 1 of a kind!!! Wow. I am impressed. Olar must work in an architects office as far as I can tell from the photos. Another reason it’s great!! That’s what I do too. Magnificent!!!

  17. Steve Joyce says:

    Love how you did that Olar. Look forward to seeing your home layout.

    Richard nice tip about traffic cones. They are not cheap commercially

  18. Wow, that is so cool. Well done!

  19. dave says:

    The wood working is really great not seen that level of finish on some fine furniture !! And Im sure its a great PR thing when your company’s clients see that layout in your cube !!

  20. Mr. Olar:
    That is a beautiful piece of work have never heard of Z gauge before is that about the size of the old match box (with the small matches) but I love it for a small table top train set up it makes a perfect size.
    Keep up the good work.
    Art in Central Gulf Florida

  21. A great series of posts…
    Olar’s layout is unique, imaginative, and the obvious work of a craftsman.
    John from Cal USA

  22. chris clarkson says:

    I love passenger trains and freight trains a lot. They’re a pastime that I take very
    seriously. I would love to have a passenger train and a freight train layout that will
    attract attention from miles around. Do you know of anyone that can help me build a train layout? If so, whom?

  23. Ian McDonald says:

    looks a really good desk layout .thanks for sharing.

  24. Amazing…

    I like very much the subtile control panel and layout wit control lights at on the leg.

    The other things I like are that the terrain is made all from wood and the spaces fort the pot plants!

    I hope focus on work has not too hard to fight for attention! 😉

  25. Ak Jim says:

    Nicely done!

  26. Roger Ringnalda says:

    What a wonderful layout, beautiful woodworking, and exquisite and seemingly accurate Stonhenge carving. You have your talents combined in an outstanding show of craftsmanship and joy!

  27. Jeff says:

    What a great use of a little space! Love that desktop layout. Great idea for traffic cones. Can make something similar work for any scale.

  28. Fred says:

    Love that ‘Z’ scale quite remarkable, ingenious. Not so sure about the plant .
    Thanks for showing this 👌😎. Fred

  29. TOM SAWYER says:


  30. TOO COOL…………………

  31. Franco428 says:

    Although I never had any luck with the “Z” scale, your setup is just amazing. Very clever and well built. Thank you Olar for you sharing with us.

    The Northwest of the USA is a beautiful location. I lived outside Seattle for nine years and would still be there if family had not needed us on the wrong coast.

    The Bluest Skies you’ll ever see are in the Pacific Northwest!

  32. Greg I'm MO USA says:

    As a woodworker who uses hardwoods (both exotic and domestic) I love Olar’s Z scale layout, although the 500 ft tall plant is maybe a bit over the top. (j/k! 😁)

  33. Dwight in Toronto says:

    Olar, that is an exquisite piece of both fine furniture carpentry and model railroading. It’s refreshing and appropriate that you finally decided to not try to turn the wooden scenery into something that it’s not, and the result is remarkable indeed. The office venue is also ideal, since the little layout is linked and related to your industry. Great conversation piece for visitors. Superb job.

  34. Thomas Meleck says:

    Olar, it seems to me that you’ve managed tom cross the line between Art and Model Trains. Your desk is superb. It shows a lot of talent and hard work. Stunning stuff. Thanks for posting.

  35. Ralph says:

    Great work Olar. I can’t think of a better use for an office desk.

    Richard, thank you for that simple idea.

  36. Will in NM says:

    Olar, Very cool layout! Hard to believe you can get all that in Z scale. I love the diversion of the track around the potted plant. P.S. My stepdaughter lives in Bellingham too.

    Carl, Great idea about the tapered lift out tunnel access section! I hope I remember that when I get to building my tunnel.

    Richard, very clever way to make traffic cones. I’m assuming these are HO scale?

  37. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome layout Olar, well done !!!!!!!!

  38. robert dale tiemann says:

    stonehenge, i love it. love the desk set up. do you get any work done? an imaginative layoit, very nice job.

  39. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    Olar – some great woodwork there and particularly the Stonehenge – a good likeness and the real one only a few miles away.

  40. Mike Balog says:

    Olar, Your Woodworking Craftsmenship is Master Craftsmenship! Just Beautiful Finished,, great little layout in that amount of space. Wonder what Your Boss, HR and fellow employees think ? If I were a Prospective Client of your Firm I would inspect that and think. Gee If one of the Engineers can come up with that Design and Built it… The Contract would be awarded to your firm. As this demonstrates the level of detail and patience needed on any project. Hope your work is appreciated.

  41. Delmar servoss says:

    that is cool

  42. TJK says:

    Olar! Magnificent! Pound for pound the Jatoba is as heavy as a sledgehammer.
    Great job!

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