Zoo Octan Rail

back on track…

Forest From The Trees


It’s been awhile since my last post but it’s only been this blog that’s been ignored. I’ve had the opportunity to make some decent progress on the layout and it’s only when I look at my previous post that I realize the amount of progress made and / or rather the lack of updates I’ve been making on this site. With the majority of the grass successfully laid on the layout, I’ve been able to now turn my attention to trees and other more interesting pieces of landscaping. I’ve been successful at saving my trees (talk about conservation!!!) from my previous layouts and thus saving some money in the process and was surprised that I had well over 150 trees, without counting the new ones still in packaging. Now this probably means nothing to model railroaders who model in HO, G and even N; but for Z gauge; 150 trees is a lot! At least for me. So here some photos to show part of the lineup of trees, together with the Christmas forest area that was first to go up on the layout. I’m pretty happy with how that’s turned out together with the rocks and castle.

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Also a sneak peak at a new (and the only unfinished) area at one corner of my layout which was heat soldered to make two nice hollow shapes for a pond / lake / water feature. This photo shows the area already painted in with the default grey paint that came with the water kit. As I write this, this whole area is actually finished, with added figures and scenery – just haven’t had the time to take photos yet. That’s for the next post.



Since September, I’ve been working on my new layout fairly regularly, and been happy with the progress. I gave myself a rough deadline of having the layout ready by Christmas which was always going to be ambitious but that was the point. Still I am happy that I’ve more or less stuck to my timeline even though the expected audience for our annually planned Christmas celebration this year won’t be here.

As of this weekend, I’ve more or less finished with the bare naked landscape of my layout. This part of the process has had it’s ups and downs. Ballasting was extremely boring. Landscaping was nice. Trying (foolishly) to blend the Noch grass carpet with my own hand applied textures plus white glue / water was not a good idea. This is definitely a lesson for the future. But for the present, I’m (mostly) done. Except for one corner that is being left for a lake / pond / whatever water area eventually emerges.

I took a few shots tonight after cleaning the track one more time and then vacuuming the entire layout. The photos are here to remind me of this finished stage, before the application of trees, water feature, lights and other electricals …but for now, all the trackwork is done and the bulk of the landscaping is too.

Some more updates

After finishing painting the base layer. It’s now time for some serious landscaping and scenery. The first major decision was how and where to place the “mountains” I purchased earlier from Singapore Railways. At the moment they look a little out of place but I hope to rectify this with more scenery and trees. Still the layout of the main town area is taking shape and is slowly looking the way it should in it’s final phase.

Some help from Michael

My five year old twins and three year old girl have their moments like all young children, but they really are very respectful of the layout – much more than I ever thought they’d be. The trick is how to get them involved at the right times. And I hope to do that along the way, and along the years – as they grow.

Here’s Michael, 5, very proudly helping me paint the base layer of the layout Burnt Sienna.

Just For Fun…with some crazy LED action

Here’s some new pictures of the layout just for fun since I’m pretty relieved that one major part of work (ballasting / track polishing) is over. Also check out the real over the top LED head and taillights of this Z gauge car I recently purchased from a seller in China. I’ll need to do some to them to tone down the brightness levels, if not everyone including the entire population of my new layout will grow blind pretty soon.


Rub Like Hell

Looking at the dates on this blog, I see that it’s been just over a month since I started ballasting. Well tonight I’ve officially finished. The result are okay and I can’t say I’m super impressed but I’m very glad the bulk of the work is over, and I can deal with touch-ups later. But the real test of course is not how the ballast looks but how much I’ve ruined my track:) That’s always a worry. Dumping so much gravel, water, craft glue, who knows what else to Z scale track can create all sorts of problems. So it was with much courage tonight that I took the opportunity to use my trusty track eraser and really, really go for it. I mean I’ve used it before of course, but tonight we weren’t taking prisoners and gravel, gunk, oil, glue, everything was just literally rubbed the hell out of all the track…I was going for full polish and that’s what I got after about half and hour. The next stage was the cleaning, which again …with excess glue, gunk, sand, gravel, dust, AND NOW thousands of loose bits of track eraser particles..are just perfect killers for Z gauge locomotives. So out came my wife’s vacuum cleaner and my sons’ art brushes and my helper’s broom and dust pan. The results of which were success! I’m probably not used to how well things turn out so quickly in Z gauge over the years, so it was with great relief and happiness to have my flagship locomotive negotiate the entire track (switches and all) with minimal fuss. All thanks to the magic track eraser from Singapore Railways. 

Dividing The Fleet

It’s been a long (digital) road in the various histories of my hobby and Zoo Rail but now for the 1st time, we will be dividing the fleet in a major way. After weeks of cleaning engines and swapping them between locomotives, I’ve got a good handle on how to disassemble and service at least the Re 460s from Marklin. But having said that, even the new drop-in decoders are proving a bit of a challenge with their small motor contact points and their sensitive LED points which could cause shorts. I am fortunate to find a source now to help me sort out or at least try to sort out, the digital installation bit – and this will free me up to attend to the other aspects of my hobby – like the layout and diorama. But it means that for the first time, almost half of my Swiss fleet and about a 1/3 of my total engine strength will be sent overseas. Five in total. Let’s see what happens over the coming weeks and months. 

Ballasting is going faster then expected



Ballasting Has Begun

Over the weekend, I decided to try my hand at ballasting the track. I’ve decided to start with the “easier” portion which is a branch line that would probably be used for holding the standby rolling stock. I think I’m also ready to do this having been reasonably satisfied with how my loks and rolling stock are running on the track layout. I think the layout does have potential, which is saying quite a lot given how I really didn’t rate my effort of putting this together just over two weeks ago.

I will go slow though…it’s been at least five years since I last had practice with ballasting Marklin Z.


Yet Untitled…

After more than three years. After shifting homes. After my favorite local trains store closed down. After a lot of things. I think I’m ready to begin again. I hope this time round to document my adventures a little more. Here are pictures of the new layout, yet untitled.

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