S. Berliner, III's sbiii.com Z-Scale Model Railroad Articles Page keywords = Z scale model rail train HO mini Club Ztrack Western Fruit Express WFEX Great Northern GN Pennsylvania Pennsy PRR Berlinerwerke Vest Pocket Degnon Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal BEDT Marion River Carry schnable Hell Gate bridge

Updated:   23 Apr 2013,  09:05  ET
[Page converted 22 Apr 2013
    original AT&T Worldnet Website begun 30 May 1996.]
URL:  http://sbiii.com/z-artcls.html
[was at "home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/z-artcls.html"]

S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
"changing materials with high-intensity sound"

[consultation is on a fee basis]

Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Rail, Auto, Air, Ordnance, and Model Enthusiast
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher

note - The vast bulk of my massive Web presence (over 485 pages) had been hosted by AT&T's WorldNet service since 30 May 1996; they dropped WorldNet effective 31 Mar 2010 and I have been scrambling to transfer everything.  Everything's saved but all the links have to be changed, mostly by hand.  See my sbiii.com Transfer Page for any updates on this tedious process.

S. Berliner, III's


Z-Scale Model Railroad Articles Page


NOTE:  My pages were limited by AT&T, without warning, to 30kB!  Thus, I was forced to add a new page just for Z-Scale articles.


The internal links, which work fine on my home page and others, don't always seem to work here!  I'm working on it, but haven't a clue; I even just copied the working links over and they don't necessarily work here.  So, scroll away (if necessary)!
On this page:
    Z-Scale (follows)
    Z-Scale Hell Gate Bridge

On the Z-Scale page:

    Z-Scale (follows)
    Scale and Gauge
    Scale Conversion Table
    Ztrack Magazine
    Z-Scale Miscellany
    Z-Scale Wiring Conventions

On the Sub-Z-Scale Page :

    Z-Scale Narrow Gauge (really)
(moved from the main Z-Scale page 13 Nov 01)
    Z-Scale Meter Gauge

On Z-Scale Continuation Page 1:

Zictionary - lotZ of wordZ (Part 1- A-M)
and continued on Zictionary - lotZ of wordZ (Part 2- N-Z)

On the Z-Scale Continuation Page 2:

    Overton Coaches, Bobber, Crane in Z!

On the Z-Scale Continuation Page 3:

    Z-Scale Page 3 with
Half-Z Scale - 1:440 Tiny Trains and even 1:900 Tiniest Trains!
(moved to the Sub-Z-Scale page 13 Nov 01)

On the Z-Scale Continuation Page 4:

Some More Z (all the latest!)
    including more on Freudenreich's Z Boxcab Diesel and new HomaBed Z roadbed.

On the Z-Scale Continuation Page 5
(a page for the Third Millennium):

Even More Z (all the latest!)
    including more on Freudenreich's Z products.
Microscopic Z Accessories.

On the first Model Railroad page:

    Schnable Cars
    Sunrise Trail Division (STD) of the
        Northeastern Region (NER) of the
        National Model Railroad Association (NMRA)
    Long Island - Sunrise Trail Chapter (LIST) of the
        National Railway Historical Society (NRHS)
    Long Island Live Steamers

On the second Model Railroad page:

  Vest Pocket Railroads You Can Model:
    Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal Railroad
    Degnon Terminal Railroad
    Marion River Carry Railroad

On separate pages:

Berlinerwerke Script
    Berlinerwerke-Z Saga
    Berlinerwerke-Z Saga Continuation Page
    Berlinerwerke Saga (HO, included with Horseshoe Curve info.)
    Berlinerwerke Apocrypha (tall tales of the BW and its equipment and such)
    Berlinerwerke Guest Apocrypha (taller tales?)



Z-Scale model railroading at an incredible 220 times smaller than life size, or slightly under half the size of the familiar HO scale, with rails only 6.5mm (~¼") apart.

Hell Gate



by S. (Sam) Berliner, III

(edited from an article, written 18 Apr 96, which appeared in Vol. 2, No. 6, the March/April issue of Ztrack Magazine, page 14; see also the letter to the Editor which follows the article)

The Hell Gate Bridge is a vital link in the New York Connecting Railroad.  It crosses the tidal race known as the Hell Gate (old Dutch "Hellegat"), where the East River, the Harlem River, and Long Island Sound meet.  The NYCRR ties the old New Haven to Pennsylvania Station and the old Pennsylvania Railroad via a long viaduct on either side of the bridge and trackage across Long Island.  The Hell Gate Bridge was erected in 1916 and was for many years the longest steel arch bridge in the world.  It is still the most heavily loaded long-span bridge ever built.

As a modeler, especially in HO and Z, I have always been fascinated by the Hell Gate Bridge.  Ron Parisi's early HO module with the undersized Hell Gate outline on Plexiglas first caught my eye.  The bridge's dimensions are so formidable (except in N or Z); in HO or TT, you'd need to split it in half, perhaps with a removable center panel.  In N, you'd have a workable but slightly over-sized module, but in Z it makes a really neat model on a single module.  How 'bout that bottom chord rise in Z scale?

The accompanying illustration (from F. C. Kunz's 1915 treatise on steel bridges) gives an idea of how the bridge looks.  Bill Mangahas's photo taken on October 16, 1993  of the Dover Plains "Cannonball", an LIRR train en route to home rails from a L. I. Sunrise Trail/National Railway Historical Society excursion which went up the former New York Central's Harlem Division to the end of passenger-carrying territory in Dover Plains, NY, shows the six 80' cars plus the lead FA-2 power car and two trailing MP-15AC's all within the arch!.  This stunning color photo was in the LIST/NRHS 1995 calender (out of print).

It shouldn't be too hard to blow the illustration up to exact scale on clear MYLAR and bond two copies to 1/16" acrylic sheet.  Then, cut the trusses, hangers, and deck outline from the sheet, paint the edges black, and build up four reasonably-accurate masonry piers with two transverse masonry arches to connect each pair of piers (the piers and transverse arches are granite-faced).

The construction of the piers and transverse arches is shown best in a photo from David Steinman's 1941/57 Bridges and Their Builders (showing the steam side-wheeler "Priscilla" passing underneath).

The 60' width of the bridge (3-17/64" in Z) gives ample clearance for four tracks abreast (not an adequate fit for Märklin's 25mm track spacing (63/64") but fine for 9mm (3/8") spacing x 3, with 4.5mm (3/16") left over for clearance on each side).  This, of course assumes a free 60' width (unlikely  -  it's probably 60' from chord centerline to chord centerline).  So, just fudge a bit and build it 60' free.  Regardless, the 42' 6" (2-5/16") panel spacing would allow reaching in between hangers to rerail or remove accidents if the bridge were built up but the Plexi sides will necessitate using a padded grabber or 30" long stick to reach in from either end.

Another neat way to build a Z-scale Hell Gate Bridge is to make only one truss, two piers, and one transverse arch.  Cut the latter in half and mount each half to one pier.  Then mount the whole half bridge, with only two tracks, to a mirror, thus giving a virtual whole four-track bridge!  Of course, there would two identical trains traversing the arch each time you cross it.  A clever way to avoid that is to coat the mirror with Dullcote at the track level, but only to train height.  Another trick is to use a first surface mirror or thin MYLAR mirror to minimize the gap caused by the thickness of the glass.

Who will be the first to have a scale Hell Gate on their layout?  How about building it up from scratch, in metal?  There are only 1,174,000 rivets to detail  -  a simple week-end project!  If this story caught your attention, watch for Robert C. Sturm's forthcoming book on the New York Connecting Railroad and the Hell Gate Bridge.

                      1:1     1:87.1       1:120     1:160     1:220

                   Prototype  HO           TT         N        Z
Total span          1,000'    11'5-25/32"  8'4"      6'3"      4'6-33/64"
Length over hinges    977'6"  11'2½"       8'1-3/4"  6'1¼"     4'5-5/16"
Length of panel (x23)  42'6"     5-27/32"  4'3"        33/16"     25/16"
Truss depth at end    140'     1'7-9/32"   1'2"        10½"      7-5/8"
Truss depth at center  40'       5-33/64"    4"        3"         23/16"
Rise of bottom chord  220'     2'6-5/16"   1'10"     1'4½"     1'
Width (truss to truss) 60'       8-17/64"    6"        4½"       3-17/64"
{Height above water   *}


(HO, TT, and N shown for reference)
{* - not in article; added 15 Dec 01}

[For further reference, the length over hinges is also:
43' 5" in #1/G (1:22.5), 20' 4-5/8" in O (1:48), and 15' 3-1/4" in S (1:64).]

Hell Gate Bridge

(from a later letter to the Editor - slightly edited and updated)

Re my article on page 14 of Volume 2, Number 6, March/April 1996, "Ztrack"; oops!  Newer information on the Hell Gate Bridge width (etc.) herewith:

That 60' width (3-31/64") is in fact from chord centerline to centerline.  The bridge is actually 93' (5-5/64") wide outside the railing girders, but the inside clearance is only 53' (2-57/64")!  The actual track centers are 13' (23/32").  The clearance inside the masonry of the end piers is also exactly 53'.  Since Z equipment is actually a ½" wide, this leaves 7/32" between cars and 1/8" clearance between the cars and the inner sides of the bridge.  That's really tight by Märklin's standards but really quite workable on tangent (straight) track where you don't have to squeeze your finger in between the rolling stock (and if your track doesn't woggle too much).

Hell Gate X-Section

Z Scale Clearance Drawing (oversize)

The 93' width is because the design engineer, Gustav Lindenthal, made an allowance for a walkway and trolley track outside both sides of the piers and girders.  Incidentally, car height is no problem@; the clearance above the rail head of any lateral girders is 24' 4" (1-21/64") and the transverse masonry arches of the piers only spring at the 28' (1-1/32") level.

Another interesting (?) and staggering dimension: the bottom chord measures a full 7' (3/8") wide at the floor!  Just for your further edification, the maximum grades on the approaches are 1.2% southbound (north or west) of the bridge and 0.72% grade northbound (south or east) of the bridge.

Also, the reference to "LIST/NRHS" is to the Long Island-Sunrise Trail Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which produced the Hell Gate book mentioned, and can be reached at P. O. Box 507, Babylon, New York  11702-0507:   rev (22/23 Apr 2013)

"The New York Connecting Railroad - Long Island's Other Railroad", Robert C. Sturm and William G. Thom, 2006, Long Island-Sunrise Trail Chapter, National Railway Historical Society, , New York {reviewed at New PRR Books}.

The 1995 calendar is no longer available.

So, which one of you is actually gonna build this monster?

- - - * - - -

@ - the matter of vertical clearance above the railhead is best illustrated by this fabulous undated photograph by the late Harv Kahn:   added (23 Apr 2013)

Hell Gate GG1 Kahn
(undated photo by H. Kahn, by kind permission of R. Tutaj, Jr. - all rights reserved)
[sorry - no higher resolution available]

That's a hulking single-stripe Pennsy GG1, early in the Penn Central era, dwarfed by the cavernous interior of the bridge.

NOTE:  There is now The New York Connecting Railroad Society, an all-volunteer organization started in 1993 and recently incorporated to preserve the history of the joint venture between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New Haven; they publish a newsletter, "The Connecting".

For tall tales of the BW and its equipment and such, visit the Berlinerwerke Apocrypha page.


  What happens to all this when I DIE or (heaven forfend!) lose interest?  See LEGACY.


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To tour the Z-scale pages in sequence, the arrows take you from the Z-scale index page to the main Z-Scale page, then to the Sub-Z-Scale page and continuation pages 1, 2, 3 and on, this Z articles page, the 6 BW-Z saga pages, and finally to the current Ztrack page.

© Copyright S. Berliner, III - 1999, 2001, 2013  - all rights reserved.

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