Published 14Aug2016, updated 29May2018
This page is in group Models. This page is one of my SBB Ae 3/6 II pages.
Model 8851 alone
Z-scale (Z scale or mini-club) is 1/220. This note is about the Märklin 8851 model of the Swiss SBB Ae 3/6 II electrical locomotive. The model’s length is 14.09 m [real size] / 220 = 6.4 cm. It weights 30 grams. This model is brown and the road number is #10460. See Wikipedia about Z scale and  for a nice Z-scale description page. Plus of course this: zscale.org – with lots of good info.
When I finally got around to having decided that I wanted to own a Z-scale version of the SBB Ae 3/6 II and finally found one with an ok price tag (“-25% by the seller on eBay, when it had been sitting there for about a year without being sold), and when I persuaded myself that I should buy some straight track, four bumpers tops and a transformer control unit – then I got this in August 2016. I jump kind of slowly on these matters. But it was slower than I thought.
When I looked up at what year Märklin issued this model I found it as “new” in the 1983/84 English catalogue, page 119, some 11 years into the history of Z-scale. This was the only Z mini-club loco in the catalogue where I had jotted down the price! In retrospect, quite understandable. The price was 823 kr. (NOK) then! More than the H0 model 3151 at NOK 811 in the same catalogue. Also jotted down, together with the Swedish Da Märklin 3030 at NOK 569 (that I did buy then). It was expensive. With today’s money I paid NOK 1610 (US $191) + postage and tax summed up to NOK 2400. The raw loco price had only doubled.
The model was nicer than I thought! The printed text is not like on my Lemaco, but it’s impressive still. I guess the picture tells some. After this I bought a new camera. Stay tuned.
I needed to take a pantograph apart and it took me an hour to assemble it again. It didn’t come up. And the plastic body can’t really be pushed down on the loco and sit there. There are some internal knots, but there’s not enough push in the old plastic to hold it. There are no screws for this. I assume Z collectors are familiar with this. I have a feeling that while lifting it then there is so much pressure by the fingers that it locks into the internal knots, but when I place it on the track, that’s when the internals fall out for the final millimeters. But I released the two internal springs that are used to keep the spring-loaded electrical connections to the pantographs; this at least made the exterior body seem to be positioned correctly, down by about a millimetre.
I made a straight track on an acrylic shelf, 55 cm long and placed it firmly in some tiny plastic brackets on the wall. If the loco tilts, there a sidewalk for it so it won’t fall off the shelf. It doesn’t have digital control, so the motor starts when it starts, rather sudden for today’s digital standard. But once it’s been running some time it gets smoother. But then, it’s the way it was created, once and for all. However, the standard 3-pole motor may be replaced my a newer 5-pole motor that includes a flywheel. But that won’t make it original, will it? And with light in only one direction? Right now my homework is to clean the wheels and track. See how to at zscale.org (above).
The box for the Z-scale 8851 shows the loco running “backwards”. I have scanned it and published it here, I know that Märklin thinks it’s ok. The artist or the marketing guys at Märklin may not have known the difference? Strange. But I see lots of pictures of train sets where it even pulls long trains “backing”, probably at full speed. Search for “asymmetric wheel construction” in this blog note to read more about it. In real world it seemed to have run equally well in both directions(?) But there is a difference still. The roman number I text is by the bogies (front end?), roman II is be the single axle (rear end?).
Even if this was fun I have decided not to pursue much Z-scale models, like the Märklin Swiss Passenger Service Train Set Z 81418 from 1999 (green, #10409 (with three ventilation frames: wrong) and brown, #10460 (three ventilation frames correct)). The latter is this model, being sold separately is Märklin 8851. The green model hasn’t been sold separately, I believe. (That one I could chase if sold separately..) Locomotive and three cars are 33.8 cm. (Road numbers 1-20 had two ventilation frames, 21-60 had three. See this discussed more here).
ZettZeit seem to rebuild the #10460 (here) into #10439, see . (Disclaimer: just for info, no money or gifts)
This page’s topmost picture was taken with a 2011 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5. I had to take it through Photoshop Elements to fix lens errors so that it wasn’t too small in the center. But these two are shot with a 2016 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100, and I didn’t need to fix any lens errors. The camera’s algorithm did a good job with these pictures. Lighting is rather coincidental. I struggle and try everything, all kinds of light sources, from nothing extra to LED and/or flourescent, direct, indirect and through paper. Then I might end up with an ok picture.
But the above is a manipulated picture, from four individually focused pictures. Like it or not, but some times I like to see all of a model when seen in perspective like this. I have used TZ100’s “4K Photo” with “post focus” picture (the camera “racks focus across the depth of the scene” (DPREVIEW)) and picked out four of the 45 single pictures that appeared in the produced MP4 “movie”, sliced and merged them (left to right) in OS X Apple Pages (not Photoshop Elements), exported to PDF, opened in Preview, saved as JPG and then scaled. I have done no pointwise make-up of any of the pictures, but I have modified light etc. from the Preview menu. If you press the above and view it fullpixel you may see the three vertical splice lines. The track and push-rods discontinuities are somewhat visible. (Update: the two pictures of All trains to stop have also been shot at post focus.)
I am impressed with both cameras, but TZ100 of course outpaces LX5. This loco is so small that it takes my breath every time I see it. Märklin anno 1983, 33 years old – fantastic. And the details are even smaller. I’d like to see a Lemaco model in this scale. It would have challenged my camera even more. And of course my bank account.
Model 8851 with cars and transformers
After some years I figured that my single locomotive and two very short tracks needed some additions. So I found two cars on eBay (Märklin 8610 and 82338) and some transformers in Märklin Magazine (#6 2004). I had discovered it in my pile of model train magazines and catalogues that I recently had glimpsed through. They were presented by Eichhorn, and the company made them available again in 2018 (here). It is product 13013 and they are called “Trafo-Ladegut für Z” in the Märklin Magazine. (As always, standard disclaimer.) I bought two sets; they are nicely made by aluminium and painted.
I have always had some attraction with transformers, having had my childhood’s room filled with 50 Hz hum from the transformers at Børstad Transformatorstasjon (here) where me father worked. All day and night. That does something with you. Besides, the fascination of how a magnetic core and a set of two coils can move energy from one side to the other or the other way around, provided the current is never stable. Along with the electric motor, what more elegant have we made?
The picture is seen above. My idea was to make a high resolution picture of this 230 mm long track. Press to see the 10739 pixel width picture. The picture is one thing, but Märklin and Eichhorn certainly did their job before the picture. This is mass produced stuff. I am impressed!
Camera slider for close-ups
I placed the track on some nanoblock pieces, in case you wonder. But I discovered that my Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 needed some track on its own to slide the camera on. I found some aluminium in my spare box and screwed the tracks I made from it on a wooden base. More fun than to buy one I guess. To make it just tight enough for the camera base plate I had to cut several wooden bases! I didn’t want to make it adjustable. I can adjust the height with some pieces at the track’s base, and the angle with some cardboard on one side of the camera screw. However I didn’t want any angle, it introduces horizon lines all over the place.
Like on my first attempt, with one picture per unit, three in all. That gave me a picture with three horizons! Fun and unreal; not what I was after. I instead shot ten pictures since using the panorama function didn’t work out. I should have done a linear scan with single lines and movement, but that was way beyond what I could possible do. So for the ten pictures I did shoot I used the camera set to iA (Program AE). They came out as f-number about 4.4 @ 1/80 seconds, 23.1 mm focal length and ISO 400. I have seen that it’s easier with this than with the other camera modes. I sliced them together with Apple Pages, which I have started to use instead of Photoshop Elements (PE) for this. But the PDF-export from Pages did place some of the photos some pixels vertically wrong (as compared to what I saw in Pages), so I had to do some alignments in PE afterwards. I also did fine splicing in PE. It’s not perfect, so I guess you could find the spliced sites. Also, the central part of the loco is pasted from a single picture. The price is that it’s somewhat noticable by the colours. But I get crystal clear wheels and details.
However, I have not tried to make the models nicer. They are “what I have is what you get”!
Fastening of Eichhorn trafos
Even with my short track the transformers didn’t stay in place. They feel rather heavy. How heavy? My digital letter scale didn’t even react on a gram and I didn’t want to find and assemble my old set of balances scale with milligrams resolution on a quiet day. Still the aluminium trafos slid around when the train ran, breaked and started again.
After some investigation I saw that the car looked different on the top and underneath, so there had to be a lose plate. It was! A steel plate with Märklin contact plastic for the internal planks of the car. I pressed the steel plate off with a scalpel and it measured 46.5 X 11.7 mm. I made a template of the floor plan and printed it out (you can also do that, here is the A4 PDF) and glued it on the metal bottom with double sided tape. I used 1 mm drill bits, too large since it would model a 22 cm hole! Try to find a smaller size. When all 12 holes had been drilled, more or rather less precisely, I removed the template and the glue from the double sided tape. I then found some brass wire that did not look nice, it was too thick. So the one I ended up with was iron wire 0.35 mm that I stole from a jewellery that grandchild Anna once had made for me. (I showed the car to her, she said she had “more wire at home.” Thanks, Anna! Then she promised that the jewellery will be restored!) However, even 0.35 mm is too thick! (0.35 * 220 = 77 mm, it should have been the half.) The metal plate with the wires beneath now made a thicker plate. I therefore had to remove some from the four holders on the long sides inside the car. My result is not very good when shown, like on the pictures below – but in real life it looks rather ok:
Eichhorn could perhaps have sold some fastening gadgets with better resolution than I was able to produce. They would probably also know how these transformers would have been fastened in real life. I don’t have a 1/220 scale metal shop. But I did try my best, even if a second attempt would have been nice.
- Z-models (and some general descriptions) at http://www.wymann.info/SwissRailwayZ/Models/Ae36.html
- Rebuilding by ZettZeit at http://www.zettzeit.ch/ZZ04005_E.html