Short story - 1978 to 2022

In 1978, the preliminary company „ZIEGLER & MAIR“ was founded, in 1980 the actual company ZIMO Elektronik (Ltd only after a few years), first as part-time job by Peter W. Ziegler, since 1987 as main job.

Since its foundation, the company is located in Vienna, Schönbrunnerstraße 188; in the first year in a small flat (35 m2) and without employees.

"ZIEGLER & MAIR" or ZIMO was engaged in the development and production of digital control systems for model railways from the very beginning.

In 1979, the first systems were sold, consisting of the “Basisgerät BGT1” (command station BGT1), “Fahrpult FP1” (controller FP1) and “Fahrzeugempfänger” (decoders). The names command station and controller were (and are going to be) used for many years.

Already in the 80s and 90s, the signal-controlled speed influence was one of ZIMO’s prominent features, at that time sold as combination of a train driver’s and dispatcher’s function. This was later standardized as HLU and even adopted by some competitors.

In the 1980s ZIMO grew slowly but steadily, especially in terms of space (150 m2) in 1990 when three people were employed.

During this time, important and long relevant products were developed and manu­factured: the digital system “M1000” and “M2000” and the decoders “M4000”, “M4001”, etc., as well as interlocking systems (made from original ÖBB panels) and the central command station “M5000”.

For a few years (around 1990) ZIMO also produced programming devices for industrial usage (PICPROG), test-controllers for measuring radiation and controlling PCBs for air conditioners.

In 1990, the first automatic SMT assembly machine was bought, which was replaced by a newer system in 1999.

Until 1996, all products were based on the ZIMO data format (as it was called later) then this was changed to the DCC format standardized by the NMRA (North American Model Railroaders Association).

In 2009, additional room on the ground floor was adapted (including parts of the house next door), where a completely new assembly line (with stencil printing, assembly machine, reflow soldering oven) was installed for manufacturing and testing, as well as for material storage. A little later, an AOI-system (automatic optic inspection) was installed to create a more secure and rational process against failures of the delivered products.

Since 2011, ZIMO established itself more and more as supplied for model railroad manufacturers and retailers. The most important characteristics were (and are) the flexibility dealing with short-term orders, which is made possible by the production line within the same house.

In the year 2016 and later, the focus shifted a little towards system products, with the high-performance command stations MX10, MX32 and lately the “StEin”.

2019 is mainly characterized by the new MS-decoders, a new class of sound decoders, which set new standards in technology.

In 2019, the focus was on the introduction of the first types of "MS decoders", a new class of sound decoders (later also non-sound decoders) that set new technological standards. In addition to the DCC data format, these decoders were also made mfx-capable (mfx - the Märklin data format).

In 2020, the production machines were largely replaced (new stencil printing and placement machines, vapour phase soldering machine instead of reflow oven, new AOI device for 3D optical inspection), The production capacity was thus gradually increased by a factor of about 2.5. 

The years 2021 and 2022 were mainly dedicated to important future developments: the expansion of the MS decoder class (especially for large-scale railways), also in software-technical terms, the MX33 cab (following the MX32), ZIMO apps for smartphone and tablet and ZIMO light boards and smoke generators. However, the Corona pandemic and general material shortages have drained capacities to remain able to deliver despite the lack of certain components.

The ZIMO Building in Meidling, Vienna
(12th district)

Schönbrunner Straße 188, 1120 Vienna

3rd floor: ZIMO Development, Management
nd floor: Sales, Administration
2nd floor: Appartements CHE
1st floor: tax consultancy firm Writzmann
ground floor left: Ordination Dr. May-Van CHE
ground floor right and neighbouring house: ZIMO Production
basement: ZIMO Storeroom and Mechanical Workshop


Click to enlarge images

    Production Workshop - Assembly Machine                 Production Workshop - Decoder Testing                         ZIMO exhibition stand (photo: Dortmund 2010)

Messe-Vorführanlage  ZIMO Messestand  Produktionswerkstätte
         Exhibition demonstration layout 20               ZIMO exhibition stand (photo: Cologne 2012)                              Production workshop 2015 - optikal inspection

Produktionswerkstätte 2021 -  Schablonenautomat (Mitte), zwei Bestückungsmaschinen  Neue-AOI                                             Production workshop 2021 - Stencil machine (centre), two assembly machine                                                       AOI device (new optical inspection)

ZIMO Messestand 2021 (mit Video-Wand)  ZIMO Messestand H0-Demo-Anlage  Großbahn- und Spur 0 - Messe Wandanlage
       ZIMO exhibition stand 2021 (with video wall)                                  H0-demo layout                                     large scale railway and gauge 0 - exhibition wall layout  


The technical milestones in ZIMO history

1979 the first ZIMO digital system (BGT-1, FP-2, FZE-2), at that time still called 'multi-train control', was delivered. The first ZIMO decoders, then ' vehicle receivers ', measured 45 x 30 x 20 mm. At that time the digital offer was very small: only one English system for 16 trains and 6 speed steps came almost simultaneously with ZIMO on the market. In comparison, the ZIMO system with 99 trains and 16 speed steps seemed almost exaggeratedly powerful.  
1980 This was followed by the first application of what was later referred to as 'signal-dependent train control', the integration of multiple train control and train protection technology, a specialty of all ZIMO digital systems that is still outstanding today. A decoder add-on module for This was followed by the first application of what was later referred to as 'signal-dependent train control', the integration of multiple train control and train protection technology, a specialty of all ZIMO digital systems that is still outstanding today. A decoder add-on module for load balance control was also developed; due to its dimensions, it could only be used for large-scale railways at that time.  
1981 the 'automation device' M500, the first version of the operational control, which enables block operation, routes, station control via pushbutton interlockings as in the original, appeared as part of the second system generation (M100, M200, M400).  
1984 With the M210, ZIMO has launched the first microprocessor-controlled cab on the market, whereby numerous additional performance features such as Loco Recall or Consisting could be realized. From now on, it was also possible to update the system by exchanging the EPROM.  
1987 the production of customer-specific signal boxes from original ÖBB control panels began, which together with the M5000 operating control unit formed a complete equipment for the train control technology. The largest interlocking consisted of 9000 panels with approx. 300 keys and 1500 LEDs.  
1989 The third system generation (M1000, M2000, M4000) brought, besides many other comfort features, the ZIMO loco number recognition, a function which could not be offered by any other digital system for the next 12 years.
1990 Decoders with high frequency (20 kHz) output stage could be manufactured (MX41); the world's first low-noise running (later often called ' silent running') combined with load balancing control.  
1992 the operational control units and push-button interlockings were replaced by the computer software 'STP' (E. Sperrer Software Entwicklung); the computer enables even more functionality in train control than before. 'Why to make with toys, if you can have the real example' was later an STP advertising statement, which shows quite aptly the principle difference of the method 'ZIMO and STP' compared to other system and software products  
1994 the fourth system generation (MX1, MX2, MX40) came: compact base unit, walk-around cabs, infrared cabs, miniaturization of vehicle receivers, switch receivers for installation in drive housings, etc.  
1996 was the year of the conversion to the standardized DCC data format, which was decisive for the company's continued existence. For some years multiprotocol devices were produced, which could control the 'old' ZIMO data format as well as DCC and MOTOROLA. From now on MOTOROLA was also supported in all other system generations besides DCC.  
1998 the product range is complete again, now for the standardized data format DCC. In particular, 'signal controlled speed influence' and loco number recognition are now also available for DCC.  
2000 The sixth system generation (base units MX1, MX1HS 'model 2000', vehicle receiver MX61 'model 2000', miniature decoder MX62, etc.) sets new standards in terms of performance, driving characteristics and functional diversity.  
2002 With the 'Economy Command Station' MX1EC, a product is launched on the market that enables the entry into ZIMO control technology at a previously unimaginable low price; this without limiting performance and application possibilities.  
2004 the standardised 'bi-directional communication' (RailCom) is prepared in relevant products such as command stations and decoders (commissioning can only take place after approval of the NMRA standard), thus opening up a range of extended application possibilities. Since autumn 2004 all ZIMO decoders are updateable, i.e. a new SW version can be loaded by the user himself - without opening the locomotive - with the help of the decoder update device.  
2005 the new cab MX31 with modern design and latest technology as well as the corresponding wireless cab MX31FU were introduced..  
2006 several new products come onto the market, in particular the first ZIMO sound decoders: MX690 and later MX640, as well as the MX31ZL 'central controller' (controller with built-in mini command station), a low-cost introduction to ZIMO technology.  
2007 several new methods are created, e.g. the 'software update for decoder from USB stick', which is very comfortable and problem-free, because it works without a computer.  
2008 the development of a completely new (seventh) system generation, later referred to as MX10 and MX32, is initiated. This turned out to be more difficult than expected, as the current technology (e.g. microcontrollers with clock frequencies in the 100 MHz range and colour screens) made new demands on the development team.  
2010 the new MX32 cab is launched, marking the beginning of a new era for ZIMO and model railroad control: a model railroad controller with state-of-the-art OLED touch screen, 32-bit microcontroller, on which speedometers and other display instruments, meaningful icons, vehicle photos and even sections of interlocking systems can be displayed. Starting with this development, RailCom technology is now also being used intensively.  
2012 The range of ZIMO decoders has grown to about 80 types, 25 of them sound decoders, based on 18 different boards. From the subminiature decoder MX621 (12 x 8 mm) up to the large scale sound decoder MX695 (6 A motor current, 10 Watt audio) ZIMO has a suitable product for practically every application. However, the release date of the new digital central unit, the command station MX10, had to be postponed once again.  
2013 The decoder updater and sound loader MXULF comes onto the market, is continuously improved in terms of software, and develops into a workshop digital system. Compared to comparable products of the competition, there are a number of advantages, such as the optional operation with USB stick or direct computer connection, the quick loading of sound projects via the "SUSI" interfaces, among others.  
2014 Other important decoder types are introduced, in particular miniature sound decoders (MX648) and "American" large-scale sound decoders (MX697). The new MX10 digital command stations, which have been under development for 4 years, are being put into series production and delivered for the first time. The devices are far ahead of the competition in terms of performance (i.e. power to rail), data capacity, communication via cable and radio with the company's own and third-party devices.  
2015 Among the new products on the market are the probably best-equipped large-scale railway sound decoder with a particularly large internal energy storage (MX699), as well as the smallest ZIMO sound decoder to date (the MX649) and an 8x servo decoder with many additional features (MX821).  
2016 The flat decoder MX600 is the most inexpensive ZIMO decoder for a long time, without any reductions from the usual ZIMO standard, assembled on only one side, thus relatively large in area, but flat (2 mm). Further steps this year are the connection of the Roco Z21 apps to the ZIMO system (MX10), the various new SW extensions in the sound decoders in the MXULF (now also with RailCom), and others.  
2017 The range of decoders and sound decoders is completed, and the development of the future "MS decoders" is already taking place, which were to be launched on the market first - 1 year later - because of their mfx capability (many functionalities in DCC were not yet finished). The stationary equipment module "StEin" is another important development activity this year.
2018 The subminiature decoder MX616 (8 x 8 x 2 mm), one of the smallest decoders ever (probably THE smallest in terms of power spectrum) is now being produced and supplied.
The stationary equipment module "StEin" is being used for the first time in practice, especially on very large systems (where up to 60 "StEin" are needed in each case), and at the same time has been further developed in terms of software, partly together with the MX32 controller, which also serves as the user interface for StEin.
2019 The MS decoders (16-bit sound, multiprotocol DCC & mfx) are the most important novelty; the various types (according to size and interfaces) are successively launched on the market. In addition, the digital central MX10EC, the smaller version of the MX10, will be launched.
2020 MS large-scale sound decoder (with two sound output channels "stereo", gyro sensor for gradient/slope and cornering, among others,in addition to the general MS features) for gauge 0 (MX950) and gauges 1, G (MS990).
Important hardware and software additions to the stationary equipment module "StEin" are under development.
ZIMO video workshops are started (due to the Corona crisis).
2021 The MS miniature decoders and StayAlive solutions, especially the StayAlive controller STACO1 are introduced, as well as new test and connection boards MSTAPK and -G (for "small" decoders and for MS large scale decoders respectively). The range of 16-bit sound projects is greatly expanded, now with the help of two sound designers working full-time at ZIMO and the proven external sound providers. The future MX33 cab (controller) (following the MX32) is in the final stages of development.  
2022 A number of new products, product classes or software developments are introduced or about to be introduced (text dated May 2022): Large scale smoke generators (single and dual), light boards (from N gauge to large scale), MN decoders (non-sound variants of the MS sound decoders), the new MX33 cab (controller), the ZIMO App as a supplement to the ZIMO controllers), "automatic registration" according to RCN-218 (compatible with third-party systems, slightly modified for ZIMO-internal use).  
Last update: 10.06.2022