Modular Layouts

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by roryglasgow, Oct 29, 2001.

  1. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Anyone out there do/have done NTRAK, oNeTRAK or any other kind of N-scale modular layout scheme? I've been thinking about The Next Big Thing and have been considering building a modular layout. One of the appealing aspects is that I can start out small and add onto it over time, while still maintaining a functional layout.

    I'm interested in hearing your experiences and thoughts!

    -Rory
  2. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    I had a little experience with N-track but I am sure Catt can tell you a lot more. At the time I found it somewhat restrictive and the three track connections to the next modules just didn't look right. Great for shows at malls or railroad shows but not for my home use. I then went for a full blown double deck layout which has been a great learning experience. Now my wife and I have got into discussions on what we do next such as down sizing our home. With that in mind I took down the old MAT and am rebuilding it in 12 modules that can be moved. The modules are bolted together and I will run track across the borders and will have to cut them when we move but at least they will be movable. 8 of the modules are 7ft. by 2ft. Two are 6ft six inches by 2 ft and two that are 9ft by 18 inches.
  3. Catt

    Catt Guest

    Been an NTRAKer since 1993. I still don't like the 3 tracks.But it is a lot of fun talking to other modelers and newbies to the hobby.My home layout while not truly modular is still meant to be able to be disasembled into carriable sections.

    I may actually move from this house someday though I doubt it.
  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    It always seemed to me that NTRAK etal filled a need, ie it's a way for someone with space limitations to be involved. Seeing how the focus is one being able to connect several modules together, the standards (3 tracks, etc) are understandable. But these same standards also take a lot of flexibility out of what you can do.

    Questions: When making non-TRAK modules, just so you can disassemble and move your own layout, what rules of thumb apply at the joints? Should the track always cross them at right angles? What problems are there if a curved section goes over a joint? How do you (semi-)permanently secure the modules together? How do you disguise the joints?

    BillK
  5. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Bill, according to what documentation I have, it appears to me that the tracks must "enter" and "exit" the module at the same points so as to insure that the modules can be connected (which means that they would not meet at angles). I've seen "specialty" modules, though, where individuals don't adhere strictly to the standards because the special modules are intended to always be used together (although they can connect to standard NTRAK modules on the outside ends). The track connection between the modules is made via Atlas 5" sections, and the modules are fastened together with C-clamps.

    One of the appealing aspects to me of using the NTRAK standard are the four lines (two main, one branch and the mountain division). I was thinking it would be neat to link them all together with the end modules to make it one big continuous run. But I'm thinking that these modules might be too big for the space I'll have available.

    I'm currently leaning towards a freelanced modular layout that might include one or more oNeTRAK modules. This, in fact, goes back to my reintroduction into the hobby. I got back into model railroading when I picked up a copy of Model Railroad Planning 2000 last year. In it were four bedroom shelf layouts. One was by Bernard Kempinski, who is a big name in the oNeTRAK standard. That layout included three oNeTRAK modules fit in among non-standard modules. It's been my intention all along to build a shelf layout eventually, and soon I might have the space!

    -Rory
  6. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    Having the tracks always cross at right angles is not necessary. The main reason for that is to properly connect with other modules built to specifications meant to provide uniformity for large groups setting up large displays. (in my humble opinion)

    There are groups (I think there is one in Kennewick, WA) that have a unique angled track for the "local" that meanders from module to module (snake like). Personally, I think the straight tracks like N-trak recommends are better if you intend to join with the modules of other modelers to display and run trains. If you wanted to build several modules to be used with N-trak, you can be creative with the tracks between your own modules. It is only at the extremes when you connect with the other modules that the placement of the tracks must meet specifications. You are also supposed to maintain 3 continuous tracks. You can't reduce the number of tracks and conform to N-trak standards.

    There are variations of modules such as Bend Track, oNe Track, and TwiN Track. (I think I got them right) that may have adapter modules so they can connect to N-trak modules. If you are interested in the researching some of them, you might try http://www.railserve.com and check out the clubs and organizations.

    As for a way to connect modules, it is usually done with short sections of track where the rails are not ballasted. Some clubs have worked out ways to hide this, so you don't have sections of track that alternate with sections that are not ballasted.

    On two of my modules that I wanted to not have this short section of track showing between them, I took the rails right to the edge of the module and connected them with a small length of brass wire that slid into a piece of brass tubing that was soldered to the rail on each module. This held the track in allignment as well as provided a path for electricity to travel if required. I have attached a picture that will hopefully show this connection. (It happens to be on an HO module, but it should work for N as well.)

    One of the problems with this arrangement is that the track can be damaged VERY easily when transporting the modules, so consider this before building your modules this way. :mad: You may also notice that the tracks between these modules do not cross the gap perpendicular to the edge of the module. I wanted to get away from the straight line look.:D

    Attached Files:

  7. billk

    billk Active Member

    Upguy - Thanks for the info. From the picture (which looks great, BTW), it looks like the break is on a curve - is that right? Is it on a grade?

    I'm not interested so much in meeting NTRAK, etal, standards, just in making a layout that can be broken down and reassembled (infrequently, if ever) without destroying to much.
    BillK
  8. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    There is a slight curve, but no grade.
  9. Catt

    Catt Guest

    When building paired or tripled or what ever module sets that will always go together the tracks can cross anyway you darn well want them too:D. The sets are concidered as one module and the outer ends where they mate to other peoples modules must conform to NTRAK specs.

    As for covering the joints on my home layout I treat it like any other scenery and cover right over the joint as if it doesn't exist.
  10. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Rory,
    Have you ever checked out the Kalmbach book called Small, Smart & Practical by Iain Rice?
    It has some great ideas for those of us with limited space.
  11. upguy

    upguy Oregon Western Lines, CEO

    Here is another angle of the two modules. There is a small white speck on the track where the modules are joined. You can see better the degree of curvature in the track. Keep in mind we are discussing N-scale track configurations, but looking at HO modules.:eek:

    Attached Files:

  12. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Charlie: No, I haven't actually looked at the book, but I'll check it out next time I'm at the hobby shop. Does it discuss shelf layouts?

    upguy: That module looks great. You did a good job concealing the joint. The line up the side of the hill could easily be a fault line...

    -Rory
  13. billk

    billk Active Member

    Small, Smart & Practical

    Rory and all -
    Rice's book is excellent, I recommend it. There's a lot of ideas in it besides some excellent track plans. As an aside, one of the layouts is of the CB&Q in central Nebraska, and in his write-up he mentions Sargent. That's where I grew up! A book on model railroading by a Brit was the last place I thought I would see my hometown (population < 1000) mentioned.

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