Author Topic: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???  (Read 10439 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 15372
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +4545
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« on: July 13, 2009, 03:37:54 PM »
0
N Trak is arguably one of the reasons that N scale has seen so many advances in the areas of locomotive quality, rolling stock detail, and structure offerings by major manufacturers.  It has allowed the scale to really blossom, even for those of us with little or no space available for a layout.  Add to this the social aspect of working on and running a modular layout, and you can really see what an invaluable tool N Trak has been over the years.

However, N Trak standards were written 30 some-odd years ago, and include a lot of limitations that might have made sense then, but which now may be holding back some modelers from participating.  With the advancements in reliable locomotives, better looking track products, and advanced electronics, could it be that N trak's approach is getting a little dusty?

For instance, with the improvements to locomotive design and reliability, is it necessary to require no grades?

With the advent of reliable RP-25 wheelsets, is it necessary to continue to use track that is woefully out of scale and unrealistic?

Can reliable module joints be achieved without the often clunky and always obvious joiner tracks?

When you consider that most N trakers have one or two modules to update, would things like more prototypical double track mains with 1.25" spacing be a big deal to upgrade?

I think the efforts of Bernie Kempinski, Mike Skibbe and others have demonstrated that solidly built, reliable modules can be built with all of the above features.

I'm interested in hearing what you think about N trak standards. 

Lee
Rockin' It Old School

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

asciibaron

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 3101
  • Respect: +1
    • Steve's Happy Fun Time IntarWebs
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2009, 03:49:46 PM »
0
no grades is required.  i have seen several setups that had rolls in them with everything 'level" add a grade to that and it all hits the fan, plus, how do you interface with the grade on either end? 

everything else can be changed.
Quote from: Chris333
How long will it be before they show us how to add DCC to a tree?

Ed Kapuscinski

  • Global Moderator
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 23480
  • Head Kino
  • Respect: +7021
    • Conrail 1285
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2009, 03:56:32 PM »
0
N Trak is arguably one of the reasons that N scale has seen so many advances in the areas of locomotive quality, rolling stock detail, and structure offerings by major manufacturers.  It has allowed the scale to really blossom, even for those of us with little or no space available for a layout.  Add to this the social aspect of working on and running a modular layout, and you can really see what an invaluable tool N Trak has been over the years.
Absolutely!
Quote
However, N Trak standards were written 30 some-odd years ago, and include a lot of limitations that might have made sense then, but which now may be holding back some modelers from participating.  With the advancements in reliable locomotives, better looking track products, and advanced electronics, could it be that N trak's approach is getting a little dusty?

For instance, with the improvements to locomotive design and reliability, is it necessary to require no grades?
Yes. There is NO need for grades on large layouts. You've got to remember that these things don't always end up on level floors, and the people generally expect to run much longer trains on them than on home layouts. Grades significantly complicate both of these things.

I've run on an NTRAK layout with significant grades, required because of the space we were in, and it was fun, but hardly made for trouble free operation.

Quote
With the advent of reliable RP-25 wheelsets, is it necessary to continue to use track that is woefully out of scale and unrealistic?
Necessary? No. The problem is that one of the largest fleets of cars out there is not in compliance with the RP. There are a LOT of these cars still out there in peoples collections. Again, keep in mind, NTRAK trains, and therefore fleets, tend to be much larger than those on home layouts. There are a lot of people who have been in the hobby for a long time, and there is a large resistance to changing out all those wheels.

I'm not saying who's right and who's wrong, but just that the situation exists.

Quote
Can reliable module joints be achieved without the often clunky and always obvious joiner tracks?

Yes. But... while those nice ends may work fine for a number of shows, over the 25 year life span of some of the NTRAK modules that I know of, I don't think they'll hold up. Even with the 2.5" setback, stuff STILL gets torn up quite a bit. Plus, they allow for expansion and contraction of the wood module frames.

While I don't think we need to stick with 5" joiners, I think that any large setup still needs something like this. In the BANTRAK onetrak group we use 3" joiner tracks, and they work quite well.

Quote
When you consider that most N trakers have one or two modules to update, would things like more prototypical double track mains with 1.25" spacing be a big deal to upgrade?
That's not a safe assumption. In addition to personal modules, there are a LOT of club owned modules out there, including ones that have very complex track work. It WOULD be a lot of work to start retrofitting everything.

Is it worth doing? Possibly. Is it worth looking into for new construction? Maybe.


Quote
I think the efforts of Bernie Kempinski, Mike Skibbe and others have demonstrated that solidly built, reliable modules can be built with all of the above features.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe most of Bernie's work has all been to NTRAK or oNeTRAK specs.

And yes, the mod-u-track layout is gorgeous, but also small. Scale that up to 1000s of modules, and see how it works.

wcfn100

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 8779
  • Respect: +1078
    • Chicago Great Western Modeler
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2009, 04:11:42 PM »
0
Update? No. Abandon, yes.
There is no way to transition.

One problem with setting higher standards is that even though the quality of product has gotten better, the level of modeling ability hasn't kept up. Code 55 on 1 1/4" spacing is still going to look like s*#! with a poor ballast job.   
Jason

One of One-Sixty

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 1298
  • Respect: 0
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2009, 04:15:07 PM »
0
no grades is required.  i have seen several setups that had rolls in them with everything 'level" add a grade to that and it all hits the fan, plus, how do you interface with the grade on either end? 

everything else can be changed.

I think it should be up to the person who created the module with the grade to make transition modules or make sure that the grade comes back down to interface with the other modules.

In my opinion this is a given.
“My deeds must be my life. When I am gone, they will speak for me.”- Stephen Girard

Modeling a modern Pennsylvania Railroad 1996-Present

Sokramiketes

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 4704
  • Better modeling through peer pressure...
  • Respect: +1125
    • Modutrak
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2009, 04:31:42 PM »
0
And yes, the mod-u-track layout is gorgeous, but also small. Scale that up to 1000s of modules, and see how it works.

Bingo, there is no way Modutrak could be a national standard.  There's a degree of precision that involves the use of a single set of templates to make our stuff work. 

And besides, we're not modeling the C&M division just to park it next to Techachapi Loop or Roger's Pass at some national show either.  So it was never meant to be national. 

For what it was designed to do, NTRAK is pretty flawless. 

Mark5

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 10787
  • Always with the negative waves Moriarty ...
  • Respect: +490
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2009, 05:18:22 PM »
0
N Trak is arguably one of the reasons that N scale has seen so many advances in the areas of locomotive quality, rolling stock detail, and structure offerings by major manufacturers. 

Really?

inkaneer

  • Guest
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2009, 06:32:41 PM »
0
It seems that every once in a while the tail tries to wag the dog.  Such is the case here.  Look, let's be realistic here.  Ntrak was a 35+ year head start and is world wide.  Its simplicity and adherence to standards is the reason for its success.  Making the trackwork dead flat meant that only one set of module standards is needed.  But look at what happens when you add a 1.5% grade to four foot modules.   On module A the grade goes from 0" to .72" [48" X .015= 0.72]. Not much of a change so we need another module [module B] to go from .72" to 1.44".  A third module [module C] to go from 1.44" to 2.16".  A fourth module would probably be needed to allow one track to cross over another. But let's stop at three for now.  Now suppose module B does not make it to the set up.  What good is modules A and C?  But that is not all.  After getting the track up to 2.16" you now have to bring it back down again to meet up with Module A  That means another set of modules A,B, and C.  That's six modules [or more]and all have to be present.  If one is a no show the others are useless.  In short adding a grade increases the complexity.  That complexity breeds problems. Problems mean headaches. Ntrak avoided all that by being simple.  

Denver Road Doug

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 2120
  • Respect: +28
    • Mockingbird Industrial
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2009, 09:04:21 PM »
0
I would say, leave N-Trak alone.   Start something new and just see if it takes.
NOTE: I'm no longer active on this forum.   If you need to contact me, use the e-mail address (or visit the website link) attached to this username.  Thanks.

Ed Kapuscinski

  • Global Moderator
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 23480
  • Head Kino
  • Respect: +7021
    • Conrail 1285
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2009, 09:13:50 PM »
0
The problem with starting something new is that you're competing against a very well established standard.

Think about the sony minidisc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniDisc

It was a better solution, but because there were other, widely established standards, it never caught on.

That's why it's better to work WITH the system, by either creating your own subset inside it (think onetrak), or just working within the framework to do something creative.

bicknell

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 238
  • Respect: +2
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2009, 09:41:46 PM »
0
I've said several times I think NTrak could be more progressive.  I understand the need to err on the side of backwards compatibility; after all this is a voluntary standard and so if you make too many people unhappy then things fragment, and that's not good for the hobby.  However, I wish there was a bit more vision of the future coming from the N-Trak leadership.  Let's take on a few things though:

"No Grades".  Well, this isn't true, there can be grades on Blue (not that common) and Green (seen from time to time).  I find it interesting that even though you can do grades on both most people do not, which makes me think there's little demand for grades.

However, the bigger issue with a portable layout is it is quite likely the floor has a grade.  If the floor has a 2% grade in it (which I've seen in things like fairgrounds buildings) then you can't "level" the layout over long distances.  That grade ends up in the layout, like it or not.  So although a small, perfectly level floor might support moderate grades on all lines, you may end up at another venue where your 2% grade gets added to 2% in the floor, and that's bad for random trains.

"Joiner Tracks".  Here I think there is real room for improvement.  We have to be able to do better with joiner tracks, and I've seen a ton of attempts.  Some clubs use the Kato sliding rails, some use shorter segments.  Truthfully, I have yet to see anything "better", all pros and cons considered.  I think what we really need is someone with the technology to make track segments to do some real engineering.

"Track Spacing".  The standard allows 1.25" spacing, just not at the module ends.  I know several modules that pull the tracks closer together over a 8-16' distance.  It looks a bit silly to see them go closer together, further apart, and so on.  I think an alternate spacing should be documented, keeping yellow where it is, and then moving red and blue .25" closer to yellow.  This would allow for a 2'x1' "transition module" to go between new and old, and allow clubs to adopt the tighter spacing.  I suspect it would be quite popular.

"Double Track Mains".  Non-starter, because N scale guys like to run trains.  At every show I've been at all the lines are almost always "full", with more folks wanting to run trains.  Cutting the number of lines by 1/3 would make that far worse, and I don't see it going at all.  Indeed, a lot of folks do a green line just to get a fourth track.  I think the one thing that could help is to better publicize the "alternate blue" location.

"Out of scale track".  I assume this a swipe at Atlas Code 80 track, which is the standard, and/or a swipe at not being able to use Atlas Code 55.  Well, Atlas Code 55 has interoperability problems with WAY too many things; there's no way it will be accepted by larger groups.  The good news is, there is code 55 that works fine.  ME code 55 meets the specs, and I have it on one of my modules.  Peco Code 55 meets the specs, got some of that too.  Still, even with options the ends have to be the same to mate up, so unless someone designs some sort of magical joiner track, I suspect we're stuck.

So, the fact of the matter is there are options.  There is also a lot of lore about track and wheels.  That's the real problem.  More good information distributed would be a good thing.

Truthfully none of these make my short list of things that need to be updated.  Given it's easy to branch oNeTrack, BenDTrack, or some other things off NTrak there's room for sub-loops with all sorts of different standards.  Provided they are clearly labeled and can be bypassed it all works toegether quite well.

The thing I think is missing is a signaling standard.  I think we need a standard connector and pinout to connect a signal system between modules so it would be easier to make a signal setup work across many modules.  It's somewhat complicated, but should be possible at reasonable cost.

Midniteflyer

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 97
  • Respect: 0
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2009, 10:47:11 PM »
0
With the advancement of all N-scale, Ntrak is outdated IMO. The group i belong to have set our own standards and things run and look much better. We have 30"x72" straight modules, 54"x54" corner modules. Our corners alow for 40+" radius on our corners. No turnouts coming off the mainlines other than #8's, we use #6 in all the yard areas. Modules are 30" deep also.

Here are a few pics of what we are doing. the first pic is a partial set up, 21'x80', our total set is 45'x110' we are just getting rolling on our scenery. There are just 3 of us doing most of the mods so it is taking time.

 

We use Kato expander tracks for our joints.....



With the use of the large radius we can run long trains, we generally run 60 to 100 car trains. here is a pic of a 189 unit coal train....





Some partial scenery done....





Black & Gold Rules !!!!!!!!!!!!

lashedup

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 879
  • Respect: +108
    • Model 160
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2009, 12:40:01 AM »
0
I think overall NTRAK serves a purpose for the widest general group of people. By design it accommodates the lowest common denominator so that the maximum amount of n-scalers can run on it.

Is there room for some progress in NTRAK? Sure. But overall it does suit a purpose rather well.

Now if this discussion is more about an appeal to Ed and Co. to do something outside the box, then of course my vote is to do something different. :)


Denver Road Doug

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 2120
  • Respect: +28
    • Mockingbird Industrial
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2009, 12:53:18 AM »
0
The problem with starting something new is that you're competing against a very well established standard.

Think about the sony minidisc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MiniDisc

It was a better solution, but because there were other, widely established standards, it never caught on.

That's why it's better to work WITH the system, by either creating your own subset inside it (think onetrak), or just working within the framework to do something creative.
 

Why is it a competition?  Maybe they do in the northeast, but I've never heard of a show turning down layouts.  As was mentioned, often times N-Trak modules are split into multiple layouts anyway.  The mindset of "we have to have the biggest layout ever" couldn't be part of this new organization.  It might be something like: "we have to have the highest quality layout ever".  (not saying they're mutually exclusive, just that it couldn't generally be the focus)

I don't think this is comparing to the failure of the MiniDisc to other media....it's comparing the 3...err...8-track tape deck to an MP3 player.  They didn't compete with each other due to the progression of time and technology.   Same here....N-Trak lives to serve it's purpose, "X-Trak" (or whatever) starts now, and serves a completely different type of model railroading.
NOTE: I'm no longer active on this forum.   If you need to contact me, use the e-mail address (or visit the website link) attached to this username.  Thanks.

Nato

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 2302
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +156
Re: Is it time to update N Trak Standards...???
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2009, 01:32:01 AM »
0
  N Quack (Trak) certainly could be updated ,old modules grandfathered in, but new standards using Atlas Code 55 track and switches. Also short transition modules could exist that take the three track mains down to two. Yes modules can be done with no joiner tracks. The old Utah N Rail modelers group on out last sectional layout ran the tracks right up tp the ends, used a system of pegs and holes carefully installed to register the ends when joined,for good alignment. we had to male end protecter pieces that we screwed to the module ends to prevent rail damage in transit (it sometimes occurred anyway). Whie it did look better the current Wasatch N Scale group has gone back to joiner tracks, but filly ballested and weathered.with our two track main it is easy to have both tracks on one cork section .Nate Goodman (Nato). Salt Lake, Utah.