Author Topic: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?  (Read 2319 times)

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Point353

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #45 on: April 30, 2021, 10:16:05 PM »
+1
I too branched away from Ntrak a long time ago. When I'm displaying at a show with my "modules", I'm always amazed at how many fellas ask "Who's standards are you following?" You don't have to follow anyone's standards. If a group of guys "play well together" and want to model a location or simply follow a certain theme, then so be it. Do what works for you. If you can't merge with another groups's modules, no big deal. A gathering such as the Altoona or Ohio N scale meets prove that variety is good and that its not required to have one giant layout.
An original intent for Ntrak was to be able to assemble a "giant" layout - larger than one individual could easily manage - from modules that could be merged together and to run long trains that would attract the attention of non-model railroaders and thus possibly entice them into joining the hobby.
If that's not the focus for a given "group of guys", then building modules to be compatible with a particular standard, beyond what the group adheres to, isn't an overriding factor.

robert3985

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #46 on: May 02, 2021, 05:45:35 AM »
0
Ntrak got me back into model railroading in the early 1980's, but I was never happy with the vast majority of "standards" it required, because the standards were designed to be easy, not the best, either from a functional standpoint nor an appearance standpoint.

After Fitzgerald excommunicated me from Ntrak when Robert Schleicher the editor/owner of Rail Model Journal published a personal letter (without my permission) I'd written him about the problems I had with Ntrak standards, the Utah N-Trackers Club decided to ditch Ntrak standards we didn't like, and to forego compatibility with any present modular standard.

We had already done several years of research into new modular standards, investigating several prominent module philosophies and decided that none of them fit our needs...which were to have modular layout to take to shows that was easy to set up, break down and incorporate into home layouts...basically creating a modular home layout that could be easily taken to shows and set up/taken down quickly and precisely.

One of the first things to go was the whole concept of "connector tracks", which had the unintended consequences of causing the vast majority of running problem on an Ntrak setup, both mechanical and electrical.

Since the club had approximately 30 active members who built their own modules, we also set modular construction standards....basically L-girder benchwork with splined Masonite mainline subroadbeds transitioning into 3/4" CDX plywood yard, city and industrial areas, with glued and screwed construction.

This sturdy, and lightweight benchwork, especially on the module ends, made it possible to require precise and permanent positioning of the track ends to be flush with the module end surfaces....totally eliminating the need for connecting tracks.  Although this requirement meant that some very precise measurements had to be taken by every contributing module owner, there never was an insurmountable, or major problem with track alignment between modules.

One thing for certain was that this "track flush with the module end" standard totally eliminated every mechanical, electrical and visual problem generated by connecting tracks.

Setup was fast and simple for two members to accomplish because all of the nuts, washers and bolts used for connecting the modules together were standardized.  Also, the adjustable, folding legs had the exact same adjustable "glides" as feet, so any tools needed for height adjustment were the same tool. 

C-J connectors weren't even thought of, and Andersen Power Poles properly assembled and color-coded were required.  None of our 35 members ever had a problem with them, either assembling, crimping or using....much fewer problems than C-J connectors, even using the cheap, Harbor Freight crimping tool for the Power Poles.

So, during setup, a designated module is fully adjusted for height, and leveled front to rear, side to side and becomes the "reference" module.  The next module to get attached to it has height leveling feet adjusted so that the far end of the to-be-attached module will be fairly close to the correct height, and the leveling feet of the module end to be attached to the reference module are screwed in so that they will not be higher than the reference module.

This end is attached to the reference module and clamped together with large C-clamps holding the ends of the modules together by the 3/4" face of both, which extends several inches below the bottom of the subroadbed above.  The C-clamps, if used as the primary clamping device, should ideally be as close to the bottom of the subroadbed as possible and centered between the rails of a single mainline or between the tracks of a double mainline.  No triple mainlines are allowed! (HaHa)

After the module ends are lightly clamped together, and the newly attached module's rails are even with the tops of the reference module's rails, and also even side to side, the big C-clamps are tightened, and the other end of the newly attached module is leveled front to back, side to side, using the tops of the mainline rails as where to place the carpenter's level.

Each module is attached this same way until we meet up at the last module somewhere in the setup.  I've found that a water-level system is good for maintaining a very close level, even for modules several yards away....or a precise laser level works well too.

Module standards require a removable skyboard, and these are put onto the backs of the modules after the module setup is complete...once again using identical nuts, bolts and washers so any club member with a half-inch socket or wrench can do it easily.

Club members (usually the younger ones) who are responsible for connecting the modules electrically follow the setup crews around the setup, connecting the labeled and color-coded power buses, DC buses and Loconet connections underneath the layout.

Operation is from the front, using wireless Digitrax DCC, with Loconet receptacles on every module.

The tops of the removable skyboards are 5' 10" tall, and the area inside the layout comprises a private club member lounge area with tables and chairs.

A dark green fascia cloth is pinned to special 2" X 3" "pinning positions" on each modules front facing benchwork to hide the legs, members' train stuff, and the members lounging behind the skyboards.

Because of tensions within the club, it was disbanded several years ago.  However many of the club's standards were adopted by me and my friend Gregg Cudworth, so that our club modules could still be taken to shows and all of our efforts would not be lost.  We increased the railhead to floor height to 52", and the module ends to 3' deep.  The portable layout is now both modular and sectional, with the vast majority of modules being 6' in length, 3' deep at the ends, with sections being dedicated to as many as four 6' sections with odd dimensions and track placement.   Mainline track is Micro Engineering Code 55 and hand-laid Code 40 PCB track, with hand-laid turnouts being mandatory for both heights of rail.  Prototype derived scenes are also mandatory, with those scenes being from railroads that run through Utah (SP, UP, D&RGW, WP mainly).

When at shows, the layout is designed for the adult model railroader.  If little kids want to see it, they have to be lifted up by their parent, or view it from one of two elevated "viewing stations" that are available.  So far, the kids aren't put off by a lack of moonscapes, animated county fairs and circuses (with blaring steam calliope music), Jurassic Parks, or animated tornadoes.  Since we operate from the front, it is easy for the operators to chat with guests, and allow them to take a train for a while if they want to, and the adults don't have to stoop down nearly as far to take a good look at the superdetailing goin' on.

Also, LED 100 W equivalent "Daylight" bulbs in long swing-arm drafting lamps are required...two every six feet, to illuminate the layout correctly.

In my experience in the last 20 years of not having connector tracks of any kind on a portable, modular-sectional layout...the best way is just to precisely position the track so that the ends are flush with the module ends.  Oh, and we also glue down four PCB ties at the ends of the module track and solder the rail to them.  This allows the rail ends to be slightly adjusted side to side if necessary and is very strong on the module ends where the track needs to be.

When transporting, we also have labeled track end protectors that screw into the module end plates using square drive grabber screws and a square drive in a cordless drill.  These are made from a scrap piece of pine 1X2, with relief holes on the portion of them that go over the track ends so that the rail ends don't touch the end protectors.  Quick and easy...and saves the rail ends from potential damage when transporting or storing.

Here are some photos to help visualize what I've written above...

Photo (1) - Showing No Joiner Tracks between modules & complicated trackwork (spiral curves, superelevation, different heights, code 55 and code 40 rails):


Photo (2) - Showing Unfinished Module Benchwork Construction, No Joiner Tracks, Long Trains Running 100% Reliably:


Photo (3) - Overall View Showing 6000k Lights, High Skyboards, 52" Railhead to Floor Height & No Joiner Tracks Visible:



Photo (4) Overall View From Opposite Side, Freeform Fascia, Fascia Curtains:


Hope this gives you some clarity and what is pretty easily done to add both reliability and a good appearance to a modular layout's track.  For a while a few years ago, I was transporting six 6' modules two to three times a year to trainshows in Utah and Wyoming in the back of my Suburban and in a big U-haul trailer, traveling from 50 to 70 miles to get to the destinations.  I had zero problems with the module ends and track ripping up because of the end protectors, which stay on until the ends are ready to be clamped together after the modules are standing there on their legs. The track ends always were stable, and never shifted their alignment, so setups were (and continue to be) very easy.

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore


« Last Edit: May 02, 2021, 06:55:53 PM by robert3985 »

CRL

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #47 on: May 02, 2021, 12:18:54 PM »
0
I noticed some “adjustable” lamps are used on some modules. Any super detailed scenes have a “magnifier light” for guests to use? 😉

robert3985

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #48 on: May 02, 2021, 06:43:38 PM »
0
I noticed some “adjustable” lamps are used on some modules. Any super detailed scenes have a “magnifier light” for guests to use? 😉

We've thought about it, but I'm always wearing my Optivisors...so I just loan them to whomever needs a closer look!

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore