Author Topic: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?  (Read 2417 times)

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Hiroe

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Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« on: April 16, 2021, 09:09:10 PM »
-1
It's been 18 years since I've had to install joiner tracks on modules at show setups. But with setting up a demo Ntrak layout as part of the NECHS display at shows, I've been contemplating solutions to the joiner-track problem like we solved in HO, because I really don't want to go back to that. (Time better spent test-running the layout already.)

So enter the T-track concept.
Can anyone give me a good reason why we shouldn't install kato track-ends at every module joint, such that the Ntrak modules we own become truly plug-and-play at shows? We could still connect them to stock Ntrak modules by removing the Kato joiners from the retrofit ones, then use half a joiner track on each Ntrak side. New modules could be built with Kato joints from the beginning, and with my lightweight design and open-source height-adjusting legs, we could even connect directly to rows of T-track modules on folding tables.

Has anyone else done this?

--Drew McCann
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dem34

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2021, 09:17:41 PM »
+2
Can't really see the issue with doing this as long as you can get others to agree to accommodate it which I think is the bigger hurdle. But it'll probably be necessary as NTrak as a standard is sort of falling into a rut at the moment, the 3+1 track setup pushes away proto modellers who hate how it looks and its super heavy construction pushes away more casual modellers  who don't have the space/skills to make it work.

That nut Billy with High Point NTrak in NJ is in fact doing this right now with his club's modules. But in that case its less about overall compatibility and more to spite the NTrak organization.
-Al

cjm413

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2021, 09:21:52 PM »
0
It's been 18 years since I've had to install joiner tracks on modules at show setups. But with setting up a demo Ntrak layout as part of the NECHS display at shows, I've been contemplating solutions to the joiner-track problem like we solved in HO, because I really don't want to go back to that. (Time better spent test-running the layout already.)

So enter the T-track concept.
Can anyone give me a good reason why we shouldn't install kato track-ends at every module joint, such that the Ntrak modules we own become truly plug-and-play at shows? We could still connect them to stock Ntrak modules by removing the Kato joiners from the retrofit ones, then use half a joiner track on each Ntrak side. New modules could be built with Kato joints from the beginning, and with my lightweight design and open-source height-adjusting legs, we could even connect directly to rows of T-track modules on folding tables.

Has anyone else done this?

--Drew McCann

Kato Unitrack has different tie spacing and Code 80 rails, so solving one problem could end up causing two new problems

Atlas True Track might be a better option to use for the ends since the tie spacing is a better match and the rails are smaller than Code 80

John

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2021, 09:22:53 PM »
0
BANTRAK uses those Kato slider track things on the ends ... I guess it works OK .. never used them ..   I have a module in the garage that needs to be refurbished .. so may conver to that

I think NTRAK (or whatever they call themselves now) needs to modernize the standard == more like Fremo ..

peteski

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2021, 09:33:14 PM »
0
T-Trak was designed with Kato Unitrak. The modules are designed to have slight gap between them when they are joined.  That allows some leeway with individual module's dimensions. They are only mechanically connected by the track. They are also designed to the same height, and rest on a solid surface.

NTRAK modules are designed to be tightly bolted tightly together, and each module has its own adjustable legs. So in order to connect NTRAK modules we first adjust each module's height, then mechanically connect them with C-clamps.  After that there would be no easy way to snap in the connecting Unitrak pieces.

I suppose you could align the modules as close in height as possible, then snap the connecting Unitrak onto one module and carefully bring in the other module to fully connect the track on both sides. But I see also sorts of damage happening in this scenario.  Plus, no module is perfect, so if some are slightly out of spec, the Untrak joiners will not fully snap into place.  And if someones module needs slightly shorter connecting track, then we have big problem.  While modules are supposed to be built with exact dimensions, in real life that is often not the case.

Plus, since Unitrak section track have different length than Atlas sectional track (and different joiner geometry), that means the modules would all have to be converted. Sounds like a new standard for old modules. Yes, I know there are adjustable length Unitrak pieces, but those are not very reliable or good looking.  I think the using Unitrak as new standard doesn't seem like a good idea.

Best idea for NTRAK IMO is to make connecting track with joiners on one end soldered to the track. That way you only have to slide the joiners on one end.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2021, 09:35:02 PM by peteski »
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C855B

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2021, 09:38:03 PM »
+1
Unitrack ends alone are unlikely to be successful given the heft and general clumsiness of N-Trak modules. The likelihood of breaking joiners in transport, handling and setup/teardown will be high if the clips protrude beyond the frame ends.

HOWEVER, an N-Trak group in Omaha has been using Unitrack adjustable sections as joiners for years, terminating the module tracks with a small section of Unitrack to mate with the joiners. When they need to be compatible with a "standard" N-Trak module, they also have available Unitrack to Code 80 adapters in the proper lengths. It's a clever scheme, actually.

... more like Fremo ...

Uhhhh... unlikely. They have different audiences. FreMoN requires operators to pay attention, and - God forbid - operate. One of the "attractions" I see time and time again with N-Trak three-track loops is you start a train running and if it makes it around a lap or two, then just let it run to entertain the crowds while chatting with friends or the public. I'm as guilty of that as the next guy, especially having in the last 20 years or so discerned a big difference between your regular public-invited shows and modeler-only meets like RPM. The public wants to see trains run, modelers are into stagecraft in setting scenes.

Hiroe

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2021, 09:52:21 PM »
0
So far, this would only involve changing four module ends total: both ends of a single 4' straight, and one end each on the Racket end loops.
So the burden of change isn't high. We're not looking at doing this across 30 modules (yet).

Mechanical lifetime and rated module weight load would probably necessitate adding at least two frame pins to each joint, keyed to standard positions. For now these could be as simple as 1/2" or 5/8" hardwood dowels in near-to-interference-fit holes. This would help key the module ends to each other, so the kato joiners always mate when the pins are used. We would still use c-clamps underneath at each joint. The dowel pins would be removable, and both those and the kato joiner clips would all be pulled from the module ends for storage/transport.

As for code 80 vs atlas true-track, the three modules in question were all built with C80 track, so Unitrack ends won't  be a problem with mismatched rail size. However, if someone new came along and wanted to use smaller rail, I'm willing to help them with joining the different rail sizes; and weathering hides a multitude of small sins.


The NECHS as a club explicitly models territory that's often 3 or 4 tracks wide, so the 3+ mainlines of Ntrak doesn't look out of place when you put PRR catenary poles on it.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2021, 10:14:40 PM by Hiroe »
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CRL

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2021, 10:28:22 PM »
0
Pieces/parts of my remaining NTrak modules will either be incorporated into my home layout, or will be cut up & burned. Our local area club has pretty much converted to TTrak, and is too far away now that we’ve moved to be reasonably easy to get to even though they are planning a permanent layout at their new location at the Texas Transportation Museum.

I just can’t get excited about TTrak.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2021, 10:30:03 PM by CRL »

ridinshotgun

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2021, 12:27:11 AM »
+1
Our club has gone to using the kato adjustable sections for joining ntrak modules and it truly has been a problem.  The modules flex and move after set up and even over the course of a few days so that no matter how they are adjusted there are always trouble spots that cause issues such as hump, dips and the middle insert sections popping up that catch in spec trip pins.  We literally have to have someone constantly fixing things and in some instances have had to use nails to hold a joiner down temporarily.  :facepalm:  More so that the old traditional way.  We didn't install Kato track sections to the modules but instead soldered track joiners to the end of the kato adjustable pieces.

Who knows if we will go back since they converted to this idea because one they didn't want to actually fix the modules that either weren't built to spec or became out of spec due to various issues over the years such as warpage of the modules.  Second they got tired of having to fit various joiner tracks that differed every time depending on what two modules operated next to each other.  I voted to fix the modules but I am a minority that actually wanted to do it correct the first time.

It really became such an issue I just gave up running on our Ntrak layout at the last show and ran only t-trak.  At least my in spec cars and locos run without a hitch for the most part without having to chase around fixing problems and even then the only problems are always on a module from module builders who just have some deep dark need NOT to follow standards.   :|

Hiroe

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2021, 01:17:09 AM »
0
The other solution is to go to hardwood dowel frame pins and rails to the module edge with small adjustment slides like our HO modules have. That system works pretty well.

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Hiroe

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2021, 11:03:49 AM »
0
further thought.

The ability to snap unijoiners into the end of each track, would give us a stable reliable place to mount a frame-pin drilling jig, if the jig was made to snap onto the protruding unijoiners (and/or had it's own to snap into the track ends). Then all you have to do is snap the jig on the end, clamp it to the frame, and drill.
This would guarantee that the frame pins match the track ends every time.
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Ike the BN Freak

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2021, 11:34:35 AM »
+1
Kato Unitrack has different tie spacing and Code 80 rails, so solving one problem could end up causing two new problems

NTrak uses code 80 rail, or Peco code 55, so not sure how Kato would cause new problems

cjm413

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2021, 02:29:26 PM »
0
NTrak uses code 80 rail, or Peco code 55, so not sure how Kato would cause new problems

All code 55 modules will need to have a proper transition to Code 80 on both ends of the module.   If out-of-spec modules due to sloppy construction are already a problem, it follows this will only make things worse.

For any modules that aren't going to be a derailment magnets, the different tie spacing between each and every module is still going to be an eyesore.


Hiroe

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2021, 02:44:45 PM »
-1
All code 55 modules will need to have a proper transition to Code 80 on both ends of the module.   If out-of-spec modules due to sloppy construction are already a problem, it follows this will only make things worse.

For any modules that aren't going to be a derailment magnets, the different tie spacing between each and every module is still going to be an eyesore.

Sloppy construction is hardly an issue for me. You've seen how crisp and polished my frames and trackwork are, yes?

Also, differing tie spacing has not been a visual issue with any of my HO modules, and I've used a mix of C83, C70, and C55 on the sceniced modules. (with some C100 used on utility modules).
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CRL

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Re: Hybridize Ntrak and T-trak?
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2021, 05:18:53 PM »
+1
All code 55 modules will need to have a proper transition to Code 80 on both ends of the module.   If out-of-spec modules due to sloppy construction are already a problem, it follows this will only make things worse.

For any modules that aren't going to be a derailment magnets, the different tie spacing between each and every module is still going to be an eyesore.

If Peco code 55 is used, no transition is necessary because the total rail height is code 80. The bottom 25 is buried in the ties and is exposed when you add the rail joiners.