JRM has been experimenting with T-Trak for a couple of years now. We are hoping that having
T-Trak as an option to display at some events instead of using the large layout will allow
much easier transport along with rapid setup with only one or two members. A few of our
members have several modules constructed and detailed and others are in the process of working
on module scenes.
T-trak was first conceived by Lee Monacto-FitzGerald in 2000 while visiting Japan for the JAM
convention. She and her husband were taking the concept of NTrak modules to Japan. There she
saw some presentations of small tram scenes ideas done on a sheet of paper using a couple of
pieces of Kato Unitrak. This gave her the idea of creating a small module system like NTRAK
that would allow for fast, small, compact scenes to be made with minimal materials and effort.
T-Trak was born! Lee shared the idea at the JAM convention in 2001 and the concept of
Tram/Romen modules took off in Japan, but took a while to catch hold in the rest of the world.
In the last few years T-Trak has seen a very rapid growth both by individual modelers doing
their own T-Trak loops and by clubs (many NTRAK clubs now have T-Trak sub groups) where
members will assemble T-Trak layout consisting of dozens of tables of T-Trak modules. You can
read the full history of T-Trak on Lee's T-Trak website.
The basic idea of T-Trak are small modules 12.125" long and from 8-14" deep. The modules are
basically increments of 310mm of Kato Unitrak (a 248mm and 62mm piece). There are two tracks
that run along the front of the module, 1.5" from the front edge. Kato Unitrak rail joiners
are used to hold the modules together. Modules are leveled up to the right height by using
1/4" bolts on all for corners of the module to level it up on the bolt 'legs'. The module
itself is usually built out of 1/4" plywood as a small box, but there are several alternate
approaches to making bases that all work well as long as the overall standards of track
length, height and separation are kept constant. You can see a lot of these ideas over on Paul Musselman's T-Trak website.
Standard vs Alternate
Originally T-Trak was designed for Japanese scenes with trams and trolleys, so the two Kato Unitrak tracks were put right next to each other for a rail spacing of 1". This gives a fairly prototypical spacing for street car rails and a very compact spacing for small and condensed japanese scenes. The only problem with this spacing is that Kato Unitrak curves are designed to have a rail spacing of 1.5" for its concentric curve pieces. So in order to make curves with 1" rail spacing the curves cannot be parallel through the corner curves, using alternating short straight track sections between the curved sections (diagram here). While this is prototypical for some places in Japanese tracks, many folks do not like having the odd corner geometry of the "Standard" 1" spacing.
In addition as Lee started to evangelize T-Trak in the US she found that many folks wanted to run larger equipment on T-Trak that did not run well on the tighter Standard spacing corners and their odd geometry. To help with this the "Alternate" spacing was developed where the track separation was moved from 1" to the Kato Unitrak standard 1.5" so that curves could be made using any of the standard Kato Unitrak concentric curve track sizes. To use larger equipment the R282 and R315 curves are used and this creates a 14 3/8" square corner module. Most of the US T-Trak is now being done in Alternate spacing for running traditional railroad equipment, while most of the T-Trak in Japan is done with Standard spacing running street cars and interurban trains.
JRM has not really standardized our track spacing as some club members are also members of
other local clubs and want to run their modules there, while some are doing more streetcar
oriented modules that would not really be a great fit to run with most of the US module
layouts (e.g., a GP40 with a string of freight would look pretty strange barreling down the
center of a Japanese streetcar scene!). This works fine as we have a couple of converter
modules that convert the track spacing from Alternate to Standard track spacing.
As the number of modules in the club grows we may develop a "hub" module that would allow us to create a T shaped layout with each peninsula being a different spacing and haveing the outer track span the whole layout and the inner tracks being just isolated to each peninsula. We may also just have two separate displays at times, one with Standard and the other with Alternate to highlight the two different approaches. You can watch the progress of our T-Trak modules in the photos section!