JRM T-Trak

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 History
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.

T-Trak Basics
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 T-Trak
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!

T-Trak module base.
T-Trak module base underside with threaded inserts for bolt legs.
T-Trak standard straight module with 1" track spacing.
T-Trak standard corner with non parallel curved tracks
T-Trak alternate straight module with 1.5" track spacing
T-Trak alternate corner with parallel curved tracks (in this case its using smaller than usual R282 and R249 curves to fit the corner module on a 12.25" square module.)
Philip Cook's shrine with street festival and station module (more photos here)   Philip Cook's Alternate corner gas station module (more photos here)   Curt LeVan's first module with sunken track cut. (more photos here)





all materials ©2005-2009 Japan Rail Modelers unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved