JRM has been experimenting with T-Trak for a many years now and it has become our major club train activity since we currenlty dont have an active club show layout.
T-Trak has been 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. It also allows members to work on their modules by themselves as we have no clubhouse or common space to work on a new club owned show layout. Several members have also produced some modules for the club (club contriibuted all the structures, track and other costs) so we now have an 8' T-Trak layout loop the club owns. This provides a starting point for a show T-Trak layouts, adding in the modules that members bring to the event.
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 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 (25mm) vs Alternate (33mm) Spacing
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 25mm (1.5"). 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 33mm (1.5") for its concentric curve pieces. So in order to make curves with 33mm 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" 25mm 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 25mm to the Kato Unitrak standard 33mm spacingso 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 all of the US T-Trak is now being done in Alternate spacing for running traditional railroad equipment, while most of the T-Trak with Standard spacingis used for running street cars and interurban trains. Kato's unitram track runs at 25mm spacing on the straight sections and does a similar swing to 33mm spacing at the middle of a 90 degree curve.
Many now use 25 and 33 spacing as terms instead of "standard" or "alternate" since 33 has become the defacto standard in many parts of the world now and the labels are self explanitory and hard to confuse historically.
Current JRM T-Trak
JRM members have created both 25mm and 25mm modules. The club's early T-Trak was done predominantly as 25mm modules with street track to run tram and small interurban trains on in smaller setup locations (usually 8-12' long loop). The club has now focused almost exclusively doing 33mm spaced modules with varying scenes and running most all japanese trains save shinkansens as they dont do so well on the tigher T-Trak curves.
You can watch the progress of our T-Trak modules on the Club's pages on the Wikidot website.