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  1. #1

    NTrak Layout Plan

    As many of you have seen on my videos for a while I've been working on a number of modules for a while now trying to finish my home layout. At first, my plan was simple; 4 corners and two POFF's all with mountain line to make a home loop. However, the problem with this quickly became apparent, it's the same problem as at shows. With no way to cross between lines you're always picking up trains to get them in the right place. That won't do, so I started working on the crossover modules (which I'll be doing with FastTracks #12's), but that left me wondering how to arrange the home layout.

    After months of thinking, I came up with this:

    The modules with names (including "No Name", they have no scenery yet) are already in progress in some way. In particular two of the corners have no mountain yet, and I was thinking it would be nice to have some non-mountain modules so when I travel I could match what the local club has (mountain or no). I'd already thought of making the junctions have alt-blue, so I could hook up with that as well.

    So, I designed two custom 5'x3' modules, which was the size required to keep minimum radius on all of the corners (FYI, the blue on these is 18" radius on the tight side, and 22.5" on the easy side) that turn mountain back. This solves the problem of not everyone in the club having mountain, part of a loop can have mountain.

    By using standard modules between these blue can be split into dual mini-loops, or run as one large loop, which is cool. Might provide an easy way to split off a small loop for operations and the like.

    Then, I thought, if I do a smaller crossover (#8's should work) and make the middle modules 4'x3' I could get up to green and stay under the 3% maximum grade. Note the thicker black line is the skyboard, so the up and arounds disappear into tunnels. This also allows them to be used as setup tracks, set your loco on the down side (to keep the cars from rolling away!) and you can set up trains on both up and arounds.

    Lastly, I realized if I extend the yellow line out across the 5' corners I could have a way to mate with oNeTrak modules!

    Operationally I think this pretty much assumes blue and green are DCC, and the yellow line in the middle is on an auto-reverser (crossing over reverses you on blue); and if there was oNeTrak it would be DCC as well.

    I'm sharing this now, because it seems darn near perfect. There has to be something wrong with it. It gives me mountain line and non-mountain line to take to meet with people. It gives a way to get from blue up to mountain, something that has been missing from almost every green line layout I've seen. It provides a way to run green line not on the entire layout, something I'm not sure I've ever seen before. It provides two full sets of red/yellow/blue crossovers so there are plenty of ways to get trains from place to place. It gives you a way to reverse a train without taking it off the layout (work it over to blue, through the middle yellow, then back to where you want). It provides a way to hook oNeTrak into the layout. It provides a passing siding on blue (the alt-blue), and staging (using the blue to green up and overs from inside).

    Seriously, what is missing? Ok, I can't hook up to BendTrak, or T-Trak, but frankly the oNeTrak was just a bonus idea. It seems totally complete, pretty compact, and, the largest bonus, it will fit in the space I have available!

    One downside I see are somehwat large modules (2 4'x3' and two 5'x3'), but to get the functionality I see no way around that. I can do some lightweight construction on them. The other downside is 5' modules are totally non-standard, but they are paired so it's unlikely the 1' would make a difference. I do already own two sets of 1'/2'/3' bridge modules, so they could easily both be padded to 6' or 8' in a layout.

    I'm thinking building this layout may be my slightly modified direction. Please comment!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Livin on the Rim of the Wht Mtns, Az
    Blog Entries
    Let's see...

    x = {q + [q2 + (r-p2)3]1/2}1/3 + {q - [q2 + (r-p2)3]1/2}1/3 + p


    p = -b/(3a), q = p3 + (bc-3ad)/(6a2), r = c/(3a)

    Knowing pi r round, and cake r sq. The answer is simple...

    Yup...should work just fine...

    George...Proud owner and operator of : T.H.E.R.R.

    There is a fine line between "Hobby" and "Mental Illness"
    Some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Nashville TN
    The modules should work. THe only problem for a home layout is if you need access to the pit. I don't know if you have a stool or a crawler on wheels?

    I like the "no name" corners. Sometimes it's best to leave plenty of space for a farm field or a part of a forest. Few or no stuctures to build, just lots of trees etc.
    Glenn Woodle

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Northwest Montana
    Blog Entries
    Definitely has potential for many hours of fun.

    Boxcab E50
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Wellsboro, Pa.
    No obvious flaws to my eye. There may need to be some spurs added for operational interest, but from the standpoint of "watching the trains roll" it looks great!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Oxford, Ohio; Decatur, Alabama
    Blog Entries

    I admit that I have trouble with spatial relations. I'm not sure what I'm looking at. Is this representation of the layout in scale? I think not. When not in scale, I just have a hard time envisioning it. I just can't put it together in my mind. That's why I do my drawings in such detail:

    I just can't figure out what you are trying to do with the modules, or where operators would go to follow trains. More detail would help me comment.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Fairchild AFB/Spokane WA
    Should look like it will work. Thinking of doing something similar at home, just 4 POFFs with turn back loops, probably linking blue to red lines. And pretty sure I'll have cross overs on mine, somewhere...just dunno where yet.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA



    Will the rise from the Blue line to the Green line be complete by the time Blue lines cross in the left center module?

    Is it a level crossing or will the left grade (rising from blue to green line) pass under the grade coming from the right center module (longer rising blue to green line route)?

    If the left rising line passes under at the crossing, is there 2" of clearance at this point?

    You might want to check the crossing area with a mock-up or layout software to make sure you have the clearance needed.

    "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Mark Twain

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Problem areas: 1. It won't work for DC users. 2. It won't work for those layouts where both DCC and DC are used. 3. Under typical train show conditions putting two trains on one track is only asking, nay begging, for accidents to happen unless the operators are constantly on their toes [which I have yet to see happen]. 4. Getting to the middle modules will be very difficult. Seems to me a yard with all tracks accessible from all three main tracks would be easier and would eliminate that middle section.

  10. #10
    Ok, lots of things to discuss!

    Glenn; at home I would expect to operate this almost exclusively from the outside. The pits are too small as drawn. At a show I would expect there to be some more modules from other people, and both pits would be a minimum of 10x10 inside making inside operation possible.

    Bob; I'm not much of an operations guy. Unfortunately I haven't found other locals to run ops sessions, so that's out. When at a show it's extremely difficult to do an ops session given the chaos, and time allowed. Running a train in a circle while talking to the public is enough of a challenge. That said, I'm hoping as a single operator at home that the crossovers and lines up to the green allow for some interesting times.

    Pete; It is to scale. It may not be obvious to those who don't do NTrak on a regular basis what the sizes are. The corners are standard 3' NTrak corners. The six square modules in the middle are all 4' long, with the outer ones being standard depth (2') and the middle ones being extended depth (3'). The two junction modules are a somwhat unusual 5'x3'. So the entire layout is 11' wide by 14' tall.

    Typical running at a show is to just loop trains. Red operator walks around the outside, blue operator on the inside, and yellow on whatever side they find easier (in this layout it would be outside, due to the dual pit). Green would be to the inside of the upper pit. You loop trains and speak to the public, many of which have questions.

    The big problem at shows is setup and teardown. In smaller layouts there is rarely a yard; the few that exist are large (24-36 feet) and only come out to larger shows. Yards tend to have full crossovers. So when you don't have one you end up with no way to cross between red/yellow/blue; and with no sidings you have to set up your train on the main line, run it, then break it down. This at least gives a way to move between lines without breaking down a train, and the middle space can be used to hold trains (on the up and overs, on the blue lines in each direction and then let the outer blue loop); so it provides some flexability without having a yard.

    Scenery wise the named modules have been shown on Reality Reduced; Speed Trap is my warehouse with the TrainSpeed unit on it. Stone Bridge is the module I've been recently working on. Church corner is the finished graveyard scene, town corner is the one I was building in the last episode. The two "no name" corners have track and electrical (you can run a train on them) but zero scenery yet; the east and west junction are in wood, but no further at this time. The middle modules have not yet been built.

    Allegheny; Remember the green line is 3.125" higher than the red/yellow/blue. Coming off the blue line (both sides) the spur would disappear into a tunnel and go under the green line. Coming off green the spurs would disappear through the skyboard (the thicker black line). The magenta is to denote a separate electrical block (in my drawing, colors always indicate how track is wired); where the two magentas cross is intended to be one line under the other (not a level crossing).

    Will it be tight? Yes. I believe the back-most line can be at the full 3.125" at that point and not violate the 3% grade. The other line has about 6 feet of run to go down, which at a full 3% gives me 2.16 inches of clearance (rail head to rail head) at that point. I believe I need to allow about 24' in scale, or 1.8 inches; and then of course the thickness of the track has to be included. I suspect that short section of track on the upper path will be virtually unsupported over the lower track (perhaps just a thin bit of metal under it); all the more reason to have it behind the skyboard and hidden.

    If I had a bigger room I would do my blue-green on a pair of six foot modules and do it all visable; but that wouldn't fit in my room.

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