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Variations on T Trak or Bespoke Modules

Kanpai Keith

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Kanpai Keith

I’ve been taking my time reading through as many threads as I can on here and I stumbled upon T-Trak.  What an excellent idea and certainly one that I may have to adopt when we downsize later this year.


Are there any other variations on this or has anyone devised their own?



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glad you discovered Ttrak, it really is a fun way to do model trains with space (and even time and money) limitations. it’s also a great way for folks to get into the hobby on a very small investment and great way to learn scenery with doing small bits and lends itself to experimenting a lot and getting into tight scene detail if you want to. It also brings in folks that are more into the diorama aspect of the hobby.

Folks have modified basic Ttrak in many ways. Even staying on the standard track spacing folks have done things like


- gone to bigger radius corners (just need double tables as wider than a 30” table)

- extend modules out the front (you cna do this as far as it can balance with the front floating out in space and legs 1.25” from front track)

- do ultra deep modules with matching shallow depth module behind it

- do matching odd length modules

- have modules drop deep (Like a canyon scene with big bridge) between two tables (again some sort of matching table spanning module needed behind it)

- standard branch lines at the back of the modules (raised or ground level)

- make S track modules to move the tracks running at the back of modules so you can have a run of modules flipped around

- make mega modules that have multiple modules on each side as one big module.

- single track modules

- large storage yard module sets

- large multiple track and platform module sets

- wandering branch line module sets

- junction and inside corner modules to do L, T or star shaped layouts

- large sections or whole layouts that are designed as one continuous scene


you can do all this stuff and still easily run with others (just a little more module placement planning is needed).


folks have also just redone the specs as their needs varied and don’t worry about running with others. Some build part of their home layout as a permanent layout and part are Ttrak modules they can remove to go and play with others.


really is a fun way to do modeling in a tight space as you can just work on a module at a time like on the kitchen table and store/display then on a book shelf! Just set up at home on folding tables now and then and/or at local club meets. Even by yourself you can just roll your own events at the local library, hospital, cultural events as transporting and setting up a dozen or two modules by yourself is not bad. Good way to find others to play with in your area and created new modelers. Really is the best way to recruit new modelers from younger generations as many are living in smaller urban spaces where they can’t do even a small layout. But Ttrak can be small, detailed and fits in well with the modern meetup culture for events or just socializing. Also backs into the crafting and maker world well with small space, money and time investment.


only down side is that the modular nature sort of locks your track plan into a basic Loop design. The S transition modules can help this some but requires some space to do this (each is a 2x module). sectional layouts can get around this some by just doing a more complex track plan then breaking it into smaller pieces for storage and transport, but then that takes out playing with others mostly and expansion has to be designed carefully if you want it to eventually grow and smaller layout plans can at times be hard to split up into smaller chunks that could come apart easily.





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Kanpai Keith

Thanks for taking the time to reply Jeff, very informative.


I’m thinking of an 1960’s-1980’s urban theme using DCC running local trains, some freight and early Shinkansen's. One idea I had was to use the standard module and add an additional section to the rear to carry an elevated Shinkansen line.

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you are most welcome. Been doing Ttrak a long time and lots of knoodling on it for our club efforts.


yep we have played with this for a long time in our club trying various concepts to see if it would work. Biggest issues are the shinkansen corners if on the inside as they force you to do a giant donut layout and very large corners. For a limited space layout it just doesn’t work and why we gave up on it. A minimum double track shinkansen viaduct Loop is 1m wide x2m long add another 10” in front of the viaduct all the way around and you end up with a 1.5m x2.5m layout, could work if you had part of a room to set it up on, just have to figure out tables or some sort of base ro set it up on.


we also looked at making the viaduct/raised embankment as separate thin modules to make the basic interior shinkansen viaduct oval and the. Ring that with Ttrak, but you then need to do all the Ttrak modules to the same depth. This is harder to do with a group of people, but splitting the regular Ttrak and the viaduct into separate modules meant we could have any standard Ttrak modules on the outside and then just the custom viaduct loop be a club owned and provided.


also looked at doing two overlapping ovals of Ttrak and shinkansen modules. This would only require 2 special intersection modules with both sets of tracks on it crossing. One was a corner viaduct and the other straight. This was interesting as one side presented Ttrak on the outside and viaduct behind and the other the reverse. It allowed to have the Ttrak modules vary in depth more and sort of made two different modular loops for display. Youcould probably design the 2 overlapping loops so that the Viaduct and regular lines are on the same module and just reverse the modules on the other side. Custom corner would offset the curves but track breakpoints on the curves could be touch and may be needed to be done in 180 end cap modules (this is done a fair amount in standard Ttrak to do a single 180 end cap module). Doing this as a sectional layout may work well and let you engineer in some other more unique track sections. To play with others they will need to do the viaduct line and match all your standards. I’ll see if I can find the designs I did for the overlapping loops tonight and post them.


one thing on the use of double viaduct track on modules is to think about making like a 4mm plywood base that attaches to sold wood (fake concrete) piers) and then attaching the viaduct to the plywood base. Trying to use standard piers glued down on modules is a problem as they usually fall on module breaks and splitting them is tough and the loosely attached viaduct track can be hard to pop apart and wrenches up the standard piers. Our sectional layouts have had both ply paste and just viaduct attached to piers and the ply base ones never failed and were always good connections where as the pier only ripped themselves up fast an were always having to be tweaked a little at the joints.


you might want to think also of custom length modules of 496mm so it’s 2 x long viaduct pieces to make breaks and piers even.


also one thing I forgot to mention above is you can also vary how you build your base. You don’t have to make the bases 2.75” tall, they can be thin (some do them on 3/4” plywood) and you just need to have a way to raise them up to the usual 4” or so track height for group running. I have a bunch of 1” tall ones I made that have 4’ long (4x module length) girders that are about 1.5” tall with leveling bolts they sit on. I can the. Just put 4 thin modules on a girder section and raise them up as needed and level 4 modules at once to the usual 4” or so runnig height. Thinner modules look better and save a lot of storage and transport height. A few clubs internally insist on the only using the old box design, but that’s rare and not part of the standards. It’s usually just being the right track separation and placement and lengths and being able to lift yourself up to track running height. 




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A couple of musings on shinkansen track:

*  If you have space for extra large balloon loops, you could provide ample turn radius.
*  If the shinkansen are running on separate tracks in the backfield, they could run point-to-point (but that might reduce some of the fun of running shinkansen....).
*  If you run B-Train Shorties, turning radii are no problems at all.  : 3

Our Ibaraki Shorty layout in the works uses standard T-Trak mainline with completely non-standard branchlines.  The mainline modules we can connect with others at shows; for home use, the Joban Line trains just run point-to-point between Mito and Katsuta.  The branchline routes are laid out entirely for Shorty use with very tight Tomix curves.



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Kanpai Keith

I had considered running an end to end Shinkansen line, but as you say it would ruin the fun.  


I’m leaning towards an end goal of something I can use as a larger layout or just piece together a few modules depending on where it’s set up.  I’m thinking for my personal use of having a long run of modules with a return loop either end. It’ll mean the double track becomes a single but using DCC it shouldn’t be an issue.

I’m in the U.K. so the weather can be variable.  I have an attic that would afford me a decent run but it’s quite low.  My garage is my workshop for my motorbikes and our spare bedrooms are being overrun by grandchildren.


Hopefully I’ll have some permanent tables in the attic, drop down tables in a spare room and some folding tables for the garage/garden.



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Sounds like the attic would suit you best. Maybe get a nice rolling chair and remain seated and just roll around to not bump your head and not feel too overhung.


i did a plan once for a home layout idea that had double track end loops and center section had all 4 tracks going thru a large shinkansen station. I had it bend in sort of a big G but could be a big straight run. As soon as the tracks left the station I hid one track into mountain and the other end I broke off right out of the station. I tried another design where the one double track was just hidden behind the station and the other ran thru the station to make things disappear more, but I worried about creating proper access to get to derailed or stopped trains.



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I have been working on a variation, which runs on a DCC system, it varies from conventional T-trak, in that both lines are the same polarity, allowing crossovers between lines, but requiring reverse loop wiring at the ends if a loop is to be formed, the intention is that it will run automatically with mostly 3 aspect signalling (which admittdly increases the amount of work when changing the layout, as the software has to be reconfigured to new layouts, but as there aren't any active groups in my area (to my knowledge) this strikes me as a non issue) work has been progressing smoothly on the first 'module' which comprises a 4 track terminus (of sufficent length to accomodate a 10 car train) feeding into a 2 track mainline, the module is slighty unconventional in that it has no baseboard and instead use the Kato overhead station as it's base (although this may change in the future), it is split into 3 sections for ease of transport, I belive that the layout would be compatible dimension wise with conventional modules (with modified wiring) as the height of the viaduct sections are fairly similar to a standard t trak module

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Sounds very interesting with the signaling! Ttrak can be modified for your needs and usually with some wiggling get it to work to play with others if you want. But sky’s the limit if you are just doing your own thing. Even if something prevented you from running with others you could still just set up a small loop on a table or two for display. I’ve always thought this a good idea at shows to have several Ttrak setup and do some fun things like be thematic, or do something different like your signaling etc. some clubs/shows, though, always want everything mashed into a mega layout! This can create setup and wiring headaches and makes operations really complex. I think it also burns out the audience. Have several smaller ones with scene themes or different eras of equipment running, etc. gets more of the club folks out talking to different people and running trains too.

btw clubs/shows only care about the color coding of the wires to the rails/tracks and end connectors as they want those uniform for setup. I believe most clubs do Dcc Ttrak like you then. Folks that do things differently on their wires either don’t put them out for hookup at shows or have a dongle that translates their wiring to the Ttrak standards at the ends.


you can play with others also if you are even non standard module lengths as long as you have matching sets to pair on each side of a loop. Some get cranky about this but I’m not sure I want to play with anyone who would get that picky. Just requires a little extra planning and measuring for the setup.


it not unusual for folks to do depressed module where the baseboard is a couple of inches below the usual track level to do a canal/river or an overhead station. Only thing you have to do if you want to play with others later is not make it too tall so that the rest of the modules in the layout have to get jacked up too high. I think the Kato piers and viaduct on a sheet of 12mm ply comes out right at the usual 2.75” Ttrak module height. I’ve built the depressed modules for our club with just a piece of 12mm ply as the base board (I use the good 7 ply Baltic birch that really resists warping well) and then just pieces of 18mm thick dimensional lumber across each end to support track ends and a place to put the leveling bolts in.

A few folks have done very deep ones and they bolt to regular modules at each end and the deep module sits in a gap between two tables and the end modules supporting it hanging there. But of course you need to have some sort of module spanning the gap between the tables on the other side. One of our club members is working on something like this with deep valley scene with very tall viaduct on one side and two long regular modules that bolt together to span the other side of the tables, it will be a long set of passing sidings and station platforms.


looking forward to what you come up with.





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