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Wooden Canvas Panels for Ttrak Modules


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I just thought I would throw out this idea since commercial sources for modules are slim these days, availability is spotty, and they are not cheap due to rising ply prices and shipping costs. Out club (Japan Rail Modelers of Washington DC) has been doing Ttrak for a long time and in the past I’ve whacked out modules for members in my shop or they have purchased the various lasercut kits. But at shows we talk up Ttrak a lot to the public as a way to get started and one drawback has always been just the price of a single module from $25-50 (depending on brand). Add track some building and scenery materials and it starts adding up to get someone to jump in.


So I’ve been looking around for something that is less expensive and more readily available and potentially locally. This lead me to wooden canvas panels, these are basically a Ttrak module design used to paint onto. They make 12”x12” and 12”x9” versions that are 1.5” tall which are just about perfect for a single module. It’s 1/8” shy on the width, but really that only adds a small amount to the module gaps (they would work out to about 5mm (3/16”) gaps between these types of modules), but that can be compensated with some gap filling scenery strips or just having a gap which isn’t horrible to separate different scenes on adjoining modules. The 1.5” height is fine, just need the appropriate length bolts to bring it up to standard running heights. 1” extruded foam board could be glued on top to create depression scenery and bring the module height to close to the usual 2.75” if desired.


Nice thing is these are prebuilt, sturdy, and very standardized. Cost is around $6-14 each.


Only thing that needs to be added are inserts for leveling. This could be done as simple as made from foamcore squares layered up with glue to make more the old style corner blocks and then drill a hole on it and epoxy a T nut into it. Or small square of ply to put the insert into and just glue in front two corners and back center off the back side (we’ve found the 3 legs to be way easier to level modules).


We have been doing lots of more general public events with Ttrak and lots of folks get interested in this a an interesting way into the hobby. Many love the crafting/diorama aspect of Ttrak. Also younger folks usually have a lot less room to work with so the idea of small modules that don’t that don’t take up a lot of storage space and they can work on it on the kitchen table. The meetup aspect also interest many as a simple group event.


Just curious what folks think and if they have any ideas to make this more workable on the leveling inserts or other ideas for simple modules for newbies that is easy and cheap.









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1 hour ago, bill937ca said:

Do you need to seal it with Gesso?


Yeah I usually seal the top of the ply on any Ttrak module with a coat of paint and I do use gesso actually as it’s got some texture and does not look smooth like even flat latex can.


these have smooth sanded ply faces.



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21 minutes ago, katoftw said:

8x8 /10x10 might work.  But all the others would be too small or too big.

??? 12”x12 is just about right for the standard single Ttrak module. Standard single is 12 1/8” wide and these are 12” wide (and 9-14” deep depending on preference). You end up with 5mm gap between modules with these vs 2mm on the commercial modules. 8” and 10” don’t matchup with any Kato track lengths for modules.


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Doubt there will be sagging, I’ve used 1\8” ply on double modules with only a single cross piece and no issues of sagging. I do generally use 5mm on the tops, but it’s overkill and it’s also a lot cheaper than getting 3mm ply which is expensive. These wooden canvases are pretty firm when I looked at them at the art store a while back. I’ve got some on order to check out.



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So I picked up a set of 4 9x12 wooden canvases very cheap on ebay at $15 for 4! These ended up having 7/8” framing material 1.5” tall, so pretty beefie and even 1/4”-20 threaded inserts could just be drilled into the frame. They are nicely sanded with a decent pine frame and birch 3mm ply. They used filler here and there even so that any open bits in the wood would be smooth when painted, but at least one long edge of each one had no filler so you could just stain and finish the edge as the ply is very cleanly joined to the frame. I’ll just do the usual strip of cherry veneer to make it look purty. Bit heavy with the thick frame but not bad and makes them solid as all get out, you could toss this across the room and just get a ding in the wood. Really great at $4 each!

perfect timing as a club member just donated a few boxes of old Tomytec buildings from his old layout to the club so I plan on trying to make a set of 3 or 4 modules to add to the club owned set with these. 

also ordered some #10-24 bolt rivets that may work as a cheaper and simpler threaded insert with smaller and cheaper 10-24 bolts for legs. 1/4”-#20 bolts are pretty heavy overkill for Ttrak modules. They were chosen as they are pretty ubiquitous, but in the quest for cheaper and simpler 10-24s may be better. Most of the original Ttrak stuff had a lot of influence from n-trak (Lee and her husband were two of the main pioneers of ntrak as well) and thus I think some of the things were not really set for ttrak’s smaller size. Same 1/4”-20 system is used for ntrak leg leveling. Frame height was also one of these as well as for the size of the module it’s a bit too much visually and not needed at all structurally.


anyway should be a fun experiment.





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