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The Next Station Is...

My first foray into T-Trak modules...

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The Next Station Is...

Over the last few months I've been looking into building T-Trak modules as a way of getting some of my layout ideas into reality without having to build a single large layout. This has also coincided with research into laser-cutting services and I figured that it would be fairly easy to combine the two.

 

As such, I'm pleased to present my prototype laser-cut T-Trak module. It's not perfect as I made a small miscalculation in the measurements of the front panel but it holds together well and is surprisingly rigid. I designed the pieces to slot together using tabs and slots; the tabs on the top piece match up with the T-Trak alternate spacing standard and Kato trackbed width to act as a guide for laying track.

 

I had it laser-cut by Razorlab (UK) and the process is almost as simple as designing the pieces in a vector graphics program (I use Inkscape, free software), uploading it to Razorlab's website and getting an instant quote. It took about 5 days from order to arriving on the doorstep.

 

The material is 3mm plywood, which is the thickest Razorlab have. I was a little concerned that it might not be thick enough but it seems to be more than suffice for this size of module. Larger modules may need cross-bracing and module size will be limited by Razorlab's maximum material size (790 x 384 mm).

 

For me, the benefit of laser-cutting is that I don't need to invest in tools that I would otherwise never use and that it is much easier to achieve high levels of precision - I know from experience woodworking is not my specialty.

 

Now that I've got a good prototype, I'm looking forward to decorating it with scenery and designing some more adventurous modules to make progress towards those layout ideas I've been itching to create!

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Densha

What's the size of these modules?

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The Next Station Is...

This module is 310mm by 210mm, it's quite small but that's the beauty of the T-Trak standard. There are different module sizes for corners and larger modules.

 

I'm planning to make a small modular layout based on Kuruma Station of the Eizan Electric Railway in Kyoto.

Edited by The Next Station Is...
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cteno4

Station,

 

quite nice! very fancy on the laser cutting, dont think ive seen a laser cut module yet, couple of CNC router ones but not a lasercut! there was a chap in the early days vacuforming modules. quite nice units with an inset ply top and built in leveling bolt insert holes.

 

tabs are a nice touch as gluing up the Lee boxes can be a pain for some folks. very nice touch as well having the tabs at the track spots for alignment!

 

what were the all in costs for one? curious as maybe thats an option for folks here once the plans are at a service folks could just order it from one. tabs make it very easy for assembly.

 

with 3mm ply i would think about gluing a small rib in there. could just be 15mm strip of your 3mm ply or a little 10x10 chunk of moulding. there may be a little sag in the center eventually especially if you get it wet with scenery production. i would seal with some water sealer or paint before track so you can keep moisture out. 

 

ive done a lot of things with thin plys and they can do wonderful things but if not braced just right they can sag and warp some. they probably use good quality ply and i expect it will probably hold as is though. you can always add a brace in later if you see it sagging at all. 5mm ply here in the states does pretty well w/o sagging for areas up to about 40x40cm.

 

you are right tools can really start adding up as well as the space to store and use them as well! i have had to add in the cost of the second car getting bonked by tree limbs over the years as its garage slot is take up by the wood shop! 

 

will look forward to what you start building and how these laser cut modules work out! ttrak modules are such fun working on little scenes and you get a lot done quickly and can experiment a lot with techniques in a tiny space. also dont take up huge amount of bench space to work on!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Mudkip Orange

There is a guy in the US who will sent you prefab T-trak kits, wonder how the pricing compares.

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katoftw

any timber/lumbar/hardware store in your area will sell and cut the piece you need for a fee.  sometimes free.  better of getting the correct thickness and strength the first time.

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cteno4

Thickness may be fine or could easily be fixed with some simple stiffeners if needed. The more ive thought about this if its decent ply it will probably be fine. Guys do make modules out of foam core that hold up. Nice thing it keeps things nice and light! The finger joints will make these uber strong.

 

Most yards I've seen I would doubt the would cut module pieces to make even decent fits! Panel saws do a crap job of strips. Usually they will only have the radial arm set up for cross cuts and don't allow rips. Tough to make decent modules.

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

Edited by cteno4

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n_scale_crazy

yes there is a US maker of modules check the web site it is www.t-kits.com his prices are fair and uses god quality wood

bought a junction from him and loved it holds up well and was easy to assemble even had the T-nuts mounted in the wood and included the bolts.

 

no association just a happy customer.

Edited by n_scale_crazy

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westfalen

The sky's the limit with T-TRAK. This is one of my club's larger layouts from last year.

 


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KenS

Laser cutting is a really cool idea, although I too worry about the cost. 

 

However, lumberyard cutting probably isn't going to work, particularly for T-Track.  Most lumberyards won't commit to anything more precised than +/- 1/8" (3mm), and depending on who does the cut you may not be getting even that without a lot of re-cutting and arguing.  Plus they'll charge a significant amount per cut (one of my local yards charges US$3) and there are going to be a lot of cuts.

 

On the laser-cut approach.  I'd agree with the rib Jeff suggested, and also suggest some kind of inside corner stiffeners.  These could be right-angle triangles that go near the bottom (into slots on the sides), and with some bracing (vertical right-angle triangles into slots) on the top they could do double-duty as feet attachment points.

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cteno4

with the finger joints i doubt the corner braces will be needed. those suckers make a super stiff structure if tight! the only thing would probably be some potential for center sag or a little bit or wrack w/o a back piece, but ttrak dont get that much force to worry about wrack i think.

 

yeah cutting ttrak modules to good tolerances takes work and care. ive knocked out a couple dozen at a shot and it took making jigs, memory sticks and stops to make sure the whole pile was cut right and spot on. i could not see any guys at the local lumber/big box doing this. there are more cuts also if you want to get the max out of a sheet as well.

 

chomping them out at home really only works out to $1 ea (if memory serves me right) if out of luan ply and you use horizontal piece of 1x2 on each end to mount the inserts into. was about $1 for the inserts for a module if bought in bulk. couple of dozen can be knocked out in about 2-3 hrs.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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katoftw
The sky's the limit with T-TRAK. This is one of my club's larger layouts from last year.

 

 

attachicon.gifIMG_0739.JPGattachicon.gifIMG_0744.JPGattachicon.gifIMG_0746.JPGattachicon.gifIMG_0748.JPG

They are very cool/good.

 

One thing I did notice, and I came to a similar conclusion in my head.  Was the single and double sections just aren't big enough to do anything with.  Look like alot of triples in this setup.  Even some module longer than a triple hidden in there also.

 

Great to the the various modules in various state of build. ie track only all the way to fully complete.

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westfalen

We didn't give T-TRAK much thought until we did some online research and saw what could be done if you 'thought outside the box'.  As long as you stick to multiples of single modules you can use any length you like or spead scenes over several modules.  My 'Whereford' Santa Fe station modules at the front of the first photo are a double at each end with a single in the centre, my yard in the background of the same photo also has a double at each end but can have a single or double, or both in between with just straight tracks on to give whatever length we need.  The other photo is Shin-Nekotani which will eventually have Japanese scenery and is four singles in length.


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Densha

Is that Australian scenery? Looks pretty good!

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cteno4

you would be amazed what you can do in 1' of module with japanese scenes! lots of room for great scenery, just have to think compact!

 

take a look at what one of our members has done on his, all single modules!

 

http://japanrailmodelers.org/photos/_ttrak-philip/index.html

 

cheers

 

jeff

Edited by cteno4
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tossedman

Jeff looks like you've pasted the link twice. This ought to work. Those look great by the way. Amazing what can be done in such a small space.

 

Todd

Edited by tossedman

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cteno4

Doh fixed! thanks todd. yeah and philip is not into super cramming!

 

ttrak was first designed for the japanese market with the dense little scenes. idea was you could carry one on the train with you to meet up with friends to form a layout. A4 size piece of paper was the original spec.

 

jeff

Edited by cteno4

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katoftw
We didn't give T-TRAK much thought until we did some online research and saw what could be done if you 'thought outside the box'.  As long as you stick to multiples of single modules you can use any length you like or spead scenes over several modules.  My 'Whereford' Santa Fe station modules at the front of the first photo are a double at each end with a single in the centre, my yard in the background of the same photo also has a double at each end but can have a single or double, or both in between with just straight tracks on to give whatever length we need.  The other photo is Shin-Nekotani which will eventually have Japanese scenery and is four singles in length.

 

attachicon.gifWhereford.JPGattachicon.gifShin_Nekotani.JPG

I like the T junction also.  Never seen those before until you photos.  Even with hours of googling months ago when first getting into t-trak.  That idea never came up.  It really makes a new dimension to display layouts.  Thanks for the pics.

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nickhp

I don't want to put a damper on the thread, but after building a few modules me and my friend both found T-Trak a little too limiting to be much fun.  The space in front of the track is the biggest issue, but there are other things that made us decide to stop making further modules.  That said, since March we have built enough modules to make a scenic 10 foot island layout or at least 18 foot long layout if only viewed from the front edge.  We found the most enjoyable modules to be the corner modules, and we realized it is because we made them double wide and double deep, so in effect 4 modules in 1.  Of course this kind of defeats the purpose of T-Trak single modules being so small and portable...

 

One major problem that I feel detracts from T-Trak is the Kato track.  Though unitrack is good, there can be quite a bit of vertical play in the joins, enough to cause derailments.  You have to be very careful on the bits of track you glue to the modules, but even more careful on inter-module joins...  On my B-Train layout I went as far as soldering every join, partly for the electrical benefits since I was painting the track, but mainly to ensure all the joins were as smooth as possible.

 

Cheers,

 

Nick

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westfalen
Is that Australian scenery? Looks pretty good!

It's meant to be Texas, but most of the real scenery I saw in Texas could also be in Australia.

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westfalen
I like the T junction also.  Never seen those before until you photos.  Even with hours of googling months ago when first getting into t-trak.  That idea never came up.  It really makes a new dimension to display layouts.  Thanks for the pics.

These two websites inspired us to dump N-TRAK in favour of T-TRAK and gave us a lot of ideas.

http://t-trakhandbook.com/

http://thomas.tuerke.net/on/mrr/?with=1173489516

Edited by westfalen

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Martijn Meerts

I should really try the lasercutting for some T-Trak modules as well. I'm a bit worried about the 3mm (seems that's a fairly common max for plywood), but easy enough to add some additional strength if needed.

 

Fairly certain the local hardware store here won't be able to cut wood precise enough for T-Trak, they can barely cut precise enough for my regular modules/sections ;)

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Densha
Fairly certain the local hardware store here won't be able to cut wood precise enough for T-Trak, they can barely cut precise enough for my regular modules/sections ;)

Second that. I once made some kind of prototype T-Trak thing but it was longer than my track. -_-

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cteno4

yeah you need to be precise and consistent when cutting ttrak modules out. i once had a 1mm booboo on a batch as i has what i thought were two identical pieces of ply bought w/in a week at the same big box store. i made the precise thickness measurement from the first (couple of different to make sure) to cut the tops and just assumed the second would be the same. well it was a full mm thicker than the first! it worked out very lucky that i only used the first sheet for the tops and then did the final cut measurement for the front and back using two pieces thickness from the sides all cut from the second. modules came out 2mm too long. one club member assembled his and found hardly any extra room for joining unless the boxes were glued perfectly square (sposta be 2-3mm gap for slop between modules). he just used 64mm pieces on those couple of modules and it doesnt make a difference in the tttrak setup in the end (if it did we could just put them on opposite sides of a loop form each other). i went back and cut the remaining couple of dozen down to the proper size! ive been calipering the cheaper plys lately and finding quite a range of thicknesses even w/in a single sheet. not sure if its different suppliers, batches or just not consistent production techniques now doing things quicker/cheaper. there is always going to be some variance, but this is now getting larger ive noticed.

 

it was pretty funny after this came up the other day i had to get a sheet of osb ply cut into quarters (4x8 to four 2x4) and it was like a comedy act getting this across to the home despot guy using the panel saw. he almost did the second cut on two half sheets together w/o squaring up the ends. i reminded him just before he was going to cut (didnt want to insult him until he went to cut) and did it politely and he gave me a very dirty glare. also was apparent he had no idea of how the panel saw worked, not supporting the top piece at the end of the cut, pulling on the bottom not top piece so the top piece sat on the side of the blade and even let it fall damaging a corner. luckily it was only a $8 osb sheet and for some rough stuff so i did not care at that point, but had that been a $75 sheet of hardwood ply...

 

jeff

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Mudkip Orange
It's meant to be Texas, but most of the real scenery I saw in Texas could also be in Australia.

 

Yeah, you guys even use the same typeface on highway signs we do.

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