What are NTRAK Modules?
NTRAK modules were designed to bring model railroading to the public at conventions, exhibits, and shopping malls. In the past a person wanting to see model trains in operation had to seek out a club or home layout that was open to the public. These layouts were often designed for the convenience of the owners and operators, and not for public viewing. The modular layouts have the flexibility to be fitted into many different size and shape areas. They offer close up viewing and maximum train action. Long trains passing each other are always attention getters and are a feature of the NTRAK layouts. While designed for large public display layouts, the NTRAK modules are being used for home layouts and for club layouts as well. For the modeler, the NTRAK modules offer a number of advantages over a fixed layout. We are such a mobile society and the modules make it very easy to move a layout from one home to the next without destroying all the work that went into it. Our smaller homes, apartments, and mobile homes all lend themselves to N scale layouts. Persons who want to run longer trains have the opportunity to take a module to one of the many NTRAK meets during the year and to be part of a large layout. There they can run their longer trains and meet other N scale modelers.
Ease of Building Modules
The building of a module isn't difficult and it has the distinct advantage of "forcing" the builder to do all the phases of layout building, without having to do so much of one phase that they get "fed up" with it, as can happen when building a large home layout. So often the scenery doesn't get built or the track work is never made to work right, or some other building phase is neglected. Getting a module ready for a scheduled meet will do wonders for a builders speed and concentration! Another advantage is that the module can be turned on its side or upside down, making working on it much easier, the light better, and with no hot solder dropping on the worker. The module can be brought to another part of the house where the rest of the family is, or taken outside when a smelly job needs doing.
For detailed "How-to" information about NTRAK modules as well as other publications of interest to N scaler, take a look at what our Company Store has to offer.
The NTRAK Standard
Click here for a two-page PDF file that includes a sketch of the basic, standard 2'x4' straight N-Trak module, including position of required tracks, wiring, legs, etc. plus several detail sketches and accompanying notes.
Modules are joined in a layout by clamping with two "C" clamps and inserting 5" sections of Atlas "Snap Track". (Actual length, 4.910")
Remove the tie from one end so that the rail joiners (Atlas
preferred) will slide fully on. Place joiners on other end, put in
place, and then (with tweezers or similar implement) slide joiners into
For clamp clearance, top of rail to opening for "C" clamp is 4.5".
Here are some of the most important measurements for the NTRAK standards in both millimeters and inches. If there is something more you want to know, feel free to ask.
Up to to 6" may be added to both the front and rear of modules to make room for scenery or track plans. If extra is added at the rear, the skyboard should still come forward in some manner to match the standard position.
[The NTRAK "How-To" Book, p. 11]
The Wiring and Connector standards are documented in 2011 Standards for Wiring and Connectors.You can download several PDF files discussing and detailing Powerpole Connectors in the document Wiring and Connectors Recommended Practice page.
The Beginning of NTRAK
In 1973 a group of enthusiastic model railroaders got together at an N scale meet in Signal Hill, California, and talked about what they could do to help interest people in N scale, and to share information about N scale. The NTRAK project resulted from this meeting and the idea has spread throughout the model railroad hobby. NTRAK is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, its purpose and objective is to encourage model railroading in N scale. There are now NTRAK clubs in most areas of the United States and Canada, there are also NTRAK clubs in Australia, England, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Japan, and many other countries.
NTRAK modules are used to build large display layouts as well as home and club layouts. Modelers from all over the world can build modules, bring them to a show, connect their module with modules brought by other modelers and by doing so a giant N scale layout is soon constructed. NTRAK modules have been used for NMRA National Convention layouts since 1974.
NTRAK layouts combine beautifully detailed modules, with long trains running on the two main lines. A third track, the branch line is used for picking up and setting out cars at the many industries along the way.