At the beginning of the 1970s, the N-Bahner had a problem in the USA: in public exhibitions and club hunts, they wanted to drive long trains, but the typical American freight train also needs a lot of space and quite large radii. The home installations, which were large enough to accommodate these trains, were of course not transportable. This is why the NTRAK module standard with its three - track track was built during this time.
The width of a single module is a multiple of 2 '(61 cm), with the 4' modules most popular for transport and design purposes. Furthermore, the track distance of the 3 main tracks, the height above the ground as well as the associated very massive electrics. There are also standards for corner and transition modules - but that is pretty much everything. There are no fixed end profiles, track plans or design regulations - neither in modality, landscape or track crushing. This distinguishes NTRAK from almost all other module standards.
Recommendations are only available for the choice of the track material and building tips for the frame construction of the module. Thus the standard leaves (almost) all freedoms to the module builder. Of course it can happen here that the snowmass of Alaska of the module builder A borders on the desert of the B and to the left of the Rocky Mountains of C - but what may disturb the eye of the conservative modeller is a very welcome change for the audience.
It goes without saying that clubs or a group of modular builders can fix a permanent landscaping profile, stretch material and / or track potholes for their club modules in order to achieve a homogenous appearance.
In earlier times, NTRAK adhered to the flaws of "flat table modules" - but the fantasies of hundreds of hobbyists have taught the bad guys something better. Mountains and gorges are technically just as possible as port facilities or extensive cities and industrial areas.
Due to the complete electrical separation of the 3 tracks, a mixed analogue / digital operation is not an issue. The riders feel puddied with long rides on the front 2 "Mainlines" (main lines) and the shanglers move their wagons on the stitch and industrial tracks that branch off from the 3rd line, the "Branchline" on many modules.
At events you can see that the NTRAK systems are very popular with the public - not only due to the "Oooh" effect of the partly very long trains, often in five to seven - fold traction. Usually the modules form an outer circle, but there are also layouts "along the wall". Of course, there are barriers in front of the modules, which keep (new) greedy fingers from plants and rolling stock. But the operation of the trains and the softening, clutching and uncoupling takes place basically from the front. Through the now common radio remote control of the trains, each driver accompanies "his" train across the track - as in real life! This system creates, on the one hand, a very positive proximity between exhibitors and the public - after all, one does not want to hide behind the plant. The joy of a child, If you drive a monster train with 5 locomotives and 50, 70 cars around the plant for a few laps, contributes positively to the topic of "Promoting young talent". Even with adults it is much better to discuss this and that, if one does not have to shout at each other across the plant. In addition, the driver has a keen eye on Grabscher, Fummler and Schlimmerere and can react even with derailments or train separations much faster. The purchase price of such a remote control is not much higher than with a high-quality vehicle, which can handle the currents of partially more than 10 (!) Locomotives on one track. Even with adults it is much better to discuss this and this, if one does not have to shout at each other across the plant. In addition, the driver has a keen eye on Grabscher, Fummler and Worse and can also react with derailments or train detachments much faster. The purchase price of such a remote control is not much higher than with a high-quality vehicle, which can handle the currents of partially more than 10 (!) Locomotives on one track. Even with adults it is much better to discuss this and that, if one does not have to shout at each other across the plant. In addition, the driver has a keen eye on Grabscher, Fummler and Worse and can also react with derailments or train detachments much faster. The purchase price of such a remote control is not much higher than with a high-quality vehicle, which can handle the currents of partially more than 10 (!) Locomotives on one track.
Worldwide, there are almost 100 NTRAK clubs with several thousand modules. In all North America, Japan, South Africa as well as in the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and now also in Germany and Austria are built according to the same standard - and each of these modules fits a different world! The camaraderie within these clubs is so large that anyone with an NTRAK module - be it a club member or an individual - can join a module at any time with his module and is always welcome.
A little psychology ....
We are honest: if you put a lot of time and money into a model railway system and created a small miracle, you would like to show this to others and to sunbathe in recognition. This is quite natural and you do not need to be ashamed of it. The problem is however: In stationary installations in the own cellar you have to mostly restrict yourself to your circle of friends as a visitor and admirer - who likes to invite wild-loving people to himself or even open his house to the public? Here, NTRAK events and modular construction offer great possibilities for the model railwayman to present his works!
The audience at a model railway exhibition shows a very specific behavior. It has been found at earlier events, that the first plants and / or individual modules are still long and extensively considered, but the further parts are always more quickly eyed - IF nothing moves! For this reason, the front ("Red Line") and mostly the middle ("Yellow Line") track are used for public NTRAK events. It is a great sight to see a long train of trains with 4, 5 locomotives draw their circles, show their children details on a module in the public fathers and shake their heads smiling about the "child in man".
What does NTRAK cost?
As much as any other railroad - namely, as much as you want or do not want! NTRAK is a standard, not a commercial organization. NTRAK specifies uniform module dimensions & electrical connections, but does not sell or force materials. The module specifications can be obtained free of charge from this website. Whether he can get his wood in the hardware store or his connecting plug in the pharmacy is left to everyone. In the books distributed by NTRAK are proposals for modules, model building tips and much more - whether the hobbyist buys this but is left to him.
NTRAK at home
Now, of course, you ask yourself: Are my NTRAK modules standing around at home all the time, if not exactly an event takes place? The answer is NO! 1. 2 more small module units with track loops are enough to make a module or more from the module. With the construction and insertion of additional modules, this plant continues to grow. The pleasant side effect is the possibility to test the modules for mechanical and electrical fit & function, BEFORE you do this at an event - provided the outer loop modules have NTRAK standard connections. 2. NTRAK modules can easily be connected to an existing stationary home system. With a loop module, the home system can be extended easily.
Parallel digital and analogue driving is easily possible on NTRAK modules and is also implemented in many clubs. Due to the strict electrical separation of the tracks, it is very easy, for example on the Red Line analogue and on the Yellow Line digital trains to drive.
If the module system is large enough, the marshalling track (the "Blue Line") can also be separated into 2 electrically separated areas - simply pull the plug and remove or isolate the module connecting track. The car transfer between these areas can take place - as in the example - by trains on the 2nd main line, the "Yellow Line".