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maihama eki

Kato T-Trak Module Kits

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katoftw

Yeah I saw those too. Very expensive though.

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cteno4

Just a tad more expensive than our commercial modules here in the states once you add the track and feeders. Construction design does not look super pretty though. Why they put those exposed ply faces on the feet I don’t get, just ugly! Not good woodworking design! Sorry I’m a snob on that especially if you are paying that much for a premade kit. I worked with lee on modifying the initial Ttrak box to get rid of two end edges like that as it was put in to get 4 more pieces of sides out of a sheet of ply. Saved 10 cents per module in wood but looked ugly...

 

Most of our commercial modules here are very nicely cnc cut and have interlocking box joints for very easy assembly. Usually in the $20-30 range. The interlocking corners do expose ply edge but the box joint looks pretty and becomes a feature and for many the ease of assembly with the box joint is a big plus.

 

jeff

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kvp

My assumption is that this design needs the least amount of cuts with the largest tolerances and still results in usable modules. The boards could also be cut in batches on a simple cutting table. They also look easily invertible for a bridge, just glue them differently.

 

The modules i'm using are 700 huf + screws, so around 5 usd for a single module. They are precut by the wood shop. Just glue, drill and paint then it's ready for the tracks.

Edited by kvp

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cteno4

I’m sure kato has contracted a cnc shop to cut them, it’s the de facto standard these days, especially if you are doing large jobs and want consistent tolerances. Even small cabinet shops now have them as it’s such a timesaver and tolerances are amazing. My cousin converted to mostly cnc with his small upscale cabinetry shop like 15 years back  and made quite a chunk change.

 

yeah a decent Ttrak box and hardware here is about $2-3 with hardware depending on wood and details (like external veneer etc).

 

pretty quick to cut out.

 

those exposed ply pieces on the bottom just bug me, easy to have designed something better, especially for the price and from kato, they usually not sloppy...

 

jeff

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westfalen

My first impression from Kato's photos is that they look very rough for the price.

 

Very un-Kato and un-Japan considering Japan's tradition of fine woodworking.

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maihama eki

I agree they look rough.  I wonder if the photos are prototypes and the production will be nicer.  If not, then it is a little disappointing.

 

I think it is nice to see a major manufacturer such as Kato supporting T-Trak like this.

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inobu
1 hour ago, maihama eki said:

I agree they look rough.  I wonder if the photos are prototypes and the production will be nicer.  If not, then it is a little disappointing.

 

I think it is nice to see a major manufacturer such as Kato supporting T-Trak like this.

I think Kato is involved with the T-Trak Tokyo Project. With unitrack being a requirement one can see the connection. The question is how far are they going to go in the kit itself. If I'm not mistaken

they (the project) are trying to build a replica (or close to it) of the rail system in Japan. I think they are establishing clubs that build modules representing the region they live in. 

 

https://www.t-trak.jp/

 

 

https://www.t-trak.jp/apply   I guess a contest is set got August

 

I think I'm going to add this to my list of things to do or learn.

 

Inobu

.

 

Edited by inobu

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kvp

I think i got the idea behind the exposed pieces. While they look ugly and doesn't allow the screws to be hidden, they do allow wires to be routed out under the modules even if they are placed flat on top of an even surface. If you have this type of module only, then you can assemble a layout on a table without fiddling with the screws. The legs also space out the default (screwless) height to 7 cm as the top boards are thinner than 1 cm. Not elegant but imho the cheapest possible way.

 

ps: cnc is expensive and slow if you are doing it in bulk, even ikea tries to avoid it as much as possible for their cheapest furniture (bulk table saw cutting is still the fastest, large machines often cutting hundreds of boards in one go and these saws are also computer controlled so have pretty good tolerances)

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cteno4

For the price it could have been done much better. From kato I expect better. Also just not Japanese woodworking aesthetics.

 

these are not going to be sold at ikea numbers. I doubt they will be ordering these by the container full until they start flying off the shelves. Pretty simple bits so they might get a big factory to cut a small batch, but would not be cheap in small quantities. CNC can turn out quite a bit, my cousin made extra money the first few years they got theirs running it at night to do small batch jobs for various other business (but not cabinet makers!) and cut way more wood than doing the regular cabinet cutting for his biz during the day.

 

there has been a new push for Ttrak in japan last year. Moving to alternate 33 spacing and trying to go for big setups as well. Kato was sponsoring some contests to promote it as well. All good promo for them even kato USA has taken up having small Ttrak setups from clubs in their vendor booths at us shows lately. Toni was in with the chap in japan that was spear heading the mega Ttrak drive last year and getting involved, but not heard much lately, but toni has been a busy boy lately!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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kvp

 

2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

For the price it could have been done much better.

Yes, the front and back could have been routed in an inverted U shape and the legs could have been added to small triangles that could be glued either over the bottom or into the box. I could think up half a dozen ways to build it better, but none of them would be as cheap as this variant. But (without the track) this is cheap enough to be essentially given away in bulk for contests or to schools as a craft project. (and a cheap way to get kids into the hobby in bulk)

 

ps: I don't know of there are any school projects from Kato, but this kits would be great for starting model railway hobby clubs in schools. Just give them 4 corners, a dozen straight ones and two of the cheapest controllers and some instructional booklets for the kids and the teachers. Many trains are cheap enough that almost every kid who is interested in it could buy a 2 or 3 car set and run it on the club's ttrak layout. This is just an idea, so maybe someone could ask Kato if they actually doing or planning something like this...

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cteno4

a long time back i did a bunch of experimenting with the traditional "lee" box to try to make it a bit better and easier for folks to glue up. simple things like

 

- make the front face be full (original design had the ends full, but i got lee to at least flip that)

- inset the top piece so that the whole front face is clean w/o joints. top does not matter as it will get covered with the scene. this also makes putting the box together square much easier

- using a small piece of 1x2 across the inside ends to put the leveling bolts into instead of the square blocks in the corners. this makes it easy to cut and less wood and drilling.

 

these things make it easier to glue up and a little simpler. literally is about $3 max to make these and in the past ive made like 20 in a couple of hours.

 

im still a big fan of also just doing the three leveling bolts instead of 4, its so much faster and easier to level things up and 25% less hardware! does require an extra block added to the back center, but can be retrofit easily to any module.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Ken Ford

This may be old news, Kato USA is working with Woodland Scenics to develop and market singles made using the Woodland Scenics foam design. I have a test module coming for evaluation, I’ll post up pics once it is here.  This might be an easy option for US and Canada based modelers. 

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cteno4

Interesting. I think we are down to one main source for commercial Ttrak kits in the us now (sadly one of them recently passed away). It’s an issue as many don’t have a table saw to whack out modules. They are also expensive to ship as they are bulky and heavy which both go against you in priority mail (the standard parcel service now) shipping. For a shipped single module it’s about $30 ea and goes down to about $20 ea when you buy in bulk. They are lovely cnc cut boxes.

 

You might get your local bigbox or lumber yard to cut 12” x 3/4” shelving into hunks to make U style modules, but not sure most would give the care to be very precise in the cuts these days. Sadly saws at the big boxes these days cannbe in pretty bad shape. Our local home depot has managed to get their panel saw about a half a degree off (that’s hard to do as they are designed to do good perpendicular cuts and stay true), so no longer cuts perpendicular on sheets of ply wood. Also the blades are like weed whackers you end up with a very frayed edge. I always cut down and clean all edges of course once the ply is home it’s just been worse and worse though... last visit to Lowe’s is about the same and one of our contractor yards will no longer whack ply sheets in half to fit in the car or let you reject a bad sheet. Getting tough to get even ok wood.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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kvp

Would it be possible to use 10 mm thick (~0.4 inch) paper covered foamcore or even styrene faced foamboard as a module base? These should be easily cuttable at home with a hobby knife and a steel ruler. Could make pretty light modules and with the 4 sides and the top glued together and 4 corner triangle reinforcements (also usable as levelling bolt holders) could make the material stiff enough to be transportable. At least in theory as i haven't tried it.

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cteno4

Yes foamcore modules work. Some have done them and used in shows. I cut one up one day out of 5mm - 3/16” just to see how well it worked and it came out very nice, but I’ve cut a lot of foamcore in my days... They do take a beating though. Facing with some sort of veneer migh really help getting dinged up. You can usually get wood veneer up to 2” wide in strips. 020 stryene would work as well and is easily cut. Other issue is warping the top with scenery stuff, but this can be helped a lot with some ligh coats of spray varnish. I suppose you could just spray the hole module a color as well if you wanted. Numerous light coats always work best with something like this.

 

Using 5mm ultraboard (stryene faced stryene foamcore) is the ultimate in light and strong modules. Unfortunately it is a bear to cut well with a knife. It’s a dream to slice up on a table saw. The stuff is the ultimate in flat, light, rigid, tough, and very even in thickness (many cheaper plus now days can have quite a variance in thickness). Price is not too bad as last I worked it out it was about $4-5 per module for the ultraboard.

 

great thing is these are ultra light weight! Instead of corner blocks you can use a horizontal strip of foamcore or ultraboard inset up across the ends and just epoxy t-nuts into it. This piece also helps with bracing the ends and corners. I think the chap that first did a bunch of foamcore modules just epoxied bolts onto a cross piece for the leveling legs. Btw folks have use nuts in the usual Ttrak Lee box corner blocks. They drill an inset hold just a tad smaller than the nut and depth the height of the nut. Then a little epoxy aroudnthe side and bang the nut into the inset hole. Poor man’s t-nut. Btw if you have access to an arbor press it works so much better than a hammer to put t-nuts in.

 

probably best to put one or two ventral bracing strips across the module (these need only be like half the height of the sides) to prevent sagging of the top foamcore. Could get fancy with a little waffle bracing with half lap joints. Or just use 10mm - 1/2” foramcore for the top.

 

Also cut the sides full height and inset the top piece. This gives you a good piece to square up against while glueing the sides together. this was a mod on the early lee box to make them easier for folks to glue together. On those you just glued the leg blocks onto the corners of the inset top piece and let dry. Then you could easily glue the sides onto the the corner blocks and top edge.

 

For assembly you can use pva for foam core and just use use a few daps on hot glue in the inside corners to tack it in place while drying. Ultraboard works well with epoxy or thick CA glue. But rough the stryene face a bit with like 100 sand paper on joint surfaces.

 

have to glue track down, although you could probably use screws from the bottom with some home made 020 stryene washers but could crush the foamcore. The abuse is on the ends at module junctions on the track to box connection and where gluing track to heavier wood boxes can cause issues with time. But with lightweight foamcore modules they may get a bit less stress. It’s best to pop modules apart with a slim screwdriver at the track joints, saves wear and tear on the track end joints to the module and unijoiners. with wood modules you can usually slip a screwdriver between the modules between the two tracks and pop both at once if you have well attached tracks with screws.

 

really is no big reason they need to be out of wood! I thought of doing a batch for the club out of ultraboard or foamcore but wood was just quick and Easy! I usually do modules in larger batches so being able to pin nail things while glueing means I can crank thru assembly easier.

 

im still a fan of the tripod and just three leveling bolts per module, in both front corners and one in the back. Much faster to level the front end to end until a strip is level down the table then just come back and level back to front with the one bolt in the back center. Always hated trying to fiddle with bolts in the back corners blind. I’ve also started to put small holes in the top of the module over the leveling leg so you can slip in a slim mini screwdriver and turn the leg from the top using a slot cut into the end of the bolt.

 

jeff

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socalttrak

We (So Cal T-TRAK) just received one from Kato yesterday to build and display at the Great Train Show in Pomona. I havent opened the box yet but I did look at the build instructions online and it looks like it is well built and fairly easy to put together. I hope to document the build as I go.

 

Check us out online....give us a "Like" and join the group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/socalttrak/

 

https://www.facebook.com/socalttrak/

 

Bob

So Cal T-TRAK

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cteno4

It will be interesting to see the us model. I was not impressed with the design of their Japanese one. It’s sad many module kits miss some of the better joinery design/engineering (even less first design had the joint the wrong way due to then trying to squeeze out a few more side pieces from a sheet of ply).

 

The big 2 3/4” box design makes that front face wayyyy to noticeable so you have to do everything you can to make it not stick in the eye. Painting it black does not make it go away as much as folks would like to think. That works on some very large stage designs but not on a small framing/base piece. We deal with this all the time with framing pieces on artifact cases, graphics/text, interactive elements, etc in exhibits and its tricky to not let the frame overpower or distract and let the viewer’s eye focus in the most natural and effective way on the content.

 

take lots of Picts!

 

jeff  

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RogerMc
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

The big 2 3/4” box design makes that front face wayyyy too noticeable so you have to do everything you can to make it not stick in the eye. Painting it black does not make it go away as much as folks would like to think.

 

So very very true Jeff. I have a module painted black, and I have several with some oak. Guess which ones the wife prefers?

 

I also prefer the furniture look. Seen enough examples of plywood edges and such.

 

This gentleman has some attractive modules. I've forgotten, did you tell me about him?

http://ttrak.wikidot.com/jeff-faust

Edited by RogerMc

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cteno4

Nicely done natural wood works with our eye to say it’s there but not distract. Painting does not do the same thing.

 

nope but he has some very nice models! I sent you philip who have done a bunch of Japanese modules

 

http://ttrak.wikidot.com/philip-c

 

cheers

 

jeff

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cteno4

Interesting, foam is cheap! But that kind of expanded foam is pretty weak stuff by itself. Too bad they didn’t use something like ultraboard or paylite on the outside to Make a hard surface or even just a chunk of veneer or styrene you could put across the front. Guess you can easily add this yourself.

 

the interlocking foam is simple and makes a strong joint and super simple assembly. Super light weight with just a few hunks of Masonite here and there. Makes it easy for someone to put together and especially easy to do depression modules! 

 

are the leg inserts just t bolts in the Masonite? The full Masonite bottom with a hole idea does sound a lot stronger and simpler.

 

still pretty pricy for $49. Hard to convince a newbie to pop $50 for just a module and minimum little oval would be $300-400 for just modules and track. I’m thinking it would really behoove Kato to sell these at cost for module and then go for the long run in more track sales as it picks up more Ttrak and maybe layout Unitrak buyers along with train sales.

 

It’s less than $5 in materials for a nice wood module (that’s with veneer, inserts, etc) but not as easy assembly and heavier. 

 

I hacked a module out of foamcore that has a simple glue together design, maybe I’ll try cutting one on the table saw to see how hard they would be to assemble with a hot glue gun. I could cut a crapload fast and they would be cheap to mail as well (one of the issues with wood module kits and maybe why Kato went to foam). Ultraboard is not that much more expensive and really tough stuff, I’ll see what I can get for generic ultraboard at the plastics shop I’m going to next week.

 

Thanks for the great review!

 

Jeff

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RogerMc
2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

Ultraboard is not that much more expensive and really tough stuff

 

Really wish I could find it locally. This is a dream material for me.

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railsquid
2 hours ago, cteno4 said:

still pretty pricy for $49. Hard to convince a newbie to pop $50 for just a module and minimum little oval would be $300-400 for just modules and track. I’m thinking it would really behoove Kato to sell these at cost for module and then go for the long run in more track sales as it picks up more Ttrak and maybe layout Unitrak buyers along with train sales.

 

 

I would guess it's primarily aimed at the Japanese market for people who want to put a module or two together for the various exhibitions, contests etc., in which case the price is quite reasonable compared to the hassle of building one yourself and getting the size, joins etc. right. Remember, not all of us are blessed with fully-fitted basement workshops...

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cteno4

Roger,

 

check your local plastics shops. Ultraboard is a brand name but there are many more generic styrene faced, styrene foamed core alternatives. Last time I checked it was about $1.25/sqft  for generic 3/16”. It can be cut with a matte knife but it’s hard to get clean cuts. Does really well on a table saw with a plex blade!

 

jeff

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