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Ken Ford

Modular tram standards

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Kabutoni

I'll ask, but I can't make them. σ( ̄∇ ̄" )

Edited by Toni Babelony

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Densha

Is it possible to follow a group without becoming a member? I'm not a member of that club after all...

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kvp

> "It's a very complex, easy to build and easy to expand system"  That sounds a bit contradictory  ;-)

 

I looked at it last week, and I'm not quite sure just what it is.  From what I see, it uses Tomix Mini Rail track set up as you wish for each "event".  What I don't see is any particular method, or structure.  Like my father, I don't want to have to connect a lot of track each time that I want to operate.  I'm also interested in having modules built with flextrack, and also possibly some built with Tomix track.  I also prefer a 48" + track height for operating.

 

The standard is the two tomix tram rails on the front of each module. You can set it up on a table, or make modules. The only important thing is to have at least one (for end modules), but if possible two rails (for normal modules) at the standard Tomix track distance coming off the module. What is nice in it is the many kinds of track configurations that still end up at the standard length and spacing at their ends. It shows how versatile are Tomix mini rails and tram tracks. Each drawing is actually a module idea. I would add that non end modules should be a multiple of 70 mm-s, while this is the length of the mini rail straight and half of the standard R140 mini curve. (as the 140 mm straight is the half of the R280 standard curve) This makes planning easier while still allowing many module variants. (and by following this, standard viaduct sections could be used if closing a gap in a circular layout is not possible with the avilable modules) The only thing not set is module height, but i think the unitram height could be used, so the two systems are interconnectable. (a transition module is needed, but this could be as simple as two kato-tomix converter pieces and two pieces of tomix single track viaduct suspended between the modules.)

 

I think the easytram standard is nicer because it allows more complex track layouts than unitram thanks to the wider variety of Tomix track pieces and it's more free from, allowing a more realistic layout, similar to most fremo layouts.

 

ps: I would also be interested in the japanese t-track group, if they ever make their pages public...

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brill27mcb

> "It's a very complex, easy to build and easy to expand system"  That sounds a bit contradictory  ;-)

 

I looked at it last week, and I'm not quite sure just what it is.  From what I see, it uses Tomix Mini Rail track set up as you wish for each "event".  What I don't see is any particular method, or structure.  Like my father, I don't want to have to connect a lot of track each time that I want to operate.  I'm also interested in having modules built with flextrack, and also possibly some built with Tomix track.  I also prefer a 48" + track height for operating.

 

What I'm planning to do is create large modules that will become elements of a temporary layout.  They can be arranged in varying formats, and not all of them need to be used on any one occasion.  I'm feeling that this is what would work best for me, and the great thing about model railroading is that each person can do whatever makes them happy.

 

There are two different "systems" posted on my Tomix/EasyTrolley website.

 

The first, "EasyTrolley" or "EasyTram" (I was trying to be global), simply presents double-track elements (or "events") such as end return loops, intermediate loops, carbarn areas, intersections, etc. that can be made using Tomix Track. When I did these, there was no street trackage available in N gauge, and one had to use the new Tomix kit 3076 and Wide Tram Track (now there is a 3079 kit which matches Wide Tram track in color and texture) to build his or her own street trackage. You can put it these together by improvisation on tabletops (as we do in my club) or build them on permanent modules. Since this system breaks away from the "modules must form large ovals" mindset that is typical of many module standards, you can make each module's length and depth to suit whatever track design will be on it. There is no need to worry about "closing the loop" of an oval-based layout.

 

It seems to me that this would suit your idea of large "element" modules ideally, for a trolley or tram layout. If you build modules with 48-inch (or taller) legs, you can design and add your own benchwork standards (including setback from front and rear edges) to the track designs, because I know of no standard module system like that. There is no reason you can't mix in flextrack. Kato and Tomix use rail nominally called Code 80 (meaning 80/1000 of an inch or 0.080" in height), but if you measure the rails yourself you will find both brands are slightly taller - probably a Metric equivalent.

 

The second system, "T-Trak for Trolleys," was also created before Tomix Wide Track and Kato UniTram track appeared. It shows a way to break out of the "modules must form large ovals" mindset that T-Trak has, by again tailoring it to track designs more typical of trolley or tram lines around the world. To do this, it pioneered using Tomix "Mini" radius curves and turnouts/points on T-Trak modules to make trolley/tram style track designs, but retaining the Kato end pieces to meet the T-Trak connectivity standard. Note that these T-Trak modules follow the wider 37mm track spacing standard commonly used in U.S. T-Trak, because the Tomix track and turnouts/points also are designed to a 37mm track spacing standard. T-Trak modules sit on tabletops, so you do face the constraint of fitting a layout to available table sizes, butted up against each other appropriately.

 

Check out the photos on the EasyTrolley / T-Trak for Trolleys section of the website and you will see various layout designs that have been assembled and used.

 

Rich K.

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velotrain

Hi Rich -

 

First, let me say that I'm hoping to make the East Penn meet early next May.  Maybe I'll even have something to bring with me . . . .   

I recently noticed that this year's Boston-area meet was cancelled - not that I attended annually.

 

I've just had this tram interest for a week or so, but did look extensively at the Tomix/EasyTrolley website, and believe I read all of the text there.  Some of the links are dead, but that's the nature of the Net.  At that point I had ordered a Kato start-set and also a couple of small Tomix ovals.  I've belonged to HO and HOn30 modular groups in the past, but am largely a confirmed "lone wolf" at this point.  I'm also a rubber gauger, with equipment in well over a dozen scale/gauge combinations.

 

I was most interested in your motivations for EasyTrolley, and easily understood your points.  Being new to the fold, I'm still trying to determine just where my interests lie.  I tend to plan and design a lot, but actually build little.  A few days ago I ran across this quote somewhere (some MR forum), and although I do more than nothing, it had some truth to it:

" New year, new hopes, new idea, new planning, but the same old guy here who does nothing. :-) "

I've actually built a literal armchair model railroad, complete with lift-bridge access, a plastic jungle and running stream in back - photo attached.

 

I noticed the thread on why all UniTram layouts look the same, but haven't yet worked my way through all of it.  Now there would be the place to promote EasyTrolley!

 

I've done a lot of thinking and some sketching of how I could assemble and scenic my UniTram components so they don't look like all other.  One of the first and easiest things would be to make sure there isn't new, bare, shiny plastic everywhere.  Even just a quick spray of dullcote would work wonders for much of what I've seen.

 

You speak of large ovals, but UniTram is much more widely represented by small ovals, and modified ovals.  While understanding the rationale and appeal of point to point - both for trains and trams, very few of us have the real estate to get a reasonable run.  I realize that's where clubs and meets come in.  However, even while some of us enjoy operations, there's also the desire to sometimes sit back and just watch the trains/trams run.

 

My early thoughts are that I want to combine street running with "alley" running, and some more open running.  I've just ordered a Bachmann Brill to power a box motor shell that I've ordered from Shapeways, along with a steeple-cab - chassis TBD.  Prototype be damned, but I'm thinking of having limited (overnight) freight operations on my line.

 

I'm close to ordering components for my first module, which will serve as a PoC, just as you built for EasyTrolley.  I'm getting the structures first, so I can build them up (as needed), paint and weather them, and then play with arrangements of them before deciding on a final track plan.  Right now I'm envisioning many of the modules as city blocks (neighborhoods), with multiple external connections.

 

However, watching videos I can see the charm of "alley" lines, either one or two track.  Due to their linear nature, I'm considering building them as long, narrow sections, and use them to join the "blocks" and other elements together.  Seeing all the tiny structures that line these, I considered taking a razor saw to the available buildings, and cutting them in half to save money and fill more space more quickly.  Looking at photos, I thought that one could easily spend a small fortune purchasing proto details for just a single block.  It's also clear that some scratchbuilding will be required.  The Sankei buildings look quite nice, but they also seem quite expensive for what they are.  Are there any online sites with Japanese structures - or perhaps CD's, that you can print out yourself?

 

If I did cut structures in half, I would fill the backside with a heavy black cardboard.  Part of the inspiration for that is the Totternhoe Mineral O09 Layout - photo attached.

 

I have no intents of using this sort of lighting, but I very much like the way the black background focuses attention on the railway, and this style also seems appropriate for Japanese "alley" tram lines - or any railway so confined.

 

There are a few more photos in Hall 4 here:

http://www.ngrail.co.uk/index2.htm

 

There's also an exceptional HQ video, including a discussion of design and construction considerations, at:

 

My initial thought is to build the modules on a light but sturdy material such as Gatorboard - although it is pricey.  I do prefer a much higher viewing angle than the standard exhibition table height (30" I believe).  Since the modules would be freeform, I might just build a large elevated "tray" and paint it black.  To save wood and weight, I could design it to sit on top of a 30" table.  All modules would likely have a standard connection - TBD, to allow complete interchangeability and varied set-ups.

 

It's quite early yet in this process, and things are very much in flux.

 

Charles

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post-941-0-84745000-1406075912_thumb.jpg

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katoftw

Wouldn't it be easier if attempting to create some form of modular layout/s, that you stick to a single brand?

 

Or you buying some Kato and some Tomix just to trial to see what is best to your liking?

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velotrain

This would be a different type of modular layout.  Each module would generally have only one track brand on it - although I would likely mix brands for the "unballasted" turnouts used with flex, but with a common connecting section - TBD.  The Kato 25mm - 33mm transition section is currently the leading candidate.

 

The nature of each module's setting would determine the track used:  wide streets / downtown = UniTram, narrower streets with track = Tomix, "alley" lines = flextrack.  

My current thinking is to have a downtown "hub", with modules (blocks / neighborhoods) connecting to it.  A bit similar to proto systems where all lines meet / cross in the city center.

The general route would be something like the perimeter of a 4-leaf clover, although this would vary with the modules used each time - and switch settings.

 

I might have single / double track "point to point" extensions where the trams reverse - or use a non-prototypical loop at the end.  That is what we have in Boston, where the drivers get a rest before they go back out.

 

I'm also considering a large park/temple module with a tram stop and a Tn15 park line running around it.

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Ken Ford

I am following this with interest - I've managed to divert myself into designing modules for the Randen as opposed to the generic tram modules I started the thread with, but I have no doubt that my interest will swing back at some point.  I would very much like to participate in some kind of group activity.  (I'm a East Penn member, but stranded on the prairie.)

 

velotrain, your idea is very close to what I originally had in mind: street trackage modules, reserved right of way between traffic lane modules, private ROW modules and the appropriate transitions between each.  I was thinking a demonstration layout consisting of a central in-street loop with extensions off each end - one on private ROW and the other in a grassed-in central median.  Both extensions would end with simple terminals.  The idea was that low floor cars could orbit the loop and two different high floor car types could run over the extensions, around the loop and return to their starting point.

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kvp

 

The idea was that low floor cars could orbit the loop and two different high floor car types could run over the extensions, around the loop and return to their starting point.

Does that mean you plan to use deltas or something similar for the loop - branch connections or just reverse in the loop too?

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Ken Ford

Not sure what you mean by "delta" - a wye junction, maybe?

 

I seem to recall being very limited by what Kato offered in their Unitram track range with only the left and right dual track switches being available; it may be that my intent was to come in from one extension, around the loop and then out the other extension. Each extension terminal would have a double crossover. I have a folder full of sketches and ideas put away for safekeeping, the only problem is that it's so safe that I can't find it.

 

In any case the concept I had spitballed was simple and scaleable.

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kvp

 

a wye junction, maybe

Yes.

 

 

it may be that my intent was to come in from one extension, around the loop and then out the other extension.

Ok, that explains how they get to the other track of the loop and it also makes it easy to control them, only two turnouts have to be controlled for the loop exit points and then everything else on the loop could be run as spring loaded.

 

ps: The loop exits could be automated in a similar fashion as the Chicago loop does it (they use optical codes on the side of the trains). Either with barcodes on the underside of the trams or small magnets and the polarity could be picked up with hall sensors. One type goes back to the loop, the other exits it. Only needs a single magnet for each tram, located somewhere around the middle.

Edited by kvp

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Ken Ford

I suspect DCC transponding could be used for route setting, too.

 

I think DCC for N scale trams is a desirable idea - the higher track voltage is more accommodating of the lightweight equipment.

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velotrain

Hi guys -

 

First, a correction:  the park line would be Nn15 - Tn15 would truly be a remarkable feat of engineering technology, with a track gauge of about 1 mm  :-)

 

Ken - what you're proposing is quite similar to my current thinking, although running the loop line and the extension line "simultaneously" would require throwing turnouts.  Unless - each had their own single-track line . . .  I'm now looking at designs where a car would come out of my wash rack/shops/office module, start around the loop, enter an extension, return to the loop, run onto another extension, and then enter the loop in the opposite direction and return to the barn.  Due to the spring action on the turnouts, it wouldn't require any intervention, and could even be continuous by using the shop loop.

 

My initial thought is that the extensions would be smaller loops or, if linear trackage, I'd have small terminus loops (similar to the EasyTrolley designs on Rich's site) so it could run unattended.  I noticed on another thread that Japan has never had a single-ended car or a loop - but as they say, it's a hobby.  One other thought is that short PROW segments could connect the central loop with the extensions.  The main reason I say short, is that after looking at videos I'm convinced it's going to take a whole lot of work just to build a credible one-foot segment of "alley track", with all the tiny houses and details.

 

To my eyes all the UniTram set-ups I've seen online are cases of someone just buying a lot of stuff and plopping it down right out of the box, with zero modification to any of the components and little attempt at overall design.  The trams often seem just a second thought ("window dressing") after the Shinkansen line, which is the primary area of interest.  I'm hoping to come up with a main loop that varies from this - not using a plain oval (especially not the one in the start-set) is the first step. 

 

One new idea I'm playing with is only using the UniTram track along the front with the tall "downtown" structures.  Traditional logic might place them at the rear, but I like making people (including myself) peer around tall structures at the front to see what's behind them - I'll attach a shot of an HO module where I did this. 

 

post-941-0-15692400-1406147166_thumb.jpg

 

I might include narrower street Tomix sections and even a PROW segment to shake things up - this might be at a 45 degree angle to break up the squares, which is a basic problem created by the UniTram set / design.  Perhaps include a sweeping curve into a major plaza, which you often see in European cities.

 

>  "and the other in a grassed-in central median"

 

You could run N'awlins cars if they're ever produced in N  ;-)

 

I had originally drawn extensions radiating out from all four corners of the loop, but then realized that this would lead to sprawl and the need for a very deep train table.  I've come to realize that the overall orientation needs to be linear - as you say, a loop with extensions at the two ends.  One other possibility - any extensions that connect to other modules on both ends - say for a group set-up, would have a "through track" along the front edge, preferably double.  The switches could be set so that running in one direction, any traffic on this "main" would exit and run around the module, but stay on the main going the other way.  Actually, all turnouts could just be single ones on the "inside" main.  Modules could also have independent loops that could run continuously.

 

I like kvp's thoughts on route control, but don't have the experience to access how difficult they'd be to implement.

 

Ken - you say you're an East Penn member, so I'm wondering if you go to their bi-annual shows?  If yes, we could try to bring something there next May.

 

Charles

 

 

P.S. - I keep reading this ". . . searching for Randen information" as "random information" - but maybe that's intentional  ;-)

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kvp

 

I like kvp's thoughts on route control, but don't have the experience to access how difficult they'd be to implement.

You need a 3 legged hall sensor chip for polarity detection and a circuit to convert the analog voltage level to binary and a bipolar turnout driver. The whole thing could be as simple as 4 chips on a piece of raster board. For two exit points, two boards are needed, each driving a single turnout independently from the other. If anyone is interested i could design a circuit for this and post it here in the forum.

 

The same could be achived with a single polarised 3 state, 2 pole reed relay, but nowdays it's hard to get one. If you do get one, you just have to connect it up in place of the manual switch of a capacitor discharge turnout driver circuit and you are done.

 

I think DCC for N scale trams is a desirable idea - the higher track voltage is more accommodating of the lightweight equipment.

It's rather hard to get DCC installed in the tiny N scale trams and a normal DC controller with PWM modulation is using the same voltage and control method as a DCC decoder, but it's much cheaper (you only need 1 or 2) with the same good running characteristics. DCC transponding is very hard to get right, especially with light and bouncy 2 axle trams.

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Ken Ford

Charles, I've never been to an East Penn show - getting away is difficult, I was going to make a try for this year's show but it was cancelled. We used to have a biannual traction show here in Chicago but it faded away as more and more of the traditional traction modelers died off. (At 52 I'm pretty young for a juice jack.)

 

I'll make a concerted effort to find my paper file - as I mentioned above the core module size was 496mm long x the width of Unitram street trackage over the sidewalks. That way you could use building flats for the backdrops (or tormentors for that matter) but if you wanted to build deeper and have 3D buildings you could. I felt that minimum width would work well with the grassy median modules and the private ROW ones, too.

 

I was planning on widening out from 25mm spacing to 33mm on the non-street modules to allow easy use of Kato double slips - my mockups showed it would look just fine with center mounted catenary poles. I also considered the possibility of necking down the double track private ROW branch to single track with passing loops as you get further from the city center, but that's more of a future enhancement, not part of the core demonstration project I was considering.

 

I'm not particularly worried about automated operations, I like to stay involved. However, I can see the advantage of an autopilot mode for shows to allow for head breaks or flirting with the young mothers.

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velotrain

You need a 3 legged hall sensor chip for polarity detection

 

The same could be achived with a single polarised 3 state, 2 pole reed relay, but nowdays it's hard to get one. If you do get one, you just have to connect it up in place of the manual switch of a capacitor discharge turnout driver circuit and you are done.

 

 

 

Just what polarity are you detecting?  I thought the basic idea was to determine what type/route car is approaching the switch, and set the switch/route accordingly.  It's been many decades since I did any electronic work, and I'm not understanding how polarity is involved here.

 

The reed relay sounds the easier solution, although you say obtaining them is difficult - I'll try looking for a couple (somewhere closer than Budapest ;-)  My memory of capacitor discharge circuits is that they were used to throw multiple turnouts at once, such as selecting a yard track from a panel display and the route was set for you with a single button push.

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Ken Ford

It's rather hard to get DCC installed in the tiny N scale trams and a normal DC controller with PWM modulation is using the same voltage and control method as a DCC decoder, but it's much cheaper (you only need 1 or 2) with the same good running characteristics. DCC transponding is very hard to get right, especially with light and bouncy 2 axle trams.

I have a DCC decoder that just arrived for one of my Randen trams, it looks like it should fit with no issue. (I've placed it in the tram with the shell on without clearance problems.) I also like the lighting controllability you get with DCC. I have no experience with transponding, though - I wouldn't normally use it, but I was thinking it might be a way to leverage the DCC for route automation. DCC in a Portram might be a challenge, though.

 

PWM - pulse wave modulation or something similar? I'm not familiar with it - what is it about?

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velotrain

> Charles, I've never been to an East Penn show - getting away is difficult, I was going to make a try for this year's show but it was cancelled.

 

I thought they were every two years, and 2013 was the last one, so there wouldn't be a 2014 version?

 

 

 

> as I mentioned above the core module size was 496mm long x the width of Unitram street trackage over the sidewalks.

 

I much prefer that length to say T-trak.  However, I don't really see any need to specify module length with this approach.  Any loops would be self-contained on a single ("private") module, so there's no need to try to match things up in that plane.  I was originally thinking that rail offset from the "front" was not fixed, using a FREMO approach.  However, for a table-based vs. legged system this might be necessary.

 

Um . . . with that depth, how were you going to fit in your main loop?  OR, is that spec just for the extensions?


> I was planning on widening out from 25mm spacing to 33mm on the non-street modules to allow easy use of Kato double slips

 

It seems to me that using these is just begging for unnecessary wiring issues.  No doubt they can be resolved, but I see no reason to even go there.

 

 

> I'm not particularly worried about automated operations, I like to stay involved.

 

I tend to feel the same way, but like the idea of having flexibility.

 

 

> However, I can see the advantage of an autopilot mode for shows to allow for head breaks or flirting with the young mothers.  

 

Well - I'm 67, so may notice the young mothers, but flirting is in my past.       

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kvp

PWM - pulse wave modulation or something similar?

It switches full power on and off and the ratio between the two determines the speed. Actually all DCC chips use this drive method, so analog PWM is the same as placing a big DCC decoder under the layout. It's a cheap and easy way to get the fine motor control of DCC with any off the shelf analog train. Tomix uses this in their more advanced controllers. They also added constant lighting, so you can have the lights on in a standing train or even switch it on and off. All without a decoder, but it only works with CL capable (led based) headlights and interior lighting kits. Combined with the TCS sensors, it's easy to make a fully automated analog layout that can run any off the shelf analog train.

 

ps: with the hall sensor it's possible to wire up a 3 way switch (sptt) to have straight (5V) - automated (hall output) - diverging (0V) modes selectable, so both manual and automatic route control is possible.

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brill27mcb

> Charles, I've never been to an East Penn show - getting away is difficult, I was going to make a try for this year's show but it was cancelled.

 

 

I thought they were every two years, and 2013 was the last one, so there wouldn't be a 2014 version?

 

The large National Meets are on odd-numbered years. In between, there are usually smaller relaxed "Mini-Meets" on the even-numbered years for member fun only. There was no Mini-Meet this year. The next big meet, 2015, will be held downtown at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

 

Rich K.

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