Combining Bend Track and N-Trak

Adaptor Modules

In this part of the manual we'll be taking a look at what we call "Adapter" or "Conversion" modules. With the use of these adapter modules the flexibility of both Bend Track and N-Trak is increased above either system's flexibility by itself. As the name suggests these special modules will allow the use of both systems in the same layout. For example, this would permit a club who has an N-Trak system in use and who would be reluctant to pick up and start over, to simply decide on one or more of these conversion modules. Therefore, with a little bit of construction and wiring, they would have increased the options to the members in the variety of modules that could be built. The biggest benefit of doing this is that the two systems each have certain strengths which compliment each other very nicely.

As this chapter is being written, we have a total of three different types of adapters of which the third is currently in use with splendid results, the first (in the "corner version") is being constructed, and the second is awaiting construction. Each type has it's own intended purpose although there are some functional similarities between the first two.

N-Trak to Bend Track Adaptor

The first type of adapter is ideally suited to a club who has an existing N-Trak system and would like to add Bend Track to it. It is similar to a Bend Track "T" in that the shank of the "T" ends with Bend Track standards but now the two wings of the "T" end with N-Trak standards. N-Trak mainlines 1 and 2 swing from the wings to the shank to become Bend Track mainlines 1 and 2. N-Trak's branch line (track 3) runs across from one wing to the other without diverting to the shank of the "T". Obviously this design requires all trains on mainlines 1 and 2 to travel all of both types of modules. If desired, various arrangements of crossovers, diamonds, and sidings can allow all trains to remain on the N-Trak sections of the layout. Block controls may be needed to permit the crossing over of the trains through these cutoffs depending on the particular arrangement. See FIG. #13,14.

The wiring for this adapter is very straight forward. Even though the module has connection points for two different sets of standards, the basic electrical conventions of the two systems are very similar. Just follow the appropriate wiring specifications that each system (Bend Track or N-Trak) uses and apply them to the appropriate ends of the adapters. You'll notice in figure #15 that the zip cords feeding mainlines 1 and 2 will each wind up having two differing color codes on the Cinch-Jones plugs. This happens because Bend Track uses different colors to identify it's mainlines 1 and 2 than what N-Trak uses. Also take note of the gender of the plugs. Again, following the wiring specifications of the appropriate standard for each of the three ends of the module will ensure the proper plugs are located correctly.

The length between the N-Trak ends would most conveniently be built to 6 or 8 feet to work most easily in an N-Trak layout, again referring to FIG. #13. The shortest possible length for this adapter would be 4 feet 10 inches if the minimum radius and other standards of Bend Track were used and no diamonds were used for bypassing trains. This would require a "Bridge" module of equal length to be used on the opposite side of the layout to keep everything in balance since 4 feet 10 inches is not a standard length in N-Trak. Main 2 could use medium turnouts to allow it to bypass the Bend Track section and still fit in the 4 foot 10 inch length. See FIG. #16

One last point to mention about this adapter is that it could also be built to replace an N-Trak outside corner module instead of a straight. This is the "corner version" adapter referred to at the start of the adapter section. In this case the shank and one wing of the "T" are made to N-Trak standards while the remaining wing is made to Bend Track standards. See FIG #17. The wiring would follow the same principle of using each end's color codes and plug gender arrangement for the type of module that is to connect to it. As pictured in FIG. #17, the adapter replaces a standard 4 foot N-Trak corner module but the same basic design could also replace the smaller 3 foot standard corner. If so, the outline of the module will be shaped not straight like FIG #17, but like an N-Trak corner module superimposed on a Bend Track "offset straight" module (shown in the 'Branching Layout' diagram in the 'Bend Track Concept' section). This is how the "under construction, corner version" adapter is being built, utilizing curved bench work to blend the outline of the module between the three non-aligned ends.

The Hybrid Balloon Adapter

The second type of adapter allows a portion of an N-Trak layout to be used as a replacement for a Bend Track balloon module. It is more involved to build because it consists of at least three separate pieces. See FIG #18.

We'll call the center piece the "Wye" and the other two the "Wings". The two free ends of the Wings have the tracks and wiring installed to N-Trak standards while the free end of the Wye has it's tracks and wiring installed to Bend Track standards. The space between the ends of the Wings is such that two standard N-Trak four foot corners can complete the loops of track and therefore the balloon. This gives you an "operating pit" inside the balloon of four foot by slightly more than four foot, enough room for up to two people to stand if they aren't too sturdily constructed. Any number of N-Trak modules could be used, even extra outside and inside corners forming an "L" shaped balloon. If there is enough room for the people operating the modules that form the pit plus a couple extra, the pit could serve as a place from which the entire layout could be run. Track can be laid on this adapter so that the N-Trak branch line forms either a continuous loop around the balloon or a long siding for mainline 2, or both if crossovers are used from main 2 to the branch line. See FIG. #18.

Now let's back up a bit. In describing this adapter it was mentioned that it consists of at least three pieces, so that means it could be made up of more than that. Let's say that you wanted the pet to be wider than the four feet it would be when two standard corners complete the balloon. You could do this by putting a four foot straight N-Trak module between the two corners and thereby increase the pit to eight feet in width. But now the free ends of the Wings of the adapter don't line up with the rest of the N-Trak modules forming the balloon. The easiest way to overcome this is to use a pair of bridge modules that will spread the Wings farther apart. They don't need their own legs as they can be clamped to the other sections of the adapter. It would be economical to make these bridges 12 inches deep front to back instead of just deep enough to hold the two or three tracks that cross them. The reason why will be clear shortly. The length of the bridges needs to be 5 feet 7 and 7/8 inches. This length, when inserted between the Wye and the Wings of the adapter, will increase the spread of the free ends of the Wings by exactly four feet. See FIG. #19.

Now, the reason to have the bridges 12 inches deep is that if and when the bridges are not needed in the adapter, they can be bolted back to back and used anywhere as a standard Bend Track straight module. The odd length doesn't matter since Bend Track modules can be any length you need. Just make a set of legs as described earlier in the manual and you have a module that can do double duty. The wiring for this adapter is pretty straight forward, following all the same standards as the previous adapter did in respect to the polarity and color coding of the wires. The only exception being the case where the adapters (and bridge extensions if used) have a track on them for forming a continuous loop for N-Trak's  branch line. Refer to figure #20 and note how it will eliminate confusion to use the color green to color code some of the Cinch-Jones plugs.

This will prevent the accidental connection of Bend Track mainline 2 with N-Trak mainline 3 (branch line) at the interface of an adapter Wing and adapter Wye or at the interface of either end of a bridge section and the Wings and Wye. If green is not used, blue might get used instead since blue is the color code normally used for N-Trak's branch line and the track on the adapter is, after all, there for N-Trak's branch line. But if blue were to be used, there could be confusion when plugging in the wiring under the modules. Bend Track main 2 is also blue and could get mixed up with the through track for N-Trak's branch line.

Bend Track to N-Trak Adaptor

The third adapter is well suited to a club who has mostly Bend Track modules but would also like to include N-Trak in the layout. It consists of a "T" and a balloon module. They are designed so that any number of N-Trak modules can be connected between them. This adapter can't provide for a separate continuous run on N-Trak's branch line but does allow it to be used as a large switching lead for industries on the modules or as a large passing siding for Bend Track's mainline 1. The "T" has the two wings laid to Bend Track standards and the shank to N-Trak standards. The balloon has it's connecting end laid to N-Trak standards. Straights, outside corners, and inside corners can be connected between the N-Trak interfaces of the two adapter modules. You'll see in figure #21 that mainline 1 and 2 of the N-Trak modules are being used as an extension of Bend Track's mainline 1.

Also take note that on the short pieces of what would be N-Trak's branch line on the two adapter modules, there need to be insulators on both rails of the track before this branch line track merges with the mainline track. See FIG #22 & #23.

This will allow the branch line track of all the N-Trak modules between the "T" and balloon to be kept electrically isolated from Bend Track's mainline 1. This way whole trains on main 1 can pass each other and local switch engines can run on the branch line without having to use mainline power. This adapter is the only one of the three that has some modifications to the standard wiring practices of either Bend Track or N-Trak. If you start at point A in figure #22 and move up and around in the diagram until you come to point B, you will see that the rail considered to be the "front" rail in an N-Trak module becomes the "rear" rail in a Bend Track module. This is a problem because the wiring specifications of both modular systems require that the "front" rail of the track be connected to the wide pin of the Cinch-Jones plugs. If the plugs at the N-Trak end of the "T" are wired the way it would at first seem they should be, with the front rail connected to the wide pin, there will be a direct short from the front rail to the rear rail on Bend Track main 1 when an N-Trak module is plugged in. The same thing would happen when the adapter balloon is plugged in. The solution to this is to flip the polarity of the Cinch-Jones plugs for the yellow and blue plugs of the "T" and balloon which means the ribbed wire of the zip cords connect to the narrow pin instead of the wide pin. This allows a standard N-Trak module (or modules) to operate with the yellow and blue track's polarity reversed with no short circuits. Figure #23 shows how the wiring on the "T" and balloon is done.

This finishes the section on the adapter modules, however they shouldn't be considered the only way to combine the two systems. Be creative and build whatever it is you need to, to accomplish whatever it is you want to do. If you have a system other than Bend Track or N-Trak, use these adapter ideas as inspiration for creating a way to connect any type of system to any other!



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