The Bend Track Concept
We're sure that by now most model railroaders are at least somewhat familiar, if not very familiar, with the concept of modular model railroading. In case you're very new to the hobby, allow us to briefly explain the basic concept behind modular railroading. Modular railroading is a means by which individual modelers can build a section of railroad and assemble them with other modelers units to form a complete working model railroad. If you have ever been to a model railroad meet, chances are that you've seen this concept in action. So popular is this idea, that virtually every scale has made use of this concept, not only for public shows but also for home or club layouts.
Bend Track is a new concept in modular model railroading. The idea was developed in 1986 after viewing an HOn3 display layout which had a single mainline that traversed a section of the layout bench work twice. Once on the front at ground zero and then across the back side at a higher elevation in the opposite direction. It was the action of movement in both directions on the same 3 foot wide board that spawned the idea of Bend Track.
The Bend Track modular system is based on standard modules of varying lengths that are two feet in width at their abutting surfaces. N scale was selected as the size most appropriate for the amount of space that would be available on the module surface.
The entire concept is based on a two sided module with a double mainline on both sides and an optional center divider which can serve as a scenery backdrop for both sides. When a center divider is installed, it is like having two traditional modules assembled back to back with no space between the two.
Instead of having four corner modules to build and contend with as in other modular systems, Bend Track offers the convenience of just two modules which are referred to as "Balloon" modules. These balloon modules provide a 180 degree turn around for the double mainlines allowing them to swing from one side of a module around to the other side.
For all practical purposes, the smallest and simplest Bend Track system includes just two balloon modules assembled together to form a small loop or oval setup. The train begins on one side of a balloon, then traverses to the opposite side before traveling onto the second balloon and returning to the starting point.
With two balloons and some straight sections you have used the two most basic module designs to expand your layout.
Unlike traditional modular systems where you usually have just straight sections and 90 degree corners making up 85% to 90% of modular layouts, Bend Track accommodates an almost limitless variety of different shapes of modules to make up it's system. By using Bend Track modules you can quickly conjure up modular layouts with an appealing variety of shapes. Layouts are possible with legs branching out in all directions as shown above and each "leg" can be as long, twisting, and branching as you want it to be. This has been a big advantage when setting up a display for a railroad show since you can bend the display out of the way of pillars and columns.
Now that you have an idea of the concept, let's explore the Bend Track family of modules. We'll start with the basic straight module. Your "straight" module can actually be any length OR SHAPE you can think of, so in fact it need not even be "straight" at all! All that is necessary is to have each module conform to the required joining standards. This will allow them to mate with any other Bend Track module. The Bend Track straight module differs from the traditional straight module in that it has tracks on both sides instead of just one. When setting up a traditional module system you need to make sure that you have an equal length of modules on both sides of the setup. For example, if you have two 6 foot modules on one side totaling 12 feet, you must maintain that 12 foot length on the opposite side with either two more 6 foot modules, three 4 foot modules or a 4 and 8 foot module. With Bend Track that "need" is entirely eliminated. When you build a straight module to any length, its like building two modules at the same time that will automatically total the same length.
As mentioned earlier, Bend Track requires at least two balloon modules instead of the four modules required for the traditional modular setup. These balloon modules must retain the basic minimum standard radius, which we will discuss later. They can be of any size or shape that you desire or which will fit your need. As long as the tracks return to the same 2 foot area at which they entered onto the balloon module.
Curved modules can be built with any amount of curvature that is desired or needed to fit a particular space or area. Traditional modular systems rely heavily on having four 90 degree corner modules in order to have a complete running layout. With Bend Track the need for corner modules does not exists. In fact, the Bend Track system has no "corner" module as such, but rather straight modules that have been bent to any desired amount of curvature or angle. The thing to remember about a curved Bend Track module is that the curve of the module is not itself necessary to make the system work. The reason to curve a Bend Track module is to create a more natural or pleasing appearance to the eye or to better match what you want the track to be doing, such as an offset or "S" shaped module where the track follows a river or hillside.
Branching modules can add great variety and interest to the shape of a Bend Track layout. A "T" module is nothing more than a straight module with another 2 foot end coming off of one of the sides where more modules can connect to, to form a branch off of the original route. Other modules can be built with the same idea in mind but in the shape of "Y"s, "+"s, "X"s, or any other arrangement you wish. One note to mention, for every branch in the layout, a balloon module must be used to cap off the branch.
By now your head may be swimming with ideas for new and interesting shapes of modules and entire Bend Track layouts. The next section of the Bend Track manual addresses some advantages and concerns of using the Bend Track system compared to traditional modular systems. Click on the "Next" link below to access it.