tinkering, thinkering

I have been mulling over the idea of a "participatory event", hopefully assisted by the local hobby shop. The concept is to pre-package enough plywood and track for anyone to build a T-Trak module in N scale. It wouldn't be a contest so much as a way to develop modelling skills and encourage a bit of diversity within the area's exhibition landscape. At the end, all modules would come together in a group display. Perhaps a popular vote would be held, but certainly a reward of some kind would be dispensed to all participants.

Many newcomers to the hobby are overwhelmed by the idea of a large, home layout. Some intermediate modellers stall in their thought processes. Long-timers may wish to dabble in something else; "a change is as good as a rest", it is said. City dwellers and young people relying on public transit find it difficult to move large modules. All of these people would (likely) benefit from interaction with like-minded modellers. A small project like this would offer a kickstart or development platform.

T-Trak offers an incrementally-sized base to build upon, starting at about a foot square. The material requirements for baseboards are minimal; no legs and only a simple box frame. Track requirements are similarly light; parallel (at each end) Kato Unitrack components. It may be possible to provide a kit of essential parts for as little as $25. Modules are connected together on, and supported by, the ubiquitous 30" high folding-leg tables lurking at exhibit & conference halls.

The event organiser would have to provide four corners and one straight section in order to guarantee that any number of participants could be provided for during the culminating exhibition. Tying-in with a large local train show would be the best course of action; many modellers would be in attendance anyway, and the display could be seen by the largest number of visitors. I would recommend the "33mm spaced centre" version of the T-Trak build, so that many of Kato's accessories could be incorporated without modification.

Kato's track products are, frankly, some of the best in the hobby. My recent experiments with their N Unitrack sections have proved pleasant and trouble-free. I was able to have a long-idle locomotive running on a loop of track in mere minutes. While the pre-ballasted track sections are not preferred for many advanced techniques used by "serious" hobbyists, they provide a good looking basis for reliable and consistent running - minimising disappointment and maximising the fun factor; crucial elements for newcomers to the hobby.

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