While the members of Sacramento Valley Ntrak have tried to keep politics and rules to a minimum, some rules and guidelines are necessary. These standards are actually an attempt to make things easier to do instead of trying to impose restrictions upon its members. The main thing to remember is that we want to share our interest in trains with others and, hopefully, interest them enough to consider model railroading as a possible hobby.

Ownership of an NTRAK module is not necessary to participate in any Sacramento Valley N-Trak activity. SVN, however, encourages all of its members to construct a module that can be used in the club display layout and will try to provide all of the help and information possible for members to expand their knowledge and abilities to be able to build their own module. SVN also encourages the use of the optional NTRAK blue line located at 10 inches in from the sky board as we feel that this is more prototypical to western railroading (double track and single track mainline). While there are no limitations on what railroads are to be represented, preference will be given to railroads operating in northern California.



Unless specified below, NTRAK operating standards will be followed.

These standard practices however will always be subject to review and modification after each engagement with the NTRAK display layout. It is the clubs goal to make things as easy as possible for the club and its members.



 1. All NTRAK standards, for track placement, module construction techniques, and size will apply. On May 1, 2011 a revised version of the 2005 Recommended Practices became the new N-Trak Electrical Standard. This standard in part calls for uncut 12AWG zip cord bus wire between Aderson PowerPole connectors.  (See our DCC wiring section for SVN implementation details).

 2. Atlas bright orange insulators or other highly visible indicators should be placed at each electrical block so that they can be readily seen by train operators.

 3. Recess all electrical switches if they are a permanent part of the module. This reduces breakage during transportation.

 4. Peco, Atlas, Micro-Engineering, Shinohara, or other high quality flex track will be the club standard for the lines.

 5. Peco, Micro-Engineering, Shinohara, “new style” Atlas (with under table switch machines), or other well tuned turnouts may be used on the main lines.

 6. No wiring should extend below the module frame.

 7. Wire pigtails should be restrained during transit to prevent damage adjacent modules.

 8. Use insulated staples or other form of hardware to secure wiring.



Location and Era

Since one of the goals of Sacramento Valley N-trak is to educate the public about the impact railroads have made in California, it is preferred that modules that are not modeled after a specific location have scenery that represents or resembles the landscape of northern California. This does not limit anyone from modeling whatever they would like to choose, especially if they want to model a specific place or scene not found in California. Instead, this is just a suggestion that, in the attempt to maintain continuity in the modules and layout, modules that are not of a specific place or scene appear to be something that would be found in northern California.

The same goes for the era. It is preferred that unless a specific location is being modeled, most modules should appear as being from 1940 to 1959 (also known as the steam to diesel transition). This will not limit the running of modern diesel power and/or container trains or very early steam engines, or limit the modeling of intermodal yards or modern factories or refineries that did not exist in the 1940’s-50’s. It is just a suggested time that any train, regardless of era (early or late steam, transition, or modern diesels), can travel through without looking out of place.

Railroad lines won’t be limited either, but it is hoped that members will take the time to learn something about the fallen flags that once served the communities of northern California. Just about any interest can be met with the wide diversity of railroads that once existed. In addition to the Union Pacific, the other class one railroads included the Southern Pacific, Santa Fe, and the Western Pacific. Regional and shortlines included the Sacramento Northern, Central California Traction, Tidewater Southern, Stockton Terminal and Eastern, Northwestern Pacific, Napa Valley Route, Amador Central, and Modesto & Empire Traction (just to name a few).

Track Plans

While our corner modules are built to be able to connect with standard triple track modules, and we will not have any problem with anyone who wants to build the standard triple track module, we recommend using the alternate blue line location (10” from the module rear instead of 18” from the module rear). It is felt that this location better represents mainline railroading on the west coast.

Unless a city or yard is being modeled, adding a slight curve to the track helps add interest and breaks up the straight lines that generally are found in most modules creating a more realistic scene.

Layout space for modules using the optional mountain line is somewhat limited but we do have modules forming 2% grades to access a section of mountain line.


With all of the ‘controversy’ currently being debated on the web as to which ‘code’ track is better, we have decided to remain with the Ntrak standard and use Atlas code 80 flex track. While the track height (code) is higher with code 80 than code 55, almost all rolling stock and engines can operate on code 80 without problems or modifications (while code 55 requires the changing of wheel sets on some manufacturers rolling stock). If the sides of the rail are painted brown or a rust color after the track has been laid and electrical connections have been installed, we have found that the rail height is not noticed. As for switches, it is recommended that Peco insulfrog code 80 switches be used exclusively. This is not to say that the Peco switches are any better or worse than other manufacturers, but that Peco switches have a positive spring lock built into the switch points. All other switches would require the addition of either a ground throw or bell crank system to provide a positive lock of the switch points which could cause operational problems.


While we will try to keep at least one line wired for standard DC operation, the goal of the club is to use DCC. By using DCC, we will be able to run multiple trains on each line as well as perform realistic railroad operation and switching. We will be offering classes in the installation of DCC receivers for those who would like help or lack the electronic knowledge.  

We have also elected to use PowerPole connectors instead of the expensive, unreliable, and hard to find Cinch Jones connectors. The PowerPole connectors are readily available, inexpensive, and DCC friendly. Ntrak has now added the PowerPole connectors as an ‘alternate’ connector. The club has a set of PowerPole to Cinch Jones adapters to accommodate modules already wired for Cinch Jones.



 1. At the beginning of each running day, recheck all levels and module alignments.

 2. At the beginning of each running day, all community tracks should be cleaned with a “Bright Boy” or track cleaning car.

 3. No oil/solvent of any kind may be used on community track during a meet.

 4. Use of club stanchions around public displays is necessary.

 5. When size permits, a table(s) will be set up in a convenient area of the layout for club/member equipment.

 6. All AC wiring will come from a single common GFCI protected 15A UL circuit breaker protected plug strip. Cables on the floor should be taped down and protected from foot traffic. Plugs strips are no longer allowed on modules under the NEC.

 7. The club tool kit should be kept near the display.

 8. All members are expected to help with either display set-up, tear down, transportation, and/or storage of club equipment. This is regardless of module ownership.



1. No leaning or “elbows” on the sky boards (unless needed to interact with the public) as this distracts from the public’s view and could cause damage to a module.

2. Any equipment used during an operating session should be color coded to identify proper ownership

3. Member’s should wear name tags during operation of public displays. The use of club clothing/colors are encouraged.

4. Avoid the use of 0-5-0 switch engines (hands).

5. Run the direction of the red line and blue line together and opposite the yellow line.

6. Use the blue line (branch) for intensive switching duties.

Here are some of the most important measurements for the NTRAK standards in both millimeters and inches. If there is something more you want to know, feel free to ask.

Track                   From    Height       Min        Max         Cable                 Notes
                              Rear                    Radius    Grade   Color Code 

Main Line 1           20"          0            24"         0%           Red                   Required *

 Main Line 2         18.5"        0            24"         0%         Yellow                Required *

Branch Line 1        17"           0            18"       1.5%           Blue                   Alternate                

Branch Line 2      10"          0            18"      1.5%           Blue                  Preferred By Sacramento Valley N-Trak *

Mountain Line          4"      3 1/8"         12"        3%         Green **              Optional *              

Passing track       21.5"         0                                           Orange **              Optional          

12V Accessory Bus                                                           White ***              Required - Tap with 3A fuse

Module Sizes: Length. 4, 6, or 8 foot     Depth: 2 feet

  * The Mountain line trackage is not required but the green bus is required wiring.
 ** The passing track (Orange Bus) will draw it's power from the Green bus.
*** Use 16AWG lamp cord and fuse locally at 3 amps to protect hook up wire. This accommodation allows removal of 120V plug strips from modules.

Up to to 6" may be added to both the front and rear of modules to make room for scenery or track plans. When added to the rear SVN modules conform to NTrack2000 layout. If extra is added at the rear, the skyboard should still come forward in some manner to match the standard NTrak position.