WELCOME to the Tinplate Trackers, a group of people exploring the operation of O-gauge tinplate and hi-rail trains on modules that are basically standardized, yet open to unlimited improvisation. We are not a club or an organization in the usual sense. Rather, we are individuals who operate Lionel and other O-Gauge three-rail trains and believe that we can have more fun by working with others of similar interest in building and setting up large operating systems. Modules are a very logical way to accomplish this.

The Tinplate Trackers Beginnings

The idea for such a modular system that led to the formation of the Tinplate Trackers was proposed by Lew Chilton and Howard Packer of the San Fernando Valley Toy Train Club (VTTC) This was an independent club, not affiliated with any of the national groups, although most of its members belonged to one or more of these organizations (TCA, TTOS, LCCA, LOTS, TTCS). We like to call the Tinplate Trackers a brotherhood of similar interests.

Acting on the Chilton/Packer suggestion, Al Bailey, Myron Moore, and others immediately joined them and started work developing some standards and constructing a few modules. Seven modules were soon built and placed in operation on tables which were available in the club meeting room.

From the initial venture until his death in 1993, Al Bailey coordinated information for the group and distributed it to all who might be interested. A small fee was charged to offset the printing and mailing expenses. In the past few years since Al's death, the newsletter/manual distribution was handled primarily by the Orange County Chapter. Editor's note: There is no charge nor are contributions solicited for this information since there are no distribution costs associated with it. As it stands, I don't plan to distribute hard copies of the original 1991 manual. However, if there are other "Trackers" out there or groups following the standards, I would appreciate being e-mailed with articles and web site information.

At the request of Howard Packer, the remaining founder of the Tinplate Tracker Standard, I have undertaken the task of converting the manual to an Internet version. My only request is that my e-mail address be forwarded to any other Trackers out there. This is to solicit articles from them regarding Tracker activities for possible use in an Internet/e-mail newsletter.

Development of Standards

The plans contained in this manual have been altered many times since 1985, so they are developed to a point where they work well, most of the bugs have been eliminated, and they permit much variation in operations. Several hundred modules have been built with a number of construction methods, but with the same basic overall specifications by various people across the United States, Canada, and other countries -- a few members as far off as New Zealand. When brought together, connected with C-clamps and our electrical plug arrangement, they become an immediate operating system.

We realize there is no perfect system and that there must be compromises, but we feel that it has been possible to establish standards that are acceptable to many three-rail O-gauge operators everywhere. But we continue to say these are developing standards, not developed standards, so we welcome ideas and suggestions.

First Public Performance

In the fall of 1985, we had our first public showing of the Tinplate Trackers modules at the big Cal-Stewart Train Meet sponsored by TTOS-TCA in California. Modules built by several people were joined easily and quickly, and trains ran flawlessly for two days. They attracted a lot of attention, served as test tracks for people considering buying a locomotive (and just as often, to find out after purchase if they would run!). They also attracted new converts to tinplate modular operation, so the movement started to grow, and has been growing ever since. We're glad that you're interested in becoming part of it. Welcome Aboard!

The Module Idea

The definition of module and modular system should be clarified and defined. In our context, we mean a module to be a unit built to standardized specifications so that it can be used with other such units flexibly in a variety of ways. We thus distinguish it from a sectional layout, used by many clubs and individuals, which is made up of a number of units which assemble in only one way. The Tinplate Tracker modules, made in a few basic types, can be assembled in many different ways, as you will see as you go through this manual. We're sure you'll be able to devise still other ways.

Perhaps best known and most wide-spread of the modular groups is N-TRAK, which has developed over a long period of years. Under the aegis of Ben Davis and Jim Fitzgerald, this system has spread throughout the United States and other countries. And we must say here that we have adopted many of their ideas, we hope with their acquiescence, and we certainly give them credit and many thanks. We have received inspiration, too from the Los Angeles area HO module groups and from the NMRA

An interesting aside here is that the one of the originators of the Tinplate Trackers standard is a co-founding member of Angels Gate Hi-Railers, a permanent 3-rail O-Gauge model railroad club which is located in Angels Gate Park in San Pedro, California. This also happens to be the permanent home of the Belmont Shores Model Railroad Club which was started by the group that originated the N-TRAK N-gauge modular standard. That's right; both modular founding groups ended up with permanent layouts in the same place.

So far, we've considered modules as a way to join with other operators, and this is a great thing to do. But modules can be equally useful at home, or in association with a friend. If you don't have room for an O-gauge layout at home, and they do require quite a bit of space (especially if you are running hi-rail equipment), build modules which can be set up quickly when you're in the mood to run trains, then taken down and put away until next time.

If your home layout, or part of it, is constructed to these Tinplate Tracker specifications, you can enjoy it at home, then on occasion, remove one or more modules and take them to a club meeting or convention where they'll become part of a larger system.

They can be used for Christmas shows at local businesses. churches, or at train shows or other exhibitions. Use them to recruit new members for your group. Take several to a hospital to entertain patients -- especially for children -- or even to an adult convalescent home or retirement center (they enjoy trains, too). You can think of more ideas, but basically we advocate modules for your own amusement and to provide more enjoyment from your trains. Trains belong in action on a track, not stored away in boxes or displayed in a static setting.

  • Simple Standards
  • What's in This Manual?
  • Section One: Module Construction
  • Section Two: Track
  • Section Three" Electrical
  • Section Four: Decoration and Scenery
  • Section Five: Special Modules
  • Back to Cover Page