A history of MRNS would not be complete without briefly mentioning the beginnings of N-Trak, since their history and our history are tied together. N-Trak debuted in 1974 at the NMRA National Show in San Diego thanks to the foresight and pioneering work of Ben Davis and the club he helped form, the Belmont Shore RR Club. Thirty-Nine years later there are over 2,000 modules built to N-Trak specifications. There are active clubs not only in the United States, but also in Canada, England, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Because there is an international standard, modules can be joined together to form very large layouts. It is very impressive to see so many modules from different clubs and individuals formed into one layout, running a number of trains at once. This spectacle has attracted many model railroaders to N-scale and to N-Trak.
In 1991 at a swap meet in Vancouver, WA, the founders of South Sound N-Scale were so impressed with the Columbia River N-Scale N-Trak layout that was on display that they eventually started their own club. The South Sound club built modules for display with a two track mainline. As the club attracted new members, the new modules were built to N-Trak standards which includes two main lines, a branch line and the optional mountain line. Mt. Rainier N-Scale was formed from members of South Sound N-Scale in December of 1993. Since then Mt. Rainier has grown from five members to twenty.
What makes our club exciting and holds our interest is the great flexibility we have. We have done shows with a layout as small 20' by 26' to as large as 28' by 52'. We have also joined with other clubs to make some very large layouts. Several members made two end loops that add even more flexibility to the configuration of layout we set up. This allows us to make a long and narrow layout, but eliminates the set up yard. With N-Trak the possibilities are endless, limited only by our imagination, the number of modules, and available space. Collectively we own approximately 35 modules including an inside corner, plus a few that are under construction.
To add operating interest to our layout and to have more trains running, we chose to include the optional mountain line on our modules. With four lines to run trains, getting the trains from the set up yard to the different lines presents a challenge that has been meet in various ways by different clubs. Jim Younkins designed a system of crossovers and switches to feed the three lines that run along the front of the layout, and two loops to feed the mountain line from the staging yard. We named these two modules the Ballard Wye, and it has worked out very well, allowing us to send a train into the set up yard, while another is coming out at the same time. John Benny wired the wye so that the inside main and the branch line are protected when a train is crossing either or both lines to another line. The yard itself was designed by Winton Hazelton. The crossover at the yard throat allows the operator to enter the layout from either side of the yard and in either direction. There is also a balloon track that can be used as a reversing loop or as a siding. The yard is divided into an east side and a west side with separate controls for each side. It can also be operated on N-Trak power which allows the operator to control his or her train with their throttle as it leaves or enters the yard.
When the club began, the layout was controlled by stationary throttles. Of course, this worked but it restricted the operator. He or she was unable to follow their train, nor were they able to interact easily with the crowd. To eliminate these two restrictions, we went to the Artisto-Craft hand held radio controlled throttles. This proved to be a big success. Now an operator can walk on the outside of the layout following their train, and talk with the crowd at the same time. If there is a problem, such as a derailment or a break away the operator is on the scene.
At shows one of the most frequently asked questions is how long does it take to set up the layout. Of course, this will vary with the size of the layout, the larger the layout the longer it takes. However, there is another factor, and that is the place. Some places such as fairgrounds usually have uneven floors, so getting the layout level takes much longer than a school gym or museum that has a level floor. On the average it takes from 3 to 4 hours to set up the layout and have trains running. The take down is much faster, only requiring an hour and a half or less. One thing that makes our club successful is that during set up and take down, we all chip in doing various tasks. During set up the layout has to be at the same height and level, modules must be joined together with "C" clamps, electrical connectors plugged in, joiner track installed, throttles hooked up, track cleaned, the cloth skirt put on, and stanchions set up for crowd control.
Even though our modules are built by different members we wanted our layout to have a theme as well as some continuity. Living in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States, it was only logical that we agreed to model the Pacific Northwest. Although it is not written in stone, we encourage everyone to model the Northwest. Anyone who has visited this part of the country knows that our scenery is quite varied. Yes, there are the large volcanic mountains such as Mt. Rainier from which we choose our name, and there are lush forests, but there are also some very barren and prehistoric looking areas east of the Cascades as well as very fertile farm lands, all of which can be seen on our layout. Backdrops a painted using the same sky color by our resident artist Diane Powell. Module fascia is all painted the same color and skirting is furnished by the club all of these factors add to an appealing tone of uniformity.
Past - Present - Future
As the club has grown, we have made some major improvements and changes to the layout. As mentioned earlier, we designed and built the Ballard Wye and set up yard. The club trailer was built in 1999 to carry the club modules. The rolling racks were built in 2001 so we can get more in the trailer and, as it turns out, for ease of loading. We added DCC in 2012 and a new power control unit affectionately known as "R2D2" that allows switching between DC and DCC on any of the 4 tracks. In 2012 we built our first oNeTrak and N-Trak modules needed to connect oNeTrak to N-Trak. In 2012 we connected our layout to other layouts for the first times at shows. The Ballard Wye was redesigned and rebuilt in 2014. Like I said earlier, the possibilities with N-Trak are limited only by your imagination.