Blast Off!!!

As we get ready for the NMRA layout tour in July, the boys from the N-Land Pacific really wanted a way to turn around trains without running the locos around on a passing siding. We came up with the idea of a simple balloon module.

A balloon track is something the real railroads use to turn an entire train. This photo is of the balloon track at Union Pacific's West Colton yard.

For our balloon module, we decided on keeping it to just one piece and compromising on the track radius. It uses a 24" door as the backbone of the module. There are 12" wide wings on the last four feet of the module so we can fit an 18" radius turn there. It took some engineering to attach the wings to the door without heavy bracing, but my design solution seems to have done the trick.

For the size of the beast, it is surprisingly light weight - for now. I was hoping to skip putting fascia on it because of the weight and the additional framing which would be required to keep the fascia secured. Bob and Jeff are proponents of the fascia as a place for mounting the turnout mechanism and throttle ports. They also want to do some scenery inside the balloon. They typically rent a truck to transport their modules, so leaving ground foam along the freeway isn't a worry. If I were storing and transporting this 25 square-foot beast, I'd just paint everything black and think of it as the backstage of the theater.

When I finish with the fascia, Jeff will take over construction with laying track and wiring. If it works out well, they want to build another one of these balloons. Since it is a club module, I probably won't be able to keep with my tradition of Spanish names for the module. If I could, some ideas are Globo (balloon), or Lazada (loop). My neighbor says the thing looks like a Space Shuttle Soap Box racer.

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