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Baltimore Area N-Trak

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Here are some questions often asked of club members. If any others come to mind, please make use of the email links on our contact us page

Section 1 - The Club

What is BANTRAK?

Baltimore Area NTrak, or BANTRAK, is an organization dedicated to promoting the hobby of model railroading. BANTRAK was founded in Baltimore County in 1983 under the name of The Greater Baltimore N-Scale Associates (GBNSA). BANTRAK follows the modular NTRAK standard and is a member of the national NTRAK organization.

Who can join BANTRAK?

Anyone over the age of 18 interested in model railroading is welcome to join BANTRAK. Children of members are invited to join their parents in club activities which are age appropriate

How does one join BANTRAK?

Joining is simple.  Simply fill out a membership application and pay dues whenever you’re ready to become a member

NOTE: We encourage prospective new members to attend a meeting or two prior to joining in order to get a feel for the Club and to determine whether we’re what they’re looking for.

What are the benefits of joining BANTRAK?

There are several benefits to joining BANTRAK, both tangible and intangible.

What membership categories are available?

Currently there are two different memberships for individuals: regular and half-year.

Regular memberships ($45) are for those who pay before 01 July and include a national NTRAK membership.

Half-year memberships ($TBD) are for those who pay after 01 July and do not include national NTRAK membership.

Those who want to join in November or December have a choice of paying half-year dues for the remainder of the calendar year or full year dues applicable to the next calendar year.

Family and Lifetime memberships have also been discussed in the past but are not currently offered.

NOTE: Changing the dues levels is a major financial decision that would have to be voted on by the entire membership.

Does BANTRAK have a Clubhouse or permanent layout?

BANTRAK does not have a Clubhouse or a permanent layout.

Where does BANTRAK meet?

BANTRAK is a round robin group that has met in members homes since the group was formed. BANTRAK has members all over the Baltimore Metropolitan area, including Perry Hall, Ellicott City, Glen Burnie, Annapolis and within Baltimore City itself. With such a large membership area, BANTRAK tries to rotate the meeting location around the Baltimore metro area over the course of the year in order to balance out the commute for the members.

Hosting a meeting (at your residence or a local facility) is easy to coordinate. Just offer and we will put you on the schedule.

When does BANTRAK meet?

BANTRAK normally meets the 3rd Sunday of every month from 2-5 PM. Occasionally this date is adjusted if there is a conflict with a holiday or other event.

The date and time of the next meeting will be on the Club website and in the Club newsletter for that month.

What is BANTRAK’s legal status?

As of Feb 17, 2015, Baltimore Area N-TRAK Incorporated (BANTRAK) is incorporated under IRC Section 501(c)(3). As such it is eligible to receive contributions that donors may deduct under IRC Section 170. Specific information about this eligibility is available to donors at the time of their donations.

What are the BANTRAK Leadership Positions?

Although we try to run an informal organization, occasionally there is the need for BANTRAK to manage and make decisions on behalf of the group.

BANTRAK has four official leadership positions:

How are the Leaders chosen?

BANTRAK elections are held on a two year cycle (coordinated by the Treasurer/President/1st VP.

The mechanism of "elevation to office" is a little different than in most NTRAK Clubs. In BANTRAK, a person is only elected once, to the office of 2nd VP; at the end of every two year cycle (or in case of unforeseen circumstances), the current President steps down and two things happen:

First, everybody else bumps up one step (1st VP becomes President, 2nd VP become 1st VP).

Second, a new 2nd VP election process occurs.

Note: This method was chosen by the Club because it allows the member to become familiar with the operation of the Club and train to "take the reigns" when the time comes.

The Treasurer is elected once for an indefinite term. The treasurer serves until he decides to resign or the Club wishes to elect a new treasurer. This allows the treasurer to serve as the "corporate memory/unofficial historian" for the Club and eliminates the issues with transferring bank accounts.

What Leadership Support positions exist in BANTRAK?

BANTRAK has a number of other offices that are considered "non leadership" positions. As with Treasurer, most of these are elected to indefinite terms and serve till they choose to step down or the Club chooses to elect a new member to that position. BANTRAK currently has the following Leadership Support positions:

  1. Membership Chairman – handles all membership applications and inquiries.
  2. Newsletter Editor – publishes the monthly Club newsletter.
  3. Webeditor - maintains the Club website content
  4. Webmaster – maintains the Club website functionality.
  5. Quartermaster – handles the Club inventory.

What is "Sweat" Equity?

BANTRAK is a Club where benefits are derived from contributions (storing the Club trailer/Club modules/etc.) and work of individual members…hence the term "sweat equity" is often used. In short it means those who do the work should receive the benefits. Run time, sales tables at shows and other Club benefits are normally allocated to those bringing modules to shows, participating in setting the layout up and breaking it down and contributing to the Club in general. After those Club members participating in the show select their run slots, the Club generally makes run slots available to the rest of the members.

Everyone who shows up at a Club event is expected to chip in and help. There are always tasks that can be done by anyone, regardless of age, medical condition or experience level. When in doubt, ask!

Section 2 - Shows & Events

How many shows a year does BANTRAK do?

BANTRAK typically participates of five NTRAK shows a year. They are the February, April and October Great Scale Model Train Shows at the State Fairground in Timonium, the N-Scale Weekend in Bedford PA, and the B&O Festival of Trains at the B&O Museum in Baltimore.

BANTRAK does other regional shows when possible. In the past BANTRAK has participated at events in Sykesville MD, Brunswick MD, Oakland MD and the NMRA mini-con in Columbia MD.

BANTRAK participates in National Conventions when possible. BANTRAK hosted or co-hosted the 1993 NSC Convention in Baltimore, the 2001 NSC Convention in Lancaster and the 2011 NSC Convention in Hershey. BANTRAK also had major participation in the 2004 NSC Convention in Chantilly, the 2008 NSC Convention in Louisville and provided the lobby layout for the 2007 NSC Convention in Hartford.

BANTRAK also does many smaller events in places like Gaithersburg MD, Silver Spring MD, and Bowie MD. These events are typically set up using TTRAK modules.

How does BANTRAK decide to do a show?

When BANTRAK receives a request to do a show there is a simple process that is followed:

  1. The Club does an informal poll to determine how many members would possibly be interested in participating.

  2. If there is Club interest, a call is made for a volunteer to coordinate the show. If no one is willing to coordinate, the Club will decline.

  3. If someone volunteers to coordinate, he will get more information on the possible show (date, time, place, space available, etc.) and then poll the Club to determine the number of members willing to participate and at what level (NTRAK/OneTRAK/T-Trak).

  4. If, in the coordinators judgment, there are sufficient members participating to do the show, the show will be added to the Club’s schedule. If not, the Club will not do the show.

How are show coordinators chosen?

Show coordinators, like all positions in the Club, are on a voluntary basis. If you want to coordinate a show all you have to do is raise your hand.

What are the duties of the show coordinator?

The show coordinator is the most important person in any BANTRAK event. They are the central point of contact, the chief decision maker and the head troubleshooter all in one. Duties of the coordinator include:

Due to the importance of the show coordinator, the myriad of duties and the amount of time required, BANTRAK also requires at least one co-coordinator for each show. The co-coordinator serves as a back-up in case an emergency arises that prevents the coordinator from carrying out his duties. In that case the co-coordinator can step in and ensure the show goes off as planned.

Coordinators have "final say" in all decisions regarding the show. This is sometimes referred to as "BANTRAK Rule 1".

What is a day captain?

For shows like the B&O Festival of Trains that run longer than the standard weekend show and the Coordinator can’t be physically present for the whole period of the show, the Club will have Day Captains who act as "mini-coordinators" for that day.

Day Captains are assigned by Show Coordinators and have all of the responsibility and authority of the Coordinators.

How do I get my module in a show?

Simply volunteer your module when the show coordinator puts out a call for modules.  Generally, you are expected to be available for set-up and tear-down if your module is participating in a show.

NOTE: Due to space constraints, it may not be possible to use all modules that are volunteered for a given show. In that case the coordinator chooses which modules will participate.

NOTE: It is unacceptable behavior to show up at teardown just to pick-up your module and leave. Members having modules in the show are expected to help with teardown of Club equipment as well as their own.

" I can’t be at set-up and/or tear-down. Can my module still be in the show?"

It depends; that decision is left up to the coordinator for that show.

If you are unavailable for set-up and the coordinator is willing to allow you to place your module in the show, you will need to arrange to have the module delivered to the show before final clamp-down. You will need to have someone familiar with your module available to help with it’s set-up and answer questions if the module includes any unusual features.

If you are unavailable for tear-down, you will need to have someone willing to break-down your module for you and transport it home from the show site.

How do I get a run slot for a show?

While each show coordinator handles the mechanics of allocating run slots a bit differently, run slots are generally determined by the level of participation (sometimes referred to as "sweat equity"). Priority for run slots at a show is in the following order:

  1. Those contributing modules.

  2. Those assisting with set-up.

  3. Those assisting with tear-down.

  4. Everyone else. It is generally a good idea, if you are interested in running at a show, to let the coordinator know.

NOTE: If you have a run slot on the afternoon of the final day of a show, you are expected to stay and help with teardown. Leaving without helping is looked on unfavorably and might result in forfeiture of future run slots.

How do I get display/sales tables at a show?

BANTRAK occasionally receives complimentary tables from local shows/vendors in lieu of appearance fees. The club considers any extra tables not used in support of the layout(s) or displays as extra/not in-use and therefore offers them to club members (at no cost) as a "benefit". Tables are traditionally used by members to sell personal, train related collections and items. In the past, members using tables have acknowledged the benefit with a financial donation to the club however, this is not required. It is the show coordinator’s option whether or not a "Club Table" to sell inventory is "set-up".

Club members wishing to be put on the waiting list for extra tables not in use by the club should make their request to the show coordinator (same process as participating with modules in a show). It is encouraged that requests should be made for single or multiple days, and should be in full or half table increments in case table allocation is needed.

Typically, club members take half or single tables. Therefore, allocation of display/sales tables is typically not an issue for a Club our size. In the event that the number of requests exceeds the number of tables available, the show coordinator will inform the Treasure/President for guidance and resolution.

Club members are responsible for their own tables. Do not assume/expect other club members to watch your table.

If you are setting up a personal display at a club allocated table, it is considered "in bad taste" to set-up allocated display/sales tables prior to the majority of "Club Work/Sweat Equity" being finished (i.e. "Sweat Equity" should always come before personal set-up.)

Note: In an effort to make the best use of limited resources (as needed), it is recommended that vertical sales displays be constructed by club members to add "display space" versus requesting "additional tables".

Section 3 - Modules

Do I have to build a module if I join BANTRAK?

While construction of a module is not an absolute requirement, it is highly encouraged. If you are unable to build a module, you can always purchase one or adopt a module that needs a home.

How long do I have to build a module?

There is no official time in which to construct a module. In general, the Club urges members to use their first year of membership to learn the intricacies of module construction as well as the needs of the Club before starting construction of their first module.

What if I have no carpentry skills?

If you don’t have the skills or the tools to build a module, you can always purchase a frame or request assistance from other Club members to construct one.

How do I adopt a module?

Members may adopt a module in lieu of building one. Check with the Club Officers if you are interested. Adopted modules become the property of those adopting them and are required to store, transport and maintain them.

What modules are available for adoption?

Modules available for adoption changes continuously. Check with the Club Officers to see what might be available.

What is meant by "community property" on a module?

A module is considered to be the property of its owner and the Club will normally not make any changes or repairs to a module unless it impacts one of the three main lines (Red, Yellow or Blue). These lines are necessary to operate the layout and are considered community property. If an issue arises on one or more of these lines that cause train operations to stop, Club members are allowed to take action to resolve the issue. All circumstances are resolved differently according to their situation and resolutions should focus on clear operations. BANTRAK knows the sensitiveness for those who have crossovers on their modules or scenery covering the tracks. We try to avoid damaging others property where possible when an issue arises on a track.

Section 4 - Financial Matters

How is BANTRAK funded?

BANTRAK’s main income derives from two sources; Club dues and raffle layout proceeds.

Occasionally the Club also generates income from show honorariums and the sale of donated items.

What expenses does BANTRAK have?

BANTRAK’s major reoccurring annual expenses are:

  1. Liability insurance.

  2. National NTRAK dues.

  3. Meeting reimbursements.

  4. Website costs.

  5. Trailer related expenses.

The Club also pays all expenses related to the repair and maintenance of Club property.

The Club normally also makes at least one charitable contribution each year.

What does the Club own?

The Club owns the major items needed to transport, store, set-up and operate a layout.

Specific items are inventoried annually for insurance purposes.

The locations of these items are kept on the inventory sheet.

How are decisions made on purchasing items for the Club?

BANTRAKs policy is that spending Club funds requires authorization by vote of the Club membership at a regular meeting. The member seeking authority to make a purchase or reimburse an expense will make a motion, get a second, and then have the Club members present vote on the issue.

For major financial decisions, like the Club trailer or DCC system, BANTRAKs policy is to do a more formal multi-step process:

  1. First, a committee is formed to study the options and make a formal recommendation to the Club. That committee will make a presentation to the Club as a whole at a regularly scheduled Club meeting. No formal vote on the issue will be taken at this meeting.

  2. Before the next meeting, all Club members will be notified via email and/or the Club newsletter of the recommendation of the committee and that a vote on the issue will be taken at the next meeting so they can be present if they wish to vote.

  3. At that meeting, the committee will do a short recap of their presentation from the previous meeting and the Club will hold a vote on the issue.

NOTE: There is no set dollar amount that determines whether an item is considered a major financial item. That decision is made by the Club president based on a consensus of the membership.

There are some exceptions to the above procedure:

How do I get reimbursed for items I purchase for the Club?

To be reimbursed for an expense, the purchase must first be authorized (see above).

Once the expense has been authorized, receipts for the expense must be given to the Club Treasurer, who will then cut a reimbursement check.

Section 5 - Raffle Layout

Does BANTRAK do a raffle layout every year?

Yes, since the raffle layout is probably the single biggest source of Club income every year. The coordination, materials and promotion are vital to the Club’s operations.

Where does BANTRAK get the materials for the layout?

The materials are a combination of donated items and Club purchases.

The Club annually sends out donation letters to major N-Scale manufacturers asking for items. Every effort is made to ensure those items received as donations are used on the raffle layout (if possible). In the event when donated items are not used (i.e. "excess items") on the raffle layout, they are first offered to Club Members (for sale) to raise funds to purchase the remaining required items. Remaining items are inventoried and stored.

Who builds the layout?

The layout is built by the members of the Club as a whole. Each member contributes to the best of their ability under the leadership of the Raffle Layout Coordinator.

How is the raffle layout coordinator chosen?

Like the show coordinator, the raffle layout coordinator is a volunteer so if you want the job all you have to do is raise your hand.

What are the duties of the raffle layout coordinator?

The raffle layout coordinator does just what the title says, they coordinate the construction of the raffle layout.

Specific duties include:

Who sells the raffle tickets?

All Club members are expected to sell tickets for the raffle layout. At some shows, members will be assigned specific shifts to sell tickets. At other shows whoever is available will be asked to sell tickets.

Section 6 - Merchandise

How do I get BANTRAK clothing (shirts, hats, etc.)

BANTRAK only maintains a very limited stock of clothing in inventory. Generally, there are only a few extras ordered from previous buys. The Club made the decision several years ago that it wasn’t cost effective to maintain an inventory of BANTRAK shirts, so the logo was digitized by two manufacturers so that members could order items as needed. BC Junction was originally chosen since they regularly attended the GSMTS, after they stopped attending the Club shifted their orders to BJ’s Custom Embroidery of Hagerstown, MD.

Members can order items any time by contacting BJ’s directly either via the website or by phone (301-733-9500 or 800-713-7823).

The Club will generally do group purchases of clothing items on an annual basis.

How do I get BANTRAK Club cars?

Any BANTRAK Club cars still in stock can be purchased from the Club Store.

How often does BANTRAK do Club cars?

BANTRAK typically does Club cars for major milestones in the Club history, and more often if there is enough Club interest.

Previous BANTRAK Club cars include:

NOTE: Club member Ralph Grutzmacher personally had a special run of Baltimore Belt Line cylindrical hoppers done by Bowser. These cars were numbered 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

What is a group buy?

Occasionally the Club will get together and do a "group buy", where members pool their orders to either get a group discount or to save on shipping.

The Club generally does a group buy on shirts at least once a year.

The Club has done at least two group buys of DCC equipment.

Section 7 - Miscellaneous

Does BANTRAK support DCC?

BANTRAK supports both standard DC and DCC operation. BANTRAK has created a set of switchboxes (aka the "Peacekeeper" boxes) to allow easy and rapid switching of lines between DC and DCC. Use of the switchboxes allows the layout to support use of both systems at once (on different lines of course), and allows each member of the Club to run using whichever system they prefer.

What DCC system does BANTRAK use?

BANTRAK uses the Digitrax DCC system. This system was chosen because it was the one used by most East Coast Ntrak Clubs and was the one most Club members with DCC experience were familiar with.

BANTRAK requires each Club member to purchase their own throttle. The Club has one throttle that is used for testing and troubleshooting. It can be borrowed in an emergency but is not for regular use. The original resolution required that all throttles used on the Club layout have radio capability, to avoid a jumble of cords within the layout.

BANTRAK supports both simplex (DT-400R, UT-4R) and duplex (DT-402D, UT-4D) radio systems.

Does BANTRAK do other standards besides Ntrak?

In addition to NTRAK, some BANTRAK Club members also have oNeTrak and T-TRAK modules.

What is oNeTrak?

oNeTrak is a variant of Ntrak that uses only one or two tracks instead of the required three tracks of NTRAK.

oNeTrak was originally developed by Northern Virginia NTRAK (NVNtrak) to do single track scenery.

How does BANTRAK’s oNeTrak differ from the original oNeTrak?

BANTRAK developed its own Club standards for its oNeTrak division. These standards include using Atlas Code 55 track, DCC only operation, a standard leg system and a common scenery theme (modern mid-Atlantic). BANTRAK oNeTrak standards can be found on the Club website.

What is T-TRAK?

T-Trak is a standard using smaller modules featuring KATO Unitrack designed to sit on a table top. The T-Trak standard was originally developed in Japan, where Club members typically need to transport modules to shows using public transportation. The standard T-Trak module is designed to fit on the owners lap while riding the subway.

Besides its small size, the other major advantage of T-Trak is that it can be set-up rapidly. Modules are designed to be snapped together and the use of the table eliminates the need for leveling.