As most of us nTRAKers know, the first NTRAK module was assembled out on the West Coast and displayed at the 1973 MRIA (Model Railroad Industrial Association) Show in Costa Mesa, California. The idea inspired such enthusiasm that a group of modelers decided to construct enough modules to form an oval layout for up-coming shows the following year. The 1974 NMRA National Meet saw a 12 ft. X 72 ft. layout running 50 to 100 car trains all during the meet. It was a very impressive sight and from that point on, the idea of NTRAK began to flourish. A newsletter was soon established and in 1977 they began a regular publishing schedule of every other month.
I guess I saw my first NTRAK promotional material sometime in the late 70's or early 80's but at that point my hobby time was about 75% model airplanes and 25% model trains. My first memory of an NTRAK layout is David Coates setting in the middle of a bare plywood, circular layout (4 of the battleship corners) with a couple of trains running around and around. This was at a SAMRA Jamboree in a motel on Austin Highway, sometime in 1983 or 1984. Shortly thereafter, I began to think more about model trains. After all, when you loose control of a model airplane and it hits the ground, it is gone!!! Model trains don’t break as easily.
At that point most of the N-Scale modelers were also members of SAMRA and, as I understand it, the four large, battleship corners were financed by the club and were therefore property of SAMRA. Individual members then began to construct straight modules to go with the corners. Shortly thereafter, David Coates purchased the four corners from SAMRA and began working on his freight and passenger yards while Bill Carpenter started construction on his 8 ft. industrial complex. For the next two or three years, the N-Scale group operated within SAMRA and as part of SAMRA Club rosters of the N-Scale members during those early years seem to have disappeared, if they ever even existed. Some of the earlier names that I have found are listed below, but I am sure there are others that I have missed.
Robert Arrington, Cliff Bemrose, Bill Carpenter, David Coates, Tom Fairchild, Rick Surber and Bruce Whalen.
In the 1988 - 1989 time period, SAMRA was lucky enough to have a semi-permanent meeting place at Terrell Plaza However, during the second or third quarter of 1989, SAMRA negotiated for a five year lease on a building located at 4025 Naco-Perrin. This deal was to have a profound effect on the future of the N-Scale modelers within the next year or so. It was also sometime in 1989 that I decided to join SAMRA. However, I had attended some of the annual Jamborees before. that time as well as attending some of the gatherings of the N-Scale group.
I began to get serious about N-Scale during the time that David worked in a rehabilitation center up on Babcock. The group used to bring their modules and set up on the gym floor for a short running session on Saturdays. I went to a couple of meetings up there, looked at the construction techniques, looked through Bill Carpenter’s collection of NTRAK Newsletters and ended up purchasing my first “How To” manual.