Building Balloon Loops

Balloon Loops using Junctions

In situations where the Inner and Outer tracks are, in fact, the same track going in opposite directions, each end will need a balloon loop to make that happen. Depending on the equipment being run on the layout, this can be a custom module with a very tight turning radius to conserve space. But if the standard T-TRAK turning radii are to be maintained, the combination of 3 standard modules offers the most flexibility and allows for the creation of some inner track configurations that provide for independent operation of additional trains.

By using an End Cap, Outside Corner, and Junction module in combination, a balloon loop can be created. And if space permits, these modules can be combined with other straight modules to further enhance the loop and add more interest to the layout. This technique also permits the reuse of the components for other configurations when a balloon loop is not desired. And, for shows, it is much easier to transport and store the standard size modules than a single module that incorporates the entire loop.

One caution should be noted on the diagram below. The S-curve created when mating the Junction module with the Outside Corner module can make it difficult for long equipment (80-foot passenger cars, or long locomotives) to navigate the curves without problems. Inserting straight modules (like at the right end) will eliminate the S-curve.

Also, all balloon loops that result in the connection of the outside track to the inside track have a potential of creating a short circuit if not repeated on the other end of the layout. Normal T-TRAK layouts assume that the inside and outside tracks will be operated independently. So if a balloon or cross-over switch make the two tracks meet, care must be taken that a short is not created. This subject is treated more thoroughly under Wiring Considerations, but for this topic, it should be noted that when incorporating a balloon to join the outside track back into the inside track, a similar loop should be present to compliment that joining on the other end of the layout.

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