Free Mo module standards

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by Jim Krause, Jul 11, 2006.

  1. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I submitted this question in the Narrow Gauge forum and maybe I should have been here instead. I'm wondering if any of you folks have had experience with On30 modules in the free mo system? If so, have any standards been established for On30 modules. I looked up free mo on the internet but don't find anything specific to On30.
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I am not sure if there are any modular standards for On30... Have you looked through the "resources" thread at the top of this forum? Does the NMRA give any standards?

    If not, I would suggest a combination of the NMRA clearances for On30 plus HOTrak standards (or other HO scale standard), since On30 equipment at rail height approximates HO sizes.

    Take a look at for my local modular club standards.

    If you are a reader of RMC you may know of Trevor Marshall who is a regular contributor. He is building a modular/sectional layout in On2, and he wrote an article not too long ago about how he constructed his sections.

  3. dwyaneward

    dwyaneward New Member

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

  5. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    There are probably two reasons for building a layout in module format.

    The first is for your own personal use. We've all been in the situation where we've spent a lot of time building a nice layout in the basement. And then we decide to move and we have to junk everything that we've built. If you build your layout in modular sections, it's relatively easy to dismantle the layout and move.

    The second reason for building a layout in modular format is to have a hell of a lot of fun running trains with a bunch of guys on a huge layout which you could never even dream of building in your lifetime. Each person builds a module or a series of modules according to specific standards - height, width, length, track location, wiring, control systems, operating rules, waybills, dispatchers, etc, etc.

    Using Ottawa Valley HOTRAK as an example (simply because I belong to HOTRAK), we get together 6 - 8 times a year. We rent a big hall. We put out a call for modules. Based upon the response, one of our members "designs" the layout. This is simply a matter of dragging and dropping the available modules into some layout planning software (XTrCad) and making sure that things fit.

    On the Friday evening of our meet, everyone brings their modules to the hall. The modules are assembled according to the layout plan. Because the modules are built to standards, the tracks between modules connect together, the track power connects together (4-wire trailer plugs), and the control system (Digitrax DCC) connects together. A couple of "section foremen" make sure that things are being pulled together and that assembly proceeds at a reasonable pace.

    By Saturday morning, we are ready to "play trains". We have a short debriefing session, trains assignments are handed out (or rather they are requested), we strap on the headsets for communicating with the dispatcher, and we get the trains rolling. Trains usually run until 9:30 pm on Saturday. We start again Sunday morning around 8am. We pull the plug around 4pm. By 5:30 pm you'd never know that we had occupied that hall the whole weekend. By 6:30pm (I have a bit of a distance to get home), my car is unloaded, my modules packed away, and I'm off with my wife to our favourite restaurant for supper. When I get home, I'm like the kid who tried to eat the whole thing. I don't want to look at the trains for a couple of weeks. I'm overstuffed with running trains. And I've got the biggest grin on my face - much like the cat that ate the canary.
  6. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Now the real question is this. Why should you follow some module standards?

    The answer depends on what you plan to do with your modules.

    If you plan to build modules in your basement so that you can take your layout with you when you move, then the only reason you might want to take a look at some standards is to get some good ideas on how to construct your modules. For example, I mentioned 4-wire trailer plugs, Digitrax DCC. You might want to incorporate those ideas into the construction of your modules. If you look at the HOTRAK website, you might get some ideas about using styrofoam, rather than L-girder and plaster so that your modules will be nice and light. You might want to look at some websites such as to get some ideas as to how the modules are built.

    However, if you are planning to build your modules for use in a club environment, then you will definitely have to follow the standards set by your club. These standards may have to be revised in light of newer methods of construction (yes, there are clubs who still use ½" plywood and 2"x 4" to build their modules), train control (yes, there are clubs who still use analog, rather than DCC) operations (yes, there are still clubs who simply run the trains around in circles all day), and a whole bunch of other reasons.

    As to the standards your club wants to follow, there's no rule which says you have to follow NMRA, Free-mo, or HOTRAK standards. You use the standards that will best fit your situation. But I do suggest that you take the best of each of the standards that you find and incorporate them into your standards.
  7. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I was particuarily interested in free mo module standards for On30. I did visit the free mo web site and they do have standards for O scale but no mention of On30. NMRA has standards for On30 but they are entirely different than free mo. NMRA is more "edge of the module" oriented with their track locations; whereas free mo track locations are more centered on the module to allow the modules to be connected no matter which way the module is turned. At this point its all theoretical anyway since I can't find anyone interested in a On30 modular group around my area.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    You're ahead of your time, it seems! :D Perhaps you should draft something up, and submit it to Free-mo and/or NMRA. ;) I would think that a HO free-mo type standard would work, modified for the clearances of On30 equipment (not really all that different).

    As Bob said, take the best of whatever you can find... If you do it first, you can do it the way you want.

  9. gcodori

    gcodori Member

  10. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Note that, for club modules, the location of the track according to standards is only applicable for the track at the end of the module. This is so that your module can connect to other members' modules. For conventional NMRA HO-scale modules this is 2 1/2" and 4 1/2" from the front edge of the module. For Free-Mo modules (which are 24" wide at the end of the modules) it is 12".

    In between the ends of the module (or set of modules), the mainline track can wander to your heart's content. However, that is only if you are going to belong to a club. In your case, where it seems you will be building your modules for ease of transportation when you move, you really aren't concerned with the location of the mainline track between modules. So, go for it and start building. As has been said above, who knows, you may be setting standards for On30.

    Have fun. (I am!)

    Bob M.
  11. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    In a similar vein, I’m thinking about an S scale Free-mo modular layout. I’m finding I’m a lone wolf up here in Reno as far as scale track goes. There are some American Flyer operators here, who might be persuaded to come over to the dark side once they see what can be done. I’m leaning towards the Free-mo since my layout plans will be point to point at home. I’d also like to be able to move it down the road and depending on the new location Free-mo standards make sense. There is a Free-mo group in Ontario Canada in S who has decided on their groups needs and have standards in place. I like the majority of them but am leaning towards bigger rail for my module. Being a continent away, doubt my choice would be problem unless others out west follow them. Even then that wouldn’t be an issue since I could modify the end sections to match the smaller rail.

    Back to your On30 free-mo discussion. VBG The 2’ wide end with the track centered seems to be the standard across the scales. Different legs can be used to match heights. DCC wiring works for any DCC system right? One group my decide on Digitrax and another on NCE. If you are like me, that is probably a moot point. VBG

    It will be interesting to see what comes of this discussion.

  12. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Greg: It seems we are both in areas of low interest in modular model railroading. I think I'll go with the free mo standards for O scale and start a simple module just for my own satisfaction. If and when I ever get some interest going around here, I can argue for my point of view. Good luck with that S scale module.
  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Fre-mo sound like a group called Interrail that was doing N gauge modules about 30 years ago. Their standards were that the tracks meet the layout edge at right angles and the track spacing. (Probably height and that edges had to be straight!)
    I remember that they had a couple of hexagonal module (6 sides) that someone had built as a challenge -- one had a plain wye on it; the other had two wyes on it, crossing over and was called "Wye Knot".

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