Mayewood Going Modular?

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by 77railer, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. 77railer

    77railer Member

    Hey guys,

    What do you think about the idea of having a modular layout here at Mayewood? We can use the existing layout for the few shows that we can attend, but I think it would be more of an individual experience for the kids if maybe one or two of them worked on a modul. I guess the first priority would be getting the lumber and track and setting the modules up so the trains could run. Then after we are sure we have a working setup they can add scenery etc. I have no idea how to do a modular layout and would really like some ideas. I have seen 4 foot modules but Im thinking with the amount of time we have and the limited resources that 2 foot modules would be better as it would let the kids get a sense of success, and if we started on it at the beginning of the year by christmas we should have a decent layout. I welcome all ideas, and look foward to what ya'll have to say.

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi 77...

    For some ideas on modular layouts, visit , my local modular club. A 2x4 foot module is a great project, as it would not take too long to make/finish, and can be an individual creation - whatever you want can go on it. Standards for wiring and physical connections ensure that everything goes together well.

  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think you can accomplish much more than you realise with a modular layout. The biggest challenge will be to build four corner modules so that a complete layout can be set up. If you have two kids working on a module or even two kids working on one module at a time and building two modules in a school year, then each kid would be able to have their own module. You would need to decide standards for connectiing the modules together, joiner tracks, etc. You might need to build the module frames for the kids in order to insure that the corners are 90* and that the modules are straight. I would also suggest that you need to run a drop wire to a main buss for each section of track on a module in order to get reliable electrical operation. That will still leave the joiner tracks with rail joiners carrying the power. That is not a good thing since rail joiners are not really reliable electrical connections. Now that Atlas offers packages of 1 inch or 2 inch straight sections of snap track, I would reccomend doing a 1/2 inch set back or a 1 inch set back for joiner tracks. A 1 inch or 2 inch joiner track will allow even the shortest locomotives to bridge the gaps and insure power to all locomotives all of the way around the layout.
  4. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    If you're not concerned with joining up to 'outside' modules, you can do whatever you want. 4 foot modules aren't bad, but for kids they may be a little big to carry, and they are sometimes a challenge to fit in certain cars for transport. 2 foot isn't much, but for beginners it's probably enough to keep them busy. Straight modules are pretty easy; corner modules are pretty critical, so you'd definately want to supervise construction to make sure they fit. And if you don't have 4 reliable corner owners, you won't be able to complete a circuit. Our club decided to build a couple 'club' corners that would always be available...we also made them reversible (mathematically a nightmare) so they can be either inside or outside corners.
    I agree that each module should have a power feed, as you will see voltage drops from fussy connections. If you're not worried about the standard, use a commonly available electrical connector (N-trak uses a sadly outdated and expensive type of connector that is hard to find).
  5. 77railer

    77railer Member

    Can someone point me to a site that contains benchwork, standards, maybe ones that the nmra suggest...If we were to follow those standards and lets say another club did as well would that suggest that we could build a layout between the two clubs?

  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Try . I do not know how our standards compare to NMRA, or even if modular stds exist at NMRA.

    For a how-to, check - he's a member of the HOTrak club, and sometimes posts on The Gauge.

    If you PM me your mailing address, I can send a CD with pictures.

  7. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    For connecting use Chocolate-block electrical wiring connectors (normally come from any DIY outlet in blocks of about 12) with nails in one(screwed to one board), and plug them into another (screwed to the next board) and tighten the screws - probably the cheapest way of doing it you can get, simple to join and take apart, wire, and put together. All it needs is a screwdriver and wiring, no soldering. Your idea of modules is great - aim for 36" long - 24" is a bit short to do anything, assuming you are working in HO. For joining, hinges with removable pins replaced by nails or wire L shapes - or suitcase connectors - is easiest. You need to think about whether you need to have legs( one module will need four , then every other module joins and needs two to support it) or if it is going to lay on tables. Fit Tee-nuts in the end of all legs, with a nut and bolt screwed into it to adjust them for levelling - floors in display or club-rooms rarely are level, and it stops rolling stock running away.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  8. Freelancer

    Freelancer Member

    77railer you may want to check out Free-Form Modular, it is operated as a point to point or point to loop so it may not appeal to the kids, but if they were interested it would be easily connectable to any other groups that are following the same guidelines. It definitely has its good points but it also has its bad points. Here are a couple of links that you can check out.

    Good luck!
  9. ausien

    ausien Active Member

    Hi Leroy,
    If/when you go modular, good luck, when you start to build them, try to modify the mayewood layout to join them to it, you might like the results..have a good one..steve
  10. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member


    What are "chocolate block" connectors? Are these the same as what we call "terminal strips" over here?
  11. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Steve - I think so. Small brass blocks with a hole drilled through and two screws that the wire is trapped by, the whole thing wrapped in plastics insulating material so they don't touch. Come in strips about 10 or 12 long and in about 4 different sizes.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    A bit of googling has turned up a number of sites that seem to indicate that chocolate block and terminal strips are the same thing, more or less... :D

  13. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    It sounds as if your group is a school. For easy step-by-step instructions for building the modules, visit my website.

    This involves no cutting of the wood as it is all done by your building supply dealer. Your involvement is laying out the holes to be drilled, drilling the holes, installing T-nuts, gluing the wood together and installing the styrofoam decking.

    If you are using DCC, it involves some routering out of some holes in the side of the wood but this can usually be done by some adults or by the students in your wood-working shop.

    If you use styrofoam as the deck, a 4-foot module is very light and can be easily carried by two persons. There's no more work involved in building a 4-foot module as with a 2-foot module. Two modules can be "boxed" together for easy transportation. The limitation on the length of the module is the size of the vehicle used for tranportation. If you have a mini-van, you can easily transport a 6-foot module. However, if it's a sub-compact, you might even have trouble tranporting a 4-foot module.

    For standards of construction, I suggest you take a look at the standards for Ottawa Valley HOTRAK. They are well proven and rugged standards.

    You don't necessarily have to have the track return to the middle or the edge of the end of each module if you aren't concerned about changing the layout each time you set up your modules. If you take a look at our recent setup held a week ago, you will see how we can mix-and-match modules to have any type of track plan we want.

    I would strongly suggest going DCC as it introduces the concept of computer control and makes wiring of the modules very easy. From the basic setup for DCC, you can get into computer control for those students interested in computers. Once set up for DCC, all it requires is an investment of about $100 into computer interface hardware and some software which is free. For information on the computer interface hardware, check out this link
    The software is free. You can find information at

    For connectors between the modules, use a 4-wire trailer connector that you can get for about $1.99 Cdn. Use 14 AWG wire when wiring in the track power buss.

    We use Digitrax DCC at Ottawa Valley HOTRAK so that train control from the throttles is via a Local Area Network, or what Digitrax calls LocoNet. This is simply 6-wire telephone components which are readily available. If your modules aren't going to be travelling a lot, you might want to look at some surface mount telephone jacks. These typically have one jack on the front and 3 jacks on the side. This would allow the easy wiring of the LocoNet between modules.

    Don't use mechanical connectors as these can cause real problems and cost extra money. A good soldering gun, solder, flux, shrink tubing and wire staples are all you need for wiring the track power buss. You'll find some how-to instructions on my website.

    If you need any further help, let me know.

    Bob M.
  14. 77railer

    77railer Member

    Tthanks gang, yall are coming up with some good ideas. Im thinking that we are going to go with the 4 foot modules and use a 36" flex and a 9" straight leaving 1.5" on either end of the module for use of a 3" connector track. Im thinking about having the outside track at the ends 3" from the tie to the edge and the next track 2" apart from tie to tie. Sound good?

  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    If you do curves, you will have to increase the distance between the tracks slightly - say 2 1/4 or 2 1/2" versus 2" apart on the straights. I would also suggest a 6" joiner track that will help overcome any slight variations in horizontal or vertical alignment. This would allow you (on a module with no turnouts) to have a 36" flextrack, with 3" of snap track at each end to interface with the joiners. 3" and 6" snap track are readily available in bulk packs from Atlas.

  16. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Just to add to what Andrew has said (since we both belong to the same module railroad club), a 3" joiner track might do the job - if every member in your club was a precision module builder and if your modules weren't subject to wide fluctuations in humidity, heat, etc. However, typically, you end up with "ski jumps" between the modules. A 6" joiner track is more forgiving for those ski jumps than a 3" joiner track.

    Another point. While all Code 100, Code 83, or whatever code of rail you use have the same height, the height of the ties varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, the ties on Atlas snaptrack are thicker in height than your favourite brand of flex track. The end result is that, with frequent assembly and disassembly of your modules, the rail will separate from your flex track. Also, original construction, temperature and use will be such that the track no longer lines up with the rails on the next modules. The way to overcome this problem is to terminate the flextrack into a 1 1/2" or 3" snaptrack. This way, the rail height on your module (including the thickness of the ties) is at the same height as your joiner track.

    If necessary, you can also spike down the rails at the end of the module with some track spikes if your modules will be assembled by a lot of different people who don't exercise the same caution as you might when assembling your modules.

    Another little trick is to lightly sand the roadbed from the end of the rail to the end of the module so that the joiner track is "slightly suspended" between the two modules. In effect, the joiner track is supported by the ends of the track on the two modules.

    This will also allow you to epoxy some paper to the underside of the joiner track, spray paint the ties, rail of the joiner track, and paper (I presume you're going to paint the ties and rail on your module (visit my website for a look at how this is done)) . You can then ballast the joiner track so that it melds into the scenery and roadbed of your modules.

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