Modular Standard for the Gauge

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by 77railer, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. 77railer

    77railer Member

    Hey guys,
    I was just thinking how cool it would be if we came up with a standard as far as track placement from the edges as well as connections etc, and built a module or two from that standard. I know that all of us arent close enough to play trains together but how cool would it be to go on vacation and take a mod with you and hook up to play trains with another member...or maybe even meet at a show somewhere and have a Gauge layout. My club here at Mayewood and the one I hope to start in sumter would use the Gauge Standard, right now all the members in the sumter club are members on the Gauge....mostly b/c thats just me right now,lol, but anyway....what do you think?

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi 77...

    At our modular club, we have periodic struggles with / updates of the standards that we use. I would highly suggest that you look at adopting someone else's standards (for example the NMRA) as a much easier way to get what you want - interoperability.

    If you (Mayewood) are using modules as a way to easily build (and transport in the future) a layout, you can of course come up with whatever system you want. I am sure that Gaugers will be happy to help!

  3. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    We did something like that last summer with N-Trak modules. Met here at my place and hooked up a couple modules together, then had a big BBQ. Unfortunately the event was kind of sparsely attended, but it was still a lot of fun to meet fellow Gaugers in person.

  4. Catt

    Catt Guest


    I like it,I like it. :D

    How does this sound? We start with Nscale and base it on the TTRAK specs,but instead of using KATO Uni-Track we use regular ATLAS code 80 or maybe PECO code 55 track(they are compatable).Make them a table top type module but use standard lengthsin even increments like 12",24", 36",or even 48"

    One other recomendation is to keep to a two track mainline and a maximum width of 18".

    Any body else got any thoughts.Remember this just for N scale,what ideas have you got for HO,HOn3,HOn30,O scale,On3,on30 etc?
  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    There is no national standard for HO, like the Ntrak standard. Too bad, really.
    What there is, however, is a neverending flamewar over who's standards, or lack thereof, should be adopted.
    If there is to be a "gauge module", let's resolve the standard quickly, with a minimum of ego baiting. Please?
    I belong to one of "those" groups, and I've reached the point where, when I open Email, I simply check all the mail from that group, and delete it unread. :rolleyes: :confused:

    .....and it was worth the trip "over the river and through the woods" to be there.
    It was a "gauge" weekend, they fit, they worked, and it was fun! Thanks again Val. :thumb:
  6. Catt

    Catt Guest

    If we could all agree on HO module standards we (Gauge members) would actually be setting up international HO modular standards. :)

    Anybody want to take on the chore of doing a rough draft (of how they would like the standards to be) and then share with the rest of us.

    Remember these would only be suggestions to start some worthwhile dialog on some HOTRAK standards.
  7. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

  8. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    There are a number of different factors you'll need to consider when designing the standards. The first is "what is the design goal of the modules." That's a more complex question than it appears.

    The obvious answer is "compatibility", but that leads to the question "compatibility with what?" Just TheGauge modules, or do you want to be compatible with others as well? If so, which others?

    The second part of the design goals centers around "what type of model railroading do we want to focus on?" Generic MRR? Operations centered? Scenery? Public display? Design for DCC, or not? The standards that would derive from each of these will be different, to varying degrees.

    The third part of the design goals centers around complexity. How complex or simple do we aim for in the construction, transport, and setup of the modules? An aspect of complexity is the availability of materials to the builder.

    With the forgoing on the table, the single most critical element in modular standards is the interface between modules. The interface consists of track setbacks, track spacing, electrical connections, and the physical interface between the module benchwork. The last is perhaps the simplest: the interface must be smooth, perpendicular to the plane of the track, and provide sufficient area for clamping to other modules.

    Track setbacks are trickier, but most of the challenge in setbacks is merely visual. In truth, it doesn't matter whether your track is set back 1" from the front edge, or 10", as long as viewers don't mind a "pier" like look to the modules, some sticking out further than others. The setback from the ends is a little more critical, but given the remarkable facility that module builders have of getting "close" to the standards, but not actually at the standards, one could almost accept that X is the target, and have flextrack and Xuron cutters at hand.

    Track spacing, however, is an issue with little room for variance. Unless the standard is going to be a single track, then the design goals must drive this factor. Off hand, I don't know what the spacing between tracks is for N Track, BendTrack, or TTrack, but unless one has compelling reasons to vary from those, I would suggest either N Track's or TTrack spacing. Doing so will allow you to mate up with those standards, albeit without full functionality, and probably not within the context of a 'sanctioned' set-up where everything must meet NTrak or TTrack standards. BendTrack is a little tougher, because it effectively has 2 pairs of tracks at each interface, but if one is willing to consider treating each pair as a distinct interface, it is doable.

    Finally, there is the electrical interface. Here, I'll simply come out and state that the standard should be DCC friendly from the gitgo. That means use 12g wire. Second, each distinct line on the module should have its own bus. Third, each bus should terminate in blocks on each end. From the terminal blocks, connection lines with appropriate connectors can be run. The advantage to this method is it is very easy to change from using Molex to Cinch Jones to Powerpoles to whatever connectors between each module. It also allows you to run feeders out from the terminal blocks to the track, rather than tapping directly into the bus wires.

    After these standards are sorted out, then other elements can be addressed. Height from floor, length increments, minimum and maximum widths, backdrops, minimum radius, maximum grade, turnouts, track code, etc. I would suggest that the minimum radius be no less than 12", but also no more than 15". I also suggest that the maximum grade be established at 2.5-3%. One of the most bothersome limitations for many people with the existing modular standards is their two-dimensionality, and BIG curves. Yes, we all like to run on big curves, but the radius in NTrak is so great that there isn't much room on a 4' module for variability in the track plan. This and the 3 lines, no grade, and "fixed" entry/exit points for the track are the reasons that N Trak modules look so much alike.

    Remember, at the most fundamental level, there's only two things that must be standardized: how the tracks meet up with one another, and how the electrons flow from one module to the next.
  9. 77railer

    77railer Member

    I hope I didnt open up a can of worms....this N trak that yall are reffering to...Im supposing that is Nscale? Couldnt we commit to spacing/setback and use it for any gauge? For instance we could say that it had to be 5 inches from the front and 3 inches from center to center, and 1/2 or 1 inch from the ends? Again I dont know much about modules....but Im learning fast..thanks to our new forum....

  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I have some specs that are about 25 years old from Interrail which was a very flexible module standard. (I think it was a reaction to N Trak). They specified track spacing at the edge of the module, that the tracks had to meet the edge at 90 degrees, distance back (?) and height. And the electric connections. Their layout was a rambling one, but allowed operation. And they had some interesting modules - two were hexagonal, one with a wye, the other with two interlaced wyes.
    I still have the specs in the files. Somewhere.
  11. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I model in HO and, of the five layouts I've worked with, all have at least shared the 5 and 7" from the front centerline. One added a 9" centerline, another added a 17" centerline. With that in mind, I build all mine with a 5 and 7" line, sometimes adding a 9" for kicks, figuring I'll either fit or no, ultimately knowing that they will all go together in my own layout as space allows. Since one is built with a "Timesaver" switching puzzle trackplan, I can sing solo if I can't fit in the choir, ain't no thang ;) :thumb:
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    One other solution to interoperability is a "transition" module that has your specifications at one end (electrical, track spacing, and so on) and some other standard at the other end. As long as the standards on the two sets of modules are close, they can then be joined by a transition. By close I mean that (for example) one set has 36" minimum radius curves, and the other has 32".

    A suggestion about joiner tracks - I would keep them longer (6 to 9") as this eases the transition across the interface, especially if it happens to be less then perfect. A 1 - 2" piece may end up at a really odd angle (horizontal or vertical) on occasion!

  13. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    Yes, the N Trak specs are for an international N Scale modular standard. The BendTrack and TTrack standards are also for N Scale.

    You could use the NTrak specs for any gauge, except that they won't work for HO, S, or O. IIRC, track spacing in N Track is defined as 1.5" center to center. That spacing in HO would result in overlapping track, or at least leave little but a gnat's whisker between two passing trains on a straight. Likewise, the end setback is actually defined by the 5" (nominal dimension) Atlas sectional track, which straddles the gap between two modules, resulting in a setback of approximately 2.5". I don't know whether or not HO has a similar sized sectional track, or if its 6" or what, but my guess is that the HO modular standards out there take a similar approach.

    The question of height has been raised, and its a good one, which centers on three elements. The most crucial element is grade. If you either don't allow grades, or require all track to return to the reference level at module ends (treating a dedicated set of modules as a single module for this purpose), then there isn't a lot of need for variability in height, just enough to handle floor variations. On the other hand, if you allow grades, then modules need more height adjustability, AND you can actually use the adjustability itself to create some grades. The second element is "what height do y'all feel comfortable working with". N Trak height standard is the top of the rail at 40" from the floor. Bend Track is 50" from the floor, which gives adults a better viewing angle, but makes it tougher for the lit'l tykes. TTrack's standard is only a few inches, but that's measured from the tabletop. The final element concern regarding height is, again, compatability with other standards. If you want a module that can be used in an N Trak environment, then it has to be built so that you can do 40", 50" for BendTrack, and it can set on the table for TTrack. There are a number of methods of building the legs that allow for multiple heights, but most of those methods require a set of legs for each height. Most, not all.

    I'd like to reiterate what I said about setbacks. Unless you are wedded to the idea of a smooth continuous fascia, there's no requirement to standardize the track setbacks from the module front. If you are connecting to a multi-track module, it is the spacing between the tracks that has to match. With this concept, you can mate an 8" wide module with a 3' wide module without difficulty. It may LOOK funny, but that's only because we're used to smooth continuous transitions, not crazy-quilt benchwork. Functionally, it will work fine as long as the electrical connectors have enough slack in them to mate.
  14. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Those are some great modules! A spec sheet would be excellent.

  16. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The NMRA has established module standards for ho scale. They are somewhat different, but will work with my club's module standards. The NMRA standard requires a 4 1/2 inch set back at each end for the two mainlines. This allows the use of a straight piece of Atlas 9 inch snap track for joiner tracks between modules. The two main lines in NMRA are set on 4 1/2 and 6 1/2 inch centers from the front edge. Finally the NMRA standards call for a 30 inch minimum radius, and a 40 inch rail height from the floor, with 1 inch of adjustment up or down from 40 inches. As far as grades are concerned, we don't allow them on the mainlines because we have often set up in buildings that don't have level floors. The worst building we have been in had a floor that had a 3% grade! If we set up modules with say a grade of 3% in a building like that we would then have a 6% grade on the mainline! Our club standards differ with the NMRA's as follows. We use a 2 inch set back at the ends on the mainline which allows us to use 4 inch joiner tracks. 4 inch joiner tracks do two things for us. The weak point of any modular layout is the need to use rail joiners to carry power through the joiner tracks. The rest of the tracks have drop wires for power, but that isn't possible with the joiner tracks. Any locomotive with a wheel base shorter than 9 inches could stall on an NMRA standard module on the joiner track. On our club modules, the wheelbase would have to be shorter than 4 inches to cause a stalling problem. Other ways that our standards differ from the NMRA is that our mainlines are set back 4 inches and 6 inches from the front edge of the module, and finally our minimum radius is 36 inches. This brings up the other advantage to the 4 inch joiners in combination with the 4 inch and 6 inch centers as opposed to 4 1/2 and 6 1/2. We can make a 4 x 4 corner module with eased curves of 36 inch radius. The best that can be done on a 4 x 4 corner in NMRA specs is an uneased 30 inch radius corner. We have had people join our club who already had modules made to NMRA standards. The tracks will line up fine, the NMRA module sticks out 1/2 inch, which is easily hidden by our curtains. The other thing needed is for the individual with the NMRA modules to provide 6 1/2 inch joiner tracks to hook up his module to ours.
  17. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Ottawa Valley HOTRAK has a long 20-year history of building modules. The club originally started off with module frames made from 1"x 4" pine and a 1/2" plywood or chipboard deck, double-track mainlines and analog operations - kind of heavy, eh, with limited operations.

    Then, along came styrofoam, DCC, and other improvements in the hobby. Today, we build modules that incorporate double-track main lines with single-track mainlines. Our setups that include as many as 7 - 8 command stations/ boosters, and over 400 lineal feet of modules, and over 200 cars on the layout at once. Freight train operations, passenger train operations, or simply running a train around the layout. There are over 60 modules in the inventory, each one owned by a club member (well, almost all of them are owned by members), with more coming on-stream every setup. And each setup is different because we can mix-and-match any combination of modules. That's because we have standards that the modules are built to and testing procedures to make sure that new modules are compatible with the existing ones.

    Over the years, the standards have evolved in response to solving problems and improving our operations. For example, 3 years ago, the height was 37.5 inches from the floor to the top of the rail. Most members found this to be too low, so we raised the height to 45". Try to find Jones plugs or Cinch plugs these days. So, we changed the standard to a 4-pin trailer plug that's available at any automotive supply store. With the advent of autoracks, larger hoppers, boxcars, and bigger 6-axle locos, a 30" minimum radius is no longer suitable, so we increased the minimum radius. We recently did a major overhaul on the standards which you can find at the end of this link.
    And we changed the setback of the tracks from the end of the module from 4 1/2" for a double-track conventional module (a 9" joiner track) or a 1 1/2" setback for a single-track Free-mo (a 3" joiner track) to a standardized 3" setback for all modules (a 6" joiner track) to get rid of the "ski jumps" and to reduce the amount of "shiny plastic" on the joiner tracks.

    If you're considering standards for The Gauge, take a look at some of the standards that have already been established by other clubs or groups. For example, the NMRA standards only deal with double-track mainline. Nothing personal, gang, but, how boring! Visit the website for a set of standards for single-track mainline. Or the San Luis Osbispo website and see what they have done with single-track mainline. Or visit Modu-rail de la capitale and see what they have done.

    Not that I'd follow any of their standards because I have to follow the standards of the club that I belong to (and I happen to like them). However, this discussion might be a good place to exchange ideas about the experiences we each have had with our own standards, what is good, what to avoid.
  18. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Ever wonder why module standards require a 2" spacing between tracks...........
    and two track bridges are NOT 2" spaced!???? :eek: :rolleyes:
  19. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member encourage scratchbuildin' :thumb: ;) :p
  20. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder


    or, to ecourage the sales of single track bridges??? huh? Huh? :D :D :D

    I just curve the tracks sharply, to converge to, and then diverge from, the bridges. :eek: :cool: :wave:

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