Module Help

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by dr.5euss, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. dr.5euss

    dr.5euss Member

    Hi Guys :wave:

    Just thinking...a lot of people seem to use C or G clamps for connecting modules. Does this work well, or should I think about using dowels and holes?

    Another thing, how to you ensure the track doesn't move at the joint?

    Thanks :thumb:
  2. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I'm designing a combination of the two, the dowels for alignment, the G clamps for secure connection but quick release.
  3. dr.5euss

    dr.5euss Member

    Ah right, nice idea :thumb:

    What are you doing to ensure the track's aligned? PCB sleeper by joint?

    Thanks :D
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Then again, maybe you want a bit of give at the end - you never know whose module is going to be next door.
    The alignment techniques include:
    solder rail ends to screws driven into the roadbed.
    solder to PCB ties which are securely fastened down.
    cut back the track a fixed distance and use a removable piece of track (with or without ballast) to fill the gap. (N track method)
    run the track to the end of the module but leave the last few inches loose enough to match to the next module. (requires rail joiners.)
    We used to have a standard of lengths of track set into the Peco roadbed (formed up between the ties) and this was supposed to keep the modules joined as well.
  6. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Part 1 - Using C-Clamps
    C-clamps work very well in connecting two modules together. You want to be able to get the C-clamp as far up into the underside of the two modules so that you are clamping as close to the top of your module as possible.

    C-clamps are classified as 1", 2", 2½" etc in North America. This refers to the extent to which the screw of the C-clamp will open. What you really need to measure is the "throat" of the clamp - ie the distance from the screw to the side of the C. Or to put it another way, you want to measure the extent to which the C-clamp will get up into the module. The only way you can determine this before you buy C-clamps is to use a tape measure.

    For example, here in Canada, our Canadian Tire stores sell a "2½ inch" C-clamp which has a throat that measures 3". This means I can get that C-clamp 3" up into the underside of the two module frames. I can also buy a "3 inch" C-clamp from Busy Bee Tools but this only has a throat of 2". This means I can only get that C-clamp 2" up into the underside of the module frames. The difference between the two clamps means that I can get the "2½ inch" C-clamp a full 1" closer to the top of the module than I can with the "3 inch" C-clamp.

    Part 2 - Connecting Tracks Between Modules
    There are two ways to connect the tracks between the modules. The method you use will depend to a certain extent on how many times you are going to move the modules and how much time you want to spend installing "joiner tracks" between the two modules.

    The easiest way to make the "rail connection" between two modules is to simply lay the track across the two modules and then cut the rails (tape a couple of strips of duct tape between the two modules to account for the thickness of the saw cut.). However, you might end up with problems when you come to align the two modules, particularly if you have several track running across the modules.

    The second way to connect the tracks across modules is to use a "joiner track". A joiner track can be as simple as a short 3" section of Atlas snap track or can be as complex as specially fabricated PC boards with rails soldered to the copper strips. For example, assume you will be using a 3" Atlas snap track to span the gap between the two modules. The track on each module will end 1½" from the end of each module. Slide a couple of rail joiners onto the end of each rail. Insert your 3" joiner track (1½"+ 1½" = 3") between the ends of track on each module and slide half of the rail joiners onto the joiner track. Voila, the tracks between the two modules are now connected.

    Part 3 - Bridging the Gap
    If you are in a club, you will be building your modules to standards or to a plan. This means that your track will have to be accurately located at each end of the module. For example, at Ottawa Valley HOTRAK, the track on my single-track Free-mo modules has to be located exactly 12" in the middle of the module. The track on my double-track conventional modules has to be located 2½" and 4½" from the front edge of my modules.

    However, if there happens to be a gap between the end of my track (or the end of the track on the other module) (ie the distance between the modules is more than 3", assuming we're using a 3" joiner track), it's a simple matter to cut a small bit of rail, slide it onto the end of the rail joiners and then install the joiner track. Or, if the distance is shorter than the 3" joiner track, cut a bit off of the joiner track.

    Part 4 - Making Sure The Track Doesn't Move
    When you clamp your modules together, the two modules become one unit. No need to worry about the modules moving and hence no need to worry about the tracks moving. However, when you disassemble your modules, make sure you remove the joiner track before you undo the clamps. Otherwise, the modules will move, your joiner track could get damaged and the trackwork on your modules could also get damaged.

    To minimize damage to the trackwork on your modules, install two track spikes in the last tie on both sides of each rail that will go across to the other module at the end of each module. Also, if you are using snap track or flex track with a plastic tie, install a pin in the middle of the last plastic tie at the end of each module. This will minimize any damage to your trackwork should the modules move when you don't want them to move. Damage almost always occurs when assembling or dismantling the modules and someone, in their haste, forgets to follow a proper sequence. Damage almost never occurs to the trackwork once the modules have been properly assembled and clamped together.

    Bob M.
  7. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    And then there is that old bugaboo,STANDARDS. If you belong to a modular group you will need to fit into their standards, whatever they are. If you are just building modules for your own layout, you're the boss.
  8. inkaneer

    inkaneer Member

    Standards are a bugaboo??? Without standards how would you spell anything the same way as others do? How would you communicate? If I typed "tyjas,fungfyaskricndfhyas" would you know what I meant? Most assuredly not. But if instead I typed "standards are needed" then you know exactly what I meant. So don't bemoan stanards because you use them all the time and without them you would be much worse off. By the way next time you purchase something just remember that money is a standard too. Oh yeah imagine what the state of the railroad industry would be if there was no standard gauge?
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I don't think that Jim meant that in any bad way, just that standards are a bit of a Pandora's box... ask 10 people about what "the standard" should be for any given thing, and you'll likely get 12 answers... ;) :D

    We all have heard stories about how difficult it is for clubs to build a layout - now imagine if each member is building a small section of that layout in its entirety - benchwork, track laying, wiring... without standards at a club level we'd be doomed from the start. However, like Jim says, if you're on your own you can do as you see fit.

  10. inkaneer

    inkaneer Member

    Of course you must remember I model the Pennsylvania RR, "The Standard Railroad of the World" and therefore am well within my rights to get riled up when someone even draws near to dissing standards.
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Touché fence1 :D

  12. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I'll try to clarify my comment based on the information that preceded my post. Various people were discussing methods of connecting modules. I simply stated that " if you are dealing with a modular club, you will have to adopt their standards, whatever they are. I think you will have to agree that one groups standards may not fit in with another group. We see that between NMRA, FreeMo and it seems every modular group now sets their own standards. I fully agree that standards are a necessity. Whose standards we choose to adopt depends on the individual situation.
  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Even club standards can be "overcome" to a certain degree. HOTrak has a committee that may waive certain standards in certain situations. Also, if your interface is not the smae you can always build a "connector" set with your interface on one end, and the club's on the other. You may have to always set up your modules together, but if everything else is compatible (trackwork, wiring, etc), you may be able to work (play? ;)) with them. I don't know if we've encountered this situation yet, but it is theoretically possible :D

  14. rfmicro

    rfmicro Member

    Good evening All,

    I will be getting close to this same issue in a few weeks. Joining two modules and having the track align perfectly appears to be several problems. The first can be sumed up dealing with both track and module alignment. A good track plan is a must to start with. Having the two modules and tack alligned properly is a matter of meeting these two objectives before you lay track. In other words before you lay track on the second module, you must align and pin the two modules together. The sited web site does this with end track connector plates and t-nut and bolt type dowels to align both the module and the track.

    The second issue is how to join the two tracks together. There appears to be two schools of thought here. The first is to run the track to the edge of the module and use track joiners to electrically connect the track. You could also use insulated track joiners if you intend to isolate the two modules and run each module as its' own power district. The second school of thought recommends leaving a small space between the two module tracks and use a third section of track insert between the two modules and join together as described earlier.

    If one were to move the modules often then a combination of both alignment pins, t-nut and bolts (or clamps) may be the better way to go as some misalignment could occur as the alignment pin/bolt could start to round out after alot of use. Also inserting alignment pins in both the X and Y axis would be appropriate to lessen the effects of 'rounding' out/enlarging of the pin/bolt holes. Use of leveling pins on nthe bottom of the module legs must also be used to assist in the alignment process.

    Perhaps more simply stated is to insure the module alignments before you lay track on the second/mating module. Make up your mind how you will join and power the two modules and then lay track on the second/mating module. Perform these tasks on each module matng pair and you should end up with a perfectly mated modular system.

    Next, one would ask about temperature and humidity affecting the module alignment. I would agree that this is a possibility only if the modules were separated and left unjoined for a period of time. Then there might be a possibility of misallignment. For short periods of time, I would say that misalignment becomes a smaller liklyhood.

    Just a few thoughts to share.

    Trent Mulkern
    Mechanicsville, MD
  15. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Having dealt with module alignment prior to the time that our club became a fixed layout, I will go along with using short sections of removable track between modules. It seemed that despite our best efforts, alignment between modules aways was less than perfect in a given location. The short piece of track allowed for some flexibility caused by floor tilt or things of that nature. Yes, we had adjustable legs too. We used to show in some weird locations.
  16. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The method you use to connect the tracks between two modules will depend on a couple of factors - how frequently will you be setting up and taking down your modules, and who will be the owner of the modules next to yours.

    If the modules are being frequently moved, then a joiner track is probably the best way to allow the trains to run between the two modules. For discussion purposes, assume the joiner track is 6" (ie 3" on one module and 3" on the other module). If the gap betwen the two modules is less than 6", it's a simple matter of cutting a bit of rail off of the joiner track. Conversely, if the gap is more than 6", it's easy to cut a small piece of rail, slip it into the rail joiner and then push half of the rail joiner onto the joiner track to bridge the gap.

    You are then left with the unsightly gap of a 6" joiner track betwen two modules. However, using a bit of paper/styrene, epoxy glue, and some ballast, it's relatively easy to "scenick" joiner tracks so that they don't look as obvious.

    However, it can be most pleasing to the eye when you don't have that obvious joiner track staring at you between two modules. On the other hand, if you bring your rails right to the edge of the two modules, you may run the risk of having the rail ripped out of the ties when assembling or disassembling the modules. Or, when boxing up your modules to move them (voice of experience speaking here!). But, if your modules aren't being frequently moved, this may not be a problem. And there are ways of reducing this risk - whether through the use of T-nuts, alignment pins, or other methods.

    Running rails right to the edge of the module (ie cutting the rails between two modules) requires a certain amount of precision. And has been mentioned, there is the risk of warping, humidity, temperature, etc which will cause the track to shrink, warp, and do all kinds of things so that the rails are no longer aligned.

    But remember, both ways, there are pros and cons, and these are some decisions only you can make.

    Bob M.
  17. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    A couple of decades ago, a few of us had a portable/modular railway that we took around to shows.We cut the joiner tracks to fit at the first show, then had to shorten them at other shows during the year. When we got back to the first show, we had to cut a whole new set to the original length.
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One trick that some members of the modular club that I belong to did to make the joiner tracks blend in better was to use joiner rails only. The roadbed, ballast, & ties went all the way to the edge of the module, and 2 pieces of rail and 4 rail joiners are used to join each track section on the modules.

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