In preparing to build a module for my HO module club, I have been searching for the “ultimate” in module construction.  Construction techniques should be applicable to all standards, Fremo, Ntrak, NMRA, etc. and scales.  The list below outlines what seem to be the basic criteria for the “ultimate” module construction:

  • Simple to Construct – basic skills, tools and obtainable materials
  • Lightweight – favoring foam and luan plywood
  • Strong & Rigid – rail grade flat and strength to move
  • Precise – easy to build plumb and square
  • Deep Contour Scenery – not “table top” flat
  • Durable – edges and scenery have some bump protection

From the information I have collected, the following module construction techniques appear to be the superior in some areas:

Switching and Sipping Society “Waffle” Modules – Probably the best example of module construction that is precise, lightweight, strong and rigid.  S&SS modules do not appear to provide either “deep profile scenery” or the goal of being “simple to construct”.

 Calgary Free-mo has developed a nice lightweight and sturdy module construction system that appears to meet all of the “ultimate” criteria, except possibly durability.

 Railway Bob has developed especially easy to build modules.  The one concern might be about the long-term sagging of the foam top between the supports.

Sacramento Modular Railroaders have an extensive article, and soon to be updated, article on lightweight module construction.  The update notice indicates the newer design is “lighter . . . stronger . . . more interconnectable” than the older design.

The editor’s current favorite is the mentioned on the eisenbahnstudio weblog as the “Black Forest Fremo:87″ module in the Continental Modeller March 2009 issue.  An exploded view indicates the construction would require a tablesaw.  Generally, the Black Forest module seems to strike a good balance between all the “ultimate” criteria. 

 BTW, Kevin Hunter at Berrett Hill Trains has an excellent article comparing and critiquing various module construction techniques.  Kevin’s ‘rant’ specifically discusses foam shrinkage with temperature and humidity.

Your thoughts comments and suggestions for the “ultimate” module construction are welcome!

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