Archive for the “Module Construction” Category

This month’s feature is the Spokane International Railway (SIRy) submitted by Mike Pagano, the layout’s builder and a contributing author to N Scale Railroading magazine. The SIRy is an N-scale, lightweight, portable layout consisting of 4 sections with two separate track loops depicting the SIRy near Sandpoint in the Idaho panhandle. The portable layout is available for exhibitions and is headquartered out of Bellingham, Washington.  Photos and some text by Mike Pagano.

Layout Name: Spokane International Railway 

Famous for: Mike’s prototype signature scene on the SIRy is the Sand Creek Trestle, which was pictured on the cover of the July/Aug 2007 issue of N Scale Railroading. The Jan/Feb 2008 issue of N Scale Railroading describes how the project was conceived, including fitting the 650 foot scale trestle onto a portable layout. On the SIRy website, you can compare Mike’s efforts, as featured on the front cover of N Scale Railroading, with the prototype photo by Laurence Shawver in the 1950’s. It was important to Mike to have a historical railroad background for his project railroad and to also have a signature scene that would give the layout an identity. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments 2 Comments » is again online, featuring exquisitely made modules for building a sectional layout.  The site is worth looking at just for the artistry of the construction techniques.  This is the place to go for bridge modules or sectional layout benchwork to fit a specific space.  Pricing is appears commensurate with the high quality of materials and the complexity of the construction techniques.

 Harold Brosch is the official supplier for the European Fremo standard.  There are a large number of Fremo standard profiles, which Brosch has laser cut.  His online store, eisenbahn-modulbau is currently in german only.  Brosch sells a 100 cm long straight module with Fremo-USA profile ends for 52.00 Euros as of Oct 2007.  Shipping and customs to the USA are additional and significant.

Berret Hill Trains builds custom benchwork, layouts and modules to any standard.  The website advertises custom benchwork can be as low as $12-15 per square foot.  At the $15/sq. ft. rate, a 2×4 foot module would be about $120 plus shipping. Read the rest of this entry »

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This is a short list, but here it is: offers several tools for the module owner.  Among the various HO, N and Z scale tools are 3 N-trak tools and an HO step gauge tool.

The Switching & Sipping Society of N.C. have a template for drilling module ends, but does not sell the template.  A standard, high-precision template is necessary for this type of module interface.

If you know of any other tools, please let us know by the comments form below or the contact form above.

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First off,  Ulf stopped by and indicated all this information may now be found at his website.   The following article has been updated with this new information.

 “My first module” details the construction of a European Fremo standard straight module that uses Marklin “C” track.  The scenery is made of foam and plaster coated gauze and includes a bridge over a dry wash.  ulf999’s thread starts with photos of the module parts goes on to module construction, terraforming the foam an gauze and concludes with scenicing and trains running on the modules.

“Golden Valley I” is a set of four modules that represents the “Golden Valley” and includes a cannery, water tank and engine house.  Golden Valley page 2 shows that 3 modules can be set up either as a 16 degree curve or a 90 degree curve.  Note the roads and track line up in either the 16 deg. or 90 deg. configurations!

“Two 16 degree curves” shows the construction of a pair of Fremo curved modules from wood frame work to scenery and trees.  All the threads have extensive written details and an abundance of high quality photographs.

 “Flexible 180 curve” shows four modules making up a 180 degree curve.  Parts of the curved track is hidden inside the tunnel.  Trains are easily accessed through the tunnel module’s removable tops.

  Ulf’s GVR website also has nice sections on his first layout and various structures.  Reviewing the White Rock Freight House is recommended is a recommended diversion from module hunting.

This same information was previously only available under the screen name  of ulf999 in various threads on the “the Gauge” Modular Layout Forum.

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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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NMRA 4th Div, Pacific Northwest Region HO Module SIG has a photo album of its recent setups.  Of great interest to module builders are the two pages of recommendations and procedures on making setups at shows a better experience for both the public and the club.

The first page is titled, “Procedures and Reliability” and links to “during show” topics including: Read the rest of this entry »

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“Dominoes” are typically 2 x 4 foot sections or modules of “open grid” benchwork that bolt together to make a railroad layout.  The use of dominoes has been credited to and popularized by David Barrow on his Cat Mountain and Santa Fe.

 There are several nice forum threads and photo albums detailing the layout construction using domino type construction: Read the rest of this entry »

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There are many types of foam used by modelers in constructing model railroad scenery, layouts and baseboards. 

  • Extruded polystyrene is pink if Corning or blue if Dow. 
  • Expanded polystyrene a white foam board made up of small beads.
  • Spray Polyurethane is available in disposable spray cans and as two part liquid.
  • Foam rubber can be used for foam rocks or scenicing materials.

When selecting a material for building, the modeler should give careful consideration to the flamability of the product.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Note: Harold is building a new layout and has indicated on forums that he will be taking down the old site.  If you are interested in this information, please visit the site and make pdfs of the information before it is gone.

The Pacific Coast Airline Railway (“PCAR”) is Harold Minkwitz’s narrow gauge, 1870’s California railroad modelled in Sn3.5, the British Imperial gauge.  The current layout is a 4×8 foot built to test and serve as a “proof of concept” for techniques to be used in the future construction of a basement filling layout.  The 4 x 8 ft. layout is constructioned in halves, or sectional so that it may be easily moved from the basement.  There is also a page showing how a 4×8 layout can be integrated in to a 10 x 11 ft. room.  The PCAR website also has PhotoAlbum1 and PhotoAlbum2.

 Of interest to module-makers are the large number of tutorials covering a variety of scenery making techniques.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Templar is a U.K. modeller well known for his exhibition quality, narrow gauge, U.S. themed logging/mining layouts. Paul’s last HO scale layout was Red Fox Lumber in about 2003.  Since then, Mr. Templar has focused his attention on building On30 scale layouts.  Photo galleries of the earlier Cooncreek and Tumbleweed Springs and the current layout, the Badger Creek Lumber Co. are both available on the internet. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Silver Creek Reconstruction is a thread on by user SimonC documenting the construction and finishing of his On30 Silver Creek layout in 29 days.  The layout is 18 ft. 3 in. by 7 ft. 3 in and built if layers of extruded foam edge with lightweight plywood and “Bendy MDF“.  The roadbed is made of cork over luaun plywood glued to the foam.  The layout uses tortise switch machines that are attached to the plywood roadbed for each of the switches and then recessed into the foam. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Central New York Modelers (CNYMOD) modules are built to a modified HO NMRA 2 track standard.  The modules are wood framed, have an elevated subroadbed and are surfaced with extruded-foam insulation.  CNYMOD modules use code 83 track, have extra depth in front to allow more foreground scenery and are 51 inches high. Read the rest of this entry »

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Torsion boxes are sometimes called stressed skin panels because of how they use the skin to uniformly transfer stress throughout the structure.  Torsion boxes are structural panels that are both rigid and light.  Because none of the individual components are so large that their changes due to temperature and humidity can not be controlled by the other componenents in the sturcture, a torsion box is remarbably stable.  A torsion box has the following components: Read the rest of this entry »

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The choice of materials to build a module is very important to the longevity, usefulness and enjoyment of the module or layout. Unfortunately, the do-it-yourself nature of model railroading and the desire to economize on the “hidden” parts of a module can be counter-productive. The cost of the model railway frame or structural is minimal compared the value of the modelers time and effort, the monetary costs of track, scenery, rolling stock, DCC system, buildings, etc. On modules, high quality materials and precise construction become a necessity to ensure the module ends interface properly and is interchangeable with others at an exhibit. Read the rest of this entry »

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