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Andy Y

British Modular System - the initial ideas and debates

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This concept is also common in mainland Europe; I've been to quite a few exhibitions in France where such set-ups, of varying degrees of complexity, have been present. I'm not sure whether they imported American standards, or if NEM standards exist.

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Another forum that I'm on discussed

this a year or so ago.

 

There are standards set out by 'NEM',

'NMRA' & 'DOGA'. You can look up

these on their websites.

 

AFAICR, although some are metric and

some imperial, they are close enough,

(with leg adjustment and clamping the

modules together, not bolting).

 

I would certainly be interested, esp. if we

worked to a recognised standard, as it

would not limit us to RMWeb members

meets only, (ie joint ventures with lots of

other like minded groups!)

 

Jeff

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The North West Surrey Area Group of EMGS had a stab at this about 20 years ago and ran a setup at an EXPO EM South in Portsmouth. I think I still have a set of gauges that were made to manage the interfaces between the boards and I have the module that I built.

My recollection is that we operated a series of straight double track modules that occupied one of the corridors. Using straight DC power, you were allocated a train from the far fiddle yard and drove it towards you. Given the eclectic tastes of the different members of the group, you could always count on finding something unexpected coming down the line.

Best wishes

Eric       

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Following on from the K.I.S.S. concept I’d keep to the same standards, definitely.

The additional 6 inches in width may be a deal breaker in fitting units into some cars - but you know that the current dimensions work!

 

Why would it be attractive to some modellers?

It allows them to run their trains over a much longer run - scale length trains, for example? For some people that can only set up a “Shunty Plank” in their home this could be extremely attractive.

 

Sorry, I know I’m preaching to the converted right now but a lot of potential “Freemo” inductees simply do not realize this yet...

 

Best, Pete.

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The North West Surrey Area Group of EMGS had a stab at this about 20 years ago and ran a setup at an EXPO EM South in Portsmouth. 

 

Thanks for the information Eric, from what I've read so far these seem to be some of the most comprehensible and comprehensive I've seen.

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One of the things that made me like Freemo over other standards is that the the only standard for board shape is the width of the end and the track placement. You could have a gentle curve, a tight curve etc and they don't have to turn any set amount of degrees, the length can be whatever suits you. Your module could get really fat in the middle and slim down to the 18" or 20" (for double track) at the ends

Edited by Talltim
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Just a few thoughts - some based on our Taunton experience which although not exactly in the league Andy has in mind has given some useful pointers - even if they are not necessarily the ideal way to do things!

 

We do know it can work with DC from our experience at Taunton (with all credit to those who came up with the original fiddle yard/power route circuits) so DCC is not necessarily essential although voltage drop could become a problem with really lengthy DC layouts.  

 

Our (persistently, except in one instance) problem at Taunton has been with the curved sections although Godfrey produced one which seemed to work well this year - however I remain of the view that to be truly successful the 'curve/corner' boards need to incorporate transitions - and this is going to make them larger  (which need not necessarily be a problem but it is a consideration to be born in mind).  If transitions are not included the change from curve to tangent track unavoidably occurs at the joint between modules and can result in poor running - as we know to our cost.  In my mind this is the area of design where some thought is needed.

 

We also know from the Taunton experience that mating the boards is the most challenging part of set-up and can be a challenge to running reliabilty and this means that jig construction of mating surfaces is absolutely essential for the sort of thing Andy is proposing.

 

I don't think module sizes are necessarily a problem unless the idea is to also ensure a nicely matching view of the base part of the modules.  However even then some laxity flexibility would be possible if someone was to produce a pair of modules with teh outer ends matching the party line on appearance but the section between them going distinctly freelance to allow low river beds or deep valleys etc.

 

On a more general question the $64,000 one is where would we find the room to put such a thing together?  Ah, perhaps reading Andy's mind and thinking of timescales leads us towards 'Ricohweb Live 15'  (well the timescales might just fit but if that might, perhaps, be something Andy has in mind some decisions on standards are needed fairly soon followed by some sort of 'organisation' to set it all in motion).

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Ah, perhaps reading Andy's mind and thinking of timescales leads us towards 'Ricohweb Live 15'  (well the timescales might just fit but if that might, perhaps, be something Andy has in mind some decisions on standards are needed fairly soon followed by some sort of 'organisation' to set it all in motion).

 

No big agenda from my end but I'm sure some possibilities could open up if there was interest. The Freemo crews clubbed together to hire the hall, have a weekend playing trains and enjoy themselves which is actually far more important than being part of a show.

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I do like the idea, especially as someone with i) not much room and ii) somewhat catholic tastes. But the 'homogeneity' is a substantial stumbling block. Would you put together a number of layouts, each made of similar modules?

For example, a light railway station is not going to sit well on the same layout as an intermodal yard, which won't work alongside a GWR wagon works. So, do you have a layout for each 'era'?

Edited by Del

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So, do you have a layout for each 'era'?

 

The first venture into difficult territory.

 

If there's interest it may be worth considering the highest common factor of what people model - OO code 75, 50s/60s transition - to give a commonality of appearance (if not region) but with a tolerance of other locos/stock etc before considering niches such as contemporary modules. Homogeneity in the context of the OP comes more from ballast colour and scenic colours etc.

 

If it were sufficiently supported you could feasibly have an end of S&D group etc.

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It's the first time that I have attended such a meet with my own boards and it has been a great weekend and very relaxing aswell without any pressure of having to entertain paying viewers. It gave me a chance to run my stock over a much greater distance and the next time Si take my boards it will almost certainly be a different set up with different stock, so each time is a once only 'layout never yo be repeated'.

 

We all stopped operating and sat down for lunch together today which you can't do at a normal exhibition

 

We all decided when to start packing up today rather than at the set time by some one else. I still enjoy doing exhibitions but this does bring a different dimension to the enjoyment of running trains.

 

It really would be great for this way to be adopted for British outline.

 

Ian

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Just a suggestion - if those doing UK modules use the same standards as have been used for the Freemo Extravaganza, then some "country" modules could be used together with the US ones- I doubt if "Urban" would look right, but "country", particularly corner modules, should work - there are loads of areas - particularly in the eastern US, that look remarkably like - for example - the Welsh Marches and Worcs/Herefs countryside.

I shall go back into my hole!

Edited by shortliner

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Whilst probably not needing to defend the Taunton Module project, I will say that despite both the overriding idea of getting everyone involved (by deliberately having 'simple' standards) and the necessarily tight corners due to the room dimensions , the overall concept proved very workable.

Using the Freemo standards would be the next logical step. A larger room will ease the corners too.

 

Is it true that the American / European versions are replicating the prototypical long single lines that we don't have in the UK? Hence, I think, a potential conflict as mentioned above (GWR next to EWS).

 

But, having said that, yep, I'm in.

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There is also the option for those with US modules such as corner boards with fairly universal scenery to bring them to a British modular meet. Also US modellers could build British modules that make use of the same legs.

 

Ian

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the the only standard for board shape is the width of the end

This is the "standard" that I object to. I see no requirement at all for a standard width.

 

If there is only one track connecting all modules then the standards required at the connection locus are:

1 - the track gauge

2 - the track height: floor to rail

 

there is no reason at all why the board height should matter (though it could result in some interesting and unbelievable geography. In theory there is no reason why the track should not enter on an overbridge/embankment and leave though a tunnel/cutting.

 

The track does not have to be a specified distance from the front and neither does it have to be a boring straight length of track. an 'S' or simple bend can still be accommodated as long as the angle of contact to the next module is presented as a surface at 90' to the track - and even that could be worked around by collaborating modules.

 

Control: this is going to be the most contentious "standard" - although DCC is seemingly the obvious choice, it still is not universal. By selecting the standard of DCC then a massive section of participants are automatically excluded.

 

There should still be room for DC connectivity (DCC is not the be-all-end-all) to many and the additional expense is a deciding factor to many people when it comes to justification of the move from DC (which still works perfectly and cheaply for the simple layout. Remember that each individual module is only a small layout for the owner in isolation, it is only when it comes together as a group (probably only a few days in the year) does it become the group appeal. Of course wiring the layout for DC and DCC is the same (if it is done correctly) ;)

 

From my own perspective I would be voting for double track - the additional standard would be worth the effort, but it doesn't have to be exclusive. (seeing trains pass is not something you see so often on end-end layouts.)

 

 

but with a tolerance of other locos/stock etc before considering niches such as contemporary modules. Homogeneity in the context of the OP comes more from ballast colour and scenic colours etc.

 

Although an ideal to have - I think this severely limits participation - take a quick look around any exhibition and see the different take on colour that we all have (and that is so-called exhibition layouts)

 

Once again this exclusion of modellers because their interpretation of GWR "cream" is different (not up to some ill-defined standard) or that the ballast doesn't look like the ash seen at the prototypical location is simply going to put many off participating. Are we going to say that only steam locos with a certain style of weathering are going to be permitted to run through a module because the infrastructure of that module is "modern day"?

 

To be any type of success the available modules to connect has to be great - the whole point is to join modules and get the group social appeal of running trains. Once you have plenty to choose from you can start matching up colours or being fussy who your neighbours are. The first step has to be actually building one (anything) that can be joined together and not with the only other 2 modules in the country (one residing in north Scotland and the other on the west Cornish coast.

Edited by Kenton

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I've considered instigating something like this in the US - a modular standard for UK outline modeling.  There are quite a few US modelers that like UK outline enough to own equipment and possibly build a single module as a side interest.

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As someone somewhat involved in the support and attendance of of California Free-Mo efforts, I would point out that the very UK concepts of double, triple and quad main lines, with UK typical (attractive) sweeping curves and multiple tracks curved junctions, along with frequent fast express trains, fit very badly into a modular baseboard scheme where the end tracks must obviously exit at right angles to the board ends.  Free-Mo definitely fits best into the most usual "straight lines and corners" track geometry of the US prototype. Even if so many of the self-styled "US Layouts" exhibited in the UK, misunderstand that important realism aspect.

 

A secondary consideration for the UK culture of PUBLIC INVITED exhibitions, is that the Free-Mo setups don't usually match the idea of a public vs operators viewing boundary, where the layout is presented as a "stage play" with an audience up against the barrier on the other side of the footlights.  Free-Mo set ups are designed to PRIMARILY please the "operations oriented" particpants, not an audience. Hence the boards meander through the large space in a widely spread out spaghetti pattern, and don't lend themselves to viewers who can't duck under, or run around, to get from one place to another. An audience just on the outside, misses most of the scenery. and the slow moving action.

 

For the same reason, modules are rarely built with a backdrop, and while that allows the flexibility of close viewing and set-up for operators of either side, it counters the "stage scenery" aspect with the full height  (hillside towns,etc.)  backdrop that makes so many UK layouts grace UK modelling magazines and exhibitions with that "wow" factor. There is a far more limited "photo opportunity", when the majority of modules keep everything on them to below 12' height and the photo background is just stepped rows of more modules. Look at the photos published here for conformation.

 

There may be more opportunities in the UK for having modular set-ups on a more frequent basis that the many months apart timing of US meets. But the day before and  the day after build and break-down efforts are a massive teamwork overhead that really limits the amount of time that such meet set-ups are actually operational and viewable.

 

Been there - done that - my personal impressions - YMMV..

 

Andy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

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I'd stick to one or other of the existing standards, i.e. European HO Fremo, or US HO Freemo, that way there could be a commonality of 'neutral' baseboards such as fiddle yards. I'd personally favour commonality with European spec,l but that's partly because I've been threatening a Germanic fremo module.

 

Jon

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I agree. It is too easy to overthink it.

 

Best, Pete.

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Andy:

Some ideas

I agree to keep it based on freemo with the 6inchesx24 end shapes of boards allowing the middle to be free for the modeller.

In terms of time period/prototype would it be better to have a fiddle yard at end of each concept for example big4 fiddle yard br 50-60s fiddle yard then br blue etc and steam trains can be railtours/ preserved railway branch lines

 

fiddle yards could be just plain track or scenic

 

dcc system that requires one standard but if the standard is different to members own as long as the track output plug is plug into the module connection panel and members panel is electronic dead that should not pose a problem

 

single track boards could be 18inches wide with main line being 24inches with track located centrally 

 

a common two into one junction board even its one would allow the use of the above idea.

 

in terms of my participation if I have the financial resources which I don't have  at the moment I would get involved perhaps making the two into one junction board of a two track mainline with single track branch line junction.

 

the use of fiddle yards to separate section would also I believe allow the use of 3rd rail and 25kv as well as non electrified lines

 

if people who don't have dc make single or double track boards with sections then they can enginise the board and attached jumpers onto the dcc power bus they made need a connection panel like expressnet etc maybe not but it would allow there inclusion.

 

Best way to wire dcc is wired in section in case of shorts and derailment so the whole module is not dead.

 

in terms on board line up and connections if dowel lengths type power connectors are standardised that should spend things up and reduce niggles.

 

I hope the above is some use now about that junction

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Backdrops could be done as well as long as they can be on either side of the module and the fiddle yard can break up the sections with and without backdrops

 

local point control would be best with the the main through lines being always available with out point operation

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My thoughts.

 

Standards, use one of the existing ones, why reinvent the wheel?

 

Control DCC, you cannot control a train 10 baseboards away with DC when each board has and needs its own local control. DCC you can. There must be that a "grand list" of numbers so that two with the same one are not on the layout at the same time. This is from my own experience when I allowed Hanging Hill to have a guest loco day and ran it with DCC. One poor operator had two locos, not the same class but both with the same chip number, going opposite ways.

 

When I first read Andy's suggestion, single lines????? Why not Devon, GWR and SR had lots of single lines, I know this to be a fact cos I have seen all the models of them. Other low population areas come to mind, the wilds of East Anglia, or mid Wales or the Highlands of Scotland.

 

I would like to join in with a couple of boards, a few locos and items of stock to match what everyone else is doing.

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Having been at said modular event, first of all there is proof that modules built to this standard can be fitted in, even when the originator hasn't seen a module before, and existing layouts can be used when coupled with suitable adaptor modules, although all that really matters is the rail height- different scenery, ballast shoulders, rail/track type etc. are largely cosmetic but might impact on the running of some stock.

 

US modellers are used to working to train orders, for example I made a train up at one yard, ran to another, dropped off those cars and picked up others from industries, then ran back to the starting point, and all that took 90 minutes. Im not sure what British modellers would have made of that, so perhaps working a representation of a long preserved line with four or five passing loops to a fast clock with train regulation over single line sections using tokens and a fast clock/timetable may be better understood and accepted by those who want to see trains go by. The operations this weekend were about getting cars from A to B, instead of creating a traffic jam at the complex junction shown above or appeasing the train watchers.

 

Scenery....? Hmmmm. The group who started this type of module went for a Mid-West theme, so the flat areas look authentic and have the advantage that they can be used either way round without a backscene in the way or scenery not matching. Would there be enough interest in a preserved railway in East Anglia, to cover many possibilities...?

 

Participation- in order to build a good network, you need lots of plain track modules and curves, and a semi-fiddle yard as shown, the one above was used as a double ended 16', but could be split in half to be used in two locations. Level crossings and bridges might have been a cliche, but can present operational considerations for crews.

 

I suppose like most things in life, if there is enough of an interest from a team of like minded and forward thinking people, it'll happen...

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