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The ghost of Christmas Modular


cromptonnut
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As one often sits and ponders during postprandial somnolence, I began to think about the RMWeb modular project.

 

The ghost of Christmas Modular Past

 

Apart from the one (relatively successful, I will add) actual meeting that a small group of us from here had down in the SECAG area in June, there has been pretty much no discussion or enthusiasm from anyone else in trying to organise a meeting (except for one in Wales which insufficient people seemed interested in, and a few people saying Surrey was too far for them to travel despite one intrepid soul travelling down from Cumbria to be with us).

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The ghost of Christmas Modular Present

 

This special forum is very quiet and there seems to be little discussion on development from anyone on any module for some months apart from one being dismantled.

 

There has been little to no input since the standards were 'locked down' from "above" regarding the project despite offers and suggestions of ways that it could be promoted in the magazine.

 

I currently have a number of part-built modules which are cluttering up the house and taking up considerable space that could be better utilised, and I'm finding that rather than being "an opportunity to build something in a small space" it's actually taken over, and I have nothing in particular to show for it because the standards mean I don't have a space big enough at home to be able to create a complete layout and stay within the minimum 30" radius, and the centre of board end points for trackwork mean there's a lot of wasted space that I can't use.  I don't personally get much out of building "small layouts" so being able to create something in 4ft or 8ft as a standalone functional project doesn't do much for me although admittedly there are some fantastic small layouts out there - I just can't create them and stick to the modular standards as well.

 

 

The ghost of Christmas Modular Present

 

I guess the question boils down to one question.

 

Do I struggle on, seemingly single-handedly, and never really achieve anything, or give up and go back to building the layout I want in the space I have.

 

In some ways I feel I am "letting people down" having been one of the few vocal people promoting the project on the forum, but as with everything else, I simply cannot do it single handed, and if I'm "p*ssing against the wind" would I be better off using my energies elsewhere on creating something that I can at least get my own satisfaction out of even if it never leaves the house.

 

Certainly to a degree there are plenty of opportunities to maintain part of the modular standards such as board height, banana plugs etc (especially as I have previously invested heavily on some of the parts on the modules that I have already part constructed) and, as I always build with portability in mind, there's future potential with a 'converter board' at the very least to integrate something should the project take off again, but I've got some boards presently that frankly are a waste of space (but useful within a modular design, such as a single to double track junction) and I'm possibly better off salvaging what I can and having a bonfire with the remains.

 

A large part of the 'traffic' has been about other, existing modular standards and why don't we just adopt those instead - I won't go into those as they aren't really relevant, and I'm certainly not going to 'convert' to a different modular format, it may just be that, as hinted at several times over the months, us Brits just operate differently and "it" (ie modular) doesn't really work for us in the end.

 

I don't feel that anyone, or anything, in particular is "to blame" for what appears to be a failure of "Dave" but as with many modellers I have a limited amount of time, space and finance, and as I currently have a HOf/OO9 project on the go, plans with OO outside of modular, and some ideas with the small amounts of N and O gauge stock I have, something has to go, and "modular" is the simplest to abandon.

 

I'm not doing anything drastic as yet (Christmas is too busy to really do anything that's going to take time), and I won't be basing my decision on any responses that may or may not come to this thread, but I'm still open to her any thoughts and suggestions if anyone thinks modular is worth pursuing.

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I think the U.S. version meet benefitted from the operational side being something people were keen to try. That side of what to do with it was much more 'fuzzy' with the Britmod version. Some wanted a big layout others to explore running a miniature system. That's what we do with the U.S. version and it doubled in size this year as more wanted to join in and others who had just gone along last year finished modules.

I don't know if it's that operational side that drew people in as something different to a big show layout? It's a shame RMweb live didn't take off as that was the perfect place to give this a wider audience so maybe Warners could give it space at one of their conventional shows for an experiment? I had to pull out at short notice this year for unavoidable reasons but have the boards still although I'd decided to build a new station with a bigger loop than Lulworth for any future involvement. One board was converted to US track as it helped with that set up but it would be easy to swap back or even be used as is. I suppose one advantage for me was I knew I could use them for that or to extend the home layout.

So I think what you did was perfectly good but maybe it needs to be opened up as a mini Rmweb meet like the Taunton do so non participants can come for a small fee too. Having a couple of other layouts and just a general meet with any entrance fees used to reduce what the core modular group paid to hire the hall and pay for refreshments? I know it becomes more of a mini show but maybe that's the only way forward?

For me the weekend chosen is always an issue as I have to get time off unless it falls on a rest day so that complicates things as it has to be one they can cover and with a roster change due I can't commit to much with certainty at present except a couple of months in advance.

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Unfortunately I too now suffer 'the roster system' so that's another contributory factor within the whole discussion but outside of my main concerns listed above.

 

I don't really want to go down the line of turning it into more of an exhibition open to the public than the "current" (I can't think of any other term) method of just hiring a hall and having it as a private event because then you have a lot more work which is way beyond my capabilities in my current circumstances, you also have a much greater financial risk if you're budgeting 200 people at £5 entrance to cover £1000 costs in hall hire, insurance, publicity and layout transport etc if only 50 people come through the door that shortfall has to be paid by someone and that would probably end up being out of my own pocket somehow which is a risk I'm not prepared to take and I'm pretty sure my wife wouldn't want me to either! 

 

Although under the SECAG banner the meeting was very clearly promoted as open to any RMWeb member who was interested in participating as long as they were prepared to travel to Surrey - and only a few of us were (your circumstances in pulling out at short notice were totally understandable).  If it was somewhere more central in the UK it may have had more participants but it's difficult to speculate on unknown facts.

 

We also have a lot of good shows during the year within an hour's drive of our venue of which there's absolutely no point in attempting to compete with - supported by established clubs - and there's really no benefit to be gained in trying to 'muscle in' on a fairly well served exhibition calendar - and I haven't yet found an exhibition manager within that area who is willing to give over a fairly large space to what is essentially an unknown quantity based on who may or may not be available on the day, a year in advance, and may need to expand or shrink based on the final configuration.

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I agree with your points about a full show but I really meant only RMweb members still. I only mention it because the turn up and just watch crowd, including Andy, at the US meet in 2014 were able to get enthused and several returned this year with modules. We were lucky in that there was the established RS Tower group who organised the first meets operations, on top of all Nick's work on providing the venue, but that lead to several of us helping out on the day this year so they weren't buried in organisation and could run trains.

Getting the word out is difficult initially and maybe it needs BRM to support it with an article before and then on the next meet? We know it can work but does it need another focus now there is a group who can make trains run? When you exhibit a layout at a show you have the aim of putting on a display, maybe now is the time to try limited operation with a very simple train plan, as opposed to timetable, so people can try something they don't get on their club or home layout as it is too small?

I'm only suggesting that you have A to B and A to C Passengers, a block coal train from yard to yard and a local goods as an example. People can then move around the 'jobs'. This is what makes the US version so different to shunting on your own layout or running a passenger train as it actually feels like it goes somewhere even though it may only be 40 feet.

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Whilst not using the Dave standards, the SWAG party module system works because there is a definite deadline and venue set each year. One of the main reasons for its success is it is also part of the Members day, supported by Andy / Warners, and frequented by many members from not just the south west.

 

So maybe the answer lies in not creating a Module Day, but a SECAG Members day, with a Module section attached ?

 

Stu

Edited by Stubby47
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maybe the answer lies in not creating a Module Day, but a SECAG Members day, with a Module section attached ?

 

Perhaps ... but I can't really commit to organising it, singlehandedly or otherwise.

 

It was made clear - at least I thought it was - that priority would be given to those bringing modules but there was also space for a few individuals that might just want to come along and give their favourite train a long run.  I had zero response on that even for just a fiver towards costs.

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Maybe that's where making it a members day might help? Cover the costs as last time then reduce it to the module group using the day takings and any surplus to a charity or local railway? I'm not suggesting anyone takes a big financial hit and it doesn't have to include catering. If all pay to hold a meeting as members of RMweb then do we need separate insurance to the venue? Layout, module owners at their own risk or we ask for a couple of quotes purely for public liability, not on the stock, and spread the cost? If members kept their loco with them, or locked in their car, and all wear badges then risk would be low.

Ask people to bring their own food on this one and see how it goes. Maybe just see if there are a few who would bring a layout or demo? I'm always happy to add a bit extra in financially to help and be reimbursed IF there's a surplus.

I think your area makes more sense for a South East meet than somewhere around me as I'm still relatively close to Taunton.

Another option might be to see if I can persuade our club to set aside an area at our April 2017 show for a small modular meet. It would have to be two days, and book your own accommodation I would guess, but obviously free entry to the rest of the show. It would mean the modules could be fully covered by the show insurance and put in a bit of a display to go with it? The advantage is if I got the space and it wasn't working out I could get the local G scale mob to fill it instead. The stage is only about 25 x 32ft but it's a possibility if nothing else takes off.

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The thing that killed it stone dead for me was the decision to choose a 'new' standard rather than go with a well established, but not invented here , standard from Fremo, I could have seen myself building a british module, a euro module and one or two 'neutrals', but the moment another non-standard was settled on it simply didn't work for me.

 

Jon

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You have proved:-

  • That enough modules are available.
  • That the standard works.
  • That you have enough enthusiasts to make a working layout.

Now you can go to exhibition managers on the area that have a big enough venue to allocate sufficient space to say "We can do it and here is what we did, we are cheap on a per square foot basis." You have done the hard bit, but the baton needs to be passed to someone that can run with dealing with exhibition managers to create a series of bookings. To quote Bill and Ted - "If you book them they will come..." It could be quite a crowd puller to say "Come and see the huge BritMod layout on one of its rare outings..."

 

Keep up by holding an annual member's meet for newbies to bring and try their modules, and perhaps for operations sessions. Getting a disparate group to come up with a consensus on when and where to meet is never going to be any easier than herding cats - it takes leadership to drive things so set a date for the same hall, and ask for help if you need it for arranging specific things. Storage is always an issue so perhaps the first thing that needs to be asked is does anyone have somewhere to park a shipping container to store members modules - storage is probably the biggest barrier to new entrants so might be the key for greater participation and better, bigger, more useful modules that might have little use outside of modular.

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The thing that killed it stone dead for me was the decision to choose a 'new' standard rather than go with a well established, but not invented here , standard from Fremo,

Fair enough but the reasoning was good as there isn't an established fremo group to go and see it in action either, (and done to death on the modular thread), and there was experience of this standard from the US modellers so it wasn't really invented for this ;)
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For me other things have taken over during the summer and I've lost the modelling mojo so have only really popped in and out of RMWeb since returning from the Modular Meet, I only really arrived here today as I received an email alert that I had set up ...

 

I did enjoy the meet , it was a great day and thanks for organising it.

 

However I don't see the UK concept taking off I think it has been pushed on here with the 2015 challenge etc,,, but hasn't caught on nationally, which is a shame as the small board idea just to bring out as and when and connect to make a larger layout is really suited to the UK homes and my locos ran probably the longest they have ever done.

 

So what of the future ..... Cromptonnut I suggest you do what you want to do "Rule 1" applies, if you need the space for a personal project then scrap the boards, the aim was to prove the concept would work which it did, so no way "letting anyone down", for me I learned a lot by doing my boards to a spec, perhaps keep one board if you want "just in case", I liked your duck under tunnel perhaps that's the one as its minimal space and it serves a good purpose and adds something different.

 

What will I do, I have gone through a phase of US modelling in the Summer, mainly down to prices of the UK stock going up (I have 3 nice DCC sound US locos each bought for under £80) so will probably keep the curved boards in UK spec " just in case" but turn the straight into something US based and maybe tag onto the "Freemo" group as the specs are similar and I have the majority of bits, clamps, plugs etc so can easily redesign a straight board.

 

Just need to get the "Modelling mojo" back first....

 

Steve

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I suppose it might have helped if there were other modular related things going on or at least being discussed elsewhere in the UK but it seems very much like it's us down in SECAG that are the only ones taking the risk.

 

I'll not do anything drastic for now but I think I'm coming to the conclusion that gutting and converting the spare room into a model room with a bed in it is what I need to get my mojo going again (and at least have somewhere to run trains if nothing else) rather than up and down a length of flexitrack on the kitchen table.

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I think you build the layout that you want in the space that you have available.  You have to do what motivates you and makes you happy.  It is not your duty to lead modular modelling forward and there may never be a 'national' meet.  In all honesty, modular modelling will always be a niche and it may take years to 'catch on' in the UK. 

 

That said, perhaps I could ask a few alternative questions before you abandon modular modelling entirely.  You arranged a successful SECAG modular meet in June 2015.  Did you enjoy that day and would you like to repeat it?  It appears to me that you provided more modules than the 'average' particpant at that event, so could you focus on a reduced number of modules for an annual SECAG modular meet and still build that home layout that you want?

 

Whatever you choose, good luck with your modelling in 2016.

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Modular did really "take over", both in my life generally and in the space available to me.  Perhaps I just went at too fast a pace and expected too much from it.

 

I did enjoy the day, the arranging was fairly easy (to me - I know not everyone is an administrative expert) but I suppose it's all gone quiet and if nobody else anywhere in the country is trying to arrange a meet I guess I'm just wondering why it isn't taking off.

 

I'll have a look at what boards I have, what is finished or easily finishable, and which ones are best abandoned, and see what happens.  At the end of the day the most expensive module for me was the fiddle yard, all the trackwork is salvageable apart from the 4" ballasted bit at the entrance if I abandon completely, the rest is just wood and we've all done that.

 

Oh well.  It was fun to do but I can't help but wonder if the first will be the last too.

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Never say never. I rarely commit to anything as I don't know what I'll be doing or where I'll be from one week to the next, it even makes booking a holiday tricky. Re: mojo... with limited space, a dual purpose room sounds like a winner. Build something that rocks your own personal boat and not something for other people/another cause. For what it's worth, I still think the modular concept is a good one, but I was always doomed to be a watcher from afar rather than a participant. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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The ground work has been done, the board ends/wiring connections  have been simplified so it is relatively easy to connect boards together. I see it as maybe two or three folk living relatively close to each other, now being able to make a couple of boards, and perhaps meet up in each others garde/garage wherever, maybe every couple of months or so, to perhaps readily get, say, a 20foot run - an afternoon or an evening could be enough time. Then, a few of these groups could meet less frequently to get to 60foot, or so. We have a local village hall, not too expensive to hire, but it needs booking well in advance, and may not be available at weekends - I guess other places are similar. I think folk would need to 'court' prospective 'members' who have available premises. teachers, vicars and the like, or better still someone who has vacant industrial warehouses  :scratchhead:

 

Unless you need the boards/track, it may be as well to keep what you've done, it could get a neighbour off to a flying start, so to speak.

Edited by raymw
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Report your message to Andy specifically and ask for a substantial response. If not forthcoming, you know where you stand :rolleyes: :yes:  (flagging the message makes sure Andy gets to see it, I doubt he's reading every message on RMweb in person :no: )

 

Done.  I know it's Christmas so it may take a while.

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I'd much enjoyed the thread about your first module meeting and was pleased to see a new modular group taking off. It didn't matter to me if it was BritMod, Fremo or something other.

It would be a shame, if all the creativity, the effort and the enthusiasm would be binned (quite literally) now.

 

But your main question has to be answered: What to do with the started, finished or whatever modules? For me the way to go was: Building a home layout and make it compatible to a module norm from the very first planning. You can find a thread about it here:

 

http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/106722-bedheimthuringia/

 

We have some "big players" (pun intended :)  ) at our meetings, who are turning up with a hired van, a trailer and a dozen (or even more) modules. Nothing wrong with that. But there are many members like me, who own a small number of modules, use them as home layout, but join them to a small or big arrangement at a module meet or a show. This way you haven't to build something which will be used two or three times a year, but have the opportunity to join a meeting if wanted. 

 

One of the things I didn't understand at the "Dave" standard was the fixed module width and the required position of the tracks in the middle, mostly for aesthetical reasons.

The standard we use requires at least 300 mm module width, according to this a minimum distance to the edge of 150 mm. Some of our narrow modules have strips of acrylic glass at the edges to avoid "earthing issues". The maximum width is only determined by practical reasons. At the wider modules the position of the track is not standardized (except the 90 degrees to the interface and the 150 mm to the edge)

 

If the "Dave" standard is stretched to this point, you can build your home layout without wasting too much space and join a module arrangement. And you can exhibit one, two or more home layouts connected by the standardized interface to any given space, promoting the module idea and the Britmod standard along the way .

It's surely worth to discuss this.

 

 

Michael

Edited by teetrix
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I haven't heard anything back yet.

 

I think the "keeping the track in the same place at the board ends' could be a contributory factor, I know I've tried designing lots of things but have had major issues trying to maintain the 9" or 8"/10" track centres on the 18" boards and it has caused many a plan to be shelved because I just couldn't make it work.  I know you can make "converter boards" from whatever position to the Dave position but it is another thing to load into the car and may be the difference between fitting or not.

 

As long as you maintain the 50mm track centres, and have a fixed position such as a minimum of 2" from either front or back of baseboard for the first track (and a second track at 50mm offset from this rather than at any random positions), it should still work - perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing but potentially far more practical, as it would be easier to build boards to convenience that happened to electrically and heightwise match Dave with the same track spacing.  If each board (or module sets) have legs at each end then there shouldn't be so much of an issue, I think it was because boards were clamped together that the issues were arising as there was supposed to be enough "interface" to keep things solid - but with adjustable things there shouldn't be an issue.

 

It may be something that encourages more to have a go - or it may be that nothing will and the idea just fizzles apart from perhaps a few friends getting together in a garage occasionally rather than the big meets like the first one we did.

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I suppose it might have helped if there were other modular related things going on or at least being discussed elsewhere in the UK but it seems very much like it's us down in SECAG that are the only ones taking the risk.

 

I'll not do anything drastic for now but I think I'm coming to the conclusion that gutting and converting the spare room into a model room with a bed in it is what I need to get my mojo going again (and at least have somewhere to run trains if nothing else) rather than up and down a length of flexitrack on the kitchen table.

 

I think that you have hit on something there. Modular is more relevant in the South-East because people have less living space in their homes and because you have greater population density, so less distance to travel to meetings.

 

I still believe that modular could take off across the UK but you have not yet attained critical mass. For that, you probably need some exposure at exhibitions and in one or more of the magazines.

 

I am sorry that a combination of circumstances have stopped me from building anything in 2015. Will try harder in 2016.

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Greater population density perhaps but we did have one person travel down from Cumbria to be part of our meet, and one from Berkshire, so not strictly "SECAG" territory although I did make it clear that although we were doing it under our area group banner anyone willing to travel with a module, with a verifiable RMWeb identity (so as to remain 'a group of friends' rather than 'general public' for insurance purposes) was more than welcome to attend.

 

Distance isn't an object really and of course there's no reason that you couldn't have your own layout, with a converter board to the modular standards, to be part of a modular meetup.  As long as the height and the electrical standards of the main layout are compatible, and the converter board(s) meet the end standards at the outer ends, that's all that needs to be done - and a converter board may only be 2ft long straight track so no real expense or time needed to build.

 

No need to apologise for your circumstances - life often gets in the way of modelling...

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One thing I would say about Freemo is that although some of the contributors are RMWeb members, many (probably the majority?) aren't. I can understand your insurance reasoning, but it's very easy to forget that RMWeb by no means includes everyone in the hobby

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Here's an example of a module arrangement, showing several points:

-an uniform width and a defined position of the track is our least concern, although a lot of modules have the track in the middle

-several home layouts fit in seamlessly

-there's a "big lump" of a module at the right, which connects a couple of modules at 1,05 m height with the rest of the arrangement at 1,30 m height.

-there's even an "american sector" - "anything goes" 

 

 

22314228329_f9417fc457_b.jpg

 

Of course it took many years to grow to this area. Today the meetings attract participants from almost all over Germany, some from Switzerland and we had even guests from France and Luxembourg. They last from friday to sunday, there's plenty of time for "playing trains" and chatting, which makes longer travelling more acceptable. Several participants sleep in the venue to keep costs down and to add security during the night.

 

To attend a meeting, you have to register in advance, mostly per email. This keeps the meeting "non public", although not all participants have to be members of a group or something.

 

Michael

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