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Philosophical Discussion: Modular On30

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  • Philosophical Discussion: Modular On30

    Hey folks, been a while since I have posted. Work and life in general keeping me away from the bench. Life is starting to calm a bit and I am trying to get back into a few modeling projects.

    I am starting to work on some On30 modules. There is a small group of folks in my area that have expressed an interest in trying this sort of thing. I have been interested in some type of On30 modular display ever since my first glimpse of Red Stag. The Dolly Varden and Muskrat Ramble projects continued to fuel the fire and seeing the fabulous work Troels is doing, all I can say is that I really want to explore some O scale.

    As I start to put a plan together I realize I have many questions and I figured I would ask the group for opinions. I realize there is no “right” answers here – this stuff is all personal preference, but I am still interested in seeing how folks approach these decisions and I am hoping that a few folks who have been down this road already might toss in a few suggestions.

    Last year a group of us started to form an On30 group however as we tried to establish and agree on a spec it became chaos because nobody could ever agree. That effort eventually died in committee. One suggestion was made for the leader to “create the spec beforehand (or select one from an established group) and then ask who is interested in participating in the project based on that spec” rather than trying to get a group together and then trying to come up with the spec based on everyone’s input. I have to admit that this seems like a good idea after what happened last year.

    Along those lines, I have had some ideas I wanted to pursue anyway (regardless of whether anyone else gets on board or not) and so I would like to ask these questions:

    1. Looking out on the web at various On30 modular groups here in the United States, it seems that most are following a FreeMo type approach – meaning single mains, point to point, random shaped modules with no back-drops/sky boards and no integrated lighting. For those of you who have built/displayed these or those of you who have seen these in shows, how do you like it?

    I have seen a few and I find the poor lighting to be unsatisfactory and I find that I tend to like displays with some type of backdrop more satisfying. That being said, I do like the fact that I can generally get to both sides of a FreeMo display. The lack of a backdrop can make setting up good photos more difficult though.

    2. Displays like Red Stag and Muskrat Ramble have fascias (upper and lower) and are only viewable from one side. Integrating lighting allows them to completely (or nearly so) control how well lit the scenes are. I live on the west coast and I NEVER see displays like this at shows. This seems to be quite common in Europe and Australia. I am curious why we don’t see this much in the U.S. Do folks have strong feelings about why or why not this is desirable? I have never been fortunate enough to see one of these in-person. The photos I see are amazing but I wonder what it would be like to actually be standing next to one.

    For the guys who have worked on some of these other projects (like Red Stag, Dolly and Muskrat) I am interested in some other specifics. Reading as many articles as I can find I have tried to gather data on things like heights, widths, weight, etc. If I had to list some generalities I would summarize like this:

    - 6’ modules can be a real handful to handle.

    - 5’ x 30” (roughly 1400 mm by 700 mm) seem to be about right from an ease of handling vs available modeling space perspective.

    - A height of ~30” (700 mm) is satisfactory.

    I know form my own experience with the N scale groups that weight is an issue that needsa to be balanced against strangth and durability due tot he portable nature of the project.

    Some additional details I am interested in:

    3. What is the distance between the top edge of the lower fascia and the bottom edge of the upper fascia? How much viewable height is satisfactory? Since I am new to O scale it seems like building height and viewing angle warrant some consideration – especially if the module will have a top. All of this (including any relief below track level) needs to fit inside the top and botton of the module.

    4. I am thinking about a track height of about 53 inches. This will put most folks looking just slightly down at the track while allowing taller folks (6’) to have the bottom edge of the upper fascia just above eye level so it isn’t blocking their view forcing them to “look under”. I am trying to balance that against shorter folks being forced to look up into the module and seeing lights inside the fascia.

    5. Do you use the dreaded “bridge tracks” or carefully lay track to the edge of the module and then put some type of protection in place during transport?

    6. Was there ever consideration of extending the upper fascia an addition 4-6 inches out to the front so the lighting could be placed “in front” of the front edge of the layout to get more light on the front of structures located closer to the front edge? Any feeling that doing so would interfere with viewing the layout?

    7. Is the “no backdrop and no lighting” philosophy of the FreeMo type groups based on ease of access due to the focus being on operation or do folks just see that stuff as added expense and hassle?

    My primary interest is modeling. Trains just happen to be a subject matter that lends itself to the craft. My goal is to produce something that is fun to look at. We have a lot of modular groups in this area. Some are very nice and others not so much. The main issue is they are all pretty much standard NMRA/N-Trak type square layouts. I am not knocking these (I helped establish one local N-Trak group which is still going strong) however I find myself going to shows and always wanting something more. With my interest being primarily modeling (rather than operation) I am always searching for a display with a certain amount of "wow" factor. The one thing I have yet to see after nearly 20 years of train shows out here is anything on par with Red Stag/Dolly/Muskrat. I want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem hence my interest in a project like this.

    I’ll admit I have an ulterior motive here too. I am involved with the group of folks sponsoring the 2012 National Narrow Gauge convention here in Bellevue WA (Seattle). We have a great narrow gauge community here with many active members and a number of nationally recognized layouts. The one thing we don’t have is a narrow gauge modular group that brings the level of quality I see in the efforts from Down Under and Europe. I would love to have something available for the NNG in 2012. These questions I have are research I am doing to try and get a project off the ground. Currently it’s 22 months until the event. If this doesn’t get rolling soon we will be out of time.

    I appreciate any comments folks have and experiences they are willing to share. IF I get something going I will be more than happy to share it with the forum and chronicle progress.

    Thanks folks,

    Dave K

    North Bend WA

    Dave K in NB

  • #2
    Set up an interface like these guys. I use it for my home modules and it really works. I used 1/2" diameter tubing so I could make the interface template at home.



    • #3
      Dave -

      First, I hope you've looked at the various groups in the On30 Annual's Module List.

      Also, you may be interested in the 2011 edition of the annual which should be out in about a month.

      As you rightly point out, there are no "right" answers when it comes to portable layouts. While one can easily join random module formats and make a functional layout, there is a general tendency to have some sort of uniform manner for connecting the bits. "Uniform manner" is wonderfully vague.

      I've built modules and sectionals over the years. I'm presently involved in an On30 module group, and an On30 sectional group.

      Both groups went the directions that they did by intent. The sectional group went that route because they wanted a display layout - minimum focus on operation, primary focus on scenes and overall theme. To that end, a loop style was chosen with backdrops and lighting. There wasn't a clear defining of equipment clearances. There was just a loose guideline that if a Bachmann Mogul clears, it must be okay. This has proven to be a less than ideal guideline. The members who started the group were successful in their goals. The layout won an aware at the 2004 NNGC in Santa Clara.

      The module group went down the path that they did because they wanted their layouts to be visible from both sides, didn't want the added setup time for backdrops and lighting as the overall layout size grew, and because it differed from the layouts commonly seen at train shows. They borrowed a module connection design from a group in Texas, started with some common DCC wisdom, and set some minimums for track work. They made mistakes and adapted over time. Their foresight into the groups' future layout size was accurate though. And the dual side view-ability has been very well received by the general public.

      I think both of these groups made the right choices for the right reasons.

      As I mentioned, the sectional layout does incorporate lighting but does not include a valance. There are other examples in other scales that do this including the use of a valance that I've seen on the west coast. Incorporating lighting can enhance the visual impact of the layout. I don't personally feel that it's a viewing requirement. I see it as a presentation aesthetic.

      The module group's specification is online. Whereas the sectional group has no such posting. Both groups have a nominal height of 48", uniform 24" width and varying lengths. Both use DCC. Neither hand laid track as a general rule though there are spot exceptions. Both groups use XPS foam board with light weight wood frame construction. I could probably list off more similarities and differences but all that would do is reinforce that there is no right answer.

      Troel's explanation on how he seems to get so much done so fast is valid here. Don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out "how" to construct a module. The wheel's have been invented. Find something close to what you want, tweak it if you must, then move on quickly to building.

      My 2 cents...



      • #4
        My On30 "Hill Valley Coke Company" thread uses modules following the California Central Coast On30 Standards that John Roth represents.


        • #5
          Hi Dave,

          This could be interesting to follow along with, and I'm glad our work down under has been a bit inspiring to others.

          The whole boxed diorama layout style has also made me wonder why it doesn't appear to be done much in the US, but seems regularly done in Australia, UK and Europe (funny how international trends seem to differ). I'll happily contribute as much info on the subject as you want, so please ask as many questions as you need, but your opening post seemed to pick up most of the basics.

          If I suggest one thing (its more a personal dislike rather than a "boxed modular" rule), try and have a continuous style of common backdrop for the set up. I know it can be hard to get all members of the group to agree on a particular region/era to scenario for the layout. This is perhaps where the likes of a free-mo can look better, but I've seen other "boxed" builds that are all individual efforts, so the transition between scenery changes and backdrops doesn't exist. We travel from a blazing hot desert to a lush forest...and it kind of destroys the flow of the scene dramatically! Hot tip for a good flow to the group...if someone is a good backdrop painter, kindly ask them to paint all the backdrops and it will make huge difference to puling the whole group of modules together.

          Good luck with the group effort.

          Dan Pickard


          • #6

            Originally posted by danpickard

            If I suggest one thing (its more a personal dislike rather than a "boxed modular" rule), try and have a continuous style of common backdrop for the set up. I know it can be hard to get all members of the group to agree on a particular region/era to scenario for the layout. This is perhaps where the likes of a free-mo can look better, but I've seen other "boxed" builds that are all individual efforts, so the transition between scenery changes and backdrops doesn't exist. We travel from a blazing hot desert to a lush forest...and it kind of destroys the flow of the scene dramatically! Hot tip for a good flow to the group...if someone is a good backdrop painter, kindly ask them to paint all the backdrops and it will make huge difference to puling the whole group of modules together.

            I have often thought this. Even just standardising on one colour for the fascia, track/ballast and sky across the modules would make a huge difference to many modular groups
            Built a waterfront HO layout in Ireland but now making a start in On30 in Australia


            • #7
              Most of the modular groups seem to be following the same standards. The Texas/Cal Central Coast/?? It has some very very significant differences from the Free-Mo basic concept. Free-Mo is dual sided with the main-line connection in the center of the module. This allows a module to be used with the "front" on either side or with no real front side and reversible end to end.Also has all mainline switches are operable from either side. The current module standard used by many On30 groups has the main tracks only 6" from the front side at the ends. This gives a definite front side and rear side to each module and they can't be reversed end to end.

              Free-Mo has a designated ballast color (to be used at least at end points, and preferably throughout the mainlines) and also a designated module/fascia color. On30 doesn't.

              Free-Mo uses Digitrax and Loco-Net, which is much more capable of being expanded to very large set-ups. On30 groups seem to be heading in another direction and using MRC command systems. Although that is not locked in, and jumpering the command side wiring around a non-locally compliant which has standard power bus wiring is easy.

              Personally I like the Digitrax and Loco-Net standard primarily for the expandability and it also is open for using JMRI based tools such as Decoder-Pro and interfacing to personal computers. The MRC system is not as conducive to big expansions. AND CAN'T be interfaced.

              Digi has a "hard-to-use" reputation based on it's earlier throttles, but I'm pretty sure both systems throttles are equally easy to use. Digi also has a very basic throttle that is limited pretty much to only acquiring engines and controlling direction and speed. Easy to hand-off to visitors and kids.

              It's not all that hard to include both command busses on your modules. So I would give that a wash for home use. Slight advantage to Digi on large set-ups

              I tend to like having a front and back and keeping switch and other controls out of reach of roving fingers. Slight advantage to On30 "specs", and since On30 tends to module scenes and short trains, it works better. On30 seems to encourage public displays. Free-Mo on the other hand tends toward long train mainline operations AND more toward private operations or limited public access, so controls available to observers is not as big a concern. So that works to their own purposes.

              I will give an advantage to Free-Mo modules being reversible and bi-sided as allowing more flexibility in arranging modules in awkward spaces. You don't have to worry about having to have the front of modules too close to walls or narrow spaces, and, curved or angled modules can be used to go to the right or left (inside or outside curves) but curved/angled On30 can be used in one orientation only.

              Free-Mo is sticking with Cinch-Jones connectors and other specific connectors. On30 is rapidly changing over to Anderson Power-Poles. This is a real plus.

              I like the flexibility and expandability of Free-Mo style modules and command systems, I don't like the "We do it for ourselves" and not for the potential audience mindset.

              Anything we can do to increase visibility of the hobby to potential new members is a good thing.

              This is my not-so-humble opinion and worth at least twice as much as what you paid for it.
              Don\'t push me bureaucrat, I\'ve got a bit of hangover


              • #8
                Greetings, Dave!

                You make many valid points and raise as many interesting questions. I am in awe of what many of the Australians/New Zealanders and European modelers have created with their "diorama-style" layouts (as I'll call them), and I am massively intrigued with the Free-Mo style and spirit (and would be happy to model in-and-with either) ... but let me just say why I chose to go with the "Texas/West-Coast" style & standard that my group has chosen. I like traveling, and I like the edea that I can pack up my module(s) and go trekking around this country and more-than-likely find another like-minded group to "hook up with" and run some trains, exchange ideas & building techniques, and generally shoot the bull.

                A recent Southern California model train expo/display featured a modular display that included three "regional" groups, all hooked up and running (at least, it's my understanding that that all came together) ... had any of our group been able to get away (not to mention, having made enough progress ... ...!), it would have been four.

                Yes, it's a little less-structured when it comes to the theme & flow of the eventual display, but that's soon forgotten when you start delving into the detail and/or direction-the-module-is-headed. At least, it is for me! But then, I've always tended to be a bit of an outlaw ... [:-cowboy] ...!

                Good Luck! I'll be eager to read what others have to say ... and likewise to see what you eventually settle on. As always, then ...


                JSBSOn30MRRs - Jefferson State Black Sheep On30 Model Railroaders, Founding Member

                DW&A - Diddy Wells & Afterthought On30 Module/Mini-Layout


                • #9
                  The HO modular group I used to be with used Fleischmann expanding/sliding sections. They had a range of about 3/4" they could expand or contract, and were uni-directional. Drive wheels in the opposite direction would push them closed. And they weren't particularly good looking, but really solved the fit issues in a way that fit this clubs needs. But once installed that track could only be used for one direction of travel.

                  We used pre-cut full module width 4" wide bridge track sections that were cut to fit specific locations for the yard. It worked and sped up set-up If an individual member had two or more sections to form his module, then he could use the cut at the edge method if he desired.

                  I think that some kind of bridging method is preferable over run to the edge because run to the edge leaves rails vulnerable to bumping damage, and then fixing that is a problem at set-ups. If multiple group standards are at the same meet, you can always cut to fit and spike or glue.

                  I also think using a club template for locating track ends and bolt-holes is a good thing. However, I've never seen a well clamped interface fail at a Free-Mo set-up. This is probably because the modules are required to be free standing when not attached. So there is no gravity pulling down at any given end. I've seen modules with legs at one end only having problems maintaining alignment using bolts only and no clamps.

                  Multiple group meets and set-ups need a little more flexibility than should be allowed at the group level.

                  Overhead fascia and lighting are not conducive to large set-ups. It will work with sectional layouts or if a modular group uses it as a group standard. It doesn't work in multiple group meets.

                  Modulars can be adjusted if one or more modules don't show. Sectionals are very likely screwed if one or more module doesn't arrive or even if it is real late.

                  The most important thing is the track interface if you have two tracks interfacing as part of your spec. You can't fix it if the track centerlines don't meet. You can clamp a single track to a single track as long as they are straight. It might look goofy clamping a middle of the module track to a 6" in track. You can always make up jumper cabling of some kind as long as somebody has the right connectors or in and emergency cut connectors off and splice wires together.

                  Height differences can be worked around with a quick run down to the box store to cut plywood, 1x or 2x stock to stack under short legs. Or in an emergency you can cut legs.

                  Fascia color should be standardized within a group. Multi-group meets not applicable. Groups should pick a color that supports their general scheme. East coast logging is going to be darker, AZ/CA mining probably a light tan.

                  Ballast, nice to match at ends, should support the scheme. Not applicable at multi-group meets.

                  Backdrops and scenery interfaces should be a club decision. I tend to think that minimal backdrops are best, and scenery should minimize at ends to avoid abrupt changes. Logging layouts with big trees don't need back drops. Mining roads likely have scenery instead of backdrops. Again this is a portable set-up, backdrops are likely overkill.

                  In any case groups/clubs should have some minimal scenery and color continuity. Multi-group meets don't worry about it.

                  Free-Mo meets have a run chief. He decides if a module is out of compliance (mechanical, electrical, and electronic) and doesn't get included or could be relegated to a non-main line position. He also may be the designer of what goes where. This assumes that all the modules submit their dimensional data ahead of time. Somebody shows up and even if in spec, if there isn't room, then it doesn't get in.

                  Depending on the size of the meet, the Run Chief or his designated rep is responsible to oversee connecting all busses and testing. Individual module owners can put things together mechanically but all wiring connections are done specifically by the Run Chief or his rep. This assures that problems are eliminated or found quickly. If everybody plugs everything in at the same time troubleshooting is going to be close to impossible.

                  Free-Mo also usually has a designated person to check and/or assign addresses on locomotives BEFORE they are placed on the layout. Changes to CVs and/or addresses usually need to be run through this person BEFORE being made and then confirmed before the engine is returned to the layout. Programming should not be done on the operational layout. Usually this assignment is done by someone using Decoder-Pro on a separate track. Consisting and de-consisting is allowed but not much more than that. This isn't a bad idea for meets and set-ups. I'm sure most groups can relate a story of multiple engines with the same address or even worse, somebody who "Knows what I am doing" re-programming all the locomotives at the same time.
                  Don\'t push me bureaucrat, I\'ve got a bit of hangover


                  • #10

                    Perhaps important to consider before you get too far, is the fact that the three layouts you referenced (Red Stag, Dolly Varden and Muskrat Ramble) were actually dedicated large layouts, with set themes, era, style etc. It was a collective effort of small groups of modellers to build a large layout for exhibition purposes, which is quite different to trying to meet the needs of a group of modellers in more of a true modular setting (ie standard frame and track arrangements, but the theme and scenic finish of the modules is entirely in the personal desires of the builder). Sticking to that individual efforts modular style is always going to have some sort of disjointed feeling to the overall impression of the layout, but may present longer running opportunities.

                    There is one modular group here in Australia (I guess they fall more into a modular layout as opposed to one large piece), running a layout called "The Beechy". It probably has up to around 20 sections if all set up, but the sections were designed to be arranged in a number of different configurations, depending on the exhibition requirements (long end to end, L shaped, irregular oval shape etc). I have seen it in three fairly different configurations so far. Members had anywhere between 1-4 sections (depending on how committed they were toward it), and some of them use their sections as their home layout as well. What kept it so well tied together though was the common theme and scenery styles along the line. Which ever way I've seen it shown, it still looks like a single flowing piece, rather than a collection of parts that just happen to fit together.

                    I guess what you need to put to the potential group is a) how many members can you collect, and b) if its a good number (say 6 or more), can you agree on a common feel for the layout, otherwise you are probably heading more in the direction of a free-mo style setting.

                    Dan Pickard


                    • #11

                      Having survived "the OCMODs Spec Wars" that raged for almost 4 years, I can tell you from experience that the "design it and find some folks to play with it" approach is the way to go. That said, I would also suggest not working too hard to reinvent the wheel -- base your modular spec on something that's already proven.

                      On the East Coast, and indeed around the country, many of the On30 modular groups are using some version of the On30 Mid Atlantic (aka MADModules) spec, which is based on Free-Mo with some improvements. It was designed by about a half-dozen dedicated souls, and all of us had many years of modular experience in other scales. I'd invite you to visit the new MADModules web site ( and take a look.

                      The basic philosophy of the spec is that you need to get off the end of the module straight and level, and provide the appropriate electrical connections. And, to please observe a 26" minimum radius. In other words, "interoperability" - A module built to this spec would work in almost any modular setup! Kevin Hunter has carried the concept even further in his Berrett Hill Sectional Guidelines, which are also available at the MADModules site.

                      Like many of the On30 modular groups around the country, MADModules uses the DCC Universal Throttle Bus spec I developed for an HO modular group back in 2002. It allows use of any of the "big three" brands of DCC.

                      Because of the basic design of the MADModules spec, it can accommodate mixed-module-spec setups, and we regularly run MADModule/Berrett Hill layouts at area shows and regional meets. When we set up our sprawling free-form layouts, we don't incorporate ropes and stanchions, instead inviting people to walk into the layout and to walk right up to the modules -- to get involved with the trains. Having no backgrounds allows people to get up close to either side. It also allows a module to be inserted into the layout facing any direction -- there's no "front" or "back" -- which is an advantage when planning the setup.

                      Due to careful planning on Kevin's part when developing the Berrett Hill Guidelines, we're able to set up as an oval if need be, or something with loops, wyes or point-to-point, or any combination. We can even bridge between Free-Mo style and several of the "front-and-back-mainline" specs such as the NBR&N "Little Rhodey" group.

                      To this point, we have not included backdrops or lighting systems on the MADModules setups, though we are discussing lighting now. I've been involved with groups who do both, and while lights certainly help, backgrounds can be both a hindrance and a help -- while they enhance appearance, the tend to "get between" the moduleers and the viewers, especially when the layout is set up such that the modelers are inside the loop and the viewers are outside the loop. That's something that we specifically try to avoid.

                      We are now beginning construction of my home layout, which will take a sectional approach based on a combination of MADModule and Berrett Hill concepts. Over the next 11 months, we'll be "touring" the section as it's being built, with a goal of showing the completed section at the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Hickory. These "modules" will include backgrounds and a lighting valance. We're expecting that the viewing "window" will be about 24" high.

                      I personally don't like to use "bridge tracks." My experience is that they double the number of track joints at the module interface, and therefore double the number of chances for alignment issues or uneven trackwork. So, within my sections, I lay rail right to the end. I've been doing this for almost 15 years, and, within my sections, have never had an alignment problem. Usually, the issues occur at the joints with other modules that use the bridge tracks. If you look at the MADModules spec, you'll see bridge tracks (a battle I lost) and if you look at the Berrett Hill Guidelines, you'll see track to the end of the module. We've developed 6" long adapter modules to go between (though oftentimes I'll just drop a couple 1" lengths of rail in with joiners on each end and call it a day).

                      We've found that a track height of 50" is optimal viewing for most adults. That said, our newest leg design allows a track-to-floor height range of 30" all the way to about 60".

                      All of our construction is now of lightweight plywoods and foam. My old modules are now our heaviest, weighing in at about 45 lbs for an 11' 6" x 2' yard, and about the same for a 2' 8" x 12' "town" section. New modules are weighing in around 11 lbs each, depending on how complex they are. The new legs weigh next to nothing.

                      Hopefully, I've given you some useful food for thought. Kevin and I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on the MADModules spec and the Berrett Hill Guidelines. Should you adopt and adapt either of these for your use, we'd ask that you maintain at least a base-level compatibility, and send us a copy of any changes, as we try to document the variations. That way, as we revisit the specs periodically, we can be sure to maintain as much interoperability as possible with our "cousin" groups.
                      Geren W. Mortensen, Jr.

                      a.k.a. The On30 Guy

                      Westminster, MD USA



                      • #12
                        Hi Dave,

                        We (3) have taken 5 years to build our layout Purgatory Peak, we were also inspired by Red Stag, our layout has 5 scenic boards at present (22ft 6in) the 6th is being built, this is to give more space to run longer trains, our max length is a K28 16 hoppers and cabbose at present.

                        each board is aprox 4ft 6in long, less than 27in wide (to pass through doors) and just under 34ins high, the ends have drop down end protectors that also make legs at one end the alignment is through patten makers dowls and tee bolts (captive nuts)

                        The opperators stand at the ends of the layout as the backsceen top stands at 6ft, this stops the public from looking past the layout and gives a feeling of being part of the layout, the backseen was painted by 2 club members and has made a big differance to the look of the layout.

                        The biggest problems with having a large layout is storage, thats why were part of a club, the other big problem is getting opperators that know how to entertain the public, not chatting to the others about who won last night.

                        Another problem is transportation of the layout, the bigger the layout the bigger the van, although one of my frends N gauge layout is 67ft long and it fits in a landrover.

                        Setting up the layout normally takes 2 men about 4hrs at present (we have done only 3 shows so far)then putting the stock on can take another hr (we now have over 29 locos)

                        have a look at our web site it may give you some ideas.
                        Neil F in Stockport



                        • #13
                          Oh and BTW, in keeping with the On30 has no rules, I intend to mostly use a variety of Atlas Code 100, Atlas Code 83 and Micro Engineering dual gauge code 83 HO/HOn3 flex tracks that I have been accumulating over the years. I'm going to recab an MDC HOn3 Shay to us as a "baby" gauge 20" or 18" gauge shay. Similar to the "baby" gauge line used in Death Valley to connect some outlying mining facilities to the 3' narrow gauge which then ran to the standard gauge connections.

                          And I'm gonna ballast it so you really can't tell what the ties are anyway.

                          Tie Spacing and Size

                          It appears that one of the current and continuing bugaboos about On30 is tie size and spacing. Do what you want on ties I'm sure you can find somebody that used something like it. I expect that where they could use wider spacing they used it and when closer spacing was necessary then they tightened up. Animas Canyon, got really specific and probably overly safe spacing. A track failure leading to a spectacular bit of bad publicity. But in a short siding to a cattle pen, probably the tie spacing was a lot less measured.

                          When in doubt do what YOU want.
                          Don\'t push me bureaucrat, I\'ve got a bit of hangover


                          • #14
                            Referencing tie spacing. I did a little research and blogged on it - Narrow Gauge Tie Size and Spacing. To me this more then enough information to get a handle on this.


                            The following is compiled from threads on the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum -Thread: Narrow Gauge Tie Size and Spacing …
                            • “The C&TS bought Class 1 & 2 ties (Main Line) from the Union Pacific. They are bigger than the NG ties that were there, mostly 6' & 7' width. The UP ties could be up to 8.5" ties. There is no change in spacing as that would take skidding the track and total re-placement. Class 3 are for branch line, Class 4 & 5 are for yard and sidings. The flaws in the ties create their Class and they are priced accordingly.”
                            • ”In 1918 the ties were 7" x 8" x 6.5' Believe it or not, as part of the valuation process, they counted and listed how many of each type of wood the ties were. They were listed as being either Pine or Spruce.”
                            • 30' rail: 16 ties, 22.5" center to center
                            • 33' rail: 18 ties, 22" center to center
                            • 39' rail: 22 ties, c. 21.25" center to center
                            • “EBT notice to tie shippers; May 20, 1943 indicates they purchased 7' ties, tolerance between 7'-1" and 6 ft. 11 in. They also purchased 6 ft ties, tolerance, no shorter than 6' Ties must be grade 1 or 2. It is my understanding that the ties were not treated. No other deminsions are shown for the ties.”
                            • “Tie spacing has changed over the years. According to an 1876 engineering guide from the Hartford Providence and Fishkill (std ga) tie spacing was 30" (roughly 2000 per mile), and at that only 1 tie in 4 was spiked on straightaways, 1 in 3 on broad curves, and 1 in 2 on sharp curves. ties were untreated.”
                            • “Take a look at the November/December ’89 Gazette. There’s an article in there that covers rail and ties of many narrow gauge railroads. (Neither the EBT nor ET&WNC are part of the listing, unfortunately.) One thing that is clear from looking at that list–there was no such thing as a “standard” tie. They ranged from 5'-11" to over 7' long, widths anywhere from 6" to 10" wide, depths from 6" to 8", and then some. Spacing was similarly all over the board. Most were in the 20" to 24" center range, but even the photo on the first page of the article (the EBT’s trackage at Mt. Union) shows a stretch where the spacing was, well, let’s call it “economized.”
                              The EBT did not use treated ties, which was curious since the PRR operated a tie-treatment plant right there in Mt. Union. Must have been cheaper to keep replacing the ones supplied by the local sawmills than to buy them from the PRR.


                            • #15

                              Can certainly appreciate the situation you described. A couple of years ago when the James River Division was looking at standards to adopt, several members and myself scoured the internet for every standard we could find.

                              I wound up putting a table together comparing each standard, but we ultimately based our decision on the closest active group we though we would run with. Their standards were dated at the time, so we modified them to reflect the availability of Micro-Engineering code 83 track and based on the work done by Doug Staurd with N-Trak, the adoption of beefier electrical components and Anderson PowerPoles. All while maintaining backwards compatibility with the older standards.

                              Opinions will vary on rail interfaces. We use the standard Free-Mo 2" rail sections and in my opinion it has provided substantially more flexibility than using sectional track (i.e. N-Trak) - if nothing else, with a pair of rail nippers and spare rail we've overcome some interesting track laying techniques!

                              There is no question running rail to the end makes set-ups faster, but unless you are a small group with control of assembly or templates, I have always been concerned with inter-module compatibility given the vast array of construction methods and varying degrees of accuracy employed. Even when cranking out modules assembly line style, differences exist.

                              I really had not mentally added it up until now, but including the 9 modules currently being assembled in the shop, we as a group have assembled 27 modules so far and I know of at least 8-10 more (including those in the back of the 2010 On30 Annual) that have been assembled to our standards outside of my basement... I guess we are doing something right!

                              We don't have a web presence other than a Yahoo! group (JRD_On30_Mod), but I'm happy to e-mail a copy of our standards if anyone is interested. Just drop me a note here.