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  • New England Free-mo - Return Loops

    Hi All,

    Well, I hadn't received any feed back from anyone over on the New Englad Free-mo thread under the Mid Scale Forum. I spoke with Stuart and while he though it would be a good idea to post there, I've decided that since I'm doing construction, and the other thread was about our setups and photographs, I'll leave it as that. Expect an update on that thread from Stuart, after he returns from NTS in Grand Rapids.

    So I'm working on building the first of two return loops to be used on future Free-mo setups. For those that don't know, Free-mo is a single track modular railroad standard (Double Track also possible) that usually operates point to point, like a real railroad (not around in circles) and railroad operations are completed if time permits on the layout setups. During free running, having the return loops is useful, because they provide a way to easily turn trains on the layout. Very good if if your running passenger trains. The design also allows for a couple of sidings to store trains, a mini staging if you will.

    The design that I'm using came to me from Darren Vorhee's of MN Free-mo, and is what he used to build his "Summit" return loop. Darren built his return loop as a single track module, I've taken his design and added some operational possibilities, by adding 3 industries on the module (allows for operations during our setups) and I made it a double track entrace, as it provides more options for any given setup.

    Below is a plan of the module (both return loops will be functionally identical - Industry tracks will be different between the two) for people to review:



    As this module is a complete cicle I decided to have the pieces CNC routered (as Darren did) to make sure that all pieces are identical and that they'd make a perfect 360 degree circle when assembled.

    When Darren built his module, he just had the tops CNC Routered as flat "table" tops, as represented by the white module outlines. This basically meant that he only needed 1 shape to be routered for the 360 degrees. I decided that to cut down on weight, I'd CNC router a path in the plywood tops so that the lumber would only be located where the track would be laid on, and as such, I ended up with 3 different templates for the 360 degree portion of the module, plus the transition piece back to the Free-mo interface.

    Here are the 4 pieces, where I need 5 of the first, 2 of the second, and 1 each of the third and fourth:



    Here are the 9 pieces laid out in their "assembled" position:



    I've since had the table tops CNC routered (Actually, I've had them for at least 18 months now) and in my next post, I'll take pictures of the parts outside and show them laid out and how they'll look.

    Also in the next post, I'll show design images of how I plan to assemble the boxes. I've designed a stacked storage / transport system, that's designed to use a very small foot print when transporting and storing these module pieces.

    All of the drawings for the remaining parts required to assemble the "boxes" / Frames (that support the CNC Routered tops) and the stack storage / transport parts are currently with the cabinet maker now. I got word on Friday that I can pick up my samples on Monday to verify that everything is OK and I can move forward with the production run.

    The samples will be used to check alignment and locking hardware.

    The only parts that won't be CNC routered are the sides, which are Birch Plywood ripped to 5 17/32" to support the nominal 1/2" plywood that's on top and bring it to the 6" Free-mo Frame Height standard.

    I'll post more on Tuesday evening after I've had a chance to verify the sampels and take some photos of the parts that I have already.

    Regards

    James Koretsky

    New England Free-mo

  • #2
    Hi James,

    The plans look good! I look forward to helping you assemble the actual pieces

    (which I've seen in your basement) once everything is ready.

    One question which occurs to me is the issue of transport. Will all the pieces

    fit into your van? Have you thought about how much volume this module set will

    take up once it is broken down and packaged for transport?

    Stuart Brorson

    New England Free-mo

    Comment


    • #3
      quote:


      Originally posted by SDB


      Hi James,

      One question which occurs to me is the issue of transport. Will all the pieces

      fit into your van? Have you thought about how much volume this module set will

      take up once it is broken down and packaged for transport?

      Stuart Brorson

      New England Free-mo


      Stuart,

      Yes, all of the pieces will fit in my van, however, I plan on hauling these in a single axle trailer. The idea being that I'd like to place modules in the trailer, where as models and related gear in the van, and be able to take 3 or 4 people with me in the van, so I have someone to talk too and share the driving with!

      Regards

      James

      Comment


      • #4
        Looking good, I may have to get the data or cad files from you so I can archive the data for SE Wisconsin Free-mo

        Mike Slater

        SE Wisconsin Free-mo
        Model Railroading is Fun

        Mike Slater



        Member of TCA, LCCA, NMRA

        SE Wisconsin Free-mo

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Guy's,

          Well, it's been a little longer than I'd planned for my next posting, however, the samples that I was waiting on for my next posting, were done incorrectly by the cabinet maker. I had to wait for them to get back from vacation so that I could explain what I was trying to achieve, and then it took another week for them to get the parts done.

          So, first up we have the pictures of the completed CNC Routered module tops, that form the base for supporting the track. These were done well over 18 months ago.

          Here's an overall view of the entire setup on our patio outside.

          Free-mo Interface End (26" Wide Double Track):



          Loop End:



          Here's a closer shot of the loop itself:



          and the Free-mo interface to Loop Tansition piece:




          I've now been working on the frame work, with the end piece design being the most important for the return loops. I plan on using Norse Type 3 Cam Locks. These are awesome devices and make assembling multi-board module sets a breeze.

          Here are some shots of the sample end pieces with the Norse Type 3 Cam Locks and the Alignment Pins installed.

          Overall of the end piece with the Norse Type 3 Cam Lock installed:



          Close up of the Norse Cam Lock Type 3 with arm in the Lock position:



          Overall of the end piece with the Norse Type 3 Receiver installed:



          Close up of the Norse Type 3 Receiver:



          In the two over all shots of the end piece, you can see two unused holes, these will have some threaded inserts installed and are part of the storage / transport system being designed for these. I have these, and these screw into the hole with a special wood thread on the outside, and they're threaded inside so a normal "bolt" can then screw into the hole. These will be used to secure end packing plates.

          Well, that's it for tonight, more in due time, as we start to build our parts.

          Regards

          James

          Comment


          • #6
            Wow this is certainly taking module building to a professional standard.

            Can't wait to see what follows with the next stage
            Owen Pass Lumber Company

            HO Logging Layout in a Shed.

            https://owenpass.blogspot.com/

            Comment


            • #7
              Very interesting thread.

              George
              The sky is not my limit, it's my playground.

              Comment


              • #8
                The hook in the locks you're using looks like about 0.125" steel?

                My experience has been that when someone who's inexperienced, hurried

                or careless starts taking something apart without undoing all the

                fasteners, the leverage of a module can put a lot of force on the joint.

                If there's an equivalent with a cast or cut-from-flat-stock latch, I'd

                suggest you consider that.
                James

                Comment


                • #9
                  Good grief, that is some serious benchwork! This will be interesting to follow.
                  Mark

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    quote:


                    Originally posted by jbvb


                    The hook in the locks you're using looks like about 0.125" steel?

                    My experience has been that when someone who's inexperienced, hurried

                    or careless starts taking something apart without undoing all the

                    fasteners, the leverage of a module can put a lot of force on the joint.

                    If there's an equivalent with a cast or cut-from-flat-stock latch, I'd

                    suggest you consider that.


                    jbvb,

                    Sorry, new to the forum, still learning everyones handles and corresponding full names, but hopefully over time, I'll get to know everyone.

                    The lock mechanism is .5" wide outside (the slot) and the arm itself is .25" diameter steel, with a clamping force of 450 Lbs, there's no chance of breaking it.

                    I do agree with you in that damage could get done, but my guess is it'll be on the wooden end plates or the screws (that hold the locks in place) pull out of the wood first, not the failure of the Cam Locks. These have been used on other modules very successfully in the past, and I'm just using the same thing here. These Locks are used in the Theater and Movie "set" industry apparently.

                    This does raise a point, which home layouts don't have a lot to worry about, and that is the handling of modular layouts.

                    I have a rule which I'd normally communicate with the Run Chief for any Free-mo setup that I attend, if I had concerns about potential damage due to a new style "clamping" system, I'd ask to address the group before commencing the setup. Either just prior too or via email communication as we prepare for the setup or both.

                    Just prior, I'd ask that anyone who'd like to handle my modules should come and see me for instruction and a demonstration of how to use the locks. I'll be building a small demonstration system so that they can identify modules using this style locking system, and after the simple instruction for using the locks, and the demonstration system to practice on, they'll then be able lock and unlock a real module with little or no trouble at all.

                    Also, as a general rule, no one should touch a module that doesn't belong to them without permission from the owner of the module. There is and can be a lot of detailss, that can be damaged from incorrect handling, and one should avoid that at all costs. It goes so far that even cleaning the track on someones module, permission should be sort before doing so, so that damage to structures, trees and fine track details doesn't occur.

                    All of these things are discussed prior too and during the setup, and it's no different to setting ground rules for new operators on a home layout as to what they can and can't do.

                    Best Regards

                    James Koretsky

                    New England Free-mo

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Adrian, George and Mark,

                      Thanks for the comments, and following along. I look forward to posting and documenting the build so that people can see what's going on with the modules, how they're constructed.

                      Regards

                      James Koretsky

                      New England Free-mo

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hi All,

                        Well, it's been a little over a month since I last posted and I'm just providing an update for everyone. I have most of the pieces delivered now. I had originally planned to just have the end plates and internal bracing CNC routered, however, after seeing what could be done by the cabinet maker, I decided to have them do the external bracing too.

                        I'm posting some pictures tonight of the pieces so far, and how they go together.

                        So here's the first piece. I call this piece the width brace and it runs from side to side on the modules center. It's used to keep the sides of the module from bowing in or out, but also provides a place to secure the top when it's affixed.



                        The holes provide some wire management options for running wires. Seeing as you pay per sheet of plywood, not the actual detail of the cuts, it pays to have as much done to save time later on.

                        The second piece is what I call the length brace. This runs the length of the module center line, and is used to provide support and prevent sagging of the plywood top.



                        The cutouts at the ends of the length braces are used to clear the Norse Type 3 CAM Locks.

                        In the previous two images, you will have seen the center cutouts looked a little odd. You may have noticed that these weren't cut straight, the kind of bulge out at the bottom on each piece. This needs to be done, because you can't cut a square corner with a round routing bit, so you need to elliminate or move the radius of the routing bit, outside of your working area, hence the bulge outs. This gives a clearance of 1/32" between the two surfaces when they come together. I left the 1/32 gap incase of expansion, but I'm not sure that it's actually needed.

                        The third picture shows the two pieces above interlocked together.



                        These are a very tight fit, but they fit fantastically. There's no slop, they simply slot into each other, and then they hold. I'll end up glueing these down the road, but this was just assembled by hand to show how it goes together.

                        In the 4th picture, I've placed the end plates around internal bracing, and added one of the outside frame pieces.



                        I couldn't add any of the shorter internal framework pieces as I didn't have any as these are the parts that I was going to cut myself, but decided that it's worth having the cabinet maker do it for me. The external framework piece shown is a special piece, and there is only one of them on each of the return loops, the other pieces are being made for me along with the pieces that are missing in the 4th photo.

                        So that's a small update, I hope to have more in a week or so, when the rest of the parts come in, and I start the process of assembly.

                        Regards

                        James

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          James, looks good! It's amazing the amount of planning and engineering you've done for these modules. Keep up the great work!

                          Stuart

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            James,

                            Wow, some really tremendous information here. So far this is off to a great start. The design and CNC method both look like excellent choices. And now showing the how the bracing works, I'd say you are on the right track.

                            Having transported my modules a number of times, I agree that as much advance planning and thoughts on travel and storage ae worthwhile. Certainly some things I would do differently. once set up and you are interacting with the top only, no problems. But anything that assists transport and set up is helpful.

                            The locking mechanisms are a great idea and will speed things up dramatically on set up - good idea! And this could be translated to our home layouts as well with drop in pieces across doorways for example.

                            Where did you find this hardware? I have a drop in section on the home layout I am building that does not have to move often (i.e. doesn't need a hinge, kust pull out and set aside when necessary) and this seems like just the things that provide a secure contact with the permanent layout section.

                            Also, the mention on module handling, I have been there too. It is tough because everyone wants to lend a hand as model railroaders are a friendly bunch, but the only damage I have received is from helpers on 2 occasions. Not that they were careless, but they just were not used to handling modules and damage resulted. It is tough to convince others that I have a specific process to unload, set up, tear down and reload that I want to follow and that helping hands actually do not help.

                            Anyway, great thread and please keep us posted. Perhaps these will appear in time for the Springfield setup in January? javascript:insertsmilie(' ')

                            Mike McNamara

                            Delran, NJ

                            njfreemo.org

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Stuart,

                              Thanks! Yes, I spent a lot of time designing and making sure what I've designed will work, but there are questions that one has about some aspects of the design that until you have something physical, you can't prove will work. So far I've been extremely lucky and or have caught a problem before the cutting has been started, so changes could be made.

                              I just noticed that I have the end plates back to front in the picture, they facing in, rather than out, doh!

                              Mike,

                              Thanks! The plan is to have these operational for Springfield. Track down and running for the mainline and one or both of the passing sidings / staging tracks, depending upon which loop it is. I'm waiting on a custom made Fast Track jig, which may or may not be ready by the show and that may limit the use to one siding on one loop.

                              The Norse Type 3 CAM Locks are made by Norse Inc, and can be purchased from them over the phone. They're located in Torrington, CT. It's the TDS108-1 model, and can be located on their WEB site is www.norse-inc.com


                              The part numbers that I used are as follows:

                              Latch Part Number: S1500-3-1.000

                              Receiver Part Number: R500-3-500

                              Locking / Unlocking Tool: LK7/324x6

                              Direct Link to the data about the locks here:

                              http://norse-inc.com/site/TDS108-1

                              I'll be ordering some more of these very shortly, if you're interested in some of them, let me know and I can purchase the number you require at the same time and we can settle up later on.

                              An update on the loops. I've been working on the leg pocket design, and I believe that I've come up with a good system that will work really well. I just have to confirm against my existing legs, the dimensions, and then decide if I want to get the legs CNC Routered. The reason for having the legs CNC routered is to allow for adjustable heights in the legs, which is a technical requirement of the Free-mo "standard" that allows 12" in heigh adjustment. That allows one to setup their modules at 50" (minimum height to top of the rail) up to 62" (maximum height for the top of the rail) in 3/4" increments and a max 2% gradient.

                              I'll be verifying the dimensions tonight, and once verified, I'll then move forward with either temporary legs or having the real legs CNC Routered.

                              James

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