Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Thursday, January 28, 2016

TBT - Free-mo module

Getting the module together for the trip up to Springfield got me thinking about when I started to build it and everywhere it has been. It has also led to new friendships and good times with modelers and folks I otherwise would not have met. I am certainly glad I embarked on this project. So here is a Throwback Thursday look at my Woodstown Junction Free-mo module.

It started with an issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in 2008 where Free-mo was explained and demonstrated, including construction ideas. This looked like a great way to do modular railroading, something I had participated with in the past with traditional style modules in the 1980s. Back then, an HO version of what N-trak was doing was all the rage. That group fell apart after a few years and modules built by me and some friends were disassembled.

I certainly did not need a new model railroad project as I was fully involved with my home layout. But this looked like something that could augment that and allow me to participate in other events besides home layout tours and open houses. I've always enjoyed the idea of modular layouts coming together at shows and events, and this new (to me) style had a lot going for it with a more prototypical look to things, and no difficult backdrop to deal with.

So I embarked on a design inspired by a prototype scene in Calais, Maine, the end of a Maine Central branch, I am not sure how I came upon that idea exactly, but it probably was from studying some pictures and seeing a view much like the picture below. The arrangement of track seemed like it would fit nicely into the parameters of a module, and offer operating potential even without other modules attached.

This early picture shows construction progress in early 2009, shortly after I started building. Here the track is in with basic wiring. It was just about ready for it's debut at an NMRA Division Meet, demonstrating Free-mo to a group who had never seen it before.

Initially I completed just 2 sections of the module set before starting on the shorter bridge scene section.
That the module was something that could provide operations when set up by itself was important as I was the lone pioneer in the New Jersey area with Free-mo. It would be a few years before more modules came on-line in our area, so it was great to have what was essentially a self contained portable layout. It certainly would have been easier (and maybe wiser!) to start with the traditional 2x4 module with maybe a single siding, but luckily things worked out well construction-wise and the module has performed well.

Since that debut in May of 2009, the module has been to 23 events, traveling nearly 5000 miles and getting looked at by thousands of people. Pretty cool when you step back and think about it!

When the modules were 2 years old they had their first chance to connect to other Free-mo modules, traveling down to Timonium to integrate into the Capitol Free-mo group's layout. This was certainly a moment of truth to see just how well a Free-mo module built in a vacuum might hook up with other modules from other builders. Luckily there were no issues and the module performed well. A testament to the Free-mo standard that I could build this and have it work so well right away.

The modules have attended multiple NMRA Regional conventions, public train shows such as Timonium and Springfield, numerous NMRA Division Meets and a few public displays. The modules have also participated in numerous formal operating sessions. 

My module is somewhere around 80% complete. I still have a little more scenery work I'd like to do and finalize some structures. Certainly if I did not also have a home layout I would have completed these things long ago. But the fact that the module is operationally sound and relatively complete looking has not let these things deter from my enjoyment. I look forward to many more adventures with these modules!

The bridge section, getting an initial scenery base in 2011. This bridge has survived a complete collapse when the module fell over and flattened out the bridge. I was able to rebuild it, but it is a reminder that dealing with modules requires extra care. This is often why I turn down assistance from those who want to help me carry the modules in and out from events. I would love their help, but it is easy to damage things and I don't want anyone to feel awful if something goes wrong! 
To get a full look back at all my posts that included Free-mo, click on the 'Free-mo' link at the right under Labels to filter just for those posts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Springfield Big "E" Show This Weekend!

Just a note to mention I will attending the Big "E" Train Show, also known as the Springfield Show, or the Amherst Train Show, depending on who you are talking to! It will be great to see all the Free-mo guys again as I will be bringing my Woodstown Jct. module up to include in the very large Free-mo layout. We'll be set up in the Mallory building, the larger area in the back, and we shouldn't be hard to spot as we will have an area about 200' long filled with modules.

Here is a peek at the layout plan, and a link to the plan PDF file:

My Woodstown Jct. modules are at the far right on this plan, connected to fellow NJ Free-mo member Bill Grosse's Yardville module, and across from Capitol Free-mo member Dan Picciotto's Boston Street module.

We will have modules coming in from Ohio, NY, Toronto, NH, MD, VA, MA and of course NJ. It is an impressive layout and great work from James Koretsky of NE Free-mo for finding the best use of the space and also arranging them into a suitable operations oriented layout.

We will be conducting a few operating sessions during the show. At other times I may be out on the show floor looking around and seeing people and vendors. So if you don't see me at the layout, look for me walking around or stop by later in the day.

Hope to see you there!

A CP switcher and CR transfer caboose idling in the heart of Woodstown Junction at last year's Springfield show