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Monday, April 2, 2012

Part 3.a. Modular and Sectional

Modular and sectional layouts are not a new idea, or trend; but they do offer some interesting advantages.  Have you ever wanted to move your layout, at any time, to anywhere?  Have you ever wanted to join others in a club, and run trains on one layout created by all of you?  Does your club have no space for a permanent railroad?

If you have said, "yes", to any of these questions, you might want to think about a modular or sectional layout.
Sectional/ Modular
A modular layout consists of identical modules, with strict track standards.  This might sound a bit to restricted, but these standards are important to giving a layout a modular design.  the whole point is to be able to connect with Fred's module, Lucy's module, or John's module, or a combination of any of the three.  Because of these standards, the modules can interconnect.

In this diagram, you can see how a modular layout is supposed to work.  Let's say your module is the green on top.  That green module can take the place of any other module there.

A sectional design also allows people to form large layouts, but each section of the layout has its own place, where it will fit.  For instance, a club can create a sectional layout because each member of the club has their own section to work on, and each club member knows who they will be setting up with at a show.  During the show, the layout is operated by everyone in the club, or by only a few people.  The down side to this is that EVERY ONE'S section must be present, or the layout can not be completed.

In this diagram, you can see a sectional layout.  each member of the group owns their own  set of sections, shown by different colors.  All the sections must be there at the meet in order of the train layout to be completed.

Some groups, or individuals, have combined the two.  These people do this by having the connections between each members set of modules (which on the diagram above would be between two colors) is standardized, but the space between two modules owned by the same person are not, making the whole section free to have any track arrangement desired.

Organizations and standards

Modular layouts have a set of standards which they have to meet in order for the module to connect with others.  Below is the NMRA standards for modules:


These standards might be adapted depending on the area you live.  If you are wanting to connect with a local club, please check out their own standards.

In the sectional area, there are many different types of regulations and standards.  however, one thing that I have seen more often than not are regulations adapted from Free-mo and Fremo standards.

Free-mo is taking the idea of the end modules needing to connect, in any arrangement, while letting the space between two end modules be a free-form style with no regulations.  So a person getting into Free-mo would need to have one, or a series of sections bolted together.  the two ends which would connect to other sections is standardized, but between the two ends, they could have a yard, a big industry, or a junction, or basically anything in between.

You can check out the standards here:


Fremo is slightly different, and you can see it here:


And there you have it, detail about modular groups.

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