Home layout design using Free-mo

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I want to setup a modular style railroad at home in my spare room. I have been thinking about Free-mo instead of the standard NMRA Modules. My reasons are pretty simple.
1. I do not want to be stuck to a continuous loop around the outside of the modules. (NMRA Style)

2. I want flexibility to build on and run on both sides of the mainline or mainlines. (Free-mo Style)

3. I want to be able to tear down and move the modules either to shows or if I moved into another house or room.

Alittle about the room and electronics being used so you guys can help me with ideas.

Dimensions: The room is a square for the most part with an entry way in the bottom right corner. The width is 14 feet 10 inches while the depth is 13 feet 6 inches.

Electronics: Digitrax Super Chief Xtra. Duplex equipped with a DCS 200 Command Station/Booster. I also plan on connecting each module using Anderson Power Poles instead of Jones Plugs.

Layout: I was planning on following the outer edge of the room all the way around but if anyone can come up with a feasible idea for a staging area or track plan in the middle of the room I am all ears. All locomotives run 18 to 22 inch curves.

Track and Turnouts: This will be code 83 Micro Engineering and Peco. I am debating on handlaying the track and turnouts with the help of some of our club members.

Materials: Plywood with PVC removable legs. What size and type of ply are most of you using for the tops, sides or support?

Foam: Should I use foam or just lay the track directly onto the ply? At our club we use foam over the top of the plywood with track nails and glue to hold the track in place. After that we ballast the track. I'm just wondering what some of you guys prefer if you are not using the foam method?

Sorry for such a long post but I think that covers most of it. I have posted this in a couple other forums so if you answered somewhere else please do not worry about posting twice. Thanks for any ideas or comments everyone. This is greatly appreciated.


Master Mechanic

As I see it, you are already leaning more to the Free-Mo style of modules, and I say good for you! While there is nothing wrong with the NMRA modules, it doesn't sound like you'd enjoy building them. In many ways they are ideal, but in this situation, I'd have to say no.

I would also have to say that you should at least TRY hand laying track. I've been doing it for over 50 years, and I find it very relaxing! On my current layout, over 95% of my track is hand laid. What's not you may ask? All hidden track in my 2 staging yards is code 100, and any other long stretches of hidden track is code 100 as well. The rest is code 83 and code 70. I would also tell you to see if your club members could teach you how to lay turnouts freehand, with no Fast Track jigs involved. Laying freehand allows you to to build any turnout you may need, whether straight, curved or whatever.


Layout: I was planning on following the outer edge of the room all the way around but if anyone can come up with a feasible idea for a staging area or track plan in the middle of the room I am all ears.
What do you mean by feasible? Helix, Nolix, any idea? The nolix as I define it, is simply a long sided helix. You can see a copy of my nolix by clicking on my homepage in my signature, then clicking on the "My Layout" tab. Adding a stand alone staging area under a yard that would extend in toward the middle of the room, wouldn't be hard to come up with. I would hope also that you'd make the rest of the layout built to the Free-Mo standards you want. That way, you'd have at least 3/4 of a layout that could be easily disassembled, and taken to a Free-Mo get together. Finally, one last question, is there an active Free-Mo group in the Houston area, or are you planning for the future?

Edit, meant to also say, since Free-Mo is so flexible, and the modules may be moved alot, I would forgo the foam, except for scenery, and lay the track and roadbed on plywood, max 1/2 inch thick. 1/4" may be a little too thin. If the gridwork for the modules can be built on 12-16" centers, then 1/4 inch plywood would work. I would also look at a "stiffer" roadbed material such as Homasote, also known as Soundboard, or Homabed. You'll need the harder material to spike the rail onto. Ties, such as placing them onto foam or cork, doesn't have the strength to hold the spikes alone. That's why the harder Homasote. If no lumberyards carry Homasote in your area, you can order Homabed, or use what I use, which is insulated sheathing.
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