HO scale Danefield modules

The layout at a glance

Name: Danefield modules
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 28″ x 8′-11″
Prototype: Union Pacific
Locale: generic Midwest
Era: modern
Style: module
Mainline run: none
Minimum radius: none
Minimum turnout: no. 7
Maximum grade: none
Benchwork: laser-cut plywood modules
Height: 56″
Roadbed: cork
Track: handlaid codes 83, 70, and 55
Scenery: plywood
Backdrop: photos on lightweight PVC
Control: Lenz Digital Command Control

This track plan originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Model Railroader magazine. See a PDF version of this by clicking here.


The layout at a glance
Track layout
Name: Boston & Maine
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 14 x 25 feet
Prototype: Boston & Maine
Locale: Springfield, Mass., to White River Junction, Vt.
Era: Autumn, late 1950s
Style: around-the-walls
Mainline run: 80 feet
Minimum radius: 32”
Minimum turnout: no. 5
Maximum grade: less than 1 percent Benchwork: L-girder
Height: 48”
Roadbed: cork
Track: Walthers code 83
Scenery: extruded-foam insulation board, Structo-Lite, and plaster gauze Backdrop: photo backdrops

See a pdf version of this track plan by clicking here.


Sketching with Steve: The Free-Mo modular standard

By Steven Otte associate editor

| February 4, 2022

 

This set of rules lets you build a modular layout that can connect to others

A sketch of the end of a Free-Mo HO scale layout module, surrounded with text describing the Free-Mo standard.

The Free-Mo modular standard is a set of rules that define how to construct a layout module that can join with others built by those who also follow the standard. It defines the end plate and connections, but in between those end plates, you can build almost anything you wish.

There are several modular model railroading standards out there, but one you might have heard more about recently is the Free-Mo modular standard. Like most modular standards, the Free-Mo modular standard lets you build a section of model railroad that will connect and operate with others built to the same standard. The cool thing about Free-Mo is that while it defines the end plates and connections, the shape and size of the module between those end plates is up to you. You can build yours on a curve, include grades, even make a loop or a wye. As long as the end plates match up, it’s all good. That’s where the “Free” part of the name comes in.

My first experience with modular model railroading was a club I joined about 25 years ago that had an N scale modular setup. I liked the idea of modular modeling, especially since I lived in an apartment without space for a full layout. But the club used the NTrak standard, whose three-track setup and rigid format didn’t appeal to me. Besides, I was into HO scale. Had I known then about Free-Mo, which was only getting started about the same time, I would have advocated it for our club.

What the Free-Mo modular standard contains

The basics of the Free-Mo modular standard are contained in my sketch above. (For more detail, check out Free-Mo.org.) The end plates defined by the standard are 6” high by 24” wide for single track, 26” wide for double track. The track is centered on the end plate, so modules can be turned around and joined at either end. Why are the double-track modules 2” wider, you might ask? So, when one is joined to a single-track module, the fascia will still line up on one side. Brilliant!

Although you are in theory free to build what you want between the end plates, modules should be able to run most equipment reliably. Therefore, mainline track is required to be code 83 nickel-silver flextrack, with a minimum curvature of 42” radius, no. 8 or larger turnouts, and powered turnout frogs. Smaller code rail and no. 6 turnouts can be used on secondary track.

Unlike other modular standards, Free-Mo lets you include grades, too (as long as they’re 2 percent or less). A Free-Mo module’s railhead can be anywhere between 50” and 62” off the ground, in 3/4″ increments.

Free-Mo modules are designed to be operated with Digital Command Control. The standard defines a track bus, with commercially available connectors; an accessory bus to power things like lighting, signals, and switch motors; and a LocoNet bus for use with Digitrax and compatible DCC systems.

The standard also defines some aesthetic recommendations. All the benchwork should be covered with scenic materials. Track should be ballasted with fine light gray ballast, rail painted with Roof Brown, and ties weathered with a fine spray of Grimy Black.

This might sound like a lot of rules, but they still allow a lot of freedom and are a lot looser than other modular standards. If you have a limited amount of space for a layout, want to experiment with a different locale or era, or want to participate in the more social and cooperative side of our hobby, join (or start) a Free-Mo club in your area and get building.


HOscaleBostonMaineRR

Name: Boston & Maine
Layout owner: Thomas Oxnard
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 18 x 28 feet
Prototype: freelanced, inspired by the Boston & Maine
Locale: Boston, Seacoast region of New Hampshire into the mountains
Era: 1953
Style: walk-in
Mainline run: 194 feet
Minimum radius: 20″
Minimum turnout: no. 6
Maximum grade: 3 percent
Benchwork: L-girder and open-grid, freestanding on 2 x 2 legs; tabletop for yard and city areas
Height: 42″to 48″
Roadbed: Homabed and cork
Track: code 83 and 100 flextrack and handlaid
Scenery: carved extruded-foam insulation board
Backdrop: photos on 1⁄8″ tempered hardboard or .040″ styrene sheet

Control: Digitrax Digital Command Control with duplex radio wireless throttles

This layout originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Model Railroader magazine. See a PDF version of this by clicking here.


HOscaleNewYorkNewHavenHartford

Name: New York, New Haven & Hartford RR
Layout owner: Richard Abramson
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 12′-6″ x 19′-6″
Prototype:
New Haven electrified zone
Locale: southwestern Connecticut
Era: 1950s to 1960s
Style: around-the-walls
Mainline run: 65 feet
Minimum radius: 36″
Minimum turnout: no. 6
Maximum grade: 2 percent
Benchwork: open grid
Height: 49″
Roadbed: Homasote
Track: code 100 flextrack
Scenery: plaster gauze over extruded-foam insulation board
Backdrop:
commercial photo backdrop
Control: direct-current cab control

This track plan originally appeared in Great Model Railroads 2020. See a PDF version of this by clicking here.


HO scale Hoosac Valley RR

By

| June 21, 2017

Download this track plan from the August 2017 Model Railroader

 

HOscaleHoosacValleyRR2017

Name: Hoosac Valley RR
Layout owner: Dick Elwell
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 32 x 62 feet
Prototype: freelanced, inspired by New York Central and Boston & Albany
Locale: Northeast
Era: 1940s to 1960s
Style: walk-in
Mainline run: 365 feet
Minimum radius: 42″ (main line)
Minimum turnout: no. 6 (one no. 4 turnout)
Maximum grade: 1.5 percent
Benchwork: L-girder
Height:
48″ to 52″
Roadbed: 1⁄4″ x 11⁄4″ pine lattice
Track: flextrack and handlaid; codes 70, 83, and 100
Scenery:
Hydrocal over cardboard strips; extruded-foam insulation board
Backdrop: photos on wall

Control: NCE DCC

This track plan originally appeared in the August 2017 Model Railroader. Click the link to download a PDF of the track plan.


HO scale West Deerfield Industrial Park

By

| December 20, 2016

 

Download this track plan from the February 2017 Model Railroader

 

HOscaleWestDeerfieldIndustrialPark

Name: West Deerfield Industrial Park
Layout owner: Paul Boehlert
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 6′-8″ x 7′-11″
Theme: industrial switching
Locale: northeastern United States (as shown)
Era: modern
Style: shelf
Mainline run: not applicable
Minimum radius: 24″
Minimum turnout: no. 5

Maximum grade: none
This track plan originally appeared in the February 2017 Model Railroader. Click on the link to download a PDF copy of this track plan.


HO scale Central Vermont RR

By

| January 25, 2017

Download this track plan from the March 2017 Model Railroader

HOscaleCentralVermonttrackplan

Name: Central Vermont
Layout owner: Dave Mitchell
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Layout size: 4 x 8 feet
Prototype:
freelanced, inspired by Central Vermont
Locale: northern Vermont
Era: early 1950s
Mainline run: 18 feet
Minimum radius: 18″
Minimum turnout: no. 4
Maximum grade: 3.6 percent
Benchwork: L-girder
Height: 45″
Roadbed: cork on Homasote
Track: code 83 sectional
Scenery: plaster cloth over cardboard webbing
Backdrop: hand-painted on tempered hardboard

Control: Digitrax Zephyr DCC

This track plan originally appeared in the March 2017 Model Railroader. Click on the link to download a PDF copy of this track plan.


HO scale New England, Berkshire & Western RR

By

| September 21, 2015

Check out this track plan from the November 2015 Model Railroader

HOscalenewenglandberkshirewestern

Name: New England, Berkshire & Western RR
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 33 x 124 feet
Prototype: freelanced, inspired by Delaware & Hudson and Rutland
Locale: upstate New York and western Vermont
Era: 1950
Style: linear walkaround
Benchwork: L-girder
Height: 51″ to 59″
Roadbed: 1⁄2″ Homasote with molded wood putty shoulders on 3⁄4″ plywood
Track: handlaid except staging yards, codes 83 (main), 70 and 55 (yards and spurs)
Mainline run: approx. 400 feet
Minimum radius: 48″ (main line)
Minimum turnout: no. 5 (spurs)
Maximum grade: 1.25 percent
Scenery: plaster hardshell and extruded-foam insulation board
Backdrop: 1⁄8″ tempered hardboard glued and screwed to lath strips on 2 x 4 posts

Control: NCE Digital Command Control

The track plan initially appeared in the November 2015 issue of Model Railroader. Click on the link to download a PDF copy of this track plan.


HO scale Progressive Rail

By

| June 6, 2014

Download this track plan from Model Railroader

ProgressiveRail

Name: Progressive Rail
Layout designer: Jim Hediger
Scale: HO (1:87.1)
Size: 3 x 16 feet
Prototype: Airlake Industrial Park
Locale: Minnesota
Era: 1970s
Style: Island
Minimum turnout: no. 5

Originally appeared in the June 2002 Model Railroader. Click on the link to download the PDF of this track plan.