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Handbook - Standards for Modules
This section defines the standards that must be followed in building modules intended for inclusion in club layouts
This page was last updated on April 5th, 2015.
1. Design, Review and
3. Main Line Track
3.1 Type and Size
3.2 Main Line Location
3.4 Track Clearances
4. Electrical - Track Power Buss
4.2 Track Wiring – Main Buss
4.3 Main Buss – Conventional
4.4 Main Buss Free-mo
4.5 Electrical - Track Wiring - Feeders and Gaps
5. DCC - LocoNet
5.1 Loconet General
5.2 Throttle Jacks
6. Plexiglas, Backdrops, Skirting
6.3 Velcro Strips for Skirting
7.2 Module Interface
8. Construction Techniques & Tips
8.1 Suggested Design Tips
8.2 Exterior Frame
9. Equipment for Transportation and Set-ups
9.1 Carry Plates
9.3 Storage of Bolts, Washers etc.
|Figure 1 Module
Figure 2 Locations for Clamping Areas (end view)
Figure 3 Locations for Clamping Areas (top view)
Figure 4 Corner Module Dimensions
Figure 5 Corner Module Track Radii
Figure 6 Corner Module Track Location
Figure 7 Leg Dimensions
Figure 8 Track Locations on Modules|
Figure 9 Main Buss Wiring (4 Wire)
Figure 10 Main Buss Wiring (2 Wire)
Figure 11 Free-mo Power Buss
Figure 12 Turnout Wiring
Figure 13 RJ12 Wiring Standards
Figure 14 Carry Plates
a) The design of the module is open to the member’s discretion. Variances to the standards may be allowed with approval from the Design Approval Group when no reasonable solution can be found.
b) Members are encouraged to design for functionality and operation.
c) Modules must be designed for quick set-up and tear down.
d) Members should consult with other members to discuss their modules before designing a layout. This allows you to benefit from the experience and expertise of others in track planning, module design and construction. Members are ready to offer constructive comments and to help with the various aspects of module construction.
a) All module designs for use in Club set-ups are subject to review by the Operations Group, and review and approval by the Design Approval Group before construction.
b) Review is intended to provide constructive suggestions, helping new module builders avoid the problems others have already overcome, and ensuring that modules can be incorporated into the Club set-ups.
c) Module designs presented for peer review must be accurate. The use of track planning software such as XTrkCad is recommended, as it permits plans to be shared electronically and provides better accuracy of track placement and radii.
a) Non-compliant modules will not be included in set-ups until they meet the standard.
a) The height of the module from the floor to the top of the rail must be 45” at the module interface.
b) The height is measured with leg leveller bolts threaded in and extending at least 1/2" so as to provide a minimum height adjustment range of 1”.
a) All modules must be built on a wooden frame.
b) Module interfaces may be either double-track (Conventional) or single-track (Free-Mo). These two standards are connected through transition modules or sets of modules (refer to 2.6 below).
c) The depth of the module frame at module interfaces must be between 4” and 4-1/2”. All sizes are actual, not nominal, dimensions (note that 3/4" x 3-1/2”, also known as 1 x 4 lumber, should not be used for module frames).
Figure 1 Module Interface Dimensions
d) Clear space must be left up to the bottom of the Styrofoam on the inside of the module interface extending from 5” to 10” from each side so as to allow clamping to the adjacent module (see figures below)
e) Cabinet-grade plywood (with paint-grade veneer surface) is highly recommended for the module frame as it is lighter than pine, doesn’t warp, and is the cheapest of all types of materials that are suitable for making module frames..
f) Clear pine may also be used for the module frame but may be subject to warping.
g) Other softwoods are not permitted.
h) The width of the frame at module interfaces must be 24” wide and 3/4" thick. (For the width of wye modules, refer to 2.5 below.)
i) Modules containing wyes may exceed the 24” width at the module interface (See 2.5 below)
j) Oversize modules are permissible to a depth of 30”. However, front or back extensions must be tapered to meet the module interface of 24”
a) Straight modules must be built in multiple lengths of 2’ subject to a minimum length of 2’ (i.e. 2’, 4’, and 6’). For corner and wye modules, refer to 2.5 below.)
b) The length of your module will probably be limited to the type of vehicle you drive. A 6’ long module obviously will not fit in the trunk or back seat of a sub-compact. When determining the length of your module, check and make sure it will fit into your vehicle for transportation.
a) Curved Free-mo modules must move the Main Line through multiples of 22-1/2” (increments of 45º and 90º are preferred).
a) Corner and wye modules must be built on the principle of a 53” square as shown in Figure 3, 4, and 5 below.
b) The total angle between two ends of the module must be in increments of 90º
c) The starting point of the outside curve is offset 2” from the start of the inside curve to give increased separation between rails in the curve.
d) The minimum separation between the centrelines of tracks must be 2-1/4” apart within 12” of entering the curve.
Figure 4 Corner Module Dimensions
e) Corner modules work on the principle of a 53-inch square with the corners knocked off (see Figure 4 above). The length of boxed set of corner modules as shown is 48”. By moving the diagonal edge of the module to 3” from the centreline of the 42.5” radius the length reduces to 40.2”. If the 40” radius is used then the length would be 40.5”.
Figure 5 Corner Module Track Radii
Figure 6 Corner Module Track Location
a) Transition modules or modules sets must meet the standards for Module Interface Dimensions, width, and depth.
b) Transition modules allow for many options with respect to shape, angle, and length. However, they also present many challenges with respect to construction, track placement, etc.
c) Transition module design and construction must be discussed in advance with the Road Foreman and other senior members of the Club to ensure that the module design meets Club layout design needs and is compliant will all the standards.
a) All surfaces of the module frame must be painted so as to prevent moisture absorption.
b) The exterior of module frames must be painted flat black.
c) Lightweight materials should be used as much as possible.
d) The frame should be assembled using carpenter’s wood glue and #8 x 1-1/2” Robertson wood screws.
a) Modules must have a complete top deck made from a piece of 2” Styrofoam.
b) There should be no gaps in the module deck that are open to the floor.
c) The Styrofoam must be securely fastened to the module frame with several applications of carpenter’s wood glue or other suitable glue.
d) Cross members may be placed on the underside of the Styrofoam as required and fastened to the module frame so as to provide support to the Styrofoam deck.
e) The top of the Styrofoam should be painted an earth-brown colour so that the Styrofoam will better blend in with the scenery.
a) Module legs must be built from 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” lumber.
b) Module legs must be built from 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” lumber.
c) A stand-alone module or the core module of a module set must have 4 legs so as to be able to stand on its own at set-up and take-down.
d) Additional modules in a set require only two legs per module and alignment pins/bolts to attach to their mating module. (See 9.2 for more information on alignment pins/bolts.)
e) A 5/16” threaded hanger bolt must be inserted in the top of the leg so as to fasten the leg to corresponding T-nuts or threaded inserts on the underside of the module frame.
f) Legs must have a levelling mechanism so as to allow a minimum height adjustment range of 1-1/4”.
g) Legs must be painted flat black.
h) The top of each leg should be marked so as to easily identify the owner.
a) A module owner must supply two C-clamps with each module to allow connection with another module (unless alignment bolts are used within module sets.
b) For each stand-alone module or for each 2
modules of a module set, the module owner must supply 3 additional C-clamps to
allow for clamping carry plates as per 2.10.3
c) For stability of modules, carry plates should be clamped across one pair of legs using three C-clamps.
a) Main Line track must be either Code 83 or Code 100 rail.
b) All tracks must be nickel silver
c) All track and turnouts MUST perform reliably and meet NMRA standards.
d) Roadbed is required for Main Line tracks.
e) Rail-joiners must be installed on all Main Line tracks at each end of the module and must slide completely under the rails for storage between set-ups.
f) Joiner tracks must NOT include rail-joiners. Rail-joiners are part of the module, not the joiner track.
g) The last 6” of track (including joiner track) at the interface must be straight, level and perpendicular to the end of the module.
For Conventional Modules
a) Double Main Line track centrelines must be located 2-1/2” and 4-1/2” from the front edge at each end of the module, perpendicular to the end.
b) The Main Line tracks must start 3” in from the module interface.
c) All Main Line tracks must terminate in Atlas Code 100 snap track for a minimum length of 1-1/2” including modules with Code 83 rail.
d) The Club will supply Atlas Code 100 joiner tracks.
e) For exceptions, the module owner must supply the joiner tracks.
For Free-mo Modules
f) Single Main Line track centrelines must be centred 12” from the front and back edges at each end of the module, perpendicular to the end.
g) The Main Line track must start 3” in from the module interface
h) All Main Line tracks must terminate in Atlas Code 83 snap track for a minimum length of 1-1/2”.
i) The Club will supply Atlas Code 83 joiner tracks.
j) For exceptions, the module owner must supply the joiner tracks.
For Transition Modules
k) At the Conventional end, the module track must meet the standards listed in 3.2.1 above for Conventional modules.
l) At the Free-mo end, the module track must meet the standards listed in 3.2.2 above for Free-mo modules.
m) In the transition from Conventional to Free-mo, the track must meet the standards listed in 3.3 below for Curves.
For all Modules
n) Over the length of a module/set of modules, the Main Line(s) may move from the specified centreline, subject to a minimum radius of 40” and no closer than 2-1/2” to the edge of the module.
o) Main Line tracks must be a uniform elevation with no grades
p) When laying track, it is better to be a bit less than 3” from the module interface than a bit more. When laying Main Line track to the module’s edge, subtract 1/8” from the 3” Code 100 interface. At the first operating session, the final cut shall be made by the Road Foreman using a club-owned jig to ensure that the Main Line track(s) are cut back to the appropriate length.
Figure 8 Track Locations on Modules
q) Main line minimum radius is 40”
r) Branch line minimum radius is 30”
s) The minimum radius for industrial track’s is 18”
t) There must be at least 12” of straight track between reverse curves, except for crossovers.
For Conventional Modules
a) Turnouts for crossovers between Main Line tracks must be a minimum of #6, Peco Long or longer.
b) Turnouts from Main Line tracks must be a minimum of #5 Peco Medium or longer.
c) Turnouts within industrial spurs are at the discretion of the member, but must be functionally appropriate for the industries involved.
d) For every eight feet of Conventional Modules in a set there must be at least one crossover between Main Line tracks.
e) To avoid damage during set-ups and tear downs, the points of a turnout should be at least 1-1/2” from any joiner track section at the edge of a module.
a) Tunnels, bridges, station and freight platforms, etc. must exceed the NMRA Mark IV Clearance Gauge so that long and high modern cars do not have problems
b) Since the NMRA Mark IV Clearance Gauge is designed for straight track, greater allowance must be given on curves.
c) Clearances must accept Auto-max, wide and 90’ cars.
a) All electrical wiring must be permanently attached to the module.
b) To avoid damage to the buss wiring, wires should be securely fastened to the module frame at the ends so as to provide strain relief.
c) To avoid damage during transportation, dangling wires should be secured by plastic P-clips, closable hooks, etc
a) Conventional modules must have a 4-wire trailer connector at each end of the module.
b) Free-mo modules must have a 2-wire trailer connector at each end of the module.
c) The trailer connector must be located along the centreline and hang 6” below the bottom edge at each end of the frame.
d) Trailer connectors must be securely soldered or crimped to a 2-wire or 4-wire buss that runs continuously along the length of the module. Spade or screw-type terminal strips are not permitted.
e) The wire for a 4-wire buss must be 16 AWG stranded wire or larger.
f) The wire for a 2-wire buss must be 14 AWG stranded wire or larger.
g) As the AWG (American Wire Gauge) number decreases, the diameter of the wire increases. 14 AWG wire is thicker than 16 AWG wire.
a) For conventional modules, when looking at the front of the module:
b) The 3-female sockets and 1-male pin connector will be on the left side of the module.
c) The 1-female socket - 3 – male pin connector will be on the right side of the module
d) The green and brown wires are connected to the back rails of either the front or back track on a 4-wire buss
e) The white and yellow wires are connected to the front rails of either the front or back track on a 4-wire buss.
f) For a 2-wire buss, the white and yellow wires from the trailer connector must be soldered or crimped together
g) For a 2-wire buss, the green and brown wires from the trailer connector must be soldered or crimped together.
Figure 9 Main Buss Wiring (4 wire)
Figure 10 Main Buss Wiring (2 wire)
a) For Free-mo, when viewed from the end of the module and looking down at the track, the female socket feeds the left-hand rail and the male pin feeds the right-hand rail.
Figure 11 Free-mo Power Buss
a) Track feeder wire must be 22 AWG wire or larger.
b) There must be track feeder wires for every 3 feet of rail or less.
c) All tracks must be wired live so that DCC-equipped locomotives can run anywhere at anytime. In particular, track cannot be dependent upon the turnout points for power.
d) Track feeder wires should be located at each end
of the rails at the interface between
e) All track feeder wires must be soldered or crimped to the track buss. Spade or screw-type terminal strips are not permitted.
f) Turnouts must be “DCC friendly” so that locomotives and lighted cars pass through a turnout without shorting on the points, the frog or the diverging rails.
g) The frog must be insulated or the rails gapped and insulated beyond the frog.
h) Track feeder wires must feed the point end of turnouts.
i) Track feeder wires must feed all rails beyond the insulated frog or insulated gap.
j) Track feeder wires for point and frog end of turnouts should be located within 24” of the turnout.
k) Consult with Club experts as to whether the turnouts you wish to use need modification or not.
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The following standards apply to all modules carrying LocoNet cables and devices.
a) Control signals are carried over a data network comprised of RJ12 6-wire telephone cable and components. This network is referred to as the "LocoNet". All components used in the LocoNet must meet Digitrax RJ12 6-wire standards. The Digitrax LocoNet standard uses 6 coloured wires (white, black, red, green, yellow, and blue) in the telephone cables, jacks, plugs and other components. Each wire performs a different function in the Digitrax LocoNet system. Further details of these functions and the Digitrax data communications protocol can be found in the document "LocoNet Personal Edition", on the Digitrax website.
b) All LocoNet cables at module interface will be terminated with a RJ12 connector (male or female as needed). All internal connections will be soldered except for connections to components requiring RJ12 male connectors (i.e. UP3/5 panels, etc). All soldered connections must be covered with shrink-tubing.
c) Colour code of wire shall be maintained through all internal connections.
d) Screws and spade terminals on telco jacks are NOT to be used for connections. Remove screws, cut off spade terminals and make solder connections to all wires maintaining the colour code.
e) To ensure that the wires are not damaged if they are snagged in transit, a strain relief must be added to connection boxes. As an example, cut a piece of 0.060” styrene to fit over the width of the socket, drill 4 holes in it (2 are used with the original screws to secure it to the base and the other 2 holes are used to tie the wiring harness to the bar). Wires should be slack in the box and around 1 inch of slack should be kept just outside the box to facilitate future repairs.
Summary of Soldered Connections
f) The main LocoNet cable shall run DIRECTLY from one end of the module to the other end, taking the shortest route possible. Connections to telco jacks, UP3/5 panels, and UR91/92 radio receivers shall be taken from the main LocoNet cable.
To wire a junction see the tutorial at http://www.hotrak.ca/Library/Building%20a%20loconet%20star.html, alternately the telco jacks, etc. may be connected to the Surface Mount Jack.
Exception: For modules in operation prior to 1 April 2012, the cable may follow the perimeter of the module frame as long as all other standards in this section arem met.
g) The main LocoNet cable and track power buss wiring must be at least 1" apart to prevent distortion of the DCC signal.
h) When facing the front of a Conventional Module, the right-hand end of the main LocoNet cable will terminate in an RJ12 female connection (either a surface mount female jack fastened to the end plate with the RJ12 jack facing the floor or a manufactured RJ12 pigtail).
i) When facing the front of a Conventional Module, the left-hand end of the main LocoNet cable will extend a minimum of 8" beyond the left end of the module with a male RJ12 plug crimped onto the end of the cable.
j) The male and female connections and LocoNet Cable on the ends of the module shall be located 11" from the front of the module, when possible.
k) For Freemo modules, EACH END of the module will terminate in a male plug extending 8" from the end of the module, along with an RJ12 female connection (either a surface mount female jack fastened to the end plate with the RJ12 jack facing the floor or a manufactured RJ12 pigtail).
l) For Transition Modules, the conventional end must comply with paragraphs (h) or (i) while the Freemo end must comply with paragraph (k)
m) For Modules with multiple sections (corners, wyes, etc.) and Module Sets (
n) All LocoNet wiring must be permanently attached to the module. Cutting a slot in the foam is a good way to secure the LocoNet cable and a little white glue will lock it in place if it is loose.
o) To avoid damage to the LocoNet, wires must be securely fastened to the module frame at the ends and on each side of the telco jacks so as to provide strain relief.
p) To avoid damage during transportation, dangling wires should be secured by plastic P-clips, hook and loop Velcro, closable hooks, etc.
a) Modules 24” or less in length must have one RJ12 throttle jack on the front side of the module.
b) Each module between 24” and 48” in length must have at least one female RJ12 throttle jack on each side so that throttle jacks are accessible from both sides of the module.
c) Each module exceeding 48” in length must have a double-female RJ12 throttle jack in each side so that throttle jacks are accessible from both sides of the module.
d) Where a pair of modules up to 48” each in length is used as an inseparable set, a double female RJ12 throttle jack may be used on the front of one module and a second double-female RJ12 throttle jack may be used on the rear of the other module.
e) Fiddle yards must have a double-female RJ12 throttle jack for every 8’ of length.
f) The preferred throttle jack is the Digitrax UP3 or UP5 panel.
g) Throttle jacks must be mounted flush with the face of the module by routing out a depression for the faceplate to fit into.
h) The RJ12 network cable is wired in a daisy chain fashion from each component under the module.
i) The raised edge of the faceplate can be carefully trimmed with a sharp utility knife to reduce the size and the depth of the depression.
j) LocoNet cables from throttle jacks should be held in place with wire stapes, P-clips, etc, so as to prevent breakage of the individual wires
a) For Free-Mo modules, Plexiglas guards of 3/16” or 1/4" thickness are required on both sides of the module.
b) For Conventional modules, Plexiglas guards of 3/16” or 1/4" thickness are required on the front of the module with a backdrop on the back of the module.
c) Plexiglas must be positioned so that the top edge is at least 2-1/2” above the top of the rail.
d) Plexiglas be placed 1” above the bottom of the frame to allow for the attaching of Velcro strips (refer to 6.3 below).
e) All edges of the Plexiglas must be smoothed so as not to cause injury to persons grasping the Plexiglas.
f) If you wish to have your name on your module, it should be located near the centre of each module section behind the Plexiglas. An MS Word format template can be found at http://www.hotrak.ca/MembersOnly.html.
a) Conventional modules must have a backdrop.
b) The top edge of the backdrop must be 7-1/2” above the top of the rail.
c) Backdrops on canyon modules must be as deep as necessary.
d) Backdrops should be at least 1/8” thick and made of Masonite or door skin plywood.
e) Backdrops should be screwed to the back of the module for ease of removal and mounting hardware shall not protrude more the 1/8”
f) The front of the backdrop should be painted with sky blue paint. However, night, bad weather, or winter colouring is also permissible provided the colours blend with the sky blue paint at the module interfaces.
g) The paint for the back of the backdrop should be Colonial Blue. See the Road Foreman for the colour specifications.
a) Black Velcro strips (hook portion) must be affixed at each end of the module and on 12” centres on each side of the module that has Plexiglas guards.
b) Velcro strips at each module end must be 3” in length. All other strips must be 2” in length.
c) Velcro strips must be located on the bottom edge of the side of the module just below the Plexiglas
d) Each Velcro strip must be affixed with glue and two or more staples.
e) Hook-Velcro with pre-glued backing can be purchased at most fabric stores.
a) The Club will supply skirting.
b) Members are responsible for supplying skirting for modules with fascias that drop below the end plates (valley/canyon modules
c) Skirting must be flat black or grey.
d) Skirting must have an extra 2” at both ends so as to overlap with the skirt of adjacent modules
e) At the end of each skirt, the Velcro must have loops on the top inside and hook Velcro on the top outside for a good connection to the next section
a) While the type of materials used is open to member’s discretion, Styrofoam is recommended for the scenery base so as to minimize weight. Gaps between pieces of Styrofoam can be filled in with spackling compound (a lightweight filler that doesn’t crack), rather than Hydrocal or Plaster of Paris.
a) Scenery at module interfaces must meet flush with the bottom edge of the cork roadbed.
b) While there are no restrictions on what scenery members may model, it is recommended that, whenever possible, members use the same type (relative colouring) of scenic material to reduce abrupt changes between modules. Woodland Scenics Medium or Mixed Green ground cover and Mixed Gray Fine Ballast are suggested.
a) Use lightweight materials as much as possible.
b) Members are encouraged to be innovative with their track designs. Designs incorporating Main Line curves, junctions, dramatic scenery, etc. are especially encouraged.
c) Before designing the frame, members are asked to discuss their module’s construction with Club members. We have specialized tools, jigs, and experience that will make things go much smoother.
a) To ensure that pairs of modules supplied by the same member join perfectly, it is recommended that you use “alignment pins” or “alignment bolts” and T-nuts to align the two modules.
b) During construction, clamp the two modules together then drill two holes through the two interfaces just big enough for a 5/16” bolt. Install 5/16” T-nuts on the inside of one module. Alignment pins are made by cutting the heads off two bolts leaving 1” of smooth shaft screw (round the ends of the cuts). With the two modules separated, insert the alignment pins bolts into the T-nuts, attach the other module and fasten together with two clamps. The use of alignment bolts will mean that fewer clamps are necessary for attaching modules within a set.
c) When building a pair of modules, temporarily cover the outside of the frame with masking tape so that scenery materials and adhesives don’t adhere to the frame. Leave the tape 1/2" above the side frames so that scenery doesn’t have to be cut on the interface (it also holds it in place). You should also build the modules as one block (with the tape separating the scenery material. Lay the track in one continuous stretch and then cut the track at the joint afterwards. Connect with rail-joiners.
d) Casters may be mounted on the gussets (ensure that you leave room for the legs) for easier transportation so that other module pairs can be loaded on top of a “casterized” module.
a) A pair of modules built to the same dimensions can be bolted together as a “boxed set” so as to facilitate their transportation and protect the scenery. This is done with the use of a pair of endplates. Endplates are pieces of 1/4" or 3/8” plywood measuring 24” wide with a height appropriate for boxing your modules. The endplates are bolted to each end of a “boxed set” of modules. A “hand-hold” is usually cut into the middle of each endplate. During construction of the modules, T-nuts are incorporated into the ends of the module so as to accept a bolt, which holds the endplate in place.
b) Bolts for attaching carry plates must be 1/4" #20 Robertson or Phillips or 5/16” bolt. Large hand-turn knobs are also permitted.
c) Casters can be appropriately fastened to one of the carry-plates for ease of transporting the boxed set in elevators, apartment buildings, etc, as shown in Figure 14b.
d) Carry plates, particularly the bolt holes, should be clearly labelled so that there is no confusion about the where they fit on to the module. Module ends should also be properly labeled.
Figure 14a Carry Plate, before being labeled, attached to a Module
Figure 14b - Carry Plate showing casters and labeling details.
a) For ease of transportation, legs should be fastened together.
b) Two 1” pieces of inner tube will serve as an “elastic-band” to keep a set of legs together. Bungee cords, cut to the appropriate length with the ends tied together, will serve the same purpose.
a) It is useful to use a container such as a plastic jar/ baggie, etc to store the bolts and washers when the modules are taken apart for setup so that they are in one place, can be easily found when the modules are bolted together again for transportation after setup.