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A friend of mine and I are considering starting a O gauge modular layout club in Western PA, specifically in the Zelienople area.   Our idea would be to have modular layout sections that we could set up at various events around the area.  If you may be interested in taking part in such a club, please reply to this message.  No obligation if you reply!  We are very much in the initial formative stages and need to see if there is enough interest out there in the area to get this going.

Also, if you can provide any advice/suggestions/tips etc. in starting such a club, that would be welcome too!   In particular, if there are any existing standards/guidelines for O gauge modular layout construction, they would be very helpful.  I think I may have seen some NMRA standards for HO layouts but not O gauge layouts.

Thanks!

Dale

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Make them to standard. I was involved in an HO club back before internet. Our resident wizard didn't follow standards. A couple members wanted to go to another state to participate in an event and found out they were not compatible. Also anyone coming to one of our events would not have been able to set up with ours.

I was also in a G modular club that set up Christmas layouts in car dealer showrooms, shopping malls, and utility company lobbies. It was always fun and a crowd pleaser.

Hope you pursue the idea. Keep us in the loop...

Several east coast HiRail groups use the attached specs. Be aware the wiring harness specs are old and the specified connectors are generally not available. The specs are pre-command control. I'd recommend Anderson Power poles as a suitable replacement. They can be custom configured. The National Capital Trackers have used these with good success. Look at their website.

Use a separate ground for each track and another for accessories.

Also, the 4' length was chosen for easy handling. However, I've built 2', 4' 6' and 8' lengths.

Think about how you are going to transport them without damage.

For legs, look at the Pittsburgh HiRailers. They often post on this Forum. Their leg system beats wingnutting individual legs hands down! BTDT!

Chris

LVHR

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Western Pennsylvania!  Zelienople area!  You are in my backyard!  I live in Butler, and have thought I might like to join Pittsburgh Independent HiRailers or the Fort Pitt HiRailers when I retired since I know some great fellows in each group.  Well, I'm retired now, but most of their events are around Pittsburgh and adding drive time to the schedule for their setups has swayed me to stay home. 

I would be interested in getting together to discuss the possibilities.  I can't think of others in Butler and Beaver Counties who may be interested, but your post here is a start.  I do know a Forum member in Indiana, Pennsylvania who has participated in a setup in a vacant space in the Indiana mall at Christmas time who I could question as to how they organized.

Many thanks to those outside the area who have offered suggestions.

Last edited by Mark Boyce

I'll give you one piece of advice... well maybe two.

Spend some time on the module design, and specifically the ease of setup, teardown, and transport of the modules.  I know that there are tons of things I'd do differently if our modular club were to start over and build all new modules!  Things like a separate power station, better wiring standards, better module track mating standards, etc.  We also went with two mainlines, I'd go with at least three if I had it to do over again.  Most of the visitors to modular layouts like to see lots of action.

When you get to the point you're thinking about what the modules might look like, I'd start a discussion thread and get input on what other clubs have done, what has worked, and what has been a problem.  It will be time well spent and likely minimize the issues you may have starting a new club.

@jim sutter posted:

I haven't been in touch with anybody for awhile but I thought there was already a group of fellows, that had a club in western Pennsylvania. They use to set up at the Greenberg and TCA shows. During Christmas they set up at Kennywood.

Jim, yes you are right!  that’s the Pittsburgh Independent HiRailers.  They still setup at Kennywood, Greenberg shows, etc, well the virus upset their schedule.  They are setting up for their first public show at Monroeville this weekend. I’m planning to attend tomorrow and always visit.  This time I’m going to bring up this idea of a smaller group north of the Pittsburgh area and pick the minds of those who are willing.

The Fort Pitt TCA group sets up a modular layout at their meets, usually close to Pittsburgh.

If nothing comes of the modular discussion, maybe it will lead to more friendships of those of us who live beyond the metropolitan area.

I'm in Crawford County, about 50 minutes +/- up I 79. This sounds like fun!

Good to hear from you, John!

Agree with making modules light! But do not sacrifice structural strength for lightness, especially beneath the track. Unsupported builders foam WILL eventually bow. Then your trains look like they are riding on a ocean. Don't ask me how I know this...   You can use a plywood/foam sandwich beneath the tracks and minimally supported foam under the scenery. We tried to avoid plaster and plaster castings as much as possible: No strength, cracks easily, and heavy.

Talking with the guys of the Pittsburgh Independent HiRailers is a great plan!

Chris

LVHR

@Dale K posted:

A friend of mine and I are considering starting a O gauge modular layout club in Western PA, specifically in the Zelienople area.   Our idea would be to have modular layout sections that we could set up at various events around the area.  If you may be interested in taking part in such a club, please reply to this message.  No obligation if you reply!  We are very much in the initial formative stages and need to see if there is enough interest out there in the area to get this going.

Also, if you can provide any advice/suggestions/tips etc. in starting such a club, that would be welcome too!   In particular, if there are any existing standards/guidelines for O gauge modular layout construction, they would be very helpful.  I think I may have seen some NMRA standards for HO layouts but not O gauge layouts.

Thanks

Hi Dale,

I'm with the Ft. Pitt Hi-Railers (a modular club) and would love to talk to you about your idea of a modular club.  I'm located south of you in Wexford and have been using the pandemic time to work on our modules. I'm also retired.  My contact info is in my profile.

Dale, I am with the Pittsburgh Independent Hi-Railers, and if you can make it to the Greenberg show in Monroeville, this weekend, we can answer questions, and if you come Sunday, and if you can stay through the end of the show, you could watch how we operate as we tear down.  Just track me down at the show if you come.

Andy

Up-front considerations.

(1.) Storage of modules, when not displayed.

(2.) Transportation of modules.

(3.) Repair and up-keep of modules.

(4.) Eventually any group, like this, becomes a people group. Talent/skills/personalities, become a larger consideration, than most would think.

Both of the modular groups, mentioned, have addressed the above issues. Best wishes with your effort.  IMO, Mike CT. 

@lehighline posted:
For legs, look at the Pittsburgh HiRailers. They often post on this Forum. Their leg system beats wingnutting individual legs hands down! BTDT!

Chris

LVHR

Chris, thanks for the compliment!  Here are some photos showing how our leg system works:

01

To the right you can see the floating board clamp with the bolt-spring-wingnut configuration.  Here is a close-up:

02

The legs are just inserted between the structural board on the right, and the floating board on the left and the wingnuts used to tighten until the legs are clamped firmly in place.  Then at tear-down, the spring will push the board away as the wingnuts are loosened, releasing the legs.  It is a very quick and efficient system.  Each set of our legs consist of 2x2's  spaced apart and held together by a piece of luan plywood with eye bolts installed in the bottom to allow us to level the layout (sometimes shims are still necessary on very uneven surfaces -- when our Kennywood setups were in the cafeteria building, we needed several inches of shims to deal with the floor slope -- it is a 100+ year old building).

From the first photo, you can also see that we use regular household outlets in conjunction with 2-prong polarized plugs for our track power.  You have to be careful with this type of system, but this type of plug is made for constant plugging and unplugging, and in a pinch, we can go to any good hardware store for replacements.  We also have a 120v line on the back of our modules for accessories or other power needs.  Again, care must be exercised when using this kind of system.

While I'm at it, here is a shot of our control setup:

03

It is not as neat as it normally is, as we experienced a failure of the power strip mounted in the box.   The circuit tester (the little yellow one plugged into the box on the floor) helped diagnose the problem quickly, and is a must-have if you intend to use TMCC/Legacy as we have, in the past, encountered extension equipment that was defective or wired incorrectly and did not have a good ground.  Also, we love the ZW-L (seen mounted on the lower section of its own carrying case which is sitting on the lid) as once it is on, we don't have to touch it again until it is time to turn it off.  Before the ZW-L came along, we used two Z-4000's so that when we had a minor derailment that tripped the breaker, we only had to check two trains, rather than all four.

Andy

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Good pictures, Andy!

A couple of comments:  Your cautions regarding using 120v receptacles for a low voltage application are spot on, especially since you also have 120v on your modules. Color coding everything was a very wise move.

Second, regarding the leg installation, the fixed cross member needs to be perfectly square to the module and straight as possible in all dimensions. Deviations from this result in legs that don't fit, or go in crooked. Properly executed, it's a great system!

Chris

LVHR

@Dale K, I spoke with your friend Matt (if I am remembering correctly) at the Monroeville show yesterday.  I had another suggestion that you may want to make up some small flyers and talk to the people at CT McCormacks and Hobby Express about putting them on their counter or posting them in order to reach people that are not (yet) on this forum.  Getting members who will actively participate will always be the first step in getting a new modular club off the ground.

If you send me an email (my address is in my profile), I have some other things I can send that may be of help.

Andy

So Andy, your leg clamp system doesn't need angle braces for the legs? IT's super tight so the modules don't weeble wobble?

Mike CT's photos show the legs as they fit into the modules.  When properly constructed and installed, the tops of the legs are directly in contact with the module's plywood, and the top edge of the luan plywood that connects the two legs on each set of legs is directly in contact with the fixed cross brace.  Once clamped tight, and once the module is leveled with the eye bolts, it is very stable with no wobble.  And once all modules are clamped together, the layout can withstand the occasional child hanging on to it or adult leaning on it, although we discourage both.

Andy

I'll give you one piece of advice... well maybe two.

Spend some time on the module design, and specifically the ease of setup, teardown, and transport of the modules.  I know that there are tons of things I'd do differently if our modular club were to start over and build all new modules!  Things like a separate power station, better wiring standards, better module track mating standards, etc.  We also went with two mainlines, I'd go with at least three if I had it to do over again.  Most of the visitors to modular layouts like to see lots of action.

When you get to the point you're thinking about what the modules might look like, I'd start a discussion thread and get input on what other clubs have done, what has worked, and what has been a problem.  It will be time well spent and likely minimize the issues you may have starting a new club.

John makes many excellent points here......

Peter

A couple more thoughts, prompted by things mentioned in preceding posts...

In addition to any built-in leg levelers and shims, carry a few scraps of 1x and 2x lumber in case the floor is really out of level.  Our club has set up in a fairgrounds horse barn where the floor varies by as much as 4 inches, which is beyond the range of most levelers.

For any critical parts (bolts, clamps, screws, electrical connectors, etc.), be sure to carry spares and have the necessary tools available for installing them.   A backup transformer can also come in handy.

@lehighline posted:

Several east coast HiRail groups use the attached specs. Be aware the wiring harness specs are old and the specified connectors are generally not available. The specs are pre-command control. I'd recommend Anderson Power poles as a suitable replacement. They can be custom configured. The National Capital Trackers have used these with good success. Look at their website.

Use a separate ground for each track and another for accessories.



If folks are looking for a widely available power connector with industry acceptance for these portable modular layouts I'd recommend the following:

For 3-wire (hot, neutral, ground) 120V AC power connections:
https://www.neutrik.com/en/product/nac3fca
https://www.mouser.com/Product...mP8u3cyHiHP1Dw%3D%3D

For 18V track power:
https://www.neutrik.com/en/product/nc3mx
https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Neutrik/NC3MX?qs=JfNPhaIww3JqysA1pWsvxg%3D%3D

These are used in the professional audio and live sound industry and the latter have MANY options from other manufactures that are 100% compatible.  They are typically used for audio, but the contacts for the linked P/N above support up to 50V and 16A.  The contacts are able to handle 14-16 gauge wire depending on the exact version.

Both of these connectors have male and female versions and both cable end and panel mount connectors to safely allow load and live connections.  For the 18V track power connections I'd also recommend a set of barrier strip terminals wired in parallel so you could interface with other modules that aren't using the same connectors.  Since that's typically less than 20V it should be safe (for humans). 

Another nice thing about the latter connectors is they are available in multiple pin configurations (3, 4, 5, 6-pin, etc.) so if there is another set of wires you need to link between modules (say accessory power or signaling) you can do that.  Or just use multiple connectors of the 3-pin variety and label them or color code them.

Thanks to everyone for all the helpful replies and ideas!  I'll be reaching out to those of you who said you may be interested in participating in the new club via email (if it was in your profile - if not, send another reply here).  We expect to have an organizational meeting early in the fall 2021 to get things kicked off...stay tuned!

I knew you were out there Dale.  I’m glad Matt got to talk with Andy Hummell last weekend at Monroeville.  Andy has always been a friendly wealth of information since the first time I met him!  Andy pointed out a lot of the things to me last Saturday that he mentioned here, so I know Matt saw all the same and maybe more if he had specific questions.  Construction space, power tools, storage, and transportation of modules are concerns of mine, since as I told Andy, I have no room for any of that.  

I’m not saying I’m in, but I am interested in meeting everyone and discussing the possibilities.

@Mark Boyce posted:

Construction space, power tools, storage, and transportation of modules are concerns of mine, since as I told Andy, I have no room for any of that.

Mark, my module, when not in use, is stored in my basement and takes up only 6 inches x 4 ft. of floor space (standing on its back end) plus a little space for the legs.  All my scenery is removable and takes up just a little more space.

Transportation is usually the big concern, and modules need to be constructed to take this ability into account.  And you also need to be physically able to carry your module or have reliable help in loading/unloading at home.  My module is 4 ft. x 4 ft. and will fit in the back of my extended cab pickup with the rear seats folded up.  In good weather, I can use the bed of my truck, and in bad weather, we have used plastic wrap (shipping kind, not kitchen kind) to wrap modules for transport in the rain.  Others without trucks or vans can often fold down their rear seats to take advantage of trunk or cargo space to transport their modules, so examining and measuring your vehicle is a must before building a module.  Modules can also be built in sections -- front section containing tracks & road, and rear add-on section(s) for scenery.  There are all kinds of ways around space limitations.  In this part of the hobby you learn to be very creative in packing things.

As for construction and tools, not everyone has all the tools or space necessary, so we usually build our modules as a group project.  That way modules go together quickly (we can knock out a module in one evening work session, and could probable do more if enough people are on hand), and multiple sets of eyes can help keep mistakes and problems to an absolute minimum.

Andy

Andy, thank you for all the good information, those of us who have never built or participated in a modular group don’t know.

Thinking of storage at home, once I get the Styrofoam that I have stashed under my home layout a module could fit there.  I could flip down the back seat of my car to transport a module.  I can see that building modules, at least the frame and track would also guarantee they are all the same so they will match up when put together.

Pennsyfan713, Mars!!!  Now you're talking!!  You live in my old stomping grounds!  I grew up on Three Degree Road behind Mars High School, though it was all farm country then.  We just sold the old homestead right before Covid hit.  I live in Butler Township now.  I would be glad to get to know you regardless of whether you or I end up in a modular group!

You are just the right age!!    Our 2 daughters and sons-in-law range from 27 to 31 in age.   BTW, I used to move heavy stuff! 

Last edited by Mark Boyce
@Mark Boyce posted:

Pennsyfan713, Mars!!!  Now you're talking!!  You live in my old stomping grounds!  I grew up on Three Degree Road behind Mars High School, though it was all farm country then.  We just sold the old homestead right before Covid hit.  I live in Butler Township now.  I would be glad to get to know you regardless of whether you or I end up in a modular group!

You are just the right age!!    Our 2 daughters and sons-in-law range from 27 to 31 in age.   BTW, I used to move heavy stuff! 

(post edited for clarity.) I moved to Mars in 2015, and have an 8x8 foot layout in the sunroom of my house. My collection is a mix of mostly Lionel and Railking. I am interested in the club if it is still happening and any details would be appreciated. Hope this manages to get off the ground, it sounds fun!

Last edited by Pennsyfan713

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