Most modules use wood as the primary framing material. The obvious advantages of wood are:

  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Familiarity
  • Ease of fabrication

It also has two disadvantages that I find overwhelming:

  • Environmental stability
  • Weight

While wood is readily available, easy to work with, and affordable my feeling is that wood is too heavy to be an ideal material for module construction and its environmental stability can cause issues. I live in Arizona, which is a semi-arid and warm (some would say hot) environment. Many of the friends I have in the modular world live in Ontario, an environment that is both wetter and cooler than Arizona.

If we built interface plates for our modules out of wood, me in Arizona, and them in Ontario, even if we were exact in our measurements, our interface plates would not be exactly the same when we met to build a temporary layout. Wood expands, contracts, warps, dries out, and is attacked by insects.

Because of this, I am looking into alternative materials and methods of constructing the frame work for modules.

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How NOT to Write a Modular Standard

For the last two and one half years I was involved with a group that was trying to develop a standard for modules. The idea was simple, come up with a minimal set of standards that would allow the interconnection of modules based on that design. Since there were only a few modules in existence for this particular scale/gauge combination, a part of the design process was to make sure that the pre-existing modules could also interconnect.

The concept included the idea that individual groups would add restrictions to the standard for their group but that the core standards would stay intact. That way each group would have its own standards yet they would all still interconnect seamlessly at the mechanical and electrical levels. Even though the scenery, theme, even facia and dimension would vary from group to group, the interconnection points would remain constant.

It didn’t work. Well actually the standard did work, quite well in fact. Never the less the standard has been deleted and every group that used it as a starting point is changing their group’s name to avoid any connection with the standard.

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Modular Standards and Clubs

When I started to build this blog site I started to add links to standards as one of the first steps since I frequently look at other standards to see how they write them up, collect ideas, etc.

What I quickly found is that practically every modular club, with the noteable exception of NTRAK based clubs, either has their own standards or they have “adapted” other standards.

The result is chaos. I cannot believe how many “standards” there are in the world of modular railroading.

I gave up trying to build a comprehensive standards list so what is, or at least will be, listed is the “donor” standards that get mutilated by each group that adopts them.