View Full Version : Building my 1st module, a learning experience

23rd Feb 2013, 09:04 PM
sofar the subtitle seems to be "a comedy of errors", but thats how you learn.

After months of spinning in circles on how to do stuff, I decided to simplify first modules, making a tighty yard, with curved turnuots was a bit too much.

So plan became: make a passing siding via 3 modules. 1 module be 'standard' doubletrack (1 1/8" between tracks, centered on centerline so module reversable), a module of a LH #10 turbout, and a module of RH #10 turnout, to go from single-track to double track.

Decided to NOT center the single-track as curve-turnout-countercurve make a nasty S-turn atop a switch, instead the single-track end be 9/16" off-center, so module 'jogs' a bit when connecting to a single-track module

Went with 1'x2 foot switch modules, and 1'x4' doublet-track module

the 4' was chosen for the following reasons:
1. fits in car
2. people run some large trains, so passing siding should be long enough to hold a decent sized train (scale 640' long, plus a bit from the turnout lenghs. If done my math right, should hold 14 40' cars or 7.5 80' cars (added 5' to each car for couplers)). Dunno if right, but gives ballpark figures.
3. means can be lazy and use 3' flextrack, w/o cutting down, while still having expansion join from the additional 1' lengh of track

2' was chosen to fit #10 switches and get track aligned w/ 1.125" centers. That should take 22" leaving 2" for striaghtening and fudge factor.

Went to local (wood specialty) hardware store, to get a 4x8' of 3/4" birch plywood. Didn't know that it was 'dimensinal lumbar' on the 4' side till had it down on cart, so threw numbers off a bit.

Had them cut it in half to 4x4, then cut 1' strips, slicing some in half on one axis or other to make 2' modules and 6" sides

Bought some rattle-can brown paint (which was way to dark, seems I ended up using prime cropland for my trackage, farmers must hate me) whie primer (later found black primer, MUCH better), and black paint for ends/sides.


Later bought can of brown and black paint for touchup work, brushes, and wood putty/plastic putty knife to smooth holes.

Primed the tops and sides http://www.leopard.net/~spuds/train/freemoN/1st_module/painting_all3.jpg then painted them their 'final' color (top will be groundcovered, etc eventually).

Got #8x3.5" wood screws, and a #8 countersink bit. discovered that this drills something large enough that the wood screws just fall through it! (works perfectly for #8 bolts, as we'll see later). This made the first set of holes I drilled down one lengh be useless, as the screws didn't attach to anything. Puzzled/suprised everyone at the shop where I was working. Fortuantly wood has 2 neds, so flipped the side-piece over, and adjusted countersink to not drill much into the lower piece, so this one edge is 'only' held on by threads in lower piece.

23rd Feb 2013, 09:11 PM
Decided to build a 1x2 section first, as eaiser to work with, and wastes less if I goofed up and needed to start over.


Not shown, but took another 6" strip, and cut end pieces down, to fit between sides. Decided this would be stronger structurally than having the end piece be entire 1' width. It also meant I didn't need to cut down every side-piece, and minor oopsies be hidden.

turned into
http://www.leopard.net/~spuds/train/freemoN/1st_module/sm_module2.jpg http://www.leopard.net/~spuds/train/freemoN/1st_module/sm_module3.jpg

You may notice the screw holes not perfectly distributed. the 1st one I made, measure each hole on box axis, which took forever. 2nd side, went draw-a-line-down-the-size dummy then marked X's where to drill. Though I took pictures of the bazillion clamps holding everything in alignment (2 to hold side to top, 1 to keep from sliding down end, and sometimes 1 to hold centered on other axis. Got to be a challenge to get drill TO the x's to drill countersink.

23rd Feb 2013, 09:26 PM
Then, after figuring out 'all' my mistakes with the little modules, time for the 'big' module

built it the same way, discovering my sides had gotten a tab bit of a warp in the center, making me use WAY more clamps ( also ended up clamping modules to the workbench while drilling, for saftey. ended up using all but 1 small/medium sized clamps they had doing it.

While at the specialty wood shop, had them rip 3 pine 2x4"s into "2x2's" not quite square due to the fun of 'dimensinal lumber, but close. one set warped fairly baddley, so became my spare stock/experimentation wood. They had some nice plastic units desizned to take 2x4's and make a wood-pile support deck or shelving from. This gave me the great idea to use them as the connectors for my legs. Unfortuantly I didn't really think about the 4x4 base each had, and how 8" of plastic in a ~10" frame doesn't really leave room for anything else, and puts the legs to near the centerline.

I didn't have the cross-braces that MC uses to connect legs to, so decided to use bolts through legs and edge. I used a straight seciton of 'warped' leg, to be my tmeplate, maked and drilled holes, and used it to be consistant. a great idea, since seems I was off a bit on centerline. Unfortuantly, I didn't consider how wide a drill is, and that slightly off-center hole ended up tilting the drill when I drilled the left-side holes, leading to alignment problems

Used the same template to mark all the legs, and drilled them on a drillpress, so yay, everything the same (ish). put legs together and went errrr.

Original plan was to have leg firmly in corner, squared up, with bolts sliding through, and fastened with wing-nuts. due to the slightly twisted holes, trying right now with nut against edge-wall, moving the leg inwards a tiny bit.


23rd Feb 2013, 09:29 PM
I used wood putty to cover screw-holes, to make everything look flat.

Things todo:

sand putty flat
touchup top brown paint
touchup black side paint, and paint (several) more coats onto edges, as the ply just soaks up paint there

lay down cork, track, wire, test!, add scenery.

I'm _probabbly_ going to add a stub siding off of the passing track, to give more operational options, assuming it'll fit.

23rd Feb 2013, 10:36 PM
Just discovered the flextrack I thought was 36" is really 30"long , I'm probabbly goign to need to make a trip to the LHS and pick up more :/

Looks like I can fit a siding, but not a full building, roughly only 3 inches of space, so considering a team-track style dock

Double-track is roughly centered where it belongs (within an 1/8")


24th Feb 2013, 12:15 PM
Press on!

Really taken shape.

24th Feb 2013, 01:01 PM
So far looking good Spuds. As Kevin said press on.

Sorry I may have missed it but what type are the modules?
Are they just for your own layout? or part of a club?
See ya

25th Feb 2013, 01:15 AM
This is for the Silicon Valley FreemoN group (so this will end up sitting near/connected to MC's fabulous work) using the double-track standard agreed to by several freemoN groups. It is 'narrow' per standard, but it feels like many of SVFreemoN also does that, and makes things lighter/smaller ;)

25th Feb 2013, 03:09 AM
Went to local (wood specialty) hardware store, to get a 4x8' of 3/4" birch plywood. Didn't know that it was 'dimensinal lumbar' on the 4' side till had it down on cart, so threw numbers off a bit.

Had them cut it in half to 4x4, then cut 1' strips, slicing some in half on one axis or other to make 2' modules and 6" sides

I am looking to start building Modules too. Did you go to Dale's? I am in Newark. Looking good!

26th Feb 2013, 12:48 AM
I am looking to start building Modules too. Did you go to Dale's? I am in Newark. Looking good! I went to Southern umber, in San Jose, they, and another lumber place just around the corner from them where known/recommended to me as having the 3/4" birch. I went with the B quality finish ($56ish) vs the A-grade at $99. Iif people are lookign at the wood-quality, instead of the trains, somethings wrong (and the top will eventually be completly covered)

6th Mar 2013, 02:19 AM
So this weekend had a fun and learning time at the WGH show in San Mateo Ca. Seems I went a bit overboard with birch, building the entire thing out of it, instead of just the endplates. Seems it's going to be built like a tank. This explains my confusion of why the crosspieces that legs attached to, helps square everything. next time I'm going to use pink foam for the top, and a thin facia for the sides.

Also noticed that no, really the modules are mostly 2' wide, 1 'full' module is 1', but all the 45 corner pieces are 1' so got tricked ;)

I'm torn between ripping tops off of whats built and replacing with foam, and continuing to forge forwards. If leave as-is, it'll be way heavier than need be, but structure 'done', if rip top off, need to get foam, be lighter, and be able to re-use tops as 1' wide end pieces.

Got there friday noonish, and helped with preliminary setup, and got to see just how awesome the feet levels are, before I wasn't sure if worth their expense, and wideningleg to fasten them, but omg, several orders of magnitute easier than old-fashioned 'bolt' feet

Mark W
8th Mar 2013, 10:34 PM
I was kinda wondering why you went with the whole thing out of birch.

I'm torn between ripping tops off of whats built and replacing with foam

I vote 100% for this.

Birch ain't cheap (even the 'B grade' stuff). Salvage what you can for end plates on additional modules!
And of course, the weight issue.

18th Jun 2013, 06:25 PM
Watching this is quite fascinating since I've already built my own modules. All my horizontals were made from 1x4 but my legs were made from plywood for strength.

4th Aug 2013, 11:01 AM
^ and I'm fascinated, because I've already spotted a couple things I'd have screwed up completely.....or have made much more difficult than necessary

Good thread.Hope you post when you've more