The Naptown & White River Modular Sub
(Please Bear with us as this web page is still very much under construction)
For years, the Naptown and White River has gone to shows and set up a Portable HO Scale layout originally dubbed the "Phoenix Sub" (the theme of being reborn from trying situations is becoming all to relevant with us...). The Portable was a way for us to engage with the public at shows, as well as open up opportunities for Members to attend shows. We have been proud of the fact that we are one of a very few layouts that will let the public freely come up to the layout and run a train; no rope barriers here! Originally designed as a 5 section straight line run from staging down a busy Lafayette-like street, members decided that they wanted a full loop, and the modular was expanded to 14 sections, then 16 with the addition of a lift bridge and then again with two small 1 foot spacers in the curves to widen it. This brought a lot of issues with it that we grew complacent with, the layout was simply too big to be maintained for the limited number of times we would set up, and not enough people wanted to finish the layout. Worse, while built in sections, there was no standard to it, so it either had to be transported in its entirety and transporting 16 sections was costly and difficult, or we had to accept only taking a piece of it with us. Getting help to set up was sometimes difficult as well as some members worked on show set up days. In short, There was no compromise in this layout, and over the years it turned into a red-headed step child. We needed something new.
EMD's BL1 Demonstrator basks in the sun on the original Phoenix Sub layout during a Christmas Gift and Hobby Show
Several of our members had been interested in the idea of a Free-Mo layout, and had been in discussions with other Indiana Modelers about starting an Indiana Free-Mo. But there were too few of us and no one's schedules could align to get together, and that idea slowly died out. However, it got us thinking: If the modular organization needed a strong, existing core to grow from, like a trealis for a plant, then why not sponsor a Modular Club within the NWR? The Club itself could build a core layout, and members could then build their own to expand it as they wanted to. The Layout could be sized to fit the venue or the number of members available to work it: More people means more modules, and vice versa.
In the end, the Club voted to not use the Free-Mo Standards, but the NMRA module standards, modified slightly to fit our needs. The Club decided to build a "Base 8" Modular layout, consisting of 4 diamond shaped right curves (built from the previous modular benchwork), three 2x4 Straight Plates, and one 2x4 Lift Bridge. We are talking about building a Left handed curve for more variety in shapes, and one of the Straights has the start of a Wye on it, so a converter module will likely be built in the future to allow us to come off that wye with more standardized modules. An additional straight plate is already being built as a training tool for new members.
NMRA standard calls for the use of Digitrax as a DCC Control. Mainline curves will have a minimum of 36" radius and be Code 100 track, and use a minimum #6 switch on any mainline track. At the endplates of the Module, the centerline of the track will be 5" and 7" from the front of the fascia. Anything between there is fair game. You can build a Corkscrew over the main line so long as it meets the other requirements.
We added an additional main line track to our requirements, set 20" from the front or 4" from the back. This track was meant to be a simple loop that trains can run on christmas tree style while we do more interesting things like Operations on the 5 and 7 mains. Our Modules sit at 34.5" tall (reusing the existing modular legs), which is shorter than the nosebleed heights set by NMRA and Free-Mo but allows us to better engage with childrena nd parents at shows. However, our trackwork all still conforms to NMRA standard, so anyone could slap a new set of legs under another NMRA module and plug and play with us. We also added a guidepin system to ours, however the pins are held in by friction, so anyone attempting to mate with our layout who doesn't have the same or any pin setting we can knock the pins out and give them a flush surface.
Once the Base 8+ have been built for the Club, our plan is that Members will be able to request a module (or modules) and submit a plan to be built The Modular Comittee will build the framework and assist with trackwork to assure the module is compatible with the others, and then turn the module over to the member to complete on their discression. The Framework of the Module would be the property of the Club in this way, while any switches, scenery, etc added by the Member are theirs. Should the member leave the club, they would have the choice to either donate the module contents or buy out the cost of the benchwork and take it with them. (excluding the Base 8) Several of us are already designing modular compatible switching layouts that we can set up in our homes to play with in this way. While the Base 8+ will all be built to the same continuity to represent the Club, there are no required standards for what any person's module should look like. If they want to dump 5 pounds of sand on it and call it a desert, they are welcome to do it. By accident, most of the NWR modules are more scenery than Operations, as some of us wanted to invest more into our own personal modules than the Club's, but there is no requirement for that.
Eventually, we do hope to open the standard up to non-members of the club, as a way to hopefully entice folks to join us and get the prks of both a Modular Layout and our permananent Club Layout as well. we hope to have that info available in the not too distant future.
Below, please find a series of Blog Posts documenting the construction of our HO Modulars as well as feature Pages on the Modules as they are completed.
Meet the Modules!
Click their descriptors to be taken to their Gallery Page (Coming Soon)
Naptown & White River
Model Railroad Club