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Little Rhody Division On30

Modular Railroad Group










Construction Details


Second Edition

November 2010

Concept Highlights



The purpose of this manual is threefold:


1. Establish the requirements for membership in the Little Rhody Division On30 Modular Group.


2. Outline the general concepts that will guide the group.


3. Detail the specifications for each module.




Membership in the On30 Modular Group is open to all members and associates of the Little Rhody Division of the NMRA. Modular ownership, while encouraged, is not a requirement.




The name of the railroad shall be:


Narragansett Bay Railway


Navigation Company


Abbreviated as:





General Concepts


Most model railroaders are at least somewhat familiar, if not very familiar, with the concept of modular railroading. In case you're very new to the hobby, allow us to briefly explain the basic concept behind modular railroading. Modular railroading is a means by which individual modelers can build a section of railroad and assemble them with other modeler's units to form a complete working model railroad. If you have ever been to model railroad meet, chances are that you've seen this concept in action. So popular is this idea, that virtually every scale has made use of this concept, not only for public shows but also for home or club layouts.


Another form of modular railroading is the sectional railroad. Let us explain. In a truly modular railroad, each modeler is free to employ any scenic approach he or she wishes. In a sectional railroad, all scenes are continuous and merely sliced up into convenient and transportable units. The fully modular approach leads to such unfortunate effects as a rugged Colorado mountain scene plunging 90º at the module's end to say, a New England ocean module. This visual discontinuity is avoided in the sectional railroad. However, the sectional railroad tends to limit individual creativity and variety.


We blend two approaches with the following specifications:


1. The railroad will be modified modular design.


2. The modules will be individually owned and maintained.


3. Module frames will be of ultra light construction with attached, folding legs.


4. Modules will employ a common end profile.


5. Module sets will be permitted. A module set is defined as two (2) or more modules always displayed contiguous with one another that only conform to the group's interface requirements on the outermost ends of the set.


6. Common ballasting, land form base color, fascia color and identification signage will be utilized to emphasize visual continuity.


7. The modular railroad will be designed as a DCC system.


8. Power and command stations will be owned by the group. Individual locomotive receivers will be the property of each member.


9. The railroad will be based on southern New England scenes and themes, both real and imagined.


10 The modules and track plan will be based on the Bend track concept.


Bend Track


Bend Track is not a new concept in modular model railroading. Created in 1986, Bend Track has a mainline that traverses a section of the layout bench work twice. Once on the front, and then across the back side in the other direction. This action, movement in both directions on the long sides of the same module, gives Bend Track its unique character.


The Bend Track Concept


The Bend Track modular system is based on standard modules of varying lengths that are 30 inches in width at their abutting surfaces. The entire concept is based on a two sided module with a single mainline on both sides. (It should be noted here that the original Bend Track concept is in N scale and utilizes double east bound and west bound mains).

Straight Modules


Now that you have an idea of the concept, let's explore the Bend Track family of modules. We'll start with the basic straight module. Your "straight" module can actually be any length OR SHAPE you can think of, so in fact it need not even be straight at all! All that is necessary is to have each module conform to the required joining standards. This will allow them to mate with any other Bend Track module. The Bend Track straight module differs from the traditional straight module in that it has a track on both sides instead of just one. When setting a traditional module system, you need to make sure that you have an equal length of modules on both sides of the setup. For example, if you have two 6 foot modules on one side totaling 12 feet, you must maintain that 12 foot length on the opposite side with either two more 6 foot modules, three 4 foot modules or a 4 and 8 foot module. With Bend Track that need is entirely eliminated. When you build a straight module to any length, it's like building two modules at the same time that will automatically total the same length.




Balloon Module


Instead of having four corner modules to build and contend with as in other modular systems, Bend Track offers the convenience of just two modules which are referred to as "Balloon" modules. These balloon modules provide a 180º turn around for the mainline allowing it to swing from one side of a module to the other side.



Two Balloon Modules


For all practical purposes, the smallest and simplest Bend Track system includes just two balloon modules assembled together to form a small loop or oval setup. The train begins on one side of a balloon, then traverses to the opposite side before traveling onto the second balloon and returning to the starting point.




Two Balloon and a Straight Module


With two balloons and some straight sections you have used the two most basic module designs to expand you layout.



Unlike traditional modular systems where you usually have just straight sections and 90 degree corners making up 85% to 90% of modular layouts, Bend Track accommodates an almost limitless variety of different shapes of modules to make up its system. By using Bend Track modules you can quickly conjure up modular layouts with an appealing variety of shapes. Layouts are possible with legs branching out in all directions as shown above and each leg can be as long, twisting, and branching as you want it to be. This has been a big advantage when setting up a display for a railroad show since you can bend the display out of the way of pillars and columns.

Bend Track Concept


Balloon Modules


As mentioned earlier, Bend Track requires at least two balloon modules instead of the four modules required for the traditional modular setup. These balloon modules must retain the basic minimum standard radius, which we will discuss later. They can be of any size or shape that you desire or which will fit your need as long as the tracks return to the same 30 inch interface profile.


Curved Modules


Curved modules can be built with any amount of curvature that is desired or needed to fit a particular space or area. Traditional modular systems rely heavily on having four 90º corner modules in order to have a complete running layout. With Bend Track the need for corner modules does not exist. A 90º curved module is possible, but not absolutely required. Curved modules may be designed to any desired amount of curvature or angle. The thing to remember about a curved Bend Track module is that the curve of the module is not itself necessary to make the system work. The reason to curve a Bend Track module is to create a more natural or pleasing appearance to the eye or to better match what you want the track to be doing, such as an offset or "S" shaped module where the track follows a river or hillside.


Curved Modules


Branching Modules


Branching modules can add great variety and interest to the shape of a Bend Track layout. A "T" module is nothing more than a straight module with another 30 inch end coming off of one of the sides where more modules can connect, to form a branch off of the original route. Other modules can be built with the same idea in mind but in the shape of "Y"s, "+"s, "X"s, or any other arrangement you wish. One note to mention, for every branch in the layout, a balloon module must be used to cap off the branch.


Branching Module



Advantages and Concerns





Advantage 1: Flexibility


With no fixed number of modules required (other than two balloons) and with countless different sizes, shapes, and configurations of modules being possible, there is an almost limitless variety of possible permutations and combinations to layout design. In fact, each operating session or show can yield a new variation in the design of how the modules are arranged. Also, since you don't need to match lengths of one part of a display with lengths of other parts as in traditional modular systems, you won?t have to leave out anyone's modules just because the lengths don't work out to be equal.


Advantage 2: An Interactive Layout


The Bend Track system was created foremost with the idea that it could give a home or club layout the capacity for movement to a new or better location and second, that it could be used for shows. With the proper use of stanchions or guard rails at shows, you'll find that you can walk around the layout while keeping an eye on your train and at the same time interact with the people who are viewing the trains. With traditional modular layouts, it seems almost as if the modules act as a barrier between the club members and the public. Operators are perceived as being inside a sound proof control booth, not to be contacted unless they happen to stray outside the system. A Bend Track layout is an excellent way for club members to reach out and interact with spectators and train enthusiasts who might be thinking of getting into the hobby or perhaps joining a club.


Advantage 3: More Running Length in a Smaller Space


Since Bend Track does not have an operating pit, you can better make use of the space that the system occupies. Especially when using branching modules, the layout display can place modules into locations that would normally be left vacant with nothing for the club members to run on or the public to see. More modules can be used in the same square footage, meaning more mainline to run on and more trains running at once.


Advantage 4: Minimal Startup Expense


Bend Track offers the possibility of using just two minimum balloon modules to be able to have an operating layout. The lesser amount of modules will reduce the cost of construction, so you might say that you get two for the price of one. For instance, a member who builds two balloon modules would accomplish the same end result as if they had built four traditional 90ºcorner modules, but with one half the time and expense. This minimal amount of modules to start a small system would fit nicely with a club who's membership is small but wishes to have a larger layout in the future.




Concern 1: No Operating Pit


The fact that the Bend Track system, in comparison with traditional modular layouts, has no enclosed operating pit might bring up the concern for adequate security during shows and ease of movement between different parts of the layout. Bend Track addresses these issues by recommending that the layout. Bend Track addresses these issues by recommending that the layout be constructed with a working height of 45 inches (NBR&N uses 50 inches to top of rail), rather that the 40 inch height that is prevalent in more traditional layouts. The use of an increased height results in not only the ability to move under the modules with ease, but also provides a much more realistic viewing angle for both operators and spectators. We have also found this height to be more comfortable in terms of working on scenery and rolling stock. As far as security goes, we have found that with optional shelving (which can rest on the module leg cross pieces) and skirting (on each side of a modules covering this shelving) there is ample room to store boxes and other rift raft out of view of the public. Naturally, stanchions and rope around the layout provide protection from young arms and hands that may want to touch the trains. With operators on the "outside" of the modules security is actually enhanced.


Concern 2: Tighter Turning Radius


While Bend Track does have a tighter minimum track radius in the balloon modules than usually affiliated with other modular systems, this does not mean that all of curved track must stay at this minimum. Curves can be as broad as you wish and branch lines that curve off the mainline can be as tight as you find practical for the use of your branch line. In the proposed On30  narrow gauge railroad, short consists and tighter curves are, in fact, a reflection of the prototypical norm.


Module Specifications and Standards


1. Standard modules shall be 30 1/2 inches wide by any convenient length.


2. Fascia height is 6 inches with a 1 1/2 inch inside flange


3. Module height to top of the rail is 50 inches.


4. End plates are 1/2 inch birch plywood with integral T brace.


5. The module must provide two mainline tracks each spaced 10 inches from the centerline of the module.


6. Curved modules should be constructed with 1/4 inch bendable plywood, if available.


7. The top will be 2 inch thick extruded styrofoam however, a lamination of one-inch foam is permitted if it aids in lowering the surface contours.


8. Modules will have integral, folding legs with adjustable levelers.


9. If the modeler wishes to build his or her own module they must utilize end panels purchased from the NBR&N group.


Cross Section

(Typical Module)


Here are a few construction details to illustrate our preferred lightweight system:


Typical "L" Girder Fascia



Cross Rib Detail


End Plate Detail



Leg and Pivot Block Detail

Sample Module Construction



General Construction Details



Proposed Track Specifications


It is the goal of this section to establish track standards to insure problem free operation.


Mainline Tracks



Off-mainline Tracks



Recommended practices




Electrical and Power Standards for DCC operations:


1. Minimum System:


a. Cab (throttle, recommend wireless.)


b. Command Station.


c. Power station (booster, recommend 2.)


d. Decoders (each engine, owner installed.)


e. Power transformers (minimum of 2.)


f. Programming track.


Basic Wirings Harness


2. Wiring Minimums:


a. Mainline bus: 14 gauge stranded wire, red on outside rail, black on inside.


b. Drops from each rail: 20 gauge solid core wire permitted 18 gauge preferred, red on outside rail, black on inside rail. Radio Shack 18 gauge stranded, 2 conductors, red and black ?"ip cord" (part number 278-567) is recommended for a neat, fully color coded job.


c. Each rail has a drop.


d. Terminal blocks used to make positive connections. One at each end of the module, for each track, and one for each track. Forked connectors to be used, soldered to the wires, and connected to terminal blocks. Soldering of wires to the rails should be done under the rail, between ties. (This applies to both hand laid track and flex track.)


e. Module-to-module connections shall be via 15 amp Anderson Power Products®. Powerpole Connectors. Part numbers are 1327-BK, 1327G6-BK and 1332 will provide correct color coding (red/black) and when combined with 16ga. red/black speaker wire provide a superior connection method able to withstand transportation abuse.


f. Connectors shall be 8" long and soldered to forked terminals. These assembled connectors will be provided from the group.



Module-to-Module Connection System


3. Cabs:

Should be wireless so engineers won't be tripping over wires. (This also facilitates ease of wiring and set ups.)


4. Power transformers:

Minimum: capable of 22V AC or 28DC, max. 5A. (1 for each command station, 1 for each booster.)


5. Booster, (power station):

Recommend one to be wired to one of the balloons and one for the main box.


6. Command station:

The command station, power station (booster), power transformer and a wireless receiver should be installed in a box (custom made) and a small fan to keep it cool. A set of Y wires will connect to the bus at the second balloon, thus creating 2 power districts (or _ of the module set up per booster.)


7. Programming track:

A programming track can be installed on the cover of the "power box" and connected to the command center. This will isolate the programming track from the layout as it is only used initially to program an engine. A surge protector should be used in the box and connected to the extension cord used to connect to the AC power. All the components can be plugged into this surge protector to keep them safe.


8. Circuit Breakers:

A minimum of two (preferably three) circuit breakers should be included in each set-up. The set-up will be divided into "blocks" by the module coordinator and each "block" connected through a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker will be TXX power Shield or DCC compliant equivalent.


General Appearance Standards


1. Fascia color shall be Behr Premium Plus interior semi-gloss Acrylic Latex enamel. Color to be Woodsman Green #3B57-6. This is a Home Depot product. Any high quality product may be substituted as long as the appropriate color is matched. 


2. To aid in cleanability and to reduce humidity problems it is recommended that the legs and end plates be sprayed with a clean coat (Krylon crystal clear satin or equivalent).


3. Skirting will be a dark green fabric selected and supplied by the group. It will be attached to the underside of the fascia lower flange using a form of the hook-and-loop fastener system. (See additional skirting specifications later in this guide)


4. Module identifier. To avoid a hodge-podge of signage, each module shall have a module identifier. The module graphic is illustrated below. It is to be applied to the left hand corner of each module as indicated in the accompanying sketch.



Module Identifier


Location of module identifier graphic is on the left end of each side of each module. The modular graphic the only identifier permitted. It is also optional.


Module Location





If a 30.5" standard module is larger than you would like to handle, consider building a Fremo module. Fremo is an acronym for Freundeskreis Europäischer Modellbahner eV. or European model railroader's friends circle.




Narrow modules (15" wide) used to simulate single track branch lines. Modules may be of any length, straight or curved.


Cross Section

(Fremo Module)




1. Modules employing a single mainline track centered at each end.


2. Every module of more than 24" in length must stand alone on its own legs.


3. The modules are connected to each other with one clamp and held in alignment with pins.

4. Fascia height is 6" with a 1 ½" inside flange.


5. The top will be 2" thick extruded Styrofoam however, a lamination of 1" foam is permitted if it aids in lowering the surfaced contours.


6. Rail ends must be permanently secures. Recommended methods include soldering to flat head brass screws under the rail or soldering to flat head brass screws under the rail or soldering to a PC board tie at the end of the module.


Graphic Standards


1. Logotype shall be as illustrated below. This is the preferred method of "corporate" identification. Either the curved or line form of the logo may be used as appropriate to the individual locomotive or rolling stock. White is used on dark backgrounds and black on lighter fields.


2. An alternative form of "corporate" identification is the "badge". This may be used wherever the preferred logo simply will not fit.



3. Full sheets of NBR&N logo and all the additional "corporate" identifiers may be purchased from the group. These are available in either black or white and in either decal or transfer form.



Scenery Standards


While we are loathed to restrict each modeler's creativity, we have assembled some standards to help provide some visual continuity.



Latex Paint Colors


1. Base ground color shall range from pale beige through light tan to medium tan. These are represented in this manual by Behr brand flat latex paint colors:


Sandpiper (3B16-1)


Laramie Tan (3B16-2)


Brushed Fur (3A18-3)


We think these colors will mostly closely approximate the hues found from the sandy beaches of Narragansett Bay, through to the hills of Southeastern New England.



Coloring Plaster


Cement dye is a fantastic product for killing the bright white of plaster (we recommend lightweight joint compound). Cement dye can be found at all major home improvement stores. The colors most useful are buff, brown, and charcoal. The buff and brown are mixed to make the base of module dirt. Charcoal is useful for making rock formations. Latex paint is then used to match the other modules



Modeling water


The technique we use to model water is as follows:


1. Pour (yes pour!) some white/off white latex paint (ordinary house flat wall pint) near the center the area to be modeled. Spread it a little and squirt into it some black green and Payne's Gray. At this point, armed with a spray bottle of "wet water (water with a few drops of dish detergent), spray all the shore or riverbank areas as well as any pilings, structures or causeways. In short, wet any thing that will come in contact with the "water" to insure that the water color bleeds softly into the edges with no dark, hard lines.


2. For harbors and deep water, another option is to substitute a color such as lamp black house paint for the white/off white and add the white as you would the black green and Payne?s Gray. Using the lamp black will make the pilings, rocks and pier contact areas dark. Also looks good with barnacles.


3. Small oil spills may be added with a very tiny drop of iridescent acrylic paint (purple/lavender and lime green). Stir it right in with the water color.


4. Continue adding black green and to a lesser extent Payne's Gray swirling BUT NOT THOROUGHLY MIXING these colors with the white. The intent here is to produce a varied series of dark to medium grays with no pure white showing. While doing this continue spraying the entire water area and begin to push the color towards the edges. The area should be thoroughly soaked. The colors should be so wet hat they begin to run, puddle and swirl. Many times when painting water the paints become so wet that they begin to run off the layout or module. When you are pleased with the appearance, cease spraying and allow the colors to dry.


5. When dry pour a thin layer of Envirotex® to seal and level the surface. A thickness of 1/16" to 1/8" is sufficient. Follow the manufactures directions for mixing, bubble removal and curing. Make sure the surface is levelJ


6. Once the Envirotex® is cured, texture the surface with Gloss Medium Gel. You can use either a soft brush or even a pallet knife to apply. A suggestion: observe actual water before applying this coat. Create just enough texture to remove the glass smooth look of the plastic layer. When dry touch a few edges and "waves" with a very small amount of white or light gray acrylic (for less contrast). Do this very sparingly, just a suggestion of foam. Otherwise you will have created storm conditions. For water foam near the beach, try "dry sock" (stippling with an old sock dipped in the white/light gray).


7. Materials:


a. Latex wall paint, white


b. Black green(Chrome green deep), acrylic craft paint 2-oz bottle


c. Payne's Gray, acrylic craft paint, 2 oz bottle


d. Iridescent Purple/Lavender and Lime Green acrylic craft paint, 2 oz bottles


e. Envirotex® (Available at craft stores such as Michaels)


f. Gloss Medium Gel, 16 oz bottle (brand names include: Liquitex®, Golden®, Utrect®)


g. Titanium White/Light Gray, Acrylic artist's color 2 oz tube


h. "Wet" water in spray bottle


i. Soft Brush/Pallet Knife





1. A fabric skirt will be used at all public set-ups.


2. Color and fabric to be consistent across all modules.


3. Skirting shall be the property of the group.


4. Material must conform to all applicable fire and building codes.