Author Topic: Franksville Wisconsin N-scale modutrak module buildout  (Read 85165 times)

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lashedup

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Franksville Wisconsin N-scale modutrak module buildout
« on: December 15, 2008, 04:59:52 PM »
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I'm going to be building out two n-scale modules in hopes of having something operational in March for a trainshow we have coming up. So I figured why not start a buildout thread to chronicle progress that I make and maybe get some Railwire feedback and ideas flowing. Plus it should help to keep me motivated and on task with a forum full of people pushing me along.

This project will be based on a prototype of the Milwaukee Road line that ran from Chicago, Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin set in the 1950's (or so). I'll be working from a lot of black and white photos (and a few color) of the prototype in that period. The town of Franksville, Wisconsin still exists today, although the railroad siding is gone and the passing sidings have been removed. A number of the old structures along the industry siding are gone or changed, but a few still exist today.

First a little back history on this Mod-U-Trak thing - I know most of it I think, but Mike Skibbe might need to fill in some detail. A group of HO modelers in the Chicago-area that were just a group of like-minded friends decided to build a modular HO layout that they called Midwest Mod-U-Trak. The idea being that they create a group of modules set to a specific time period with a midwest area scenery look and feel. All of the modules had to not only be built to a specific standard, all the track, scenery materials and everything else was also set to a standard so there was continuity between the modules. The height of the layout was also around 54 inches tall which allowed for more of a direct railfan view. The layout went on to be featured in Model Railroader and was a fixture at shows around the midwest.

Bill Denton and Mike Skibbe were at one of the shows looking at the HO Mod-U-Trak stuff and started thinking it would be cool to build something similar in n-scale. After talking it over with a group of other local n-scalers, Mike and Bill decided to explore the idea further and talked to the HO Mod-U-Trak guys about doing an n-scale version. The HO guys have been really supportive and it turns out they were thinking about a version 2.0 of the standard using a light-weight construction method. There are a number of mechanical and civil engineers involved in this group and - if anyone else here can guess - the project got neck deep quickly in ideas, CAD drawings and experiments that have gone on for the last three years. At some point I got hooked up with Mike around the time that they were finalizing the n-scale modular standards about a year and half ago (the HO guys recently got their first group of new 2.0 modules built and set up at the Prototype Modelers convention this past fall in Naperville, Illinois).

So the general ideas here were to strive to have high prototypical fidelity as much as reasonable, model specific scenes or areas that would blend well with the other modules being built, and generally push each other a lot to try new techniques and new ideas. We are fortunate that we're all fairly like minded when it comes to modeling and have been able to agree on standards for even the smallest stuff across the modules so that they have a cohesive look. The general setup is a two-track mainline and the whole thing runs on Digitrax DCC. A standard straight module is five feet long and 18" wide:



There are a few of our modules that are modified n-trak modules and a few were started before the standards were completely ironed out, so if you see photos of something different, that is likely why. All new modules moving forward should be built to standard. There will always be exceptions (like slightly wider modules for a yard) where we have to deviate a bit, but all of these decisions are made as a group.

It is also worth mentioning that I never ever intended to get involved in modular n-scale modeling. I always figured I'd build a basement empire at some point, but after tons of drawings, ideas and dreams, I decided the Mod-U-Trak stuff looked interesting and was far more manageable. I have to say this has been an incredible experience being able to pull resources from around the Internet to get historical photos, data, track plans and more and actually work to build something that, in many cases, doesn't exist any longer. It has been a lot of fun and I've made some great friends along the way.

Enough of my rambling (and I do that, so hang in there)...

Franksville, Wisconsin -

Here is the track plan for the two modules I'm going to be working on:



I'll refer to the two modules as the north module (left-hand module above) and south module (right-hand module above). Here is what an aerial view of Franksville looks like today:



So I tried to overlay the two images together to give you an idea of how I compressed the scene a bit:



You'll notice a number of buildings in my track plan that aren't currently there. I'm basing those structures on this circa late 1950's aerial photo of Franksville:



and this shot just south of the above:



The module lengths aren't an issue, but the width limits things a bit, so I'll have to try and work around that as much as possible.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 10:28:49 PM by lashedup »

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2008, 05:24:41 PM »
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This should be fun to watch.  Feel free to ramble on - we'll be happy to heckle.

-Gary

lashedup

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2008, 05:59:57 PM »
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Thanks Gary - I knew I could count on you guys... :D

So I originally thought that I would try and fit the town of Franksville on one module. After finding the black and white aerial images (above) and saw just how extensive the sidings were in Franksville, I had to spread it over two modules to do it right. Here is the overall trackplan for the five modules that stretch from Franksville to Caledonia:



North is to the left. All of the track plans are based on the prototype drawings including the sidings and crossover points. The standard track is Atlas Code 55 and mainline turnouts are #10 with industry sidings being #7 turnouts.

Each module is designed to be lightweight and strong. The base pieces are constructed from 1/8 inch birch plywood top and sides with 3/4 inch birch plywood. Here is what the underside of a module looks like (with leg pockets installed in the corners):



The above module has the masonite sides added to it already (which gives the module its bending rigidity).

Here is a closeup of the pocket corner:



and here is a corner of a straight module from the top side:



The base birch module gets masonite end caps (which has a standard land contour which helps match up ends of different people's modules) and masonite sides. We use a pseudo masonite spline road bed to elevate the track 2" above the module "floor". Here is a module with roadbed spline drying (this is the south Franksville module that has the two track mainline and the industry siding which is why it is wider):



Once that dries, a masonite cap is glued to the top of the roadbed. After that cap dries, I took a router and a flush bit and trimmed the edges flush:



this is what the flush bit looks like:



once the flush trimming was done I cut and glued the masonite end caps on:



and here is where I'm currently at with the south franksville module:



The next step will be to cut 2" pink building construction foam to fit the empty spaces on either side of the tracks before I add the masonite sides. I find it easier to shape the foam before I glue it down (based on past trial and error of course).

So here is the original Franksville single module that I previously built:



The above module will now become the north franksville module. I needed to get it up and running for a train show, so I completed the trackwork, wired it up, put the foam in place, added the masonite sides and painted the pink foam a light brown color. The masonite sides that are exposed also get a coat of green paint that matches all the rest of the modules. You can also see where I was doodling the locations of streets and such before I decided to split this into two modules.

So the first thing I did last weekend was cut a land contour into the front face of the masonite with a jig saw. I cut through the masonite with the foam in place on purpose (which I'll show why in a second):



So the foam is exposed now and the masonite face is trimmed. Next I took a Tippy hot wire foam cutter tool:



and made an angle cut just to the outside of the maintenance of way area:



This takes a little bit of patience to let the foam cutting tool melt its way through the foam. If you try and force it along too hard you'll bend the hot wire. The fumes from the melting foam aren't particularly good for your health so do this in a well ventilated place.

After I make the angle cut I then go and use the hot wire tool with a different attachment to cut the side profile of the foam. You can see the original cut through the front masonite fascia left a nice cut through the foam about 2.5 inches in:



Again use patience and let the tool do the work. Also if you avoid a cutting motion back and forth you'll have less sanding and shaping to get things smooth later on. After cutting through the foam following the fascia profile it looked like this:



Then I broke the remaining foam piece off:



and yes, Wisconsin is *not* all flat level farmland - there are gentle rolling hills everywhere.  So this is what the final looked like after I sanded a few rough edges smooth with sandpaper:



I'll go over the landforms with lightweight spackle to fill in voids, add some variation and a few other things prior to paint and scenery.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 10:31:49 PM by lashedup »

Chris333

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2008, 06:13:21 PM »
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Excellent Smithers!

sirenwerks

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 08:01:33 PM »
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Ooo, ooo! Timing couldn't be better as I am on the verge of building a module or two just to build something, for the future when I get out of apartment life and to be part of a switching layout in the meantime. I like the simple relatively light construction you're using (I assume the whole group is) but I have to ask, what is the logic-ed benefit of the Masonite spline vs. laying the roadbed directly on the foam? Is there a fear of the roadbed area being compressed somehow?
Now seeking Pacific NW N scalers to create a Modutrak-style modular club featuring NP's shared mainline between Seattle and Portland. PM me if interested.

lashedup

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2008, 09:43:04 PM »
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Ooo, ooo! Timing couldn't be better as I am on the verge of building a module or two just to build something, for the future when I get out of apartment life and to be part of a switching layout in the meantime. I like the simple relatively light construction you're using (I assume the whole group is) but I have to ask, what is the logic-ed benefit of the Masonite spline vs. laying the roadbed directly on the foam? Is there a fear of the roadbed area being compressed somehow?

Exactly. Given that these modules will travel around and inevitably get banged around a bit, we wanted to make sure the track sits on something strong that doesn't give. We also wanted to minimize warping to ensure the tracks stay aligned properly. I built a photography module once out of pink foam layers and it eventually warped a bit. There are always little tweaks that have to be made because you can still bang up the track if you're not careful, but so far it has held together very well.

- jamie

Matt G

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2008, 09:52:37 PM »
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Nice start lashedup! Guess I should keep going on Duplaineville. The layout is going to look different in March!

sirenworks -  to add what Jamie just posted, the masonite spline has several purposes/benefits. If you just went with foam, there could easliy be depression/deforming - especially at the ends where the track meets the next module. This stuff is sturdy as designed. Although the birch plywood is fairly well framed out, adding the masonite spline REALLY stiffens the whole thing up. There should be no sag to these things ever. It's a great base to secure the track and roadbed to, the 2" height allows easy depressions of surrounding scenery, if you add a bridge, you simply cut out a few inches of spline and have a good base to secure both the bridge and abutments, and built right, it is perfectly flat. We do not use rail joiners or small pieces of track between modules, we simply set it up end plate to end plate and the track has to all be at the same height. We run the rails right to the end and it has worked well so far.

Matt

Chris333

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2008, 10:02:40 PM »
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Do you guys ever have problems with the Masonite warping when you get it wet for scenery?  I like to lay Masonite over top of foam sometimes, but I'm so worried it will warp so give it a few coat of paint first. I know you are gluing it to the splines, but I still see open spaces under there.

I'll be interested in how the coal bins and oil dealer end up.

sirenwerks

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2008, 10:15:59 PM »
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Thanks guys. Considering my modules are going to be basically single track and not mobile as in show-to-show, I'll have to weigh whether the effort's worth it for me. That's not to cast negative light on your effort, which is awesome. Please continue.
Now seeking Pacific NW N scalers to create a Modutrak-style modular club featuring NP's shared mainline between Seattle and Portland. PM me if interested.

Erik W

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2008, 10:27:17 PM »
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I like your modular idea and attention to prototype fidelity as far as locations go.  A little too flat for my liking.  Now if you could tilt one end up to give 'er a 2 or 3 percent grade for us westerners that would be more up my alley.  ;)

Erik
My D&RGW layout  . . . and other stuff
http://s178.photobucket.com/albums/w243/drgw55/

lashedup

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2008, 10:39:53 PM »
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Do you guys ever have problems with the Masonite warping when you get it wet for scenery?  I like to lay Masonite over top of foam sometimes, but I'm so worried it will warp so give it a few coat of paint first. I know you are gluing it to the splines, but I still see open spaces under there.

I'll be interested in how the coal bins and oil dealer end up.


We glue the cork road bed to the Masonite and then ballast over that, so there isn't too much overall soaking of the Masonite. Occasionally near an edge we might get some edges that get a little wet, but nothing that really soaks it too much. I think your idea of giving it a coat of Kilz primer would help, but I'd also be worried about putting Masonite anywhere that might get really, really soaked with a lot of material. Since we put cork down and we're not pouring a lot of liquid material directly onto the Masonite, we haven't had any issues.

I'm going to have to scratch build the coal bins. The oil dealer will be a bash of different parts.

-jamie

Sokramiketes

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2008, 08:28:46 AM »
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Do you guys ever have problems with the Masonite warping when you get it wet for scenery?  I like to lay Masonite over top of foam sometimes, but I'm so worried it will warp so give it a few coat of paint first. I know you are gluing it to the splines, but I still see open spaces under there.

I'll be interested in how the coal bins and oil dealer end up.


We glue the cork road bed to the Masonite and then ballast over that, so there isn't too much overall soaking of the Masonite. Occasionally near an edge we might get some edges that get a little wet, but nothing that really soaks it too much. I think your idea of giving it a coat of Kilz primer would help, but I'd also be worried about putting Masonite anywhere that might get really, really soaked with a lot of material. Since we put cork down and we're not pouring a lot of liquid material directly onto the Masonite, we haven't had any issues.

I'm going to have to scratch build the coal bins. The oil dealer will be a bash of different parts.

-jamie

To add to what Jamie said, we make sure to use the tempered Masonite.  This is the stuff that is smooth on both sides, and is pretty resiliant to temporary liquid applications.  Much more resiliant than pressboard or MDF where you wouldn't want to get it wet, ever.
Mike

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asarge

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2008, 08:47:52 AM »
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Excellent Jamie!. The Tippie Tool Foam cutter is way superior to the Woodland Scenics product.

lashedup

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2008, 10:55:43 AM »
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Got initial cork down last night for the mainlines on the south module. I need to sketch in where the crossover and turnouts are located. I thought I had two more #10 right-hand turnouts, but I can't find them anywhere so I'll have to get out to pick some up. More later...

« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 10:33:33 PM by lashedup »

diezmon

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Re: Franksville Wisconsin MiNi Mod-U-Trak modules buildout
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2008, 09:33:20 PM »
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Got initial cork down last night for the mainlines on the south module. I need to sketch in where the crossover and turnouts are located. I thought I had two more #10 right-hand turnouts, but I can't find them anywhere so I'll have to get out to pick some up. More later...



So, why not just cover the whole module with 2" foam?  Instead of the center 2" masonite 'spline'?  Is it for noise?