Modules: Free-mo

The Free-mo modular layout is built on the concept of allowing greater freedom in module construction and design, with an emphasis on following prototype design and practices, while still remaining portable.

Free-mo layouts feature just a single mainline, and can be used for point-to-point, point-to-loop, or loop-to-loop set-ups.

The Free-mo standard only specifies the end plates of the modules to be two feet wide, so that modules can be rotated end-for-end and still work.

While the NASG's S-MOD modular standard allows similar configurations of set-up, its modules' lengths must be even multiples of two feet long (i.e. 2', 4', 6', etc.). The Free-mo standard allows for modules to be any length, twist in any angle, and even allows for grades.

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S-scale Free-mo Standard

Officially, there are no S-scale standards developed for Free-mo at this time. Contact the clubs mentioned in the next section to find out what they are using.

Layouts

There are currently three known S-scale clubs that have a Free-mo style of layout. These are the "S Scale Workshop", the "Sn2 Crew", and the "Bay Area S Scalers".

S Scale Workshop

This Canadian group used to have an older sectional layout that they took to local shows. As the members started aging, the heavy modules started having a toll on the members' muscles and bones. So, the club decided to abandon the old layout and start over again. In their research for what kind of layout they might want to build, they stumbled upon Free-mo, and decided to pursue that in S-scale. Since there was no S-scale standard for Free-mo-style layouts, they experimented and came up with their interpretation of the (HO-scale) standard to set their own guidelines.

The club's layout has won two "Best in Show" awards at large train shows in Milwaukee, WI and Springfield, Massachusetts. The club sets up their layout in various configurations, but they are all generally point-to-point. They use a conventional turntable to turn engines at one end, or they use a three-track whole-train selector plate (mimicking British display layouts), or they have a large balloon loop at one end. They use code 83 rail on the main line, and code 70 rail on the sidings.

The club reports that since their layout is not intended to be a closed-loop set-up, the layout is configured based on which members can make it to a particular show. This is another advantage over typical closed-loop layouts, where, for example, all four of the corner modules have to make it to a show for the layout to be usable.

S Scale Workshop web site
NASG Convention Clinic on building a Free-mo-based club & layout

club member Jim Martin tours the layout during a 2013 NASG Convention clinic
(copyright © Peter Vanvliet; used by permission)

Sn2 Crew

This group is not a formal club, but rather a group of individuals interested in Sn2 modular layout modeling, taking their individual modules to various shows. The group has no web site and communicates via e-mail, since members are scattered around Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maine, and Maryland.

Lee Rainey is shown with his home layout, which incorporates modules he uses with the Sn2 Crew public display layout
(copyright © Bill Winans; used by permission)

Bay Area S Scalers

This club draws members from California, and they decided to model prototype railroading in a modular fashion. When they decided to build a Free-mo-style layout, they drew up standards based on what the Canadian S Scale Workshop club had established for their layout. These standards are available as a PDF file for download via their web site. Their first public showing was in May of 2017, which showed a loop-to-loop layout. Photos can be seen on their web site.

Bay Area S Scalers web site.

Notes

When using circuit-breakers on individual Free-mo modules, the ability to rotate a module 180 degrees may cause the circuit-breaker to not work correctly anymore. Rotating the module may cause the rails' polarity to be different to adjacent modules, as far as the circuit-breaker is concerned. This can be corrected two ways; change the connectors of the DCC cable around, which is the easiest solution, or change the track cable connectors around, which can be confusing.

Resources

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