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In the fall of 2004 a group of train enthusiasts met to discuss the possibility of creating a club that would meet their needs and expectations. The Club would have to be a family oriented that would allow the spouses to become involved and interact with the other spouses and club members. We held 3 meetings to brainstorm what we the initial group of eight members would like to see formed. We all agreed it would be a requirement that all members need to participate in club activities beyond just running trains.
Some concerns were raised because certain members felt they did not have the skill levels we would need to accomplish the task we were laying out. This however showed exactly what we wanted from a club, the ability to share and learn new skills from other members. We established a budget for the balance of the year and in early 2005 and collected an initial investment from the interested members. Unfortunately we lost a couple of members from the initial group, but we still had a strong bonded group who could accomplish the task at hand with great efficiency and enjoyment. Hence the Southeast Wisconsin Hi-Railers were born.
We decided to build a portable modular layout that would be used to promote the hobby we all love and attract new member recruitment for the Club. We contacted other modular groups to get information on how they started and what they would recommend if they were us. We were able to get the standards they used to construct their layout on the internet. After lengthy discussions and debates we agreed on a plan. We mutually agreed to build a layout that would meet our requirements as Club and not worry about the capability to merge with the other modular layouts.
Construction began in January of 2005 with the building of the bench work. We as a group decided to make the layout in light small modules. With our group getting older and not younger this seemed the logical route to take. The smaller modules also allow individual members to be able to transport a module in a family vehicle. Each module is 48” long by 30” wide. The frames are made from 1x6 pine with ¾”x 4” plywood for cross support. We used ¼” luan plywood for the cap of the table and 2”styrafoam insulation wedged and glued between the supports and sides to stiffen the tables and deaden the sound.
All the joints are glued and screwed or nailed and glued. Based on the original plan we built sixteen 48” x 30” table assemblies along with four corner modules. The modules are supported by 3” square PVC down spouts cut to length for legs. We attached the legs using the PVC connectors sold with the downspouts. The connectors are slid over wooden blocks that are both glued and screwed to the top of the table. Additional strength is achieved by screwing two #12x 6” sheetmetal screws through the sides of the table, into the PVC connector and the wooden block inside the connector Levelers are mounted in each leg to allow for varied floor contours.
The Southeast Hi-Rail layout has three main lines with two sidings per line. Gargraves flex track was used along with Gargraves preformed curves in three different radiuses. Ross Custom switches and crossovers were used to transition from the main line to the sidings. In an effort to eliminate any type of collision we designed the layout so that it is impossible to go from one main-line to another via a crossover. The track is layed on cork road bed, and is than fastened to the luan plywood by #6 Phillips head screws. The drop-in track sections that connect one table to another are all Gargraves sectional track, we spaced the openings for each module at equal distances to allow a Gargraves straight sectional track. We left the pins in one end of the sectional track so that we plug one end of the sectional track into one module and drop the other end of the sectional track down on blades we mounted in the other module.
We discovered we would have to modify our plans to properly support our design requirements. Due to the congestion of all the switches and crossovers in a tight space we found we could not fit the track on the 48” x 30”modules we had built. It would be impossible to have any symmetry in the placement of the switches and crossovers due to the 48” length of each module. We built two 96”x 30 modules to hold all the switches and crossovers that transverse into the yard and one coming out of the yard. We also added three 96”x 16” tables to handle three of the six sidings. All the modules connect to one another via metal hangers that properly align top of each module. Additional modules are than connected by latching module to module. All that is left to do is to adjust the levelers on the legs that bear the weight of that module section.
The electrical power needs are supported by a #14 power/control conductors and #10 neutral for the supply buss around the layout. There are 5 power conductors and 1 neutral conductor as well as 6 switched or controlled conductors for the sidings. The main line conductors are color coded as are the accessory voltage conductors. Automotive/machine wire was used as our conductor material because of the wire strand count for each wire. Automotive and machine stranded were used in wiring the layout..
This type of wire allows for better flexibility and greater strength in this type of application. All the power, control and neutral wires are connected to a terminal buss strips under the table with crimp style terminals. #18 wire is used to supply power from the terminal supply strips to the track. Six and four pin trailer harness plugs are used in lieu of the Molex connectors that the other modular groups use because the Molex connectors are only rated at 6amps and “O” gauge trains with lash-ups, multi-heading and lighted passenger cars can push ten amps or more. The current plan calls for running in both TMMC and DCS, each main line and accompanying sidings will be on their own power supply. In addition to the three main lines there are two fixed voltage lines for accessories, lighting, signals, and switch motor control.