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Getting into FREE-MO

January 9, 2011

For a few years I’ve been interested by the fascinatingly detailed modules built by the Nor-Cal Free-Mo and Free-Mo SLO group. I’ve followed online many of the modules as they take shape and have been consistently impressed with their work and the work of other groups around the country.

Free-Mo in it’s simplest form is a high-quality modular railroad standard in which the only major constraints to design are that the end plates, track and scenery must match. Between that could be anything, any layout of any size, but the most common size seems to be around 2X4 feet. Most Free-Mo modelers draw inspiration from actual scenes in life versus freelancing, and that really shows nicely in their work. Furthermore, they take the approach that “less is more” and it really allows for some breathing room for taking realistic photographs of their highly detailed rolling stock.

So, Why Free-Mo? Well for one I wasn’t building up to the quality I wanted on my last couple of layouts which turned into poor trackwork, poor benchwork and I never got to scenery except for a couple of scenes, and this frustrated me. I then demolished and gave away half of my layout to a friend to clear room for my new set of 26″X12′ of modules so that I could have a compact, but still engaging home layout for switching, with an option to have continuous run when I want by adding sections. I also wanted to push myself in this respect. As a model builder, I’ve been shy to challenge myself on matters regarding any modeling that couldn’t be done on my workbench, which included layout building. I was prone to cutting corners I’d never have cut on the workbench. So I had the money, and the time, and figured why not build a layout that actually works? How about actually ENJOYING your hobby for a change?

I spent most of December heavily researching what I should do for my pair of modules. I wanted something engaging for the viewer to look at, and have come up with some ideas, which I’ll cover in the following post.

These standards are the law of the land. However after some digging, I managed to find a more palatable version to read, entitled the “Gentle Guide to Free-Mo standards” which provides smoother prose from the byzantine list of specifications. I’d honestly suggest reading through the gentle guide to help improve your home layout, even if it’s not modular.

Also peruse the excellent United States’ Official FREE-MO website, it’s a wealth of information from finding local groups to looking at some impressive modeling.

This new journey on which I’ll be embarking will be very much akin to a Model Railroader “Project Layout” but provide more in-depth information to help you, the interested modeler in getting into this wonderful modular railroading movement.

Editor’s note: Be sure to follow progress and topics related to this with the “Modular Railroading” Category.

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