"Shoofly" Free-moN module (2'x6')

MC Fujiwara Feb 22, 2012

  1. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    Well, the Free-moN bug has bitten.

    Credit (blame?) goes to Steve Williams and the Silicon Valley Free-moN group for doing such excellent work on their own modules and putting on some great shows. Seems like every time I go to a local train gig, like a LDSIG meet or the x2011 NMRA convention, I end up hanging around these great dudes & their modules and wishing I had one to contribute. So time to get busy!

    Even though the group is an hour away from my part of the Bay, I just had to start building something Free-moN, not just because of Steven and the groovy group, but because Free-moN is such a fab deal: single mainline, 50" layout height, emphasis on prototypical scenes and ops, and very few "standards"--really just the track (code 55), wiring, and endplates!

    Anything else is pretty much up to you!

    You could build a 20' curved yard, divided up into five 4' sections (for transport), and, as long as the endplate on the far left & far right are Free-moN, you're good to go! Which means you could take a section of your "home" layout, attach 6" "adaptor" sections on each end, and then participate in a Free-moN event.

    Seems like the best of all possible N-finite worlds!

    Originally I designed a groovy 6'x6' under-&-over loop module based on the WP Feather River Route, but that would have necessitated cleaning out more of the garage than I could easily do, and then the Silicon Valley Free-moN group got an invite to show in early April, so that set the deadline!

    Ever since reading John Armstrong's Track Planning for Realistic Operations I've been intrigued by his drawing of a "shoofly" (page 123, 3rd ed.). It's a simple scene of track diverted over a fill while a crew repaired / rebuilt a bridge over a small stream, yet contained the possibility of multiple "stories" within the scene (not only the work on the rails, but the land just outside of railroad property: orchards, farms, roads, forests, etc.)

    So I designed a 2'x6' "Shoofly" module:


    Bent at 30 degrees to add interest & show-layout possibilities, and it eases the curves on the diverted track (Free-moN standards: 22" radius curve minimum).

    Best of all, I might get it done in the month & a half before the show!

    The 24"x6" endplates are 3/4" birch plywood, but I ripped the rest of the 4"-tall frames from 1/2" sanded ply "handy panels" I had laying around for a different project. (The 2" pink foam will take up the other 2").

    A great investment for benchwork and all types of home-improvement projects is the mitre/chopsaw:


    Not only rotates to any angle, but also cuts at a bevel, which came in handy for the 15 deg cuts where the two sections come together.

    Wood glue, drywall screws, and some right-angle clamps help put the frame together:


    [Notice the dropcloth over the Mt. Coffin & Columbia River layout: I learned the hard way last time I cut wood in the garage that sawdust goes EVERYWHERE! I also tried to do all the cutting before my wife came back, but it didn't happen, and luckily I remembered to take all the laundry inside before starting!]

    Apparently ACE has an adjustable-angle clamp, but was way out of stock, so I just built all the right angle stuff and then put the 15 deg board on last, holding the boards in place with my hand while I drilled the pilot holes. Turnout out fine:


    About right now, you more experienced woodworkers are noticing a few things I forgot to do before assembling the frame (what can I say, I am excited!), but I'll show you that it's all ok in the next post
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Great idea. I am sure a lot of folks don't even know how a shoo-fly is used, or what it even is. Probably very few have ever modeled such a working scene.
  3. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    As the 1/2" ply is a wee thin, I braced it with some glued& screwed triangles:


    So I assembled the frame and supports before:
    1) drilling holes for the bolts that connect the two sections
    2) drilling a hole for the wires to pass between the two sections
    3) drilling holes for the 2"x2" legs
    4) cutting out the holes for the NCE UTP panels
    5) routering the endplate "mouths" for the wires


    And, as it turns out, the space between the frame supports wasn't wide enough to allow a drill in to do all of that.


    Thank goodness for this little miricle: The "Orbiter"!


    Was able to get all my legs & wire holes in after framing. Very handy, that Orbiter!

    The main track bus and accessory bus need to be 12 gauge wire and have Anderson Powerpole connectors at the endplates.
    Those Anderson connectors are very cool, but a pain to crimp to stay on.
    Until I realized that solder worked better.

    So got frame, wiring, legs done:


    About that white foamcore sheet:
    Turns out that 2" pink foam isn't 2": it's about 1 7/8" (dimensional foam?)
    So I was short coming up to the 6" endplate.
    I thought about screwing & gluing a 1/8" masonite plate on top of the frame (upon which I'd attach the foam), but dang that was heavy.
    So I got some 3/16" Elmer's foamcore from Target and laid that down with some caulk.
    Pretty rigid stuff.

    The Pink foam will lay on top, and the foamcore will provide a base for the Bullfrog turnout control I'll be trying on this module.

    But tonight, the caulk is curing the foamcore to the frame, with the help of a model railroader's favorite tools: whatever weights available.


    Will our hero get his module done in time for the show?
    Will he make more messy mistakes while he man-handles his module into being?
    Will he stop refering to himself in the third person?

    The answer: Oh, yeah.

    Will post updates soon.
    Any / all feedback & suggestions appreciated!
    Thanks for looking.
  4. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    What's great about it is that you can have a working scene and a bullet-proof mainline at the same time.
    As well as a place for your crane & camp cars :)

    There's only one turnout (which could be a dummy if you wanted), and the yellow "slow order" signs add operational interest.

    Gonna need some cows & lots of static grass for this one ;)

    Good thing I just made "The Banananator":


    Haven't done farmland yet, so this will be fun!
  5. Grant_T

    Grant_T TrainBoard Member

    Very nice start. My previous layout was comprised of three Free-mo modules. I love the concept.
  6. gregamer

    gregamer TrainBoard Supporter

    Very nice. It'll be fun to watch this get put together. I think you can do it in time.
  7. Primavw

    Primavw TrainBoard Member

    Once again, excited to see what you have in store... my wife would kill me if I had more than one project going at a time!
  8. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I like the shoofly idea. I have not seen it modeled much. My fav prototype has had 2, within a few miles of each other. Both were in use for about 35 years, with a 5MPH slow order (on a 2% ruling grade) due to collapsed tunnels that failed mid-construction. Realignments in 1938 removed both shooflys with huge cuts and fills.
  9. EMD F7A

    EMD F7A TrainBoard Member

    This looks like a VERY fun project for you! I'll be watching this thread intently. Heck, if I had the space to build a module I'd be on it in a heartbeat! I'll live vicariously through your build, as many of us do I'm sure :)
  10. Avel

    Avel TrainBoard Member

    I'd watch any thread that MC Fujiwara starts intently.
  11. TetsuUma

    TetsuUma TrainBoard Member


    So two of them can fit next to that 3 3/4" 2x4 probably.

    Can't wait to see the finished product.

    Tetsu Uma
  12. Philip H

    Philip H TrainBoard Member

    Totally agree
  13. SinCity

    SinCity TrainBoard Member

    + Another.
  14. Logtrain

    Logtrain TrainBoard Member

    I have thought about doing something similar to this for a while now. I would essentially do what Greg Orianski from the Mt Rainier N scale has done with his house that he buolds piece by piece and is always interseting to see what he has changed from show to show. I would build mine with a bridge. I would have the mainline on a trestle and then going through a tunnel, similar to that of 16 mile canyon. However, my shoe-fly would be a bypass track making an easier curvature of a mainline relocation by-passing the existing tunnel and trestle with a new state of the art steel trestle. I would first start by building the new grade, then adding the rail, (maybe even hand laying this section). Then I would be building the abutments, then the concrete footing for the steel viaducts. I would then have a crane sitting on a section of bridge and a crew working on installing a new girder section of the new bridge.

    I would call this module, "My work in progress."

    I think it would be very appealing to alot of people.
  15. atsf_arizona

    atsf_arizona TrainBoard Supporter

    Way to go, MC :). The group of guys you're referring to are really good, you're a great addition to their group and they to you. Best wishes and looking forward to what happens.
  16. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for all the encouragement & well wishes: we'll see if I can do "Module in a Month" ;)

    The foamcore / caulk dried pretty quick and made a nice base.
    The foamcore is the Elmer's stuff you can get at Target: pretty cheap and stonger than some artstore foamcore I looked at (no Gatorboard around here, otherwise I'd snag that up quick). It's also 3/16", which makes my 1 7/8" pink foam stick up a little over the endplate, but a little sanding will do the job.

    Spread caulk over the foamcore and then placed the pink foam:


    I intentionally left it a little long on both sides where the sections butt up, so I can sand it to a good fit later.

    Attaching foam to foam over a large area takes a long time to cure (no air!), so I'm not planning on carving until the weekend or next week.
    Tomorrow I'll take off the weights and clamps and start laying out the track & maybe caulk down the cork.
    But today I built a #6 turnout as well as the Bullfrog I'm trying out for turnout control:


    The Bullfrog was pretty easy to put together: very well designed!
    And has a switch to power the frog. Not bad for $6!
    I didn't get the control rods / knobs (they even have a set up for Free-mo modules!) because I figure I can make my own.

    I'm going to have to reinforce the bottom of the foamcore with a sheet of styrene and gorillaglue to get the firm base the Bullfrog needs, though.
    And I seem to have placed a crossbrace right at the area I have the one turnout (D'oh!), so I'm hoping the Bullfrog's "small footprint" works (the wire is on one side, so it shouldn't be a problem).

    Will be fun to start laying cork & track soon!
    Thanks for looking.
  17. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I would like to see this in it's own topic!
  18. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

    MC, I look forward to viewing more progress. I used the Bullfrogs on a couple modules and at $6 it sure sounds good, but I must point out that the throw required creates issues at the fascia. The Bluepoints, though expensive have a nice short throw that is more appealing in my opinion. I was thinking of rigging a pivoting throw to reduce the distance and have a slide rather than a push pull knob, but I have yet to try it out.
    Attached is how I mount my Bullfrogs to the foam. I use 1-1/2" screws and construction adhesive without any issue.
    Colton Proto module 033.jpg Colton Proto module 034.jpg
  19. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    Thanks, John, for taking the time to post some picts and share your experience.
    What you did with the wood is pretty much exactly what I was thinking of, but with .06 or .08 styrene & gorillaglue.
    What kind of construction adhesive did you use? (always looking for things that don't eat foam)

    When I first read up on the Bullfrogs and saw the video, I noticed that longish throw (the manual said about 1").
    Thought about cutting out a recess in the fascia, but even 1" travel looks rather ridiculous and toy-like, so I'm thinking of rigging up an actuator rod that stops about 1 1/2" before the inside of the frame.
    Then operators could just reach under the fasica and push/pull a knob.
    Could have a small stencil of a harp switch on the fascia to indicate the position of the knob on the other side.

    Thanks again for the ideas!
  20. CNW 1518

    CNW 1518 TrainBoard Member

    That's a unique module idea.. I don't think I've seen one like that..

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