Raising the Bar for N Scale Modular Railroading

Frequently Asked Questions about shows

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I’m new to Free-moN, I have built a module, how do I participate in a set-up and what can I expect/what is expected of me when I get there?
Join the Free-moN Facebook group and/or the Google Group and keep a watch for set-up announcements. They will usually identify whom to contact to let them know of your intent to participate. Ensure that your module meets the standards – if possible have a pre-set-up shakedown with someone in your vicinity (if not, there will be lots of helpful folks at the set-up. Have accurate measurements for your module or digital drawings which you will need to transmit to the set-up coordinator for them to plan the layout.

For the set-up:

  1. Be there on time. An expected arrival time will be sent from the set-up coordinator prior to the meet. There may be a day-before unloading time.
  2. Identify yourself to the set-up/run coordinator and ask where to put your modules.
  3. There may or may not be a quick coordination meeting to ensure smooth unloading of all modules, this is especially so for large set-ups. Introduce yourself to the others.
  4. Unload your module(s), see if anyone else needs help unloading. Always follow owner instructions during unloading/loading to ensure modules are not damaged.
  5. Get your modules set up on their legs, put your clamps and electrical connectors (loconet) with your module so they are on hand when it’s time to insert your module into the layout.
  6. See if anyone else needs help setting their modules onto their legs.
  7. If you haven’t been pre-assigned a next task – go back to the set-up coordinator and ask with what you can help next. Often this will be helping to get the modules set for running.
  8. A set-up starts with placing the ‘keystone’ module in place which usually involves measuring from the assigned space or the hall to ensure that the layout orientation is correct so everything will fit. A keystone module is typically a centrally located corner, or one with several ends such as a wye. The idea is to allow set-up crews to start working off either end once the keystone is in place.
  9. Next, the adjacent modules are attached ensuring that the rail height remains at approximately 50” above the floor – but more importantly that the rail stays level (floors can be very uneven). Each module is aligned (track height and track side-to-side) followed by clamping. Be careful with clamping to ensure the clamp is on the endplate and does not pinch any electrical wires. This continues until all modules are attached.
  10. The DCC gurus will also start at the keystone module and start hooking up electrical (track bus, accessory bus and loconet) following the module set-up crew. Ideally, everything functions as intended and there are no issues – expect some though.
  11. Module owners should then clean the track on their modules. If you wish to clean track on someone else’s module be sure to ask them first if it’s OK and then how they want it done. Oils, conductive lubricants, filmy cleaners – anything that can leave guck or smear to other modules is generally frowned upon (this includes for example, Wahl’s clipper oil, No-Oxide, transmission fluid, and graphite). Module owners should clean their track once a day, usually first thing in the morning.
  12. Any buildings, add-ons etc. are then also added by each module owner.
  13. If skirting is used, it is placed on modules.
  14. There will then be an engine run-through to ensure everything works as intended. Often, this will be followed by a general meeting of all operators/module owner(s) for a quick walk through during which each module owner explains what to watch for on their module and how to operate any switches etc. After this, the layout will be declared open.
  15. Depending on set-up, there may be free-running, operations, or a mix. Grab your throttle, engine, and cars and have fun! If you don’t have room on your module to set-up your train, ask the run chief where you can do so – usually a yard track or siding will be available.
  16. Pay attention and communicate while running your train – you should be at the head end of your train looking ahead, try not to follow another operator too closely and communicate in advance to plan meets and passes etc. If it’s a public show and you get talking to someone, park your train in a siding to avoid fouling the mainline while you chat. If someone is switching and needs the mainline, give them room/time to get their job done. If you are switching, align switches to the main once you’ve finished.
  17. Be careful reaching into a module to couple/uncouple cars to avoid damaging someone else’s module. Loose sleeves and coats are usual culprits.
  18. If you need to leave the layout for a break, depending on length, remove your train entirely, alternatively ask if you can leave it on a siding or on a yard track somewhere. Ensure that sound on any sound-equipped locomotives is turned off.
  19. Near tear down time, the DCC chief will give fair warning when power will be turned off – this will allow operators to get their trains to a point where they can take them off the layout. Operators/module owners then remove all loose items from modules.
  20. After shutdown, skirting is removed first, followed by disconnecting of all electrical. There may be a request to help remove any extension cords and loconet cables from the floor first. Respect this and help in any way you can.
  21. Only after this is complete will unclamping of modules begin. It is often tempting to slide a corner module out sideways to provide more open spots from which to take down the layout – BEWARE of this – sideway sliding of modules may cause snagging and ‘unzippering’ of track. Often it’s just best to wait till unclamping comes to your module – it goes fast.
  22. Remove the legs and re-pack your module for transport home. Check to see if anyone else needs help – many hands make light work.
  23. Follow the set-up coordinator’s instructions for loading trailers and vehicles.
  24. Stick around to help until the last module and trailer/trunk door closes. We’re all in this together.
  25. At some venues a floor sweep or vacuum is required, be willing to help with this if you are done loading your modules.
  26. Often there’s a chance for after set-up camaraderie via an impromptu dinner at a restaurant, or pizza next to the rails watching the 1:1s go by. Plan to hang out and get to know some of the others, Free-moNites are a friendly bunch.
  27. Build more modules and plan to attend the next set-up.
How is locomotive addressing handled at a show? If I have a loco numbered 1234, and someone else has one with the same number, won’t they conflict?
There are a variety of methods used to avoid conflicts. At smaller shows, sometimes we’ll just use a whiteboard - before you put a loco on the layout, put the number on the whiteboard with your initials. If someone else has already selected that number, then you’ll need to reprogram it to a different one. If you don’t have the equipment to reprogram a loco at the show, usually that’s not a problem - there will be several people there that can program it. At large shows, we’ll sometimes assign each person a “Prefix” - so if your prefix is 91, then your locos should be programmed somewhere between 9100 and 9199. You get to decide how they actually get assigned, and since no one else can use the 91 prefix once it’s assigned to you, there shouldn’t be conflicts. Usually the prefix can be assigned well ahead of the show to give you time to reprogram, just check with the show runner. At VERY large shows, sometimes you’re just given a single address to use and whatever loco you put on the layout, must be programmed to that address.
Obviously having an accurate depiction of modules is important in planning a show. What format should I use? Do I need to set up my module in a specific design program?
Free-moN doesn’t have a “Standard” for module designs to use in setting up a layout, so it’s basically up to the show runner. Some will use track planning software like XTrackCAD, AnyRail, 3D Plan-it, etc - some will use CAD software like AutoCAD - some will use paper templates, or graph paper! So, no - we don’t have a particular “Standard” file format that will work for all shows. But what IS important, is to be able to accurately describe the module such that the show planner can see how it would fit in. If endplates are at an angle to one another, know what that angle is. If the module curves, know the curve radius. If the track is not centered on the endplate, know the measurement from the edge to the track center(s). Being able to provide an overall view of the module, with track plan, and adding dimensions to that view, will usually be adequate.