### The joy of standards

Russell is starting to negotiate building a model railroad again, and this time around I suggested that we try to build a modular railroad, so that we could easily rearrange it, take the modules to model railroad shows (assuming that there's a local modular club that we could network with) and ~~pack up and move to Canada~~ disassemble and move if we bought a new house. Everybody knows about Ntrak, of course, so I was hoping that there'd be some HO scale equivalent to it. So I did a little bit of looking, and came up with a bunch of different documents explaining HO standards for modular railroads.

All of these modular things say that the modules should be 4 feet wide, and that they should be (roughly) 30 inches deep (Uh Oh, one of them said that the module needed to be 32 inches deep?) and that they should use 1x4s as the end framing so that you could clamp modules together. And, happily, most of them say the tracks should be on 2" centers (once again, one of them said that the tracks should be on 3" centers. Ooops.)

And then the fun begins. Of the 5 standards I've found, there are *5 different track spacings*; measured from the front of the module, track can be found at

- 4" and 6"
- 5" and 7"
- 6" and 8"
- 2.5" and 4.5"
- 1.5" and 4.5"

Now, this is encouraging. At least with the first four, you can (if you don't mind modules poking out forward and backward) adjust the placement to match up with a module that's built to one of the other 3 incompatable standards. The fifth one is just wierd; aside from the joy of having your class B and class D locomotives running along almost overhanging the front edge of the module, there's no chance of actually being able to match up with any of the other 4 (and then some) module designs unless you build gantlet track along the front of the railroad like so:

+-----------------back-------------------+ | | | | | | |----------------------------------------| |----------------------------------------| | | |___ ____| |---\-------------------------------/----| |----------------------------------------| | | +----------------front-------------------+

And wouldn't that look lovely.

Sigh.

And, of course, the local modular railroad doesn't actually mention just which standard they use (and this for an organization that charges $15/*month* for membership. Ouch. $180 a year is approximately 3 times what it costs us for a family membership in the OERHS. One would think that the modular railroad could post their standards for the modules, in and around their standards for controllers (DCC. Yawn.) and exhibition sites.) I guess I'll just flip a coin for which standard to use, then just shim whenever we go to model railroad shows, and hope that the Real Standard™ isn't the track spacing we didn't choose.