Modular model railways – the pros and cons?

Dave emailed me recently about exhibiting our ‘N’ gauge modular layout at local exhibitions.  His comment was (in part)….

Hi – not having much success with exhibitions at the minute. The larger ones don’t seem interested in modular layouts….  We seem to have more success at places that put on exhibitions which are second to the main attraction – like Rural Life, Bluebell and Gaugemaster – or smaller shows.

My response was (in part)…..

A lot of shows will tend towards ‘scale’ layouts, so are not interested in our ‘anything goes’ approach to exhibiting. Which is a shame, as there are usually a number of rubbish generic ‘OO’ tail-chasers at most big shows. And we all know that a modular circuit does get plenty of viewing from those who just like watching the trains go by.

The modular approach might be classified as being not scale enough, or too much fun and not enough rivet counting?  However, I remember doing the Gaugemaster show in 2016, and on the Sunday Paul took over the outer two tracks with Japanese Bullet trains, whilst the inner two ran mainly UK stock.  And we had lots of spectators, who appreciated the unusual and interesting trains, and perhaps the way the Kato stock stayed on our trackwork at high speed.

It is interesting that the latest focus in the free USA web-zine, ‘Model Railroad Hobbyist’, is the ‘TOMA’ concept – The “One Module” Approach.

With TOMA, the idea is to build your home layout using portable
sections, and to complete each section all the way from bare
benchwork to a finished module section with all the scenery,
details, structures, and bridges totally done. If you have signals
or lighted grade crossings, they all work. In other words, each
TOMA section is completely finished before going on to the next
TOMA module section.

Rather than just have a “still life” layout section, TOMA thinking
encourages you to add flattop staging to both ends of the
module, then go ahead and run trains. No need to wait for the
entire layout to get into operation. With TOMA, the idea is to
experience the entire breadth of the hobby from beginning to end including ops – but because you’re doing your layout just a small piece at a time, you can get to completion a lot more quickly.

Now I’m impressed that the hobby in the USA is moving in that sort of direction – possibly due to the space for basement size empires becoming less common?  And of course they have had ‘N-track’ and ‘One-track’ around very successfully for years.  But we’ve also been doing it for years in the UK.  Firstly in layouts that do expand, and secondly in modular layouts.

I also replied….

For modular layouts there is potential in the Alpenbahn approach (and also to some degree in N-club), where the appearance of the modules is uniform, and they are based on a consistent location, so that put together they are ‘scale’ enough for most exhibitions. Our trouble is that our interests are too far reaching!

I am not sure that our membership would be interested in building a consistently themed set of modules, that would pass both as a ‘fun’ layout, and on occasion a ‘scale’ layout.  But maybe it’s worth thinking about?

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
This entry was posted in ESNG, Exhibitions, Layout design and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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