Author Topic: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard  (Read 752 times)

TwinStar

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High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« on: July 14, 2019, 07:23:53 PM »
After a decade of experience with Free-mo and Digitrax DCC I have a pretty good list of what works in modular and what doesn't. A rift arose recently with different factions trying to tackle Free-mo's biggest problem; extensive setup times. The Free-mo standard incorporates a whole host of pioneering ideas that break away from the typical NMRA race track setup which allows for realistic prototype model railroading. Unfortunately, the standard also incorporates numerous concepts that require a small army of men and way too much time to setup and get a layout operating. It wasn't uncommon to take two days to get a moderate sized layout functional.

I've decided to pursue a clean sheet standard that incorporates a lot of the Free-mo philosophy in regards to track work while eliminating or addressing the three major deficiencies of that standard. Using endplates with alignment pins will reduce the time spent aligning rail in three axises, using butt joints instead of bridge rails, and using fixed DC on the rails instead of DCC. These things alone account for the bulk of time setting up Free-mo while other standards are long setup and operational. Other things to be included are caster equipped legs and top adjustable feet. A moderate sized railroad should take two hours and not two days to get trains operational.

This standard will take advantage of CNC milling for precise endplate alignment and 3D printing technologies for end of module rail fixtures. A fixed DC standard will allow for electrical setup in 30 minutes or less and provide for BlueRail, LocoFi, RailPro, Tam Valley DCC, and any future direct to cab systems to participate. Modular isn't for everyone but being as the majority here are already part of the 'there has to be a better way' club I'll post updates as the new standard in finalized.

Hi-Rail; Hi-quality modules, hi-speed setup, and hi-display height.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2019, 09:07:04 AM by TwinStar »
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
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G8B4Life

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Re: Hi-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2019, 05:14:30 AM »
I wish you luck Jacob,

We tried adapting Free-mo to down here, mostly the changes were just making things metric and specifying a few other things for uniformity but unfortunately there were just too many "I don't agree so we'll just make our own standard and do it our own way" people so I decided I had better things to do than argue with them (I was writing it) and it all pretty well died. I think you'll do better than we here did with your clean sheet as all the foot stamping and tantrums were over lowest common denominator stuff from Free-mo, vis fitter rail joins  joins and flat 6 conductor phone cable for the command bus (just to appease DigiTrax who can't bring there system up to spec for modern cable).

If you'd like I'd be happy to collaborate with you on the new clean sheet spec, I have a whole standard already written that probably wouldn't be hard to modify going to waste.

- Tim

TwinStar

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Re: Hi-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2019, 07:52:07 AM »
Tim:

I'd certainly be interested in seeing what you have written.

I was collaborating with two other guys from the west coast trying to design a backwards compatible pin alignment system that could be retrofitted to existing Free-mo modules. It was akin to installing an anti-lock break system into a Model T. It was limiting what could be done and in the end we would still have to spend hours setting up the DCC and hoping that it worked. The vast majority of our guys here in the DFW area have abandoned DCC and gone to RailPro and BlueRail so I finally decided to stop trying to put a square peg into a round hole and just start from scratch. Being able to clean sheet has removed every restriction and will make things a whole lot easier. Ironically, the end product will be 95% Free-mo save for the end plates and DCC.

I have a local cabinet shop with a CNC router and I need to see what kind of tolerances can be obtained and work out from there. One of the collaborators was testing maximum lateral and vertical offset for butt joints with Code 83 track and I need to see what the final verdict was on that as well.
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
trmhs.org

drisdon

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Re: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2019, 10:43:00 AM »
Jacob
I really like the idea of an improved Free-mo standard and you know I agree with the removal of the archaic DCC junk too.  My issue is and probably always will be that I'd be the only one with the new module standards in the west and I'd always have to retrofit with the "old way" in order to have a layout setup.  I do look forward to the day when I can setup my modules with the other Jacob and have a completely Railpro Free-mo setup.  I believe once we both build a few more modules that will be a distinct possibility, but we're not ready today.  We won't need the locojunk bus, and only need straight Railpro DC to the rails. 

Now, this doesn't address the layout setup time with regards to leveling and fitter rails, what or how are you going to do to make the butt joint work reliably?  Do you level the module tops just like we currently do for a setup?  Do you use the laser cut/CNC milled end plate which controls the connection with pins?  If yes I can see how making the module level then moving them together with pins could definitely work, I'm just not sure if we have the capability to make the tolerances needed to accomplish this. 

Dan  R.

TwinStar

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Re: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2019, 10:56:46 AM »
Dan:

The endplates will be CNC routed with alignment pin holes to accommodate the Freeman #4 brass dowels in addition to an alignment slot to center the 3D printed track fixture (this will be similar to my previous NEO fixture with the addition of a sleeve to center in the end plate and the rails). These three key points will be CNC'd in a specific humidity range to ensure alignment between the two pins and the rail fixture. Track will be mandated as ME Code 83 at the fixture ends. There will be no manual alignment or leveling of the tops. Place together, clamp, and move on. My top adjustable legs will be required as well. We leveled DUT (36') at the last demo in less than three minutes.

There is a method to use CNC'd 'caps' to make these smooth end for use on Free-mo layouts. It will require a 1.72" fitter rail instead of the traditional 2" to span the gap.
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
trmhs.org

TwinStar

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Re: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2019, 11:09:18 AM »
Dan:

As an aside, at the last demo we had former and current Free-mo, NMRA, TTrack, and one other modular standard guys there. A dozen guys with decades of modular experience. As nice as DUT was on top, the comments about the engineering of the module just didn't stop. My concepts work and they work incredibly well. I've never seen anything as good as this. We set each module on its legs, rolled it in, clamped them together, leveled with a cordless drill, and set the trains up. This all took minutes and we never once bent over or had to get on the floor. Electrical was as complicated as plugging into the wall and then plugging into the modules. This will be the new benchmark in modular standard but it won't be for everyone. It will require a level of craftsmanship and it won't be cheap. This will truly be the track side of the RPM movement and it'll be for those who want to actually run trains at a modular setup and not spend days getting the modules setup. Kansas City was the final straw for me. Two !@#$%&^ days to setup that layout. Ridiculous. It shouldn't have taken five hours. Free-mo refuses to do anything different than what they've always done. That's the same argument from the DCC and Kadee crowd.

I've already requested to be setup next to the Free-mo layout in Dallas for the 2023 NMRA convention. We'll be running trains in two hours and can offer Free-mo guys the opportunity to run while they spend two days setting up. I imagine a few converts will come of that.
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
trmhs.org

drisdon

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Re: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2019, 12:20:35 PM »
NTS is in Dallas in 2023, that's good to know, maybe I'll be able to attend that one.

Dan Risdon

TwinStar

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Re: High-Rail: A New Fixed DC Modular Standard
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2019, 12:35:18 PM »
NTS is in Dallas in 2023, that's good to know, maybe I'll be able to attend that one.

Dan Risdon

Well, let me backup a little. The 2023 NMRA Convention was awarded to Division 1 and 3 of the Lone Star Region. I don't think the venue has been finalized yet but they are wanting it in the DFW metroplex. So, I'll expand the ring a little until they have a venue. Texas hasn't had an NMRA National since Houston in 1989. Our Division Director is a huge supporter of DUT and what we're doing and as soon as he received the bid award he called me to make sure DUT would be there to display. Suffice it to say, all RailPro users will be welcome to come operate on our layout. Make plans to come out, it'll be here before we know it!
Jacob Damron
Modeling late 1950's Dallas Union Terminal in Free-mo+ modules

Texas Railway Modeling and Historical Society trmhs.org
trmhs.org