move over and make room for On30!
The Adjustable Legs That Make The Grade:
Ordinary Modules are flat, flat, flat...
Narrow Gauge Railroading is, by nature, cheaper to build and operate. A lot less money goes into the construction and maintenance of the equipment and Right of Way. In North America, history has shown us that the successful Narrow Gauge Railroads eventually converted to Standard Gauge while the less than successful Narrow Gauge Railroads have all but vanished. Only a few survive as historical monuments and scenic/tourist lines.
Narrow Gauge Railroads were often built as a temporary means to bring resources from the woods and hills down to the towns and cities as well as transporting the workers and their supplies to the Lumber Camps and Mines. Moving the people an goods through rough and rugged countryside.
Long, wide cuts and fills that would create the flattest and most direct route were also the most expensive to build and maintain. Certianly not the best option for the foreman working on a tight budget. So, it was a matter of choosing the route of least resistance, which meant twisty windy Narrow Gauge Railroads that crawled up and down hillsides utilizing loops and switch-backs to get in and out of the wilderness.
This merges with the history of Modular Model Railroading, and Model Railroading in general. Owing a great debt to the pioneers of Modular Model Railroading for developing this great aspect of Model Railroading, NTrack created and developed a set of Module Standards that made nearly universal interconnection for Model Railroaders. To them, our debt and gratitude. The NMRA has prettymuch adopted the NTrack Module Standards as their own. Only varying slightly from one Scale/Gauge to the next.
However, Modular Model Railroading has evolved from the "Fortress" type layout and "Tail-Chaser" operations, towards more prototypical Model Railroading. There is the Two Track (Bend Track) Module Standard that is set up as a tpe of "Dog Bone" layout which allows continuous running. As well as the single-track system (Free-Mo) is designed with much more prototypical point to point operations. Or by utilizing Return Loop "Balloon" module sets, a "Folded Dog Bone" layout can be created to provide a continuous run, and/or provide a circular staging area.
The next step in the evolution of Modules is the introduction of Grades. In the past, grades have been constrained to a single module and/or module set. The Right of Way could rise or fall within those confines and then return to the set rail height at the interface to connect to the next module. For the most part, modules represented Class 1 Mainline Railroading. Therefore, the grades were limited to around two percent (2%). So, unless the module set was large the effect was lost and generally considered a waste of time and effort. Flat, rectangle "Dominoes" prevailed. Railroading across the "Plywood Plains" and "Foam Flats". Few Moduleers build the illusion of truely rolling countryside or Mountainous Terrain by cutting valleys under the roadbed to be spanned with bridges and building hills behind the Right of Way..
Recently, some Free-Mo groups have adopted mainline grades which allow one interface plate to be higher/lower than another. They adjust the height of the railhead from one module to the next. This is accomplished by using a standard railheight and leg system where adjustments are made by utilizing blocks and shims under the feet and setting increments of ~1/2" for changes in elevation.
For a hilly Narrow Gauge line, this would require a really big sack of blocks and shims!
One of the coolest features of Free-MOn30 is the 20" adjustable height that makes awesome long grades possible. Potentially, you could create a modular layout that climbs up and circles back to pass over itself! Unfortunately, this also appears to be the biggest headache. How do you make module legs that can easily raise or lower the modules from a rail height of 36" to 56" at the interface?
Telescopic paint roller handles, which can also be found for mop handles and tree trimmers could be used for module legs. However, they can be expensive. They can also be flimsy and might have a tendancy to slowly collapse. Camera Tripods are another idea, but could also slowly collapse. They, for the most part, use cam-locks or other friction type fittings.
My first design took inspiration from the humble Ironing Board. It worked, but not as well as I'd hoped....
The idea is to create a module support that is lightweight and easy to adjust.
Another design involves the use of "Crutches". The prototype of this design requires adjusting the length of all 4 legs by removing and inserting bolts. This could prove to be time consuming. An improvement on this design would be to build the legs as inverted T's. You would then only need 2 legs instead of 4 to support the module. However, this design requires the use of pre-drilled "L" brackets or access to an accurate drill press for the multiple holes needed in the crutch leg. The metal brackets can be heavy as well.
These leg systems are potentially heavier than the module that they support.
While pondering the problem, I thought that it would be nice if all the legs could be adjusted at the same time. That's where the "Ironing Board" idea came from. I decided that it would be best to have as few legs on a module as possible. Fewer legs would require less set up time.
Then the idea of using a single pedestal leg came along. It uses only a tiny bit more material than traditional set of module legs, but allows for quick and easy height adjustment. I've used the Adjustable Pedestals for supporting my modules for a while now and have been satisfied with their performance.
I wrote an article for Light Iron Digest Magazine describing the construction of Adjustable Pedestals for supporting Modules.
Since building the Adjustable Pedestals, I've designed a few more Adjustable Leg Systems:
Still working on the theme of using a pedestal type support at the iterface, I also wanted to create a system that provided clamps for the interfaces. This system achieves this. Although it is pretty elaborate, it can be constructed with common hand tools and materials that are easily got from the local hardware store. This design also includes a provision that creates, not only a wide and stable footprint, but also crowd control stantions and barriers.
This system can also be built with common hand tools and materials. It offers a wide and stable footprint.
Most modules, and most tables for that matter, are supported on four legs. Sometimes three legs are sufficient, as in a tripod. With the Pegleg System, you could apply as many, or as few legs as needed.
Lastly, the Lightstand System. It is inspired by the portable layouts in the U.K. and Europe. There, the portable layouts are self-contained with valances and lighting.