Modular Layouts

Modular model railroads allow the individual model railroader to build a small layout which is then joined together with other modules to create very large sized model railroads. In some cases, the individual layout is built to operate as a stand-alone railroad which can also be incorporated into a larger layout, but in other situations, the individual modules simply provide the layout builder an opportunity to super detail a model railroad scene.

Modular model railroading began in the mid-1970’s, the idea of Ben Davis of California.  Originally an N-Scale phenomenon, the concept grew because of the efforts of Jim FitzGerald, leading to the formation of N-Trak.  Shown below is an N-Trak illustration of an assembled group of modules, forming a larger model railroad:

At about the same time, Model Railroader published an article about bookshelf railroads which further fueled interest in modular model railroading.  The idea has since grown considerably, with modular layouts being built in many different scales.

Ultimately, modular model railroads fall into two major groups. One type of modular model railroad is designed to work interchangeably with any other module built to similar standards  N-Trak typifies this approach, made possible by strict construction standards mean to insure interoperative reliability with all other modules.

However, the strict standards of N-Trak meant that a second approach to modular model railroading would also develop.  The other major group of modular model railroads are meant to operate by themselves as a final model railroad.  While not as flexible as the interoperable segments exemplified by N-Trak, this looser approach to modular model railroading works for those who wish to build their own complete railroad in individual steps. By doing so, an individual modeler can complete their railroad in “installments”€¯, finally joining everything together into a complete model railroad.

Regardless of your approach, modular model railroading in Z-Scale is quite possible.  Perhaps the most popular standard is the Z-Bend Track standard. This approach has become quite popular, and even Mother Märklin has entered the act, showing several module designs in their 0296 Track Layout Book:

Modular model railroading is also being furthered by the considerable presence of Woodland Scenics. They now offer module kits, called the Mod-U-Rail System  These kits are available as an 18” x 36”€¯ straight module and 36”€¯ by 36”€¯ corner module:

Both straight and corner module kits include both a base plate and the side profile boards to frame the module.  Also included are ground foam and plaster cloth for scenery.

For further details, please see the Woodland Scenics website.

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