And now for something completely different…
No, it’s not a new episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus! This is a report on the Freemo Modular meeting held at Armitage on the weekend of 13/14 April, 2019.
Whilst the trains aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, being North American in outline, the set-up and operation might be of interest.
Here are extracts from the report compiled by one of the group members:
Midland Belt Armitage – April 2019
April 13 and 14 saw the first ever two-day Midland Belt meeting, with 23 modules providing around 250 feet of mainline trackage. This was a new record, nearly doubling January’s length, and gave us some design headaches in fitting it into Armitage village hall – a nice problem to have.
The group members had been very industrious since January’s meeting, with several brand-new modules and some significant updates to others. These included South Wallingford and Hammerford Junction, Cardwell New End and Fairhope and River Falls depot, which doubled as an extension to Trent-Riverside yard. Ashland Junction, Ashland Yard, Dunn International and Quebec Cement) was also new. In addition to the 13 members, 12 visitors dropped in over the weekend, two of whom have since applied to join. Mech Models also turned up on Sunday with lots of goodies; unfortunately, he insisted on receiving money for them.
The plan and operations were anchored by the group’s own Trent-Riverside Yard, shown below,
with Cardwell and Ashland Junction providing the intersection. This kept everyone busy throughout both days.
With so many new modules, setup took much longer than usual, mainly since no-one was 100% sure the plan would fit in the building! We arrived at 8:00 a.m.
and managed our first test run at 10:10. Testing then took a further 90 minutes before it was lunchtime. The first train ran at 12:20.
Trent-Riverside Yard, despite running far more efficiently than previously, is almost at capacity. We had around 185 freight cars on the layout with on average of 80 cars starting or finishing there. We are getting close to full, so future modules will have to be carefully planned, both in terms of size and their theme / industry, to enable plausible moves to be made.
As usual, the DCC was based on NCE but, since January, the group has invested in its own equipment instead of relying on members’ personal items. The layout has six-district power distribution box with PSX circuit breakers, configured for this meeting so that all could be run from a single 5 Amp PH-Pro.
No wired control bus was used: all throttles used JMRI Wi-Fi, but this time on a MacBook Pro instead of a Windows PC. The router was originally a BT Home Hub, but this proved awkward, insisting that everyone find the setting on their phones that allowed them to operate without broadband; this was quickly swapped out for a more forgiving one. The setup ran flawlessly all day, both days.
The Switchlist traffic generation programme was used for the two days’ operations. This provides a “randomness” to the operations in that the train crews don’t know what will be on their train until they pick up their list. The same train can be quite different each time it is run. The aim is to simulate prototype operations as closely as possible which means that each car move is done for a purpose; there is no “playing trains” about it!
Here are some more pictures of what was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
There is an active modular group at the Stafford Railway Circle and if anybody would like more information on either that or Freemo, please contact me at email@example.com