Modular Layout Assembly

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I am building a modular layout to demonstrate some of my automation projects. I built 4 2'x4' modules and tries drilling consistent holes on the sides so I can connect them any way. This was a complete failure. I drilled one side panel and used it as a guide. This did not produce the desired result and my modules do not fit together with good alignment.

Does anyone know of a good piece of hardware that will allow me to join these together some other way. I need something that will allow the alignment to be adjust somewhat to allow for my error in mounting :).

The holes in the side supports are suppose to line up and secure with pegs.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
That's a tough one to do Peter. I've been with the modular club and nothing besides C clamps works well. The setting to get the railheads perfectly level is a precision movement. Trying to maintain that with swelling or shrinking wood is next to impossilbe.
To maintian electrical continuity, you might consider using connecting wire plugs from module to module.
 

Railphotog

Railroad Photographer
I agree with using C-clamps. Our modular club started out by making a whole bunch of basic module tables all at once, and drilled holes in the end so they could be bolted together. The idea of bolts didn't last very long, as we found C-clamps were easier to put on and take off as well as being useful to adjust the heights of the modules. Later modules were all made with the idea of using them too. Although our floor to rail height is supposed to be 40", you'd be surprised how many module tops are a fair distance from this standard. So the C-clamps work in holding the table tops and rail tops in line.
 
I wanted to be able to set these modules on the tables that the venues give me. This would mean I can't have anything hanging below the supports(c-clamps would). Below is an idea I had, what do you think? I would just have a slot to allow the modules to slide a bit. I would still have to worry a bit about height.

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UP2CSX

Fleeing from Al
How about a simple mending plate like this:

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You could enlarge the holes and use some wood screws with washers to hold the modules together and level it up or down a little. I just think any hole and pin arrangement is going to be too fiddly to work well.
 
Over size hole - bolt through with a big metal washer each side and a nut, either hex-head or wing (but I'd go for the hex-head and a rachet 'cos you can wind it up tighter) . Use a clamp for aligning and then remove it after the bolts are fitted and tightened. Use two bolts and you can feed power across the joint as well :cool: Alternative is to use brass hinges with removable pins on the board sides
 
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
I think the application of elongated bolt holes would be the next best thing if the modules will be sitting on top of tables. I will just take some fiddling with them to get the railhead transition from module to module even if ya can't reach under the module without lifting it.
Perhaps you could conside short legs on the modules so they can stand on the table tops.
 
The Free-Mo group I belong to uses Quick Grip Clamps. All of the modules have adjustable feet so we can level the modules and line the rails up then clamp them together.
 

MRLdave

Member
A "down and dirty" fix that's easy to construct is to simply drill a large hole (elongated holes are hard to make) and then use a bold several sizes smaller with a large washer. For example using a 1/2 inch hole with a 1/4 inch bolt would give you 1/8 inch of adjustment in all directions. I'd still prefer the clamp method, but as long as you get the bolts tight, the above method will work. If you can't keep you tolerances within 1/8 of an inch, you probably need to refine your building skills a little.
 

Smitty49

Member
Align both modules together in their perspective positions being sure they're level ( most important) then as advised, clamp them with C-Clamps. Use a simple Doweling Jig to drill through both module substructures . A doweling jig aligns the hole to be drilled at the correct 90º angle to the face being drilled.
The substructure faces must also be square to each other.
 

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Been there tried that Smitty as well as many members of modular clubs. The slight swelling of the wood will offset the rail heads just enough to cause derailments. It seems like that should work, but it doesn't, even for the most accomplished carpenter. No two pieces of pine are going to swell and contract the same.
 
Been there tried that Smitty as well as many members of modular clubs. The slight swelling of the wood will offset the rail heads just enough to cause derailments. It seems like that should work, but it doesn't, even for the most accomplished carpenter. No two pieces of pine are going to swell and contract the same.

Very good point, D&J. I think I will tried the enlarged hole approach. I believe my skills may be good enough to get within 1/8". Thanks.
 
Well, this isn't your normal layout. I am using it for demonstrating a new control system I am developing (www.ece.usu.edu/dtl). I am using the markling digital control system as well as their sectional track. If I had to do it over, I would use DCC, but this i have been collecting for 20 years. The radii I have are 360mm, 437.5mm, and 515mm. A bit tight for long cars, but all markling rolling stock are made to run on them. All their couplers are attached to the trucks, allowing a lot of movement for S curves and tight turns.
 
More Pictures, more progress

I have come a long way. You can't see it, but I have wired the power and comm bus for the sensors underneath. I have also added a sneeze guard to discourage curious kids from walking off with an engine.

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Now its time to program. I have an event in less than two weeks, and I need something to show people!
 




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