Modular Railroading in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago
The Northwest Trainmasters is a model railroad club that assembles HO scale layouts using modules. We display them at several places during the course of our season, mostly in the Chicago area. Our layouts are different than many because we build them to look and operate like the real thing. We build our layouts with modules of two styles. One style is the traditional double track NMRA format module. The second style we use is Free-Mo, which is a newer format that is predominantly single-track. By using the two module formats together, we get a lot of flexibility in what our layouts look like each time we set them up.

When we participate in public shows we try to demonstrate to the audience different aspects of model railroading. Because of our use of two module styles, we have single track sections and double track sections that trains need to coordinate movement through. Traffic is sometimes managed by radio between engineers and dispatcher, and this communication is made audible to the audience. During dedicated portions of our appearances we 'operate' our trains. Engineers set out and pick up cars at different industries, using instructions via waybills and card cards to know what goes where. We occasionally set up a display of a 'how-to-do-it'. One of our modules is deliberately blank. On it we can perform decal clinics, figure painting methods, and other similar demonstrations. The rest of the the time we simply run trains.

We formed in 1996 when some of us met in response to an invitation by a local hobby store for people interested in creating an HO scale model railroad club. It was an enthusiastic group of about ten people, and we had grand plans. Most of us were beginners rather than experts, but we didn't let that get in the way.

We knew from the start that we were going to be a modular club. However, we decided we wanted to do something different from what we were use to seeing at the train shows we had attended. While entertaining to the public, we decided we didn't want to create the usual 'racetrack' layout typically seen at model railroad shows. We wanted to do more. After doing some research and talking, we came up with the idea of using two different module standards to create layouts that used single track and double track sections. We decided the best way to implement this would be to create a loop-to-loop layout.
last update: 30 Jan 2013

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