Free-MoN: The Future of Modular N Scale?

The Free-Mo “standard” is used world-wide by modelers looking for an alternative to traditional modular standards but it has spread recently in the US for N scale, especially the midwest and west coast. This is with good reason, as the guidelines for Free-MoN are simple: code 55 track, DCC, single track in the middle of the endplate, and a 50″ rail height. All else is up to the modeler. This is because these layouts are meant to be operated point-to-point, or with loops, the construction of which are up to the modeler. There is no length requirement, shape requirement, and the modules aren’t put together to for a round-round loop. The goals of this standard are to raise the standard for overall N scale modeling, and to redefine what a modular layout could be: a realistic representation of railroading.

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There are many reasons to love this standard: there are no skywards or a set presentation style, so it is up to club members to determine how to set up. The versatility of the modules can be used to fit awkward spaces and fit where N-Trak and T-Trak clubs would be scratching their heads. Also, there isn’t a complicated locking system to put modules together, you simply have to clamp the modules together and make sure the rails line up. There is so much freedom to do what you wish with each module. It could be a 34.5% degree curve, or a 6 foot long straight. As long as there is at least two endplates with one track going to each edge, then you can built it and be a part of a layout. A 50″ viewing height with no skyward makes for interesting scenery possibilities, as evidenced by the video of Silicon Valley Free-MoN‘s layout here. Other great examples of well-done Free-MoN groups include N-Land Pacific and Sacramento Free-MoN.

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The downsides to this standard are getting the joints right so that the rails go up to the edge, it is DCC only as there is only one main line which requires DCC to run more than one train at a time, and that it doesn’t form a loop, so operators have to pay attention to their train at all times. These factors may keep some people from using the standard, especially those used to N-Trak, but I believe it is the future of modular railroading, and will be adopted by more and more people as time goes on.

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