Converting Conventional Modules to Free-mo
To date integration of double track conventional modules has often been a very onerous topic. Usually it is depicted as conventional modules either jury-rigged into a Free-mo layout via adapter modules or completely revamped for native Free-mo compatibility. The first method presented has been abandoned by myself as a usable solution since there is no guarantee that the Conventional Module owners are abiding by the Free-mo spec for mechanical and electrical conformance. However, we will upgrade old modules to extend their useful life if they present features of great use to a layout. Conventional modules that are unmodified have led to many problems in the past for setups. While as a temporary solution this might get a group going, it is really necessary to attend to the long range goal of just getting a grip and converting a Conventional Module into a real Free-mo.
This is a real gray area as there is no one size fits all solution. This is where the measure of utility becomes relative to the direct needs of the layout. If the module is a yard, for example, where there is considerable expense in turnouts and electronics, there will be a great need for that module set on a layout while also trying to return on the investment. There are other instances where the module track plan is simple enough where the only thing that needs to be done is to replace the plugs and relay the mainline track so it is code 83. With that adapters may be built and used through out the life span of the module. The module will be considered a Free-mo as long as all Free-mo standards are met or exceeded. Once a module is in full compliance there really is no need for creating special circumstances and allowances to accommodate the converted conventional module.
The more extreme, but the ends definitely justify the means, is to snow shovel the entire module top and and start over. This also may mean adjusting some of the benchwork as seen fit to be fully Free-mo compliant.
We had to do this in SLO-mo (Free-mo San Luis Obispo, CA) to one of our Conventional Modules that started life as a triple-track "slot-car racetrack" trackplan. The benefit was that we would retain most of the wiring in place and save a little time with benchwork/legs. The module itself is extremely useful in setups as an endpoint. It can also be used as a full-fledged interchange or even a junction in the middle of the layout if there are enough endpoints on hand. Never satisfied with the code 100 rail, tight number 6 turnouts on the main, mechanically thrown switchpoints and the track configuration which was more developed as a yard throat junction, Bob Schrempp and I set out on reconfiguring the Wye to make it more prototypical with real wyes and adding some industries to serve for SLO-mo operating sessions. We took full advantage of the opportunity and used code 83 for all the mainline routes, code 70 for leads and for heavily utilized industrial spurs and code 55 for the lighter industrial spurs. All turnouts for mainline operation were upgraded to #9. Turnouts that were used for the industrial areas were minimum #7. One exception is the MOW spur that's in the middle of the Wye, which is a #6. We also had the ability to grade the industrial areas so they would be lower then the mainline rail height. This gave the entire module set a very authentic feel as there were a lot of elements that came right off the prototype play book for track configuration and grading.
The other module that for now is a conventional module is Arness proper with the depot. The industrial tracks are already code 70 so all we have to do is upgrade the wiring and relay just the mainline with code 83. Of course this module will need some adapters to get the tracks on the correct width endplate with the fascias blending off to standard Free-mo. I imagine this module will be vastly easier to upgrade then the Wye was. Obviously this module with a little love will shine as a part of a complete set. Used with the accompanying wye, the module set extends double track by 28' and provides enough switching to keep crews busy spotting cars to their appropriate industries.
There's nothing more rewarding than being at a setup where everything works flawlessly. When a Free-mo module (set) integrates successfully with other modeler's modules into a cohesive layout, it provides a great deal of satisfaction. This achievement demands a certain level of execution that must be maintained in order for everyone to enjoy the layout with trouble-free operation. Conventional Modules converted to Free-mo that work flawlessly, blend with other modules, serve and contribute to the layout will certainly always be invited back. It takes effort and sometimes that can be a huge amount of work to upgrade Conventional Modules to meet the more demanding Free-mo Spec. However, anything that is worth doing is worth doing well. Your fellow modelers setting up a layout with you will appreciate all your effort to keep the layout looking and running in top form.