The Foundations of Realism

Frisco, Ft. Worth Sub-division modeling by Curt Baker. Photo - Dave Reed

Scene Composition, Color Material

When building a model railroad we can approach it in one of two ways depending on what we want to accomplish.  One option is to create a model as we ‘wished’ the world was, a fantasy world if you will.  I would say the majority of the hobby falls in this category and for them, realism isn’t a critical goal and doesn't need to be.

The other approach is for those folks entranced by the way railroading  actually is.  They want a miniature version of a working railroad.  They want to be transported.  For this  group realism IS critical.  The more realistic their efforts, the more powerful the experience, and the more satisfied they are with their efforts.

World's Greatest Hobby Fort Worth Texas Video

The link will take you to a rail side video of the Free-mo layout at this years WGH setup in Fort Worth, TX. The layout was the combined efforts of the Missouri Valley, Southern Kansas, and North Texas Free-mo groups.

Jacob Damron

Brampton Train Show

Last weekend the Credit Valley Railway Free-mo Group had a set up at the Brampton Train Show, (near Toronto/Mississauga On. Canada). We were joined by Free-mo modellers from the Double Headers club as well as Phil Doolittle. A great time was had by all. Pictures are located at:

Our website photo page, with pictures from most of our past setups is located at:

Paul Taylor
Credit Valley Free-mo Group

Sioux Falls South Dakota, 17 & 18 November 2012

On 17-18 November 2012, three groups (Minnesota Free-mo Modelers, North Texas Free-mo and the hosts, Missouri Valley Free-mo) put together a 50' x 100' layout involving approximately 50 modules.  The layout included three yards and two reverse loops as well as dozens of industries.   Operations using switchlists were run continuously all weekend.  The Run Chief was Donnie Berg of Missouri Valley Free-mo, the layout was designed by AJ Murphy of Minnesota Free-mo Modelers and Ricky Kiel of Missouri Valley was the DCC Chief.  

NTS 2012 Grand Rapids, MI

As you probably know, the 2012 NMRA Convention and the National Train Show (NTS) were held in Grand Rapids, MI. The North American Free-mo group was invited to create a layout for display on the floor of the NTS exhibition hall. We started the set-up on Wednesday before the show, and got it running by show opening time on Friday. Then, over the three days of NTS we ran trains and talked to visitors. Layout take-down occurred after 5pm on Sunday.

SE Michigan Free-mo and Western Reserve Free-mo Setup, Lodi, OH

Last weekend (Apr 20-22, 2012), 6 Free-mo members from SE Michigan Free-mo and Western Reserve Free-mo got together at the Lodi Outlet mall in Lodi, OH. This is about 30 miles south of Cleveland, Ohio on I-71.

The layout can be seen in PDF format here: see attached file

Capitol Free-mo Pictures from GSMTS

Capitol Free-mo Pictures from GSMTS

Capitol Free-mo set up in early February at the Great Scale Model Train Show in Timonium, MD. Pictures are available at:

Mike McNamara constructed an I-Car (made by:

and has uploaded the video to YouTube at:

World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour train show, Utah 2012

The World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour was in Utah on Feb 4 & 5 2012. The Utah Free-mo group hosted a Free-mo setup at the show. Here is a link to some pictures from the event.

Free-mo at the Train Fair, New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY

Last weekend (November 5 -- 6) the annual train fair was held at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY. Free-mo groups from New York, Ontario, Ohio, and New England joined forces to field a layout with a 70' main line and an intersecting branch. Around 20 people were involved in creating and running this layout. Four of us from New England attended, contributing around 10 individual module sections to the event. We ran trains all weekend, held two ops sessions, took lots of photos, talked with show attendees, and had a good time.

Over the next few days I'll post a series of photos I took at the event. Today's batch are photos showing the set-up and some overview of the layout.

Bowmanville Train Show October 2011


New England Free-mo October 2011


World's Greatest Hobby on Tour

02/04/2012 - 12:00pm - 02/05/2012 - 12:00pm
South Towne Exposition Center
9575 S State St, Sandy, UT 84070

The Utah group si setting up for the World's Greatest Hobby on Tour.

The Free-mo group in Utah is considering setting up at the World's Greatest Hobby on Tour in early February.  Set up will be all day Friday February 3rd and run will be Saturday and Sunday with teardown after show closes on Sunday.   This is an event that is attended by many outside the regular train show crowd.  We set up in 2006 and the attendance was over 20,000 not bad for a specialized event in Salt Lake.

Chilliwack DCC Booster Box

The guys up in Chilliwack designed and built their booster and power supply into a plastic tool box. Here is a link to information and directions on the Booster Box.

Toronto 2012 Christmas Train Show Pictures

I just updated the CV Free-mo Group web site with pictures from our setup at the Toronto Christmas Train Show. The link is below:


Also Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Paul Taylor

2011 National Train Show (NTS), Sacramento July 8, 9, 10

2011 National Train Show (NTS), Sacramento July 8, 9, 10 

Free-mo was represented with modules from Sothern California, Central California (SLO Area), Northern California (the bay area), Sacramento Area, Kansas and Chilliwack British Columbia. We setup a large 40 foot by 80 foot layout on a large “W” or “E” shape. We had return loops on two of the ends, two yards and two engine facilities with turntables.

The Free-mo layout took second place for group layout and the Chilliwack yard and engine facilities took the Judges award.

To Free-mo or not to Free-mo

Free-mo holds many advantages for the occasional modeler with limited space. In considering "To free-mo or not to free-mo". I offer you the following youtube video's that offer a unique perspective of a free-mo setup. Log onto youtube's main page & search "Tracy's Shay Running at Supertrain" and or "2860 at Supertrain". Two videos that show about eighty percent of a two day show layout from the trailing car of two trains. The videos show the diversity in a layout that had twenty plus individual members modules, along with a group owned yard module.

Freemo a Family Affair /Big Valley Alberta

Modules, campers & tents began to arrive on Thursday evening.  My family set up the tent trailer as I returned to Calgary for the Green River module set in Calgary, a trip of some 120km (80miles) we were ready to unload first thing Friday morning.  The modules were unloaded & uncased by 10:00 a.m. track cleaning & roughing in was the order of the morning, as the late arrivals where uncased & incorporated into t

Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine interviews Chris Palomarez at NTS 2008

MRH has posted their video of Les Halmos interviewing with Chris Palomarez at the NMRA's 2008 National Train Show.

Modular Signal System: Overview

The Modular Signal System (MSS) provides for basic Absolute Block Signal (ABS) functionality in modular model railroad formats such as Free-mo. This system is NOT a requirement of Free-mo; it is an optional enhancement.

MSS was developed by Northern California Free-mo (NorCalF) and San Luis Obispo Free-mo (SLO-mo) over the past few years to animate trackside signals in a prototypical way. Though in its present form this system only models the most basic form of ABS, having signals change aspect in response to train movements over Free-mo layouts has added significantly to the realism and enjoyment of operating sessions, not to mention enhancing visitor's viewing experience.

Converting Conventional Modules to Free-mo

Out with the old, in with the new: The old ROW compared to the new one being planned.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.

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