Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego County, Southern California



Southern California Free-mo has been an effort established in 2000. Finding a core of active participants has taken a better part of the past decade. The group has steadily gained momentum the past few years; more have become part of the group, actively building modules. We are active in the Railroad Prototype Modelers and also traveling to other Free-mo setups outside of Southern California.

The group is now looking into consistent setups organized with the San Bernardino Railroad Museum and the Western Prototype Modelers Meet. Additional setups are becoming a reality as the group is moving forward on completion on three necessary layout elements for a fully operational Free-mo layout. This is the Balloon, Small Staging Yard, and a Short Siding. Hosting larger setups based around these core modules allows having large setups in Southern California much easier. 



Primarily group discussions happen in the SoCalFree-mo Yahoo Group. We keep this group open to active SoCalFree-mo participants only. For a more general discussion on Free-mo in Southern California and in other parts of California, please join our CaliFree-moSetups Yahoo Group. There is a lot of forward momentum, and we are engaged into fulfilling a space we frequently setup in at the San Bernardino Railroad Museum. As our layout becomes more complete we will look into expanding for larger type setups.

We will update this area with our additions to the current Free-mo standards that apply to Southern California Free-mo modules. This is a great time to participate in SoCalFree-mo!



Southern California Regional Free-mo

Brian P. Kreimendahl

The genesis of the Southern California Regional Free-mo (SCARF) group was an informal gathering of several modelers active in the prototype modeling movement at a recent model railroad open house. We were looking at the layout of the Pomona Valley Model Railroad Club when Tom Bacarella commented that he would really like to have some "dirt" upon which to place his prototype-based railroad models. I had shared the same sentiment for quite a while. I too wanted expand my modeling to include the modeling of a prototype-based scene. How could this be done? What modeling strategy could be pursued to achieve this goal? Short of a full-blown layout, how could a prototype scene be modeled realistically both from an appearance and an operational point of view?

I had been following Free-mo since my first exposure to it at the 1996 NMRA National Convention in Long Beach when the San Luis Obispo Model Railroad Club had their layout setup there in a Free-mo format. Subsequently over the years, I had seen the SLOMRC's Free-mo setup at other events further piquing my interest in what I considered to be a revolutionary modular design. Finally, when some friends began an organized Free-mo effort in the San Francisco Bay area under the name of Bay Area Regional Free-mo (BARF), I decided to take the plunge and build a Free-mo module.

Apache Canyon in real. Viewed from North to South through the canyon.Apache Canyon in real. Viewed from North to South through the canyon.

So when Tom Bacarella thought wistfully about having some "dirt" for his models, I had a suggestion for him on the tip of my tongue: build a Free-mo module. Being a Free-mo neophyte, I gave Tom the best explanation I could of the Free-mo concept and referred him to the excellent website as a resource for more information. Like me, Tom became very enthusiastic about Free-mo. As a result, Tom and I have resolved to organize a Free-mo effort here in Southern California.

For prototype modelers, especially those without the room, space, or inclination to build an entire layout, Free-mo really sells itself. Given the inherent flexibility of Free-mo's standards, Free-mo provides the opportunity for the prototype-based modeling of a scene in a modular format. Free-mo modelers are unconstrained by the classic rectangular module shape that is the defining characteristic of so many modular layouts. The ability to design and build modules with unique shapes resulting in more accurate renderings of prototype scenes gives Free-mo modelers the freedom to create what is essentially a realistic operating diorama.

Here's a similar view of the canyon as modeled by Bob Berger and Dan Baker. Module scenery and bridge still in progress.Here's a similar view of the canyon as modeled by Bob Berger and Dan Baker. Module scenery and bridge still in progress.

It is on this basis that SCARF will be organized: the realistic prototype-based modeling of railroad scenes using Free-mo standards. What we desperately want to avoid is the "circus module syndrome" that seems to pervade so many modular layouts. By the term "circus module syndrome," I mean modules that are based on someone's fantasy or modules that are built with an element of humor. Our intention in SCARF is to build modules based on actual prototype scenes. Without regard to era or railroad, what we are looking for are modules that are realistic presentations of real railroading in miniature.

Right now, there are a number of Southern California prototype modelers that have expressed a serious interest in Free-mo and SCARF. Many of these modelers plan on attending the NMRA National Convention in San Jose and seeing the large Free-mo setup at the National Train Show. This will give us the opportunity to examine, photograph, and document the construction techniques used on the Free-mo modules on display there. After San Jose, several of us in SCARF are going to begin work on our modules in order to have something to display at the Western Prototype Modelers (WPM) meet in October 2000 in La Habra, CA. Obviously we won't have an operating Free-mo layout ready to show at the WPM meet, but we do hope to have a couple of modules underway so that we may show the WPM meet attendees what a Free-mo module is all about and hopefully interest some of them in participating in SCARF. A future goal for SCARF may to try and participate in the Free-mo setup at the NMRA Pacific Coast Region Convention in San Luis Obispo in the spring of 2001.

You now know the origins of SCARF and where things currently stand. If you are prototype modeler in the Southern California area, are interested in Free-mo, and would like to get involved with SCARF,  please e-mail us.

Republished from the May 2000 issue of Free-MoNthly

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