Rails on Wheels
525 E. Michigan Ave #151
Saline, MI 48176-1588

Founded 1988

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Our upcoming activities are

11-DEC-2014 Business meeting, Saline Historical Society Depot Museum, Saline, 8:00pm
08-JAN-2015 Business meeting, Saline Historical Society Depot Museum, Saline, 8:00pm


Latest News


rails on wheels
Washtenaw County, Michigan's first HO modular model railroad club.

Updated: 01-DEC-2014

About Rails on Wheels

Rails on Wheels was formed in 1988 by a group of model railroaders interested in constructing, displaying and operating a high-performance HO scale model railroad. At the time, only one of the members had the space available for a permanent layout, so we each began to build small, portable sections that could be joined together, incorporating the specifications that would eventually become the Rails on Wheels Module Standards. This layout was usually stored dismantled between public showings.

To promote our goals of educating our members and the public about railroading and the hobby of model railroading, our activities have included monthly meetings and workshops, layout setups at over 75 train shows and the NMRA National Conventions in 1992 and 1997, private layout setups, railfanning outings and trips to train shows and swap meets.

In 1998, several Rails on Wheels members who had developed an interest in prototypical operation branched out and began to develop the Operations Road Show. These members constructed a second dedicated layout which resides in a member's basement and is used to hold operating sessions using timetable and train order operating rules. This layout was publicly unveiled at the Maple Leaf 2003 NMRA National Convention in Toronto, where 135 attendees participated in operating sessions. Our success in Toronto was repeated at the 2005 Cincinnati Limited and the 2009 Hartford National NMRA National Conventions. Our plan is to take this layout out for public operations demonstrations far less frequently than we show the display layout, probably no more often than once every two or three years, as the design of this layout does not lend itself to easy viewing by large numbers of people.

Rails on Wheels provides a forum through which members can learn techniques and get help from persons experienced in layout design, benchwork, scenery, electronics and wiring, rolling stock construction and structure building. We have developed new approaches and techniques to meet our specific construction needs, techniques which we feel have in some small way contributed to the advancement of the hobby.

We are in the process of building new modules to replace the HO scale modular display layout that was stolen in 2009, and welcome new members, regardless of their level of experience. Our members range from beginners to people with over 40 years' experience in the hobby.

Anyone interested in HO model railroading, from beginners to experienced craftsmen, is welcome to join. Rails on Wheels is an independent club not formally affiliated with any other organization. Membership is always open. You need not own or build a module to participate.

Club News

New Modules Displayed at 2010 Train Show

The first of the new modules under construction made their debut at the 2010 Southeast Michigan Model Train Show and Sale on November 28, 2010. While far from complete, they showed the new direction the club is taking with modules designed to be set up in either a dogbone or a loop configuration. Trackwork is nearing completion on these first modules, with the mainline tracks on the turnback loops in place.

New Modules Under Construction

While not obvious from the outside, the process of building a new layout has been under way for the past few months. Adopting updated standards was the first step.

Construction is under way on a couple of sets of corner modules that can be used in different configurations as corners of a rectangular layout or as turnback loops. In order to get the basic pieces we need in place quickly, the Board solicited bids and purchased the basic module framework from an outside supplier. In the mean time, members have been and are being encouraged to begin construction on their own modules to use between the corners/turnbacks.

Updated Module Standards Adopted at January 2010 Business Meeting

By vote of a quorum at the January 14, 2010 business meeting, the membership voted to adopt updated module standards to be used in the reconstruction of the club's display layout. These standards are intended to address issues we encountered with the previous modules, reducing the amount of width required to set up the layout in a loop configuration, and improving the rail connections between modules. These are the changes that were proposed at the special meeting held on December 17, 2009.

The most significant changes in the new module standards and recommended practices are:

  • Reduction of the minimum mainline radius to 42 inches
  • Adoption of Free-Mo-like two-inch fitter rails to cross the interface between modules
  • Reconfiguration of the Anderson PowerPole electrical connectors to restore the ability to turn modules end-for-end without having to use adapter plugs
  • Use of a standardized template tool, to be available on loan from the club, to ensure better track alignment at the module interfaces.

The new standards and recommended practices are published in PDF form on our Module Standards page.

Club Trailer and Layout Stolen

In late September 2009, Rails on Wheels suffered the theft of the club-owned trailer. The trailer, which was parked in a lot along North Territorial Road in Northfield Township (about five miles north of the city of Ann Arbor) at the time, contained nearly all of the club's display layout modules and much of the associated equipment required for set-ups, such as power cords, setback stanchions and clamps. We were quite fortunate in that the club's digital command control equipment was not in the trailer at the time, nor was any rolling stock.

No longer having a display layout to take to shows rather limits our ability to exhibit a layout for now. We are currently considering a number of ways to rebuild and to have something to display again in the near future. The enthusiasm for building new modules and resuming our display schedule is very strong. As part of this effort we are re-evaluating our construction techniques and the mechanical standards for our modules in order to apply the lessons we have learned from 21 years of displaying modular layouts. We are choosing to look at this as an opportunity for the club to renew itself (even though we still would really like to have our stuff back!).

Our train shows have not been affected by this turn of events, nor has the Operations Road Show project.


Club Activities

Our next activities will be:

30-NOV-2014   Rails on Wheels' Annual Southeast Michigan Model Railroad Show and Sale, Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, Saline, Michigan  
11-DEC-2014   Business meeting, Saline Historical Society Depot Museum, Saline, 8:00pm

Activities related to the Operations Road Show layout are listed on the Operations Road Show section of this site.

We usually meet at the Saline Historical Society's ex-NYC depot at Ann Arbor and Bennett Streets in Saline. Our meetings at the depot are open to members and non-members alike. Click here for a map.


Southeast Michigan Model Train Show and Sale

Our 2014 train show was held on Sunday, November 30, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, 4.5 miles southwest of I-94 exit #175 (Ann Arbor-Saline Road), from 10am to 4pm.

Our show featured over 100 tables of new and used trains for sale, large operating layouts on display, and food available on site.

Upcoming Events

We will be holding or participating in the following public events:

  No events are currently scheduled. 

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