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.
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,
The most significant changes in the new module standards and recommended
- Reduction of the minimum mainline radius to 42 inches
- Adoption of Free-Mo-like two-inch fitter rails to cross the interface
- 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.
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.
Our next activities will be:
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.
2013 Train Show
Our 2013 train show was on Sunday, December
1 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.
We will be holding or participating in the following public events: