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

Founded 1988

The Michigan Modular Alliance, 1993-2000

A container train thunders across a trestleThe Modular Alliance was an outgrowth of a shared vision of two members of Rails on Wheels. Members Fritz Milhaupt and John Young (then of the Capital Area Railway Society of Lansing, Michigan) while corresponding discovered that each had wished to create a large modular layout using the modules from many different clubs a la N-Trak. The first successful implementation of this idea occurred at a mall show in Adrian sponsored by the Raisin Valley Model RR Club in 1993. Four years would pass before a second Modular Alliance set up would occur, this one in conjunction with the 1997 National Train Show in Madison, Wisconsin. That show included modules from two other clubs, Cass County Rail of Dowagiac, Michigan and the Saginaw River Valley club. This layout covered an area 50 by 70 feet and supported a mainline of over eight scale miles. To achieve a layout of this size and economize on the space required involved thinking out of the box in assembling the modules. Gone was the typical large doughnut-shaped modular layout. Instead, return loops were created to turn our normal twin mainline modules into a giant dogbone track arrangement. Since the participating clubs had not yet adopted Digital Command Control, a twenty-block DC control panel was developed that allowed the layout to support the operation of up to six mainline trains simultaneously.

John Young at the CTC panelThe format of operation on this layout evolved at the Madison show, using Aristo-Craft radio throttles. How closely the operators could stay with their respective trains, and the ability to always have a new view of the layout by operating from both sides of the modules were unexpected. The result was an exciting layout to run on, as well as one that impressed the audience with its size and variety of scenery treatments.

After the Madison Convention, the Modular Alliance reappeared at the Port Huron model train shows in 1998 and 2000, and the Gratiot Valley Model Railroad Club's Winter shows in 1999 and 2000. The Lapeer Model RR Club joined us in 1999, and the Stoney Creek Club in 1999 and 2000. The 1999 layout for the Gratiot Valley club's show was a free-form design which provided eleven-plus miles of operating mainline. The Gratiot Valley club's 2000 show was the last time we got together to form a large layout.

Six HO modular clubs participated in at least one of these events. The NMRA's North Central Region has been home to 26 HO modular clubs over the years, which had the potential of creating a layout in excess of 65 scale miles in length.

 - John Young

The Modular Alliance layout setups effectively ended when several clubs adopted mutually-incompatible commend control systems and the core organizers shifted their focus to the then-new Operations Road Show project.

Based on our experiences with the Modular Alliance, we have put together some common sense guidelines for multi-club modular setups.

Overhead view of the large multi-cllub layout set up in Port Huron, Michigan

Overhead view showing 2/3rds of the Michigan Modular Alliance layout at the 1998 train show at McMorran Place, in Port Huron, Michigan.

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