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

Founded 1988

Michigan Modular Alliance

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 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 normal large donut shaped modular layout. Instead, return loops were created to turn our normal twin mainline modules into a giant dogbone track arrangement. A twenty-block 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. Aristo-Craft radio throttles were a feature of this operating scheme. 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 was 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.

Since that time, the Modular Alliance has reappeared at the Port Huron show 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 potential size layout we can achieve is still many modules away. Six HO modular clubs participated in at least one of these events. The North Central Region is home to 26 HO modular clubs, with the potential of creating a layout in excess of 65 scale miles in length.

If you or your club would like to participate in future Modular Alliance events, or would like more information about organizing a similar event please contact us at

 - John Young

One of our members has 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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