AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
Imagine for a minute you are standing at a lonely
rural grade crossing. It's so quiet you can hear the kudzu grow. Suddenly off in the distance you hear the faint echo of a
train horn. Minutes drag by, but soon the muted roar of EMD 567's struggling uphill rewards your patience. You climb the hillside
to get a better look and suddenly, an A-B-B-A set of Seaboard FT's thunder out of the cut struggling to get their 85 cars
to next siding.
Instantly you are transported back to 1956, but
wait...these are models and what you are looking at is but small part of a modular layout unlike any you have seen before.
Welcome to the non-conformist, iconoclastic but ever so tasteful world of the Sipping and Switching Society. Composed of 2
to 10 model railroaders (whoever shows up) primarily from Boone, NC and Raleigh, NC, this group (club is too organized, but
more on that later) is unlike any other model railroad group or third world junta you may ever hope to encounter. So sit back
and enjoy (or point and laugh, whichever is appropriate) what we like to describe as the "lunatic fringe" of model railroading.
The group consists of dedicated but slightly warped
modelers who set up at various shows throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic 3 to 5 times a year. While module arrangements
are rarely duplicated the usual size of the layouts are 40 ft by 60 ft (+/- 30 ft) limiting our setups to larger venues.
Being refugees from various other model railroad/module
layout clubs we developed a completely original and unorthodox organizational structure - none. That's right...there aren't
any. The group is deliberately non-organized, not un-organized, but non-organized. Rebounding from great political strife,
darkness, and gnashing of teeth limited guidelines were developed.
1. The club owns nothing
2. No voting and nothing to vote on
3. Anyone proposing changes to #1 and #2 is kicked out,
drawn and quartered
Operational prerogatives are just as simple
1. Have fun (utility maximization though model railroading)
2. Run long trains well and often
3. Keep it simple s....d
To achieve these ends the society tends to fully
utilize unconventional approaches to compensate for the lack of manpower. The approach is very different from the traditional
club (modular or otherwise). Traditionally the standard policy to modular layouts has been utilizing an abundance of manpower
with limited construction skills. Ergo, a lot of brute strength willing to lift overbuilt modules in exchange for train time.
The lack of manpower to carry, assemble and most of all troubleshoot each
individual module before and during a show lead to lightweight modules with fixed frontiers. Each module is required to match
the standard template (see drawing) exactly in relation to track and alignment pegs. This allows any module to mate with any other module regardless and eliminates
many of the problems commonly associated with modules:
1. Bridge plates are eliminated. The misalignment inherent
in this system is the major cause of derailments and their removal also decreases set up time dramatically.
2. Rail joiners at each end are eliminated. All power is
carried by jumpers under the modules eliminating faulty power connections
3. Alignment pegs not only allow for each and every module
to fit exactly every time, but the pegs have also provided protection for the rail ends
This template has allowed for the perfect "plug and play"
module. Each module is plugged together, clamped, electrical jumpers (standard trailer plugs) are connected and it is on to
the next module. In this fashion, 6 people have assembled ad 32'x80' layout in under an hour. Due to the template arrangement
brand new modules can be mated to 25-year-old modules with no ill effects. In fact the trains never "see" the frontier at
a module joint, decreasing the chances of picking a misaligned bridge plate. This concept plus a 60" minimum radius allows
for the running of 80+ car trains continuously over a weekend with relatively little maintenance. - Robert