Our Modular Layout

Our current layout is modular, in that it can be easily disassembled, transported, and assembled. This way club members can work on modules individually at home if they desire, and we can take the layout to events like the Austin Train Show.

The first phase of the layout (built in 2018) modeled several key locations in the Austin area including the MoPac expressway near Camp Mabry, the then-Missouri Pacific yard in Taylor, the interchange with the MKT in Taylor, and various other industries from the area in years gone by. We host trains from the Missouri Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Katy Railroads (and their successor, Union Pacific). We did not model a specific year, though most of the industries were from the 1950's and 1960's.

Here is the phase 1 track plan (without industries):

AMRS Modular Track Plan Phase 1

The layout was designed for both operations and for display at events. All primary modules are double-tracked allowing for at least two continuously-running trains. We can also have a continuous train on the "red" (outside) mainline while we operate most of the industries off of the "green" (inside) mainline. We currently use "dark territory" (unsignaled) rules with track warrants and switch lists from a dispatcher.

We are now in the process of expanding the layout in phase two, which primarily consists of Downtown Austin (with a track plan roughly based in 1935, though the buildings and rolling stock will mostly reflect the time period between 1950 and 1975). Based on what we had learned operating phase 1, we also changed some other plans. We decided that instead of adding a staging yard inside the layout (which would have come off the wye on modules 10-12) we now plan on adding a staging yard to the outside loop on those modules south of Taylor. We also decided to move the crossing at McNeil to phase 3 (and eliminate the modules that would have gone outside the loop out towards Cedar Park), and remove the wye on the west end of town that leads to the railroad bridge over town lake. This last change gave us more room for industries as well as the opportunity to model Shoal Creek.

Here is the track plan we're using for this new phase, which will be operating at the 2021 Austin Train Show (click to embiggen, and note the layout has been spun 180° compared to the phase 1 diagram above):

AMRS Modular Track Plan Phase 2

In the third phase (possibly in 2022-23), we plan to significantly increase the length of the main line by adding a "fold" into the layout on the right side, moving the MoPac Expressway inside the fold and adding Round Rock, the interchange at McNeil, and Austin White Lime. We may also add a small "Hill Country Branch Line" extending into the layout from the wye in East Austin (today's Capital Metro Red Line):

AMRS Modular Track Plan Phase 3

We also plan to add operating signals and a simulated dispatching panel to the layout.

Our modules were designed by our Vice President David Petersen. They are loosely based on the "FreeMo" standard and typically measure 4' x 2', though there are a few specially-sized modules and the Downtown Austin modules are 3' deep. The legs are permanently attached (on most modules) and fold up into the module for travel. We don't use any temporary track or rail joiners between the modules; along with alignment pins built into each module, the track has been laid with enough precision that trains aren't disturbed running from one module to the next. Each module is wired to connect to modules on either side with three electrical busses (one for the red line, one for all other track, and one for accessories and lighting). We use Digitrax DCC and wireless throttles. Track is Peco Code 83.

Here's the original proposal our layout design committee presented in 2017: Module Standards (PDF)

The club's ultimate goal is to build a large permanent layout in a facility open to the public. We are currently scouting for locations and considering the possibilities. If you're interested in joining us, or helping us reach this goal, please contact us!