Free-moN: At Home & On The Road

MC Fujiwara Dec 3, 2012

  1. James Norris

    James Norris TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks MC, great photos.

    I've missed your posts over the summer, it’s nice to see the layout progression.

  2. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    I'm sorry, but that post really pissed me off.

    When I first read it I didn't think much about it, because:
    1) I agree that Rick's Silicon Valley Cal Train Station module is awesome & epic,
    2) I wasn't at the show, and so "out of sight out of mind."

    But then I thought about all the work that Steve, Eric & Spuds (and Ryan & his kids) did to:
    1) travel to a show over 2 hours away and stay overnight,
    2) pick up modules from many people,
    3) set them up and tear them down (a chore with only a few!)
    4) return the modules
    all investing their time & money for the full weekend.

    I started to get mad for them, but then Ryan W eloquently & diplomatically dealt with that issue.

    THEN, last night, right before going to sleep, it hit me: about 3/4ths of the SVFMN layout at the IRF was made up of MY MODULES.
    And that comment was posted on MY THREAD about MY MODULES!!

    So I went back and looked at all the modules that inflicted "a lot of disappointment" to you & your group by being "nothing of note":



    Seen here at the GTE Richmond show back in January, features a scenic-dividing Sierra Nevada mountain (& rockshed), quarry, scratchbuilt engine shed, scratchbuilt plank-by-plank IWW meeting hall, scratched/bashed company store, handmade trees, and over 10 handlaid curved turnouts (some over section joints).


    Scratchbuilt mine tipple (built in a day) & shed, serviced by Randgust's amazing V&T hoppers.


    Scratchbuilt company town shacks (with woodpile & laundry) and an outhouse that actuates the one non-Bullfrog controlled turnout.

    The Wye Knott is also a fully functioning independent layout with "off layout" staging under the rockshed.



    Nifty thin & space-saving design (by Scott), handlaid curved turnout fixtures, scratchbuilt pine & oak trees...


    Devil Mt. town with a scratchbuilt stucco depot modeled on the one in Turlock, scratchbuilt flats, prostitutes and a dude puking in the bushes.



    Kitbashed & scratched plank-by-plank MOW shed, scratched plank-by-plank sand shed, water & coaling towers, custom scratchbuilt manual turntable (with help from Scott).
    Not shown: machine shop with pit & lit welding scene, engine service, two toggle-enabled independent programming tracks, custom wye insert.



    Street trackage, custom curved industries, re-purposed caboose bar, custom posters / advertising.
    (Empty business, but Rick can fill it with whatever)


    Scratchbuilt wooden grade crossing & scratchbuilt styrene sheds & trees re-purposed from Mt. Coffin & Columbia River layout.
    (Water tower was my first kit)

    Then there's the 1'x8' "Staging Yard O' Necessity" which features handlaid turnouts thrown by slide switches and that can fold into a 4'x'1'x5"-thick package, a slim, nifty way to exponentially increase staging for Free-moN or home layout.
    [I would post pict, but am at image limits--8? for a "senior member?"--so see previous posts]

    While many of the modules are "unfinished" and my "mad modeling skillz" are not at the MMR or even "sooper good" level, I do believe that there are enough unique signature scenes & structures built by enough scratch- & kit-bashing techniques to earn the notice of modelers of various modeling abilities. At least to start a discussion & dialogue about various techniques and joys of model building.

    I'm happy that you enjoyed Rick's uber-detailed module, but I'm sorry that you and your club members were so disappointed in my & my fellow Free-moNer's work--from Eric's revolutionary modular benchwork & keystone "DCC-in-a-Box" system that allows us to use our phones to control trains, to Steve's pioneering laminated-fascia S-shaped Lockhart, TX module, to Ryan & Sons family project to my own contributions--and I hope that you convey our apologies to the local On30 group that we bumped.

    Next year they or any other group are totally welcome to the space we occupied, as none of us Silicon Valley Free-moNesters want to displace or disappoint any local group.

    Since my work and the work of my fellow Free-moNers disappointed you and your group, you and your group must have modules / layouts that showcase some kick-ass modeling skills. As a modeler that constantly looks to improve, I very much look forward to seeing your work and learning from your practical experience.

    I've looked around the Trainboard forum and the Interweb for actual modeling work that you've done, but it seems my searching skills seem to be as disappointing as my modules: I seem unable to find your model railroading layout or modules.
    Please include the link to the photos / videos of the layout / modules you've worked on, because I'd love to learn from, & be inspired by, work that doesn't disappoint. Any work at any level can inspire, so I look forward to seeing yours.

    [There are so many "armchair modelers" who shoot down & shred passionate hearts & modeling projects without themselves lifting a single X-acto blade (the main reason I avoid forums nowadays), that I'm so very appreciative of modelers of your stature and accomplishment who are "Raising the Bar" (Free-moN motto!) by leading by example.]

    Can't wait to see your work, and to hear your suggestions for improving our modules, modeling skills, and show management.
    (Just a link to your work would be a great start)

    Until then, feel free to check out multiple perspectives & photos of all our work at the Silicon Valley Free-moN Facebook Page.

    Hope to see people January 3-4, 2015 at beautiful Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA!
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2014
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Your work is certainly not something to disappoint. It's always very inspiring! When there are periods we don't hear from you, I always wonder what we are missing!
  4. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    So, I know you said you didn't want me to respond directly to you, but this post hit me so squarely and deservedly in the gut that I couldn't even put my kids to bed without being upset by it. Again deservedly.

    I have been an ass to you and the rest of the group. No matter how unintentionally. I can only offer my apologies.

    I thought about going through line by line, but It's just too much and not appropriate.

    Let me start out by saying that I expressed my thoughts quite poorly. I should have said nothing at all and did consider saying nothing because I couldn't get my thoughts sorted out. Yet I said something. It would be devastating to me obviously, but to the other member orgs of IRF and the Model Railroading community of Sacramento if my ill thought out comments were to cause you all to not return ever. I would not be able to forgive myself. I am just one twit in Roseville, not representative of anyone else.

    Also, I want to make it clear that neither I nor other club members hold any sort of power over IRF besides the most basic. And neither I nor the other club members represent any sort of advanced model railroading skill. we are in no position to judge. We all have our opinions founded or unfounded.

    I've been racking my brain really since Ryan rebutted my comments trying to put my finger on what caused me to be "disappointed."

    I think I've finally figured out the sequence of events.
    Because when I first went up on stage I only had a few minutes to look and I was initially perfectly thrilled, but it was only afterwards when I went to talk to another club member who was less enamored with it and I went back for a little longer time that I dwelled on it.
    Here's the deal, when I was saying I was expecting something more, what I was really saying was "I was expecting the Sci-Fi/Cal Train Station and the Shoe-fly.
    Why was I expecting those 2? because those 2 models were the ones I was most familiar with. Those were the ones I knew. Were they better somehow than your other modules or anyone else's modules? I don't know, even if they are, I try not to judge those things. They were the ones I knew about. I was most interested in the Shoe-fly, because 1: I love the NWP and 2: I have also done grapevines. In fact I just redid them on the club HO layout and wanted to compare notes.
    So I think that I ascribed disappointment at that particular module not making it. especially once another member was not impressed.
    A note also on the "other club members" who were disappointed. All of them were primarily disappointed because...well, they like Logging scenery with lots of trees and decrepit depression era structures. Really Malcom Furlow style looks. That's not what SV FreemoN does. Or rather, you do whatever you want, not only one thing. So considering the alternate was an On30 club. Of course those guys were disappointed. They wanted nothing but geared steam, Aspens and Pine trees.

    I am also an ass for letting their no nothing opinions influence me.
    The other issue was one that you had zero control over. The lighting on stage is horrible. I mean calling it lighting is a joke. You could really barely see anything and that alone should have caused me to shut my mouth. In this case, the Station module shined because it was out front and it has lights. The environment was a detriment. And I plan to mention this to the IRF committee. That stage is a horrible location.

    So After thought, after trying to figure out what I was really thinking. That's what I came to. Perhaps that makes you think even less of me. If so, then it is still deserved and I accept it. But I hope that my apology at least makes you and the rest of the members reconsider a potential invitation next year.

    If you read my posts on this forum and others, I am a contentious poster. I don't shy away from arguments. Ken has had to stop threads I've participated in on more than one occasion. That's who I am. But I do not ever want to come off as being dismissive or have a superiority complex or think I'm better than anyone. That you got that from my posts is as disappointing as anything else.

    As for me putting myself out there. I think, if you were to dig through this forum you would find only a handful of pictures. Mostly trees. I'm not well published either professionally(not at all) or personally. There are a number of reasons for that. Mostly related to work and family and a lot of moving and not working and my father's death 6 years ago which ended the last personal layout I had.
    I am no arm chair modeler, but I'm no master model railroader and I can say with honesty that everything you've done that I've seen is better than anything I've done.

    Ok, I have a couple foreground conifers I've been working on, HO scale, that I'm rather proud of. They're mad scientist creations. I've been collecting pictures to put together something for trainboard. They may be better. :) Hope to have a blog or forum post on them soon.

    I hope that I've explained myself. I don't think anything I've said should cause you to forgive me, but I hope at least you will not hold my mistakes against the others.

    PS: as for advice on show running, let me tell you, my wife and I have some thoughts for next year's IRF especially around engaging the kids and getting more layouts in. If I can get that put together, I will have plenty to say on the subject.
    Though, I think it more likely I hit the Lottery big than get that cantankerous bunch to change.

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2014
  5. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    MC, your modules look great! I've missed the updates on this thread. Don't let the internet "gurus" weigh you down. I know you look at your modules much like I look at mine, they are our "layouts". I find it odd how people don't see that and say things they would never say when visiting a home layout.

    Keep up the kickin' work! I can't wait to see more!
  6. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    Thanks, Karl.
    Have always enjoyed your work, and appreciate your thoughts & advice.
    Job / job search / family has displaced most of my modeling time/motivation, but I hope to putter away at a few modeling projects over the next months :)

    But here's the last post & wrap up for the Silicon Valley Free-moN show, so hopefully we can end this thread on a positive note focused on actual model railroading!

    Nils has done a great job & adds more magic each month--
    He's also rocking out his "Bridge O' Wonder" a bit better with each show:


    I really need to get an engineer into that cab and some weathering on that loco!
    (Yes, it's going backwards, pulling the work train: up in the tight curves and steep mountainsides of the Sierra Nevada, many engineers preferred to run their switchers & small road diesels cab-first so they could see better around corners, especially when they knew that they were the only train on the tracks :) )

    Alrighty: here's the video of the Silicon Valley Free-moN layout at the Great Train Show (formerly GTE) at the Alameda County Fairgrounds November 22-23.


    Looks much better in 1080p HD :) Includes a quick run through the layout, some switching scenes, and then some paradoxical, universe-warping model railroading whackiness that'll make you shake your head and say, "Oh, those freakin' funny Free-moN froods!"

    After sunrise, the main source of lighting in our corner during this rainy weekend came from the neon beer signs at the snack shack next to our space, so please pardon the "dimmer" sections of video.

    One bright moment: fellow forum friend & modeler eric220 showed up to run a crazy Pennsy Key steamer & consist, and he kept talking about module ideas, so we think we've brainwashed another Free-moNster [​IMG]

    We were missing our other return loop (Wye Knott) as well as quite a few other fab modules & modelers this weekend, but it was a great group of people on both sides of the layout, and it's always wonderful to get excited with friends, fellow modelers and first-timer suckers enthusiasts.

    Hope you enjoy, and hope you're able to come out to the Great Train Show in Richmond, CA January 3-4, 2015.
    A beautiful historic building, loads of light, many groovy layouts, a happy new year for all:

    [From our January, 2014 show]

    Thanks for looking.
    Happy Thanksgiving all!
  7. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

    Great job Silicon Valley Free-moNsters on the quality modules. The weathering on some of the rolling stock is dynamite too. Oh, then there are the structures, and........

    MC, at the risk of being off topic would you share what you used for taking the video?

    Even without all the modules and modelers it looks like great fun was had by all.

    Happy Thanksgiving. Off to prepping for some turkey time.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2014
  8. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    Thanks John, it was fun for all :)

    I just use my iPhone to shoot both the video and the stills, and then use iMovie app to edit.
    Used to have a 4s:


    Yup, taped to a tripod.

    A 50-year-old tripod with no arm, which made panning neigh impossible.

    So I got a new tripod and then I found a nifty tripod attachment that grips your phone tight.

    The main disadvantage to using the iPhone for video is the focusing: when tracking a long shot w/ panning I find I have to plan out where I'm going to tap the screen to shift the focus.
    Then I edit out the "jerk" as the lens moves.
    The iPhone is very good when still--the quality seems to dip a little when panning.
    But overall pretty good, and very, very convenient :)

    This was the first show that I used an iPhone 5s: I think the video quality is better, and making sure I got the 32 GB version made sure there was enough (too much?) room for all the video clips and the project on iMovie.
    If I had a Mac I'd edit on the computer, but iMovie has improved a lot over the last couple years and it does the job just fine.

    Only issue was the 5s is slimmer than the 4s, so I had to wedge a few business cards in to keep the phone from wobbling / falling out.
    Nils made a cool boom you can see at the 5:35 mark in this video of our show last year at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA:


    And I used it for some of the shots in the video.
    Worked well, though there was a little "bounce" while panning.

    At the show Nils had a Canon something (the camera he's using to shoot the Pennsy train over the Bridge O' Wonder) that looked pretty kickass, so I'm looking forward to see the footage he got.

    The video I've seen of your guys' modules was very good: what camera you guys use?
  9. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Hmmm. I see the contractor is still working on that bridge at the shoo-fly. They must be spending more time fishing than building.....
  10. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    I have a few friends down in SoCal in the "movie/TV" biz who do all their personal projects on iPhones with iMovie. They edit on Mac with FCP for big projects, but find iMovie fine for basic use. One friend, when he first moved out there, scrimped and saved for a prosumer HD Panasonic which he now never uses. What he did do though was make a DIY steadycam adapter for the iPhone. It's mostly PVC and duct tape. Something to look into as it would give you the steadiness of tripod with more freedom of movement. Should be multiple plans on line.
  11. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    This past weekend (Jan. 3 & 4, 2015) Silicon Valley Free-moN ran a layout at beautiful Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California.


    We had a space of about 30'x35' in which we set up a loop-to-loop layout consisting of about 30 modules providing about 250 feet of mainline circuit.

    We had the fortune to have two new modules join the layout:



    Nils' "threw together" this 90-ish degree mountain module a few days before the show.
    It's just pink foam on two endplate boxes with styrene fascia.
    The mountains are just carved foam and paint / drybrush.
    Very light!

    Connected to Nils' new module is our other recent addition. Ryan W. and his two sons have been working on a 13'-ish module featuring the passing siding at Azalea / Mott (north of Dunsmuir, CA ):


    [That bow in the passing siding is intentional, as the track swings out around a signal on the prototype]


    Scenery is in progress, and eventually will have a fourth section in the center to create a lap siding, which will be great considering that people seem to be running longer and longer trains!

    Effett Yard, which used to have the longest sidings, now has some of the shortest!


    Looks like someone will have to build another insert to expand capacity!

    Earlier in the year we attempted to have an "Ops Development session" in which Paul Ingram shared his card system he designed back in the early 80's for his modular N-scale group.
    A very interesting afternoon, in which we found out who really liked Ops and who liked to just run trains.
    Eventually a group of us will reach critical mass and have a real Ops session, and Scott F. is leading the way by creating his own car-cards, which he brought to this show:


    He took photos of each of his cars, which helps N-scale identification immensely.
    As you can see, we need some clamp-on card boxes:


    Ops will also require actual coordinated running and jobs like Dispatcher, which might take awhile for all members to buy into.
    Personally I think two-man crews (Engineer & Conductor) would help, especially as we've found it's very difficult at shows to talk and drive trains at the same time.
    We're still more Anarcho- than Collective, though we still seem to be able to put on a pretty good show.

    So last weekend was a great show at a great venue with great light (which, of course, disappeared the morning I wanted to shoot video!).
    Very much enjoyed running trains with my fellow Free-moNers/Free-moNsters and spreading the Gospel of N Scale and Free-moN.

    Probably my last show for a long time: this year are many conventions, both local (PCR in Newark, National N Scale ) and National (NMRA in Portland, OR ) but family and work issues will prevent me from taking part.
    (After many years of freelancing, I really want to find a job with a creative group of people that gets me out of the house, which will cut down on my modeling time).

    I've sold some locos and gifted all of the Free-moN modules I've built to people in SVFMN who will be participating in some of the conventions, so at least my work will be reppin' me and allow for better layouts at the shows.
    (We're trying to get FOUR different Free-moN groups to create an uber epic Free-MONSTER layout up at the National Train Show in Portland... wish I could be there!)

    I did keep Shoofly and a few 45's as photo dioramas and in case I'm able to make a show in the next year or two.
    But my garage is SOOOOOOO empty it's amazing!

    The only modeling I'll be doing is finishing the HO layout I started for my friend who passed away earlier this year--his widow and son would like it for the grandkids to run and remember grandpa.
    I also have a shelf micro-layout idea swimming around in my head, but we'll see...

    Thanks for following along on my Free-moN adventures.
    Definitely a worthwhile modeling endeavor, and I've had the honor and pleasure to meet up and become friends with a great group of gents.
    It's also been fun watching "Free-moN Fever" spread and see Free-moN and other modular groups pop up across the country.
    The Free-moN Force flows strong!

    So I'm proud to present our most recent show video (which looks much better in 1080p!):


    Thanks for taking the time to follow (and comment on) this thread: your constructive feedback is always appreciated.
    Happy New Year!
  12. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Happy smiling faces! Cool. Folks just having fun. As it should be!
  13. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    Oh how I wish that I could have been a lucky recipient of one of those sections
  14. MRL

    MRL TrainBoard Member

    Just out of curiosity, how was the Bridge O'Wonder built?
  15. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    In less than a month :)
    Well, the basics at least.

    Here's a video Nils posted early into the build process.

    You can see the benchwork form and the layers of pink foam.
    The entire module is about 10', with a (very heavy) 7 1/2' main section, but Nils has a big truck that can haul it, so Woot, there it is.

    The bridge suffered a catastrophic catapulted-shoe contusion and was rebuilt and painted silver.

    Module keeps getting better and better with more and more scenery!
    Many of the vehicles have LEDs installed and will one day be lit.
    (Nils is the LED Illuminati).

    If you need more info you can contact Nils through our Silicon Valley Free-moN page:

  16. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    ??? There must be a rather interesting story here!
  17. MC Fujiwara

    MC Fujiwara TrainBoard Member

    More "tongue-in-creek" than anything serious ;)
  18. pilpro

    pilpro New Member

    I was able to see the modules in person both days this past weekend in Richmond and I can say is WOW! Truly inspiring work on all fronts. Museum quality stuff MC.

    Paul Z.
  19. WPZephyrFan

    WPZephyrFan TrainBoard Member

    I was there on Sunday and I love the set up you guys provide. There were a lot of people at the show who had huge smiles on their faces watching the trains cruise around the Free-Mon modules. That is my favorite memory of the show.
  20. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member


    It has been fun to see your workmanship. Especially how you challenge us all by teaching your little ones to do intricate soldering of switches!!! Hopefully you will finds time to update us on occasion.

    Would love to see the layout you are building for the recently departed, even if it is HO.

    Thanks for your time and input!

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