Inspiration – September Scenery

The scenery standards call for doing September scenery during the fall grain rush.  The standards call for predominantly green colored trees, only occasional orange and no red.  Yellow would be coming out.  Basically the scenery is to be just as color transition starts.  The following photos all taken within a few days in the middle of September for inspiration for our modules.  Standards or ratios can be derived from the photos as well as several other scenery hints/suggestions and outlined below.

Along Round Bottom Rd. The Peavine is to the right. Notice the light colors of the tops of the trees and grasses going starting brown. Golden Rod is present.

Round bottom east of I-275. Pevine is on along the road. Notice the various greens for the trees.

Same location as above, looking east.

The undergrowth. Includes white flowers.

Looking the the other way on the tracks

Looking across a field to a road row of trees. Notice the trees are green of various shades.   Some are very muted in color.  Few reds some trees are headed toward yellows.

Light green, yellows and just a bit of orange. This is the max color to inspire HAVOC.

Same day as above. A bit too much orange in one tree, but yellow and light greens. The tree without leaves is dead, it lost it’s leaves seasons ago.  This is absolute max ratio of color.  If all modules max at this ratio, such that orange is 1 in 30 and yellow is 1 in 7 or so, and the rest of the trees are shades of green, HAVOC will be believable and consistent across the modules.

No orange here. Light greens and hints of yellow.


Fields and grasses turn yellow and brown first.

More field colors.  What plants are out in the field?  Are they correct for 1923?

Grasses along the tracks of CET Railroad. Light green, yellow and going brown.

Using the above photos and observations of that week, the following guidelines and suggestions can be made.

  1. Grasses and low growth can be light green in color through yellow and even a significant amount of brown on hillsides (dry areas).
  2. Flowers of white, yellow (Golden Rod and others) and possibly some purple can be seen around.  Whole fields of Golden Rod were observed
  3. Trees are predominantly still green.  But colors are going lighter and some are quire muted.  Dark colors on bottom.  Lots of leaves are yellow some near the yellows are brown.  Very few trees have any orange and almost no Red.
    1. 75% of Trees are green only
    2. 20% have yellow and 20% of those have some minor browning around the yellow.  Yellow and Green leaves are next to each other on the tree.  A tree will be a broad range of color, not all one green.
    3. 5% have Orange.  The orange is not on the whole tree, but just if a few main branches.  Trees with Orange tend not to have much yellow, but may have brown.

The difference of HAVOC’s membership is that we embrace such standards so that all modules look like a family even if the modeling is completed by different people.

Module – Sam’s curve with road crossing

Sam, a new HAVOC participant has taken over work on two  curved models.  The first is a curved module with a road crossing.  He has made a start on the scenery.  Sam is very detail oriented and works systematically.  He hopes to have one quadrant of the module fully sceniced for the All Scales show in Salem Ohio (March 22, 2020 weekend)


A closeup of the track as it approaches the future road crossing. Sam started by shaping the scenery, ballasting around the track, then adding the road. He has started to add earth, rocks and some static grass.


Sam started by doing the edges of the scenery near the track and along the fascia edges. The road divides the module into four quadrants that he plans to scenic uniquely.

Rigling Mills Gets a siding

The Rigling mills module was first posted about in Grain Elevator Module.  In that post the mill design was a single track with a spur to a Grain Elevator.  As the grain elevator module progressed and we considered the other modules in the pipeline, we decided that we needed a passing siding.  Adding an additional 5 feet to Rigling mills to make it a 10 foot module would be the simplest way to achieve our objectives.


The original Rigling Mills section with the passing siding added to the front


Don getting a picture of his handy work. The Walthers grain elevator is perfect for the 1923 time frame. Like the prototypes it will be a skyscraper in it’s rural setting.


Don chats it up with one of the attendees to the 2019 NMRA Div-7 show. Chris is in the background watching on. The “bumpout” to the module fascia for the grain elevator can be seen at left.

HAVOC module design – Bland is exciting!

HAVOC is not just a modular group, it is instead a themed layout with a story to tell.  A major part of that story is operations and more specifically TT&TO operations.  TT&TO operation are better the more distance a layout has between towns.  The distance provides two benefits:  1) Space for trains to switch so the engine of a train is not in one town while the caboose is in another 2) Traveling distance between towns for the feeling of running.  The HAVOC team feels distance is so important we even go so far as to request module participants build equal length of single track modules as double track modules (see the participation page).  To date no one has built both types of modules, but combined HAVOC collective has to achieve the equivalent. Our most recent single track initiative is four 45 degree curved modules.  Curves were chosen to enable the setups to turn back on themselves to fit smaller spaces.

42″ Radius 45 degree module

Initially, the vision for the 4 modules was dramatic bridges and eye popping trestles inspired by an area of the PRR’s Zanesville branch east out of Morrow following Todd’s Fork a good sized creek.


The Zanesville branch crossed Todds Fork 5 times in two miles. A dramatic section of Ohio railroading. Showing that railroads that served rural farm communities could be dramatic.  Click to see more PRR track Charts


Satellite view of a portion of the Todd Creek area today. The red dashed line is what I think was the railroad. The curvy Todd Fork is clearly seen crisscrossing the line.

In discussions with Tom Patterson, who canoed the Todds Creek in his youth (1970’s), we got the impression that the bridges were multi segment girder bridges.  The bridges were very significant and well above the water line (HAVOC members have yet to explore the area on foot)

Several design attempts were made to include one or more such bridges in the 4 curved modules.  A design was even considered where instead of independent modules, two curved sections would be used to offset the track from center and use sharper 30-36″ radius to obtain 9″ of straight track.  While 9″  might hold a bridge it just seemed too contrived.

To capture Todds Creek a different approach is required.  Rather bridges on the curve modules, put the bridges on small straight modules, say 24-36″ long, and use the curves to model the space in between the bridges.  If you look at the satellite view, there is lots of bland scenery between the bridge locations.  The bland terrain consists of road crossings, fields, trees, and the like.  Looking further east, Todds Fork is not as curvy and the distance between bridges become greater and greater meaning the ratio of pasture land to bridges increases until the bridges apart.  So a better approach capturing the essence of the PRR along Todds Creek is would be to make the curves pasture land and the and then at a future time model bridges on short trestles.

When the design for Todds Fork Creek modules stalled out, we started looking elsewhere for inspiration.  We knew the B&O Ohio Division had a few single lane underpasses.  Such an underpass would likely fit on a curved module.  Once such  scene was the Lacy Rd. underpass which became the inspiration for one of the modules.


B&O’s Lacy Road Under pass, looking South. This bridge is still used by I&O today.


B&O’s Lacy Rd. underpass looking North


Satellite view of Lacey Rd. The modules are only 16″ wide, so even building will be few. The focus will be on the bridge, track and railroad right of way.

Another inspiring scene is the rural road crossing that was very common in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States.  People cross them every day.   The E.Fork Rd. crossing may be the inspiration for another of the modules.


Approach to the EFork Rd. grade crossing of the B&O (IORY) looking South.


Southeast side of the EFork Rd grade crossing. HAVOC module builders take pleasure in the simple details of the fence, field, right of way, road and trying to image what it would have looked like in 1923. Maybe fewer trees?


Southwest side of the EFork Rd. crossing. What would it have looked like in 1923?

Two of the curves appear in our 2019 setup at the local NMRA division show.  The scenery shaping had been started on them.  The Lacy Rd. underpass is the inspiration for one of the modules and the other is imagined as a side hill cut.  What will happen to the other two is unknown.  A new participant has offered to take them and make them his own.  We’ll see what he finds that is so bland it is exciting!


The earth color module is the cut module as roughed scenery and to the right of it is the underpass module. Both appeared at the 2019 NMRA Division 7 show as part of the setup. The modules to either side of them are scenery only modules too. The combination of the 5 sections is over 16 feet of running.


Grain Elevator Module

One of the HAVOC founders is proposing to build a grain elevator module.

Typical grain elevator or feed mill



The module would be a single siding and contain have a Walthers Rural Grain Elevator

Walthers Rural Elevator


Here is the proposed module design

Pencil drawn module plan for the Grain Elevator Module – Does not meet standard HS2.C.1

The plan as draw does not meet standard HS2.C.1 – The fascia at a module end must be perpendicular to the end plate. – for the fascia on the outwardly curving side.  During design review, participant agreed to build the first 3 inches of fascia perpendicular to the end and then curve out to the 20″ width.

XTrkCad version of Grain Elevator module with proper fascia. Turnout is drawn as #6

Other feedback during the review is that a road crossing the tracks at a slight angle might add interest.  Drainage and other considerations should be included too.  Various questions participant will need to consider

  • Any other scenery elements?  Creek, water drainage, where are trees (some on ends of modules help blending with other modules, what about a road, possibly at a slight angle?  Vehicles need to get to the elevator.

This module is off to a solid start.  Hopefully the modeling can be based on photos form the time.



Why not Mikes? (2-8-2’s that is)

A perspective participant asked “I do need to raise the question of the equipment segment specifically the motive power segment. I would believe that by the 1920’s that 2-8-2’s would have started to make an appearance on the secondary mainlines.

Here’s the response that explains why 2-8-2 and other engines are not included in allowable equipment.

Making the cutoff on locomotives was a challenge.  I agree that 2-8-2’s could have started appearing on some secondary lines as would many other locomotives larger than our list (say 4-6-2’s, 2-6-6-2’s, etc..).  Large railroads like the B&O, C&O, etc.. had 2-8-2’s by 1923, but when did they start becoming common on the secondary lines?  It’s hard to know, possibly photo evidence would prove it out but we are looking to model the common engine, not the rare or new.
Smaller Railroads such as the AC&Y or DT&I (not that small) were secondary by nature.
The date column at right is the build date.  But that is not the date they got rostered on the AC&Y. The last two sets of locos came to the AC&Y roster from the NKP (much later than their build dates)(For a more complete AC&Y steam roster, click here)
According to the AC&Y book, many of the locos were not new to the AC&Y.  The book has a chapter pertaining to The P Class 4-6-0’s crediting them with saving the railroad in the 1920’s.
The DT&I did not have any 2-8-2’s on it’s roster in 1920.  But it did acquire some 2-10-0’s (The small Russian decapods) in 1918.  These are very small 2-10-0’s, so there might be a case for adding them to allowable equipment.  The DT&I did acquire PRR 2-8-2 L1’s probably in the 1930’s otherwise no 2-8-2′ or 2-8-4’s until the 1935 and then in 1941 and 1944.
So, we’re “rooting” the HAVOC locomotive fleet on Ohio Railroads that seem to be secondary railroads.  We are not modeling a specific railroad, so we have to define our own boundaries and we’re trying to do that by interpreting what would be common on lines like the one we are imagining.  It’s not perfect.
While we have a several PRR H-10’s, we are hoping to add H-2’s and H-3’s as were seen in Ohio before the H-8, H-9, and H-10.  While the H-10’s are bigger than the H-8’s they are a good representation of an H-8 too.  We are considering the creation of some Ohio Central letter locos, and those will probably be more focused on 2-6-0’s or 4-6-0’s…
There is an additional factors to loco size.
  • Smaller locos turn sharp curves better (for a our reversing loops)
  • Shorter locos haul shorter trains, thus passing sidings can be shorter (it’s hard to transport 10′ passing sidings)


Giving Modules a Leg Up

I have always been a leg man, and somehow that may have played an unconscious role in me taking lead to come up with the perfect module leg design. I’m not saying what we came up with was perfect, but that was what I felt our task was to accomplish.

Most of us had come from a 90’s era modular railroad with 2″x2″ wood legs that formed a double stacked “H” shape. These always made it feel like you were carrying around high school football field goal posts. With no way to collapse them, a few sets of legs quickly took up more room in the car than another module would have. We wanted something different.

Some of the goals were (in random order since we never actually set any priorities):

  • to take up as little room as possible (see paragraph above)
  • to be inexpensive (hard to compete with 2×2’s and scrap plywood)
  • to be universal so that any module in the group could use any leg (hate looking for matching numbers on modules and legs)
  • to provide two inches of height flexibility (might setup on non-level floors, i.e. any basement floor)
  • to have soft feet so as not to mare wood floors (old group always setup on a gym floor where scratches were verboten)
  • to be sturdy (seems obvious)

The Solution

So here is what we came up with – 3/4″ Electric Metallic Tube (EMT) Conduit, a threaded star insert, two inch threaded feet with plastic bottoms, 1″ schedule 80 PVC leg pockets with 3/16″ acrylic spacer, a thumb screw, various screws, glue and some strapping material. It may seem obvious how this all works out, but I suggest you read on to be sure.

If you are not interested in the journey of how we settled on this design then skip over to the HowTo – Module Legs page.

Tube, Pipe, Conduit and Schedule

Maybe its just me, but I feel like I have often over looked the nuances in a lot of the words that are considered synonyms. Thus is my problem with tube, pipe and conduit – I often use them interchangeably (same with wire, conductor and cable but we can talk about that in the electrical section). Once you start looking at the details you see discussions like…

Pipes are used to transport something, and tubes to construct something; hence, tubes are defined by the outside diameter and wall thickness (for construction stability), and pipes are measured by inside diameter to allow a calculation for transportation

But when you get into the nitty-gritty details you start wondering if anyone really knows what they are doing when it comes to naming and sizing hollow, cylindrically shaped objects. Due to schedule (wall thickness)  and the word “nominal”, it becomes somewhat of a nightmare to find two cylindrical thingies that will fit inside each other. The only solution I found was to dig until I found charts that had specific inside and outside dimensions, and even there I kept running into the word “nominal”.

The Legs

I liked the idea of a simple pipe/tube as the leg, but most tube that had a nice round number for an outside diameter (OD) also came with a higher price tag. Piping on the other hand could be be found at a somewhat reasonable price, but the OD was always some wacky number that made it hard to fit into something else. At some point navigating my way through the rabbit-hole I ran into electrical conduit – EMT. It seemed like it would meet some of the goals, like inexpensive and sturdy, so I started searching for ways to make it work. It does not have a nice round number for the outer diameter – 3/4″ thin wall EMT has an OD of 0.922″ [23.4mm] and an inside diameter (ID) of 0.824″ [20.9mm]. God knows why you would call it 0.75″ conduit when both the ID and OD are larger that that. I haven’t figured out the details of why, but it appears if you use the word “nominal” in the sizes it it supposed to make up for these inexplicable dimensional anomalies.

A quick search showed that there are a reasonable selection of screw-in feet with different thread sizes, lengths and materials. But first I needed to get a thread in the bottom of the EMT. Ideas of welding or gluing nuts were thrown away for various reasons including zinc fumes, rust, epoxy not holding up to the stresses, etc… Somewhere along the way I stumbled across tube inserts that had the appearance of an upside-down, star shaped, bowl that you press into the end of a tube and the concave star points keep it from being pulling back out. It then took more hours to find one that seemed like it might fit the ID of the EMT and had a thread size that fit the feet I liked. Leg plan in place! Now to figure out what to stick them it.

The Leg Pockets

Playskool taught me about square pegs in round holes, but yet left me unprepared for trying to fit “nominal” EMT conduit into another cylindrical pocket. Copper pipe, aluminum tube, and plastic conduit all seemed to have inner diameters that would not fit EMT or would let EMT fit real loosely. When I was about to give up on the EMT I ran across schedule 80 PVC conduit with an “average” ID of  0.957″ [24.3mm]. Seemed like it was a perfect fit (0.035″ [0.88mm] clearance) . Lastly I found a spring-button mechanism like they used on old tent poles. These were inserted into the EMT and caught on a hole in the PVC to hold the legs in place.

Problem 1

With orders received, conduits cut, and legless modules waiting for leg approval, I began putting it all together. The first issue I ran into was that the threaded stars I bought were for 1″ tubing and were not going into the 3/4″ EMT. Luckily, in this case, a bigger hammer worked. With the star on the concrete floor, the EMT set on top centered, a block of wood on the top of the EMT to protect the edge, and a 5lb sledge hammer I was able to drive the inserts into the EMT. They are not coming back out. Ever.

Problem 2

Not too many moments later, I ran into the second problem when I tried to insert the leg into the PVC pocket. Did not fit. Too small. I had anticipated this, knowing that 4 hundredths of an inch was not a lot of clearance, so I pulled out the pipe reamer I had purchased and went at the PVC. It was much tougher than it looked. It took me over a half hour to get to a point where the leg could barely slide into the pocket. With upwards of 50 pockets needed, this amount of time was not going to be feasible. It also turns out that the specified diameter dimensions for the EMT and PVC were more like guidelines, and my EMT OD was larger than spec and the PVC ID was smaller – the perfect storm.

For weeks I mulled over ideas, but finally one of the other guys came up with the solution. He cut the pocket lengthwise on the table saw with a thin blade and inserted a piece of 3/16″ acrylic into the gap. This essentially increased the circumference of the pocket by 0.125″ and the diameter by 4 hundredths. The leg fit.

Problem 3

The leg fit and the spring-button popped into place to hold it secure. Too secure. The schedule 80 wall thickness made it near impossible to push the button in to release the leg. I found that a screw driver in the hole worked, but that wouldn’t fly once the pocket was mounted into the corner of a module.

Again the group mustered and came up with the solution. Because the PVC wall was so thick, we could drill and tap it for a spade-head thumb screw.

Problem 4

We had thought that between the Gorilla glue we used to mount the pocket in the corner of the module, along with the screw we had driven through the top of the PVC and into the end plate, that we had them mounted securely. It did not take long before the torque of a 51″ long leg easily broke the bonds of the glue. At this point we had most of the pockets mounted in most of the modules. We needed an in-place fix, otherwise it was going to be a lot of work. We turned to “flexible” metal strapping  material and more glue. We put two bands (near top and bottom) across the face of the pockets to pull and hold them into the corner of the module. Since then we have not broken a leg pocket loose.

Problem 5

At this point we had separate modules standing on four legs and when you bumped them they shimmied like a San Francisco earthquake. When we clamped a few together, especially with a curved module, the movement was reduced, but still looked like it would be enough to derail an entire train. To be honest, I was kind of deflated. I had set out to build the perfect module leg and ended up with a leg that seemed to function substantially worse than the wood monstrosities I had shunned.

At that point we went a few different routes to try and fix the problem. One guy made clip on brackets that went between the 14″ leg gap at the module ends. These provided more stability in one direction. I had dreams of bent metal rods that fit through holes on the EMT to form the classic “X” supporting shape, or went diagonally  to the module to give the structural triangle shape, but never made it through to a prototype. Another guy used thin wall PVC and “T” fittings to make some supports between the far legs on his 5′ modules. But by show time we did not have a proven stable design to fix the issue. All we had was hope that no one would really bump the module hard – at least not the yard modules.

With this in the back of my mind leading up to the show, I took the first opportunity after the modules were setup and someone starting loading cars onto the track, to whack the module. Half expecting the cars to flip onto their sides, I was pleasantly surprised to see them rock a bit and then settle down quickly. I checked that they were metal wheel sets (usually roll really well) , and they were. Holly suspension bridge Batman, the modules were finally reasonable stable when all were clamped together in an “L” shape. A combination of the curve, the mass, the shear length and whatever other mechanical miracles came together in one stable layout.

The Perfect Module Leg

Probably not, but it met most of the goals, and is working. How do I feel it stacks up?

  • take up little room – for this show all 46 legs for the entire layout fit into an old WWII duffel bag. This would have been the size two sets of the old wood goal posts would have taken up. They even fit cross-ways in the back-seat, foot-well of a Prius.
  • inexpensive – EMT and PVC are pennies-a-foot. The star threads and feet are more pricey, but no different than the hardware needed for wood legs. There is some man-hours in cutting and modifying the PVC, but we dealt with that by making a lot at one time – good old production line tactics.
  • to be universal – the only leg that has a marking on it the first one I cut, and it is labeled as “master”. All the other legs are exactly the same height and interchangeable with every module. Due to the “stop screw” in the pocket being mounted at  slightly different heights there is some need to use the adjustable feet, but we have 1.5″ of threading to compensate and only need at most a 1/4″ for this.
  • to provide 2″ height flexibility – to be honest we only have 1.5″ of thread on the foot so that means we have less than that in flexibility. Hopefully we will never setup on a really unlevel floor, but if we do we will just need to bring a box of 3/4″ blocks to setup on in the really low spots.
  • soft feet – The feet are not sponge cake, but they definitely are not likely to scratch a wood floor. Besides, if they are too soft of a plastic then debris just gets embedded in the plastic and it becomes sand paper.
  • to be sturdy – Since this is kind of the definition of the purpose of a leg, you can see where I was really sweating Problem 5. In the end it looks like it is stable enough. I suspect as we grow, add more curves, add a branch and add other towns that it will become even more stable with the shear mass and number of legs on the floor.

Post date: Oct 2018

The Journey Begins

Well, actually, the journey began three years ago but we have been too distracted on creating modules that no one ever got around to setting up a website. But two weekends ago we setup the 19 HAVOC sections at the fall NMRA Division train show and found that people were interested in what we were doing.

Therefore we felt it was high-time to get down to work on documenting what we have done, what we plan to do and where we end up. The show also confirmed that other people may actually be interested in joining what we are doing here. So the website will also fulfill the role of recording the HAVOC standards.

What are we doing here?

Currently there are five guys working together to create an HO standard gauge modular layout that has a consistent theme across all modules as well as a focus on operations. The theme we have chosen is to capture the essence of 1923 branch-line railroads in Ohio. For operations, we are partial to timetable and train orders.

To provide some flexibility in setup of the modules we needed to pick a standard. We settled on creating our own standards, but they are based heavily on the standard. We deviated in module width, 16″ instead of 24″, but have followed most of their other standards. Because we would like consistency beyond electrical and module ends, the HAVOC standards will also get into scenery, track work and other visual and concept standards as well.

How did it start?

Over five years ago the same five guys ran into each other at the fall NMRA Division train show. We had all been part of the Eastern Loggers modular railroading group in years past, so we liked each other enough to sit down to lunch together. Some of the five had been doing railroading activities together in the intervening years, but others, like myself had disappeared off the map. I’m not sure I remember the exact way it progressed, but shortly there after we started meeting weekly at each other’s houses to work on home layouts.

Two of us do not have home layouts, and based on our current home situations (lacking basement space) are not like to have one soon. At least two of us have such varied railroading interests that  a single home layout will not encompass them all. All of us love to model. All of us have different skill sets. For these reasons and others, it only took a year or so before we started talking about creating a modular layout. Well the bug caught on, the planning started, various modular construction aspects were explored, a test module was built and then the work began in earnest.

Where are we at today?

Like I said earlier, we just got back from displaying at the public train show. The show was the first time that all the modules came together in the same place and were connected up. Even more interesting is that one module, a 4 section, 18′, train yard had only ever had two of its various sections together at a time and the show was the first time it was ever assembled fully.


Setup at the NMRA Division 7 fall train show. Looking from the West staging yard.

Aside from the rail yard, there are three modules (another 16′) of country side with the mainline meandering across fields and rivers. Two of these modules each provide 45° of curve which gave the layout an “L” shape at the show. Since free-mo is generally a point-to-point setup we also have two balloon shaped, four track staging yards, one at each end. To be able to avoid an aisle way at the show, we also pulled out the test module which is only 2.5′ and has maybe 5° of curve. That’s all we have right now. Oh yeah, we only have bench work and track work done, unless brown, gray and blue paint constitutes scenery. You can take a flyover look of the show setup at YouTube here.

Two of us do not actually own any modules right now. I have great plans of making a steal town, which will probably be four to six sections, but as of yet the planning has overwhelmed me. The other gentleman has drawn up plans for a simple country module with a siding to a small grain elevator, but it has not been started yet, due to the push to get things ready for the show.