FREMO standard module building – Something for you?

Do you lack room for a layout? Do you think model railroading is too expensive?
If you after all have an itch for model railroading you should consider building a FREMO module.

It doesn’t cost that much, you surely have room for one, it’s not that hard and it’s guaranteed fun. I’m talking about FREMO module building.  I started building FREMO modules last autumn and is now well on the way on my third module.

FREMO is short for ”Freundeskreis Europäischer Modellbahner” and it is an organization with German origin. We are building modules following a standard with rather simple guidelines. The end profiles have to be of a certain size and shape, but between these you can feel rather free making what you desire.  There are several standards for both 0, H0, TT and N.  This article will deal with building in H0 scale (1:87), with end profiles H0-B88 (B96).

  The following H0 module systems exists in FREMO:

·      H0(Europa)

·      H0m

·      H0m (Rhaetische Bahn)

·      H0e

·      H0(USA)

 If you have Internet access, you can find a lot of information on the FREMO homepage; (both in German and English).

You can find a Norwegian adapt of the FREMO standard in H0 in the homepage of Arendal MR Club; In short we are building modules with ”Norwegian” look, depicting the time period 1955 to 1980. When we meet, we connect our modules together forming a large layout and run our trains from A to B following a schedule.  The number of FREMO members in Norway is rapidly growing.  In the beginning of 2001 we were 5 members, as of today at least 11.  In addition there are several that are building following the standard and perhaps later will join us as members.  Of course it is not necessary to be a FREMO member to build modules.  The most important thing is to follow the standard.


The materials I bought for my first FREMO module were as follows:

·      Plywood, 244x122 cm, 12 mm thick (for framework, sufficient for several modules)

·      Ground insulating board, 120x60 cm, 70 mm thick ”Jackofoam” (for landscape)

·      Approx. 6 meter 20x37 mm (or 23x48mm) pine wood (for supporting corners and for module legs)

·      Flush screws, 3.9x30 (plaster screws)

·      Screws, M8x50, w/large washer and winged nut (for attaching the module legs and for module connections)

·      Brass screws (for attaching the rails)

·      Paint, green (7020-G30Y) Lady Panel 15, for painting of the module (or flat black)

All of this you’ll probably get in the nearest hardware store.

Start with the end profiles.  They are possible to buy pre-cut, but it’s not that hard to make them yourself with the right tools. But, you have to be exact with the measures.  You can find a drawing of the end profile on the FREMO homepage and it is easy to print it out from there.  All measures are marked on the drawing. The five holes in the end profile are the attach points towards the next module, while the upper edge should fit exactly with the upper edge of the next module.

Then, decide how long your module should be.  It should not be so long that one person has problems handling it or that it is difficult transporting to module gatherings.  I chose to make min 120 cm long.

Before sawing the side profiles you should roughly decide the shape of the landscape. Draw the profiles on the front and back side.  Remember that the length of the side profiles should be the total length of the module minus the thickness of both end profiles, in this case 24 mm (2 x 12).  Then saw the side profiles and sand all edges clean.  Saw corner blocks for each corner.  Make the blocks a few cm shorter than the height of the side profiles.  The blocks should align with the lower edge of the side profiles, see picture 1.  These blocks serve two purposes:  They secure the connection between the side- and end profiles and are a side support for the module legs.  Glue and screw the blocks on the inside of the side profiles, remember to pre-drill and countersink the holes to prevent cracking.  Wait until the glue has dried before attaching the end profiles.


When the glue has dried, it is time to assemble the rest of the module frame.  Be extra careful in this process to ensure exact angles.  Use both screws and glue.

Then, cut the board for the track.  It should be exactly as long as the side profiles.

Cut two blocks that are to be attached on the inside of the end profiles.  They serve as supports for the track board and have to be attached in such a height so that when the track board plus track base (cork or similar) are attached this should be even with the top center of the end profile.  In this case the board thickness (12 mm) plus cork base (5 mm).  For further support of the module and an absolute straight track bed you have to place cross “beams” in the module.  The standard tells a minimum of one for modules longer than 70 cm.  For my modules I use two.

At this time it is smart to paint the module frame.  A minimum of two coats, both on the inside and outside, are needed.  The color should be either flat black or flat green (7020-G30Y).  Oil base paint is strongly recommended to avoid sticking between attached modules.  Sand lightly after the first coat for a smooth surface.

Module legs

The module legs are cut to 119 cm length.  The method for attaching is described in picture 2.  This method is very simple and allow for individual adjustment of the legs using one screw.  The screw is of the same type as the screws used for interconnection of modules.


Laying of tracks

Now the module should be standing on its own legs, the time has come for laying track and roadbed.   A perfect track is of utmost importance on a FREMO module.   Be exact when laying track near the end profile.  You can use anything between code 70 and code 100 track in H0 (code 75 or code 83 recommended).  Even if the height difference is 0.6 mm there is no practical problem, because the tracks are not physically connected with the next module, they are just placed in the same top height.  When adjusted, the track level is 130 cm above the floor.

Most FREMO modules are DC modules, but there are some here in Norway that builds their modules using Märklin 3-rail AC.  If these are wired according to the standard they can also be used as modules in DC operation, as long as K-track is used.  M- and C-tracks cannot be used in DC operation.

On standard modules I recommend using a track base, e.g. cork. Glue this to the plywood; ordinary white glue can be used. Put something heavy on top until the glue has dried.  Check that the cork is even and has the same height and the end profiles.

The cork has to be even and in the same height as the end profile.

Screw two brass screws in each end profile, exactly where the tracks crosses the edge.  Screw down until they reach the same height as the ties.  Solder wires to the underside of the tracks (minimum two pairs per module).  Use a 30W soldering iron (or similar) with a rather thin tip. If the soldering iron has a temperature adjustment, adjust to approx. 350 degrees C.  Use ordinary solder for electronics (60% tin, 40% lead) with rosin core, 0.5 – 1.0 mm thick.  First add a tiny bit of solder on the tip, introduce the wire and then add solder on the wire.   Put the wire aside and do likewise on the underside of the track.  First a little solder on the tip, then the iron on to the track and then subsequently following solder to the track (not on the iron).  Be fast, so the ties don’t melt!  Then, hold the wire in one hand, the soldering wire in the other hand, heat quickly the solder on the track, put the wire down on to the track and remove the soldering iron.  This requires a bit of practice, test on a little piece of track first!

Then you can test-lay the track on the base.  Let the track be somewhat longer than the module.  Remove the tie(s) where the brass screws are, do the final adjustments and solder the track to the screws.  I recommend at least one rail joint on each track on the module, allowing the track to expand/contract when stored in different temperature conditions. Attach the rail to the base using track nails.  These nails could be removed after the ballasting is finished, so do not tap them all the way down.  Cut the rails 0.1 - 0.2 mm inside the module edge and file an angle on the inside of each rail.

Here you can see the two brass screws in the end profile.  Solder the rails to these.  Note also the feeder wires soldered to the rails.


The electrical connections on a FREMO module are very simple:  Two wires (track voltage + and -) minimum 1.0 mm² throughout the module with connector sockets on each end.  The feeder wires from the track are connected to these.  Be aware of the polarity.  You can, instead of sockets on each end, use one cable w/plug and one socket on each side, making no need for loose wires for connection.

The cable throughout the module should have sockets on each end, or as here one wire and one socket.  The feeder wires from the track are connected to the cable running through.


There is a row of techniques and solutions you can use.  I will not go into details of this here.  I have used Jackofoam on my modules, glued to the module frame with white glue or hot melting glue.  This is a solid and lightweight material that can be cut using a knife or a saw.  Cover with plaster.

Ballast around the tracks is distributed right from the bag and adjusted with a soft brush.  Then, moist the area using a spray bottle with water and a few drops of detergent (to reduce the surface tension of the water drops).  Do not spray directly towards the ballast that may shift the ballast around.  After wetting use a glue mix (one part white glue, 3 parts water, a few drops of detergent) and wet the ballast using an eyedropper.  You should use a lot of this mixture.  Don’t bother if it looks very whitish when you work, it’ll look good when dried.

Paint the plaster using acrylic paint, heavily diluted with water.  Use dull “earth colors”.  Then you can distribute ground foam and attach as you did with the ballast.  No despair if the glue mixture shifts the ground foam somewhat, you can easily cover this up with the next layer when the first has dried.


Trees, bushes, buildings, fences, posts, people etc. are all parts of the finish on a module.  Here only imagination, desire and ability set the limits.  Good luck, maybe we’ll meet on the next FREMO gathering?

Any questions?  Enter the discussion forum for FREMO in Norway (FREMO-talk) on FREMO-talk or find the link from the MJF homepage .  On the FREMO-talk you can ask questions on the Internet and get some answers!

This article was published (in Norwegian) in "MJ-bladet spesial 2001".
Dec. 15, 2001, BRL

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