The Essex Belt Lines is the group’s HO scale modular railroad. The railroad is formed of modules to three different modular systems. When the group started in 2000 we wanted to start a group project but the lack of a permanent base meant a traditional British style exhibition layout wasn’t possible. After considerable discussion we decided to look at modules.
The prevalent standard were the NMRA 2 track system and the Free-Mo system along with the European Fremo system (the original influence for the US Free-Mo system. It was felt that none of these met our requirements of high quality modelling and presentation so feature of each was taken to develop a system suitable for the creation of a layout showing mainline and secondary mainline railroads.
Subsequent to the development of our mainline standard some members of the group became more interested in shortline railroads and a branchline standard was developed.
In around 2009 an NMRA British Region Model Working Group was formed to look at ways to encourage the development of modular modelling in the UK., the group rapidly found a large number of HO scale systems were in use. Most were broadly compatible but the emerging interest in prototypical operations focused the group and none of the standards supported this as well as would have been liked. The result of this work is a new NMRA(BR) HO Scale Module Specification.