“Rescue at the last minute!” (1989)

This week’s “blast from the past” comes to us from Germany in 1989. In this comic book/magazine advertisement, an SUV narrowly escapes what would have been a deadly collision with the High-Speed City Express (#7745). This train set debuted in 1985 but still would have been available for purchase in 1989. #7745 had appeared in various pieces of advertising up until this point, but this was perhaps the most unique scenario within which it was placed.

OcTRAINber: The Prizes

Now that OcTRAINber is in full swing and the first entries are coming in (a first recap of the contest will follow in the end of this week!) we would like to take this opportunity to at least show you all the prizes you are contesting for. We are very glad to announce that two of our favorite brands have decided to sponsor us, meaning we have some pretty awesome stuff to give away.

First of all, we would like to thank The Lego Company for their big pack of prizes: Not only did we receive two Packs of Straight+Flex Track and a Pack of Switches, we also received the amazing Winter Holiday Train and the newly released Winter Holiday Train Station!

Next to that, our friends over at BrickTracks have decided to sponsor the contest with their newly released large radii tracks. More specifically, we received both a full circle of their R104 curves and a full circle of their R120 curves! This means that at least two of our contestants will not have to go through the pain of running their trains in R44 curves anymore!

Triggered to join the contest after seeing these prizes? You better be! For more information you can check the official announcement for OcTRAINber here on BMR. Or, just go directly to our BMR Flickr to upload your entry!

Happy building, happy OcTRAINber!

OcTRAINber: Some Extra Information on the Rules

There have been some questions asked over at the Eurobricks Train Tech forums OcTRAINber thread regarding the contest, which we have tried to answer the best as we could. For completeness, we have decided to post some clarification on the rules here as well.


For us here at BMR, we normally use the same way of measuring as other scale modellers do, meaning:

US: Over the couplers
EU: Over the buffers

It’s a rule of thumb, so all trains that have buffers are measured like the EU, and all trains that just have automatic couplers are measured over the couplers.

Also, there is no limit on the width of the entry.

Entering old entries in the contest

OcTRAINber is a building contest, meaning that you have to submit a new model specifically build for the contest. To keep in mind: We have set up this contest to inspire people to actually build, so please no old models that have been posted already!

(If it wasn’t put online before, we would be willing to consider it. In the end, the pre-announcement did state that we encourage finally finishing those previously half-failed ideas for something long.)

Third party parts

BMR has always been positive towards third-party parts, as long as they have any way of added value to the hobby. So the rule of thumb is simple:

Lego: Yes
Third Party parts: Yes
Clones: No


All entries have to be posted on our BMR Flickr. For this you need your own Flickr account, but trust us, there is an awesome community out there you can be part of!

The Swoosh

There were some questions about how the swoosh should look like. We didn’t state any rules for this so that’s up to your own imagination!

Types of consists

Lastly, there were some questions on what type of units you can send in. To give some clarification on this: Everything that has train wheels underneath it is allowed. So think locomotive, passenger carriage, goods wagon, etc. For semi-permanently coupled units you can think about trams, rescue trains (think SBB in the alpes), MOW equipment, Truck-Train combos like Hupac, the Eurotunnel LeShuttle, etc etc.

Good luck with building and enjoy your OcTRAINber!

The Lego Trains Book by Holger Matthes: A Review

No Starch Press reached out to Brick Model Railroader recently and offered an advance copy of The Lego Trains Book by Holger Matthes. We graciously accepted the offer, and have decided to write and share some of our thoughts on it.

A very attractive book cover.

Before even opening the book, I’m reminded of the (former?) comprehensive resource book for those looking to get started in the hobby. Perhaps some of the older train builders are familiar with “Getting Started with Lego Trains” by Jake McKee, also published by No Starch Press, as far back as 2004. I remember buying that book online and reading it cover to cover more times than I can count. This book predates the end of the 9-volt era, so a new book for Lego trains has been long overdue, and there were certainly some big shoes to fill.

My own tattered copy of Jake McKee’s Getting Started With LEGO Trains.

The Getting Stated book included a solid introduction and a great review of the current market for Lego trains. At that time, the Santa Fe, My Own Train line, and more was available. There was also plenty of information on effective use and operating tips for the old 9 volt system, as well as a comprehensive list of equipment needed to start running a 9 volt layout.

There were also some instructions for those looking for an instant way to jump into 6-wide 9 volt building. While I never actually built any of the models, I definitely wanted to. They were good models because they were appealing to look at, easy enough for a beginner but complex enough to learn real techniques.

As I’m writing the introduction and background information about Jake McKee’s book, I haven’t looked through the book, save for a relatively brief skim and a glance at the instructions included. So without much more delay, let’s dive right in.

First off, I have to say the photography quality is amazing, so big points to photographer Andy Bahler. Following acknowledgements, Michael Gale (of the PFx Brick team) offers a well-written foreword, briefly discussing his lifelong fascination with trains, and growing more and more into modeling them in Lego. The introduction is also very well-laid out, allowing the reader to become familiar with the official Lego website, as well as Bricklink and Brickset. Nomenclature (set numbers, part numbers according to Bricklink, etc.) is also discussed before moving into the real content.

Holger does an amazing job describing the history of Lego trains in vivid detail, from #182 to #10233 Horizon Express, and everything in between. Train operation, track availability, parts, wheels, and more are covered for each train system. I feel the Getting Started book did not do enough of this. Holger certainly has not missed a detail, even including a summary and a look at each system from a current perspective.

An example of the Blue Rail era history.

Moving into the Power Functions era (current), each component which may be used in train building is laid out and described, even shortly describing the possibilities of building your own drive trains. Monorail and even narrow gauge is covered. In all, awesome history.

Next is a section titled “Basic Principles.” I love this section, as it contains a lot of information I wish I had several years ago. Holger describes basic part naming and shows numerous examples of each type, and also describes the studs and anti-studs system (which gives Lego the clutch power, for those unaware). He also details technic connections, and legal vs. illegal connections. SNOT techniques are covered with convenient color-coded diagrams. All of this information gives the reader a great foundation for diving right into building their own MOCs. Other cool techniques demonstrated in this section include brick-built striping and using parts to simulate different textures.

There’s even a Reverse Engineering Challenge!

The next section is titled “Designing Your Own Models,” and gives plenty of thoughtful content regarding various building scales, including the old 6 wide – 8 wide debate (as well as 7 wide, to make Andy Mollmann happy), and designing locomotives and cars to run on the track geometries on the current market.

This section also includes some hardcore Lego train engineering practices, such as trucks, couplings, pivot points, and more. There is also information regarding effective steam locomotive techniques! For those of you who have been pulling your hair out with failed steam locomotives, I recommend this section. I often describe building steam as a dark art, and it sure can be sometimes, but Holger has done a great job making a lot of potentially difficult information easy to read. Concepts like wheel quartering and basic steam locomotive components are covered here. One of the things I particularly like about the steam locomotive section is that Holger lists a few key design points to consider before or while building.

Showing the custom rods from TrainedBricks, and some good points to consider when building a steam locomotive.

Power Functions drive train basics, along with use of train motors, is included here as well. From there, the Holger moves into modeling details and key features of a particular prototype, such as colors, doors, windows, roof design, and more. Further still, track and layout design is discussed, explaining the differences in curve radius, and BlueBrick (a Lego track software).

The next section dives into case studies with very specific techniques and features. Those of you interested in reverse-engineering Holger’s Vectron electric locomotive, this section is for you. The BR10 model is also discussed in detail, and there is a link to Holger’s website for instructions.

Speaking of instructions, that’s the final section! There are instructions for five of Holger’s AWESOME models, with links to his website for his BR80 locomotive. Sorry North American builders, nothing on our side of the pond in this book. (Maybe Cale and I can fill the void sometime…?)

In all, I have to give this book a 10/10 score. There was not a detail that was skipped over. This is certainly the new Getting Started With LGEO Trains, without any doubt. The instructions may be for foreign (to me) models, but they offer a lot, not to mention the countless other photos and well-written paragraphs full of useful stuff. I would recommend this book to anyone, even myself. There’s plenty in here I haven’t even thought of.

Well done, Holger. Thank you for your amazing new contribution to the amazing LEGO train hobby. I’m confident this will be the go-to book for a long time.

OcTRAINber: The Contest Begins!

As you might have seen and read in our previous post, this October (meaning from tomorrow on) BMR will run our first ever contest! So, without further ado, we would like to introduce this contest to you.


First of all, the name. It’s called OcTRAINber, if somebody had not noticed yet. Why OcTRAINber? Well, because it’s a great intermediate month between SHIPtember and Novvember. Also, TRAINS.

The Rules

The rules are simple. Build something with train wheels attached to it that is long enough to look absolutely silly to go through a R40 curve, better known as the Regular Lego Train Curved Rail. To make sure “silly” is an objective term, we have made a minimum size requirement: 60+ studs for any single item (can be a carriage, a locomotive, a crane, you name it) and 70+ for a combined (and permanently coupled!) consist. This means we are accepting anything from a steam engine + tender to a diesel loco + slug, or maybe even semi-permanently coupled freigh carriages or EMU’s. However, this also means we will not allow a consist of loco + carriage. It has to be semi-permanently coupled!

Both Real Life and Ditigal builds are allowed and both will have their own category. Since BMR is a weblog that emphasises and supports building Real Life models, the prices in the Real Life category will however be bigger and better (if you ask us at least!) then the ones in the Digital category.

Please keep in mind that this is a building contest, meaning that only new or unpublished builds are allowed.


Points will be awarded for 3 things: Length, credibility of the prototype and “The Swoosh”.

First of all, length. This is a short one; The longer, the better. Simply put: any studs over 60/70 (depending on if you build a single or a semi-permanently coupled unit) gives you pluspoints.

Second, credibility of the prototype. This means we will be looking at how much the build represents the real life prototype. This means the quality of the build, but potential scale etc. If you are sending in a fantasy model, we will look at how credible the build is; would it fit in, does the backstory make sense?

Thirdly, The Swoosh. What is The Swoosh, you ask? Well, thats pretty simple: it’s a video of your train running through a R40 curve. It’s the same as The Swoosh as the Spacers know it, but even more awesome, because it uses a train and track. Please keep in mind that only R40 curves are allowed for The Swoosh!

The Judges

This contest will have four judges. Why four? Well, because it’s more than three, and, as you now should now, we are a fan of ‘more and longer’. The judges will be, in no particular order:

All four have a history in building trains that look absolutely silly when going through curves and are thus the perfect people to judge!


Since this is OcTRAINber, entries will be accepted from October 1st to October 31st.


Entries are to be send in via our own BMR Flickr! There are two discussions; one for the Real Life entries and one for the Digital entries. Next to that, please also add your pictures in the pool!

The Prizes

No contest without prizes! We are very happy to tell you that The Lego Company was generous enough to donate four sets which we will be giving away as prizes. Next to that, we are at least equally happy that BrickTracks has donated some of their new curves as well. Which prizes specifically will be made public as soon as possible, so to keep the hype train running for a little bit longer!

Extra Parts

We here over at BMR are very, very excited about this first contest and we are looking forward to all those entries. We are really looking forward to see what the community has to offer in terms of creativity and we hope that all of you will be stimulated by this contest to finally build that one beast of a train / loco / waggon that you always wanted to build, but never did.

During the contest, we will regularly post updates about the entries that have entered the contest here at BMR.

By the way, if there are any things that aren’t fully clear, you can always reach out to us by posting your message below.

All aboard OcTRAINber!

Selling Hoppers and Chasing Trains: Things we did this weekend

This past weekend was crazy for myself and Glenn here at Brick Model Railroader. In short, we sold out of our first run  of hopper instructions way faster than anticipated, visited a cathedral of steam, took a ride with one of the most impressive machines on rails, and got some work done on two of our future Premium Instructions. It was a crazy weekend.

Nickel Plate 765

Our first run of USRA Hopper Premium Instructions has sold out!

USRA Hopper Box Cover

Continue reading Selling Hoppers and Chasing Trains: Things we did this weekend

Announcing the USRA 55 Ton Hopper Premium Instructions

We’re finally back with our second premium instructions kit!

Announcing the Brick Model Railroader USRA 55 ton hopper premium instructions.

USRA Hopper Box Cover

First constructed by our own Cale Leiphart, we decided to pass this model on to the community in the form of premium instructions. As with all premium instructions, we will include the custom elements needed to build the model. In this case, that will only include the ball bearing-equipped wheel sets which are used in the trucks. All you need to do is gather the standard Lego parts from your own collection and you’ll be on your way to a great hopper model.

You can watch our full review of the hopper instructions by following this link.

Continue reading Announcing the USRA 55 Ton Hopper Premium Instructions

Get ready for OcTRAINber!

All aboard the Hype Train!

For the moment we cannot unveil all the details yet, but yes, Brick Model Railroader will indeed be hosting their first ever building contest. Behind the scenes we are currently discussing rules and prizes, which will be made public before October 1st.

What we can however tell you is that it will be known as OcTRAINber, which also means that the contest will start on October 1st and end on October 31st.

The other thing we can tell you is that the contest will be centered around building something* (with train wheels!) that that looks absolutely silly when it goes through regular corners but looks awesome when going through some R104’s or R120ies. Think very long car or locomotive. Call it the Train-equivalent of the Swoosh, or just call it the reason why you never built it in the first place. Both are fine, just as long as you realize that this contest will be about finally building that monster!

Anyways, OcTRAINber is now officially a thing, so get ready to participate!


*Size to be determined

LEGO Trains are Put to the Test (1984)

Background Information on the Article: The following article originally appeared in the March 1984 issue of LEGO Review, the English title of the LEGO Group’s house organ (employee magazine). The article, titled “On the track,” provides an analysis of a review on LEGO trains that appeared in the November 1983 issue of the  Stiftung Warentest. Stiftung Warentest is dedicated to objective reporting on consumer goods and serves a similar function as Consumer Reports in the U.S.

On the Track… (By Preben Peterson):

TEST: In the November 1983 issue of their magazine ‘test,’ the German consumers council ‘Stiftung Warentest’ took a close look at toys, as a sort of preview to the on-coming Christmas shopping.

Among the products tested were various LEGO products: our train programme was evaluated against others, even bigger and well-known brands.

We have tested ‘test’…

INTRODUCTION: In Germany, and just about all central European countries, model trains are a subject which occupies a lot of children and adults in their leisure time.

For many of them the game is to acquire or construct precise models of existing or historic, characteristic or famous trains, stations, landscapes, etc.

WATCH THE FORMAT: This test did not concentrate on that side of model train sports, but on model trains as toys. Here one begins, soberly, by pointing out that although it is not an unimportant part of play to build and rebuild, some of the excitement is lost if one, owing to size is forced to build and dismantle the construction at the end of every day’s play. Or if the dimensions in relation to the available space are such that there is little room for variations, details and the finer points of the game. Here the LEGO train scored its first point, since, all in all, it was described as very handy.

For instance, the LEGO locomotive in the train in question measures only 153 mm and weighs 367 g. While a similar version of the otherwise so popular brand Märklin with its 335 mm and 1850 g is described as a somewhat ‘overgrown’ item, especially for smaller children.

IDENTICAL…?: Our track width – that is the distance between the rails – is a little outside the standard which a number of the other trains use. Three of the five trains tested, namely Lehman, Märklin and Playmobil use standard ‘G’ (45 mm) which corresponds to a 1:22.5 ratio. The fourth train, Faller, uses the standard ‘O’ (32 mm), which corresponds to a 1:45 ratio. As many of you already know, we use a track width of 38 mm. This adherence to the non-standard did not give rise to criticism. On the other hand one wonders, naturally, why the components from the three ‘standardised’ trains are not compatible…

PRICE: The magazine pointed out that price was not without importance when the decision of which brand of train was to be made.

Here again, our products were praised – perhaps to the surprise of some people. For instance, if one buys a LEGO train set comprising a steam engine, some carriages and goods wagons and a modest, little beginners’ set of rails, one is in business for 70 DM (about 25 US $). That is only a couple of dollars more than one would pay for a Faller engine – alone. And that is the cheapest of the four competing engines whose prices topped at nearly 80 dollars. Add to this carriages costing between 5 and nearly 25 dollars – each.

And, the magazine reminds us, who will remain satisfied with a mini railway with one engine and two carriages forever? Hinting to the cost of expanding the set…


PLUS AND MINUS: After this a ‘dive’ and then more praise to those of our colleagues who have worked with the trains and their ‘accessories.’ It is rather difficult to connect power to our rails, they complained. However, our constructors’ and users’ guides got through unscathed when very sharp, critical words were passed about nearly all the others.

MOST IMPORTANT: Finally, and absolutely of greatest importance the toys’ play potential are evaluated. A test-panel (I think that’s what they call it) of children between 6 and 14 years old was asked to play with the trains – under the appropriately watchful eyes of experienced analysts. Here too, the trains and their accessories were exposed to special trials and tests which we also know from our product tests here in the company (- but which, to judge by the results, could lead us to believe are not known, or perhaps not used in all the other companies).

Not surprisingly, it turned out that our train performed extremely well during the long-term tests. The speed matched amply that offered by the others, and on the matter of pulling power our train, as the only one of the five, was characterised ‘very large.’ Some of the others could not cope with load i the form of cargo on the wagons and gradients in the terrain/landscape which one was tempted to give them.

Our rails, points, signals, carriages and driving capacity received praise, while one could have hoped for a somewhat more popular passage about sidings (Is this noticed during play? we are tempted to ask. Ed.).

And the LEGO train was the easiest to work with – that is, to get on the tracks, shunt, etc.

ALL IN ALL: The conclusion is:

“The LEGO train is constructed upon the same principles as the other boxes and models from the same company and the elements can thus be combined freely. Construction of the engine and carriages feed children’s creativity. Once in a while things fall apart during play but that doesn’t disturb or annoy. This train is particularly good fun to play with, thanks to among other things, its powerful pulling capacity and speed.”

Upon this background, the LEGO train got the evaluation ‘very good,’ together with Playmobil’s train, while the others were placed lower.

“Upon the basis of their wide range toys in general, the two companies probably have greater experience to build upon,” concludes the report.

And that’s not untrue – neither is it at all bad…

*NOTE: First two illustrations come from the March 1984 issue of LEGO Review. All other illustrations come from various examples of LEGO train advertising for the year of 1983.

From Rails to Rocket Fuel (1971)

This week’s piece of LEGO train advertising history was published in France in 1971. This is probably my favorite example of LEGO train advertising. The stylized drawings and explosion of color make this a feast for the eyes.

There is also some creative storytelling going on here. If you look closely, you will notice a Darwinian depiction of trains. The 4.5V train moves into the world of 12V, is transformed into a monorail, a boat and a supersonic jetliner. All of these illustrations lead your eyes to the final focal point, which is a space-bound rocket. From trains to spaceships, “LEGO is a new toy every day.”

P.S.: Be sure to take a second look at that monorail. You might find that it bears greater resemblance to more recent fan designs than LEGO’s official monorail system of the 1980s & 1990s.