I began building LEGO trains in a serious way in about 2008. At the time, I had no clue where to start with building something like a steam locomotive, so I looked for ideas and techniques online at places like MOCpages and Brickshelf. There were plenty of people building LEGO trains then, but a few models really stood out. Richard Lemeiter’s 141 R Mikado #840 was one of these.
In a time when the 6-wide versus 8-wide debate was just heating up, Mr. Lemeiter’s Mikado is 9-wide at the cab and tender, something my club, PennLUG, routinely does now to cram as much detail into our designs as we can but it was pretty rare back then. Among the details in #840 are a finished cab interior that can seat two minifigures. 9-wide construction makes this much easier.
Additionally, the subtle angles of the cab walls, common to so many European prototypes, are beautifully rendered here, as well as (and this is a big sticking point for me when making my own models) the curve of the cab roof, seen at the top of the image to the right.
In my opinion, no single LEGO curved piece correctly renders the shape of most steam locomotive cab roofs, and only through some tricky SNOT work is the correct curve achieved. There were far fewer curve options available in 2008, but Mr. Lemeiter still did an excellent job.
This view of the side shows some of the amazing details of #840’s running gear. This model makes use of some non-purist techniques, such as bent flex cable for the hand grabs and cut pins (I think?) for the piston rod attachments. I’ve gotten to a point in my own building where these things don’t bother me, but it’s interesting to look back at builders who were pushing the boundaries of LEGO’s traditional rules years before I ever considered it.
By far, my favorite construction detail is the boiler. I first saw a technique like this in Brian Williams’ Indiana Jones Circus Train. It is a 16-sided SNOT design which, in my opinion, creates a really nicely rounded shape at a time when such things were really difficult with the parts selection available. Mr. Lemeiter never posted construction shots that I am aware of, so I’m not sure exactly how he did it, but I have tried this design on a couple of my early locomotives, and came up with this solution for creating it.
If you attach 1×1 plates with horizontal clips to all 8 sides of a 2×2 plate with octagonal bar, part 30033 or it’s updated version 75937, and make several identical assemblies, you can rotate some of them 1/16 of a turn like in the render above, and have the base for making a completely symmetrical 16-sided shape. This technique as seen on #840 still impresses today and I’m willing to bet there are other locomotive prototypes out there for which it is well-suited.
The presentation of #840 is also top-notch. The signal tower behind it and the track it sits on are well-detailed and help to give it context, but do not detract from the locomotive itself and since context can be so important for understanding the significance and accuracy of a model, let’s also briefly look at the original 840.
When I originally looked at Richard Lemeiter’s Mikado, I didn’t bother to do any reading into the original, but it turns out the prototype is pretty interesting as well. I’m American and build American prototypes, so I don’t know much about railroading in Europe, but it turns out the 141 R class Mikado’s have a strong American connection. All were built in North America for France immediately following WWII. Many, including #840, were built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia; very close to home for me. Additionally, 840 is still in operating condition today.
Richard Lemeiter’s 141 R Mikado is still one of my favorite LEGO train models. It was a huge source of inspiration when I was starting out making LEGO trains, and so it remains. Even though both the parts and techniques available to us as LEGO train builders have increased since 2008, I think there is still a lot to learn from this and other great models from back then. I hope to cover a couple more of my favorite past train MOCs in the future. Until then, I encourage you to read up on the 141 R class, see the survivors if you can and, definitely check out the other images of Mr. Lemeiter’s Mikado on MOCpages.