All posts by Glenn Holland

BMR Staff/Contributor I enjoy building steam locomotives and streamliners. You can check out my work on the following sites: Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPPuieIdMz4TwY1ard1bCzw

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.

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

Building Up Prussian Steam

Today we’re looking at something with a high cool factor.

Meet Falk Schulz, or “bricknerd” on Flickr, a very talented builder from Germany. He’s certainly no stranger to Brick Model Railroader, having been featured in a past article highlighting some his Prussian electric models. Falk is known for his amazing work with diesel locomotives, having built several North American models. My favorite is probably his Rio Grande SD   40T-2.

Falk’s Rio Grande diesel. 7 studs wide and all the right details. I particularly like the brick-built logo.

However, as can be seen by the title, we’re not focusing on his diesels today. Instead, we’re looking at a steam locomotive. A small one, too.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zeist_bouwplaten/6897683145

Continue reading Building Up Prussian Steam

Magnets and Electricity.. That’s a Power Couple

Today I’m bringing you some sweet new prototype technology from our good friends at 4DBrix. Tom Lowa was at Brickworld recently to show off something he’s been cooking up, and I have to say, it’s a pretty sweet idea. I’ve been emailing Tom about the concept and here is the information they gave me.

4DBrix has engineered a way to transmit power via the magnetic couplings on train cars. A short video is posted below:

It’s a pretty ingenious idea. For those that enjoy building passenger trains with detailed interiors (and lights) this is a great way to eliminate those ugly wires between the ends of cars. It also eliminates the need for bulky connectors between cars, which can be difficult to plug in and are also unsightly.

Continue reading Magnets and Electricity.. That’s a Power Couple

Throwback: RAILBRICKS Kits

We posted these few photos on the BMR Facebook and Instagram pages on Sunday, and I felt they’d be fitting to throw in this article.

For those that don’t already know, Brick Model Railroader came into existence after the previous Lego train community hub, the online publication RAILBRICKS, fell apart. Many of the contributors and staff members got busy with other aspects of their lives, and so could not channel energy into RAILBRICKS.

The creator and original editor of RAILBRICKS is a gentleman by the name of Jeramy Spurgeon. Before stepping down from the Editor position, he managed to sell a couple limited edition kits. Both of these kits are 6 stud wide models but are still packed with detail.

Continue reading Throwback: RAILBRICKS Kits

We’re Rolling Out!

It’s Friday, June 16 at 3 PM EST, and that means that the Brick Model Railroader Store is open for business!

Please read the following post for some important information.

Shipping (for premium instructions ONLY)

Shipping inside the United States will be $13.60 via flat rate box. This price was determined by the USPS website, and is comparable to a Brickmania kit of similar size.

Orders with multiple copies of premium instructions will be sent via larger box. Email glenn@brickmodelrailroader.com for more information.

Shipping for other items

Decals and stickers will be mailed via envelope  with $1.50.

Components such as wheel assemblies will be mailed via padded envelope for $2.50.

For international shipping inquires, please email glenn@brickmodelrailroader.com for assistance.

Shipping for combined orders will be determined by the largest item ordered. For example, if you order the premium instructions and the decals, we’ll only charge you shipping for the boxcar. If you order wheelsets and decals, we’ll only charge for the wheelsets.

I would like to make everyone aware of the following disclaimer about our premium instructions:

By purchasing these instructions, you agree not to sell,  reproduce, or distribute these instructions. You also agree not to sell or distribute the model made from these instructions.

My partner in crime Cale is at Brickworld as I write, and I know that several people there have expressed interest in buying premium instructions, so I expect them to go fast. Grab one while you can!

If not, no worries! We’ll be accepting back-orders for our next run. Once we run out, the store should automatically go into “back-order mode,” and you should receive a notification of some sort stating that the product you have requested is on back order. We’ll work on fulfilling those sometime after Brickworld is over.

Pen-ultimately, I would like to ask the community and fans to bear with us – we’re really figuring this out as we go along. Please keep in mind that the premium instructions and store are facilitated by two people who have little experience with running a store, but are trying their best. We’re really grateful to be a part of such an understanding an awesome community.

We’re finally moving with these instructions, and Cale and I are both extremely happy to be able to do this. It represents a long period of thought and effort on both our parts, and we think you’ll be really happy with the result.

Glenn

 

Coming Up This Week: A General Update from BMR, and Premium Instructions Release Date Set!

Hello to all once again.

First off, I would like to apologize for the lack of informative articles on the site lately. Cale and I have both been busy with respective projects, obligations outside of BMR, as well as getting ready for Brickworld Chicago, which begins this week. Normal service should resume sometime after the convention is over.

First off, I’m pleased to announce that Brick model Railroader will be represented by Cale Leiphart at Brickworld Chicago! Cale and PennLUG will be joining forces once again with the Texas Brick Railroad for another epic collaborative layout. If you’re going to Brickworld this year, be sure and check it out. It’s always a great layout packed with some awesome trains.

We’ve also been finalizing plans to release the BMR Boxcar Premium Instructions (finally!) and we have been working to get an in-house store set up. This means no need to go through Bricklink to buy BMR products, all sales will be made on our own site.

You should now be able to access our store from our home page, or by clicking here.

We will have four items for sale at launch, detailed below:

  1. Pullman Standard PS-1 Boxcar premium Instructions

Yes, it’s true – we’ll finally be releasing our premium instructions for sale very soon (official date and time below). No changes have been made to the product, it includes a labeled box with serial number, printed instructions with history of the prototype and some notes on the instructions, as well as the custom elements and pre-assembled ball bearing elements to be used in the trucks.

We have 20 kits for sale initially. Once they are sold, the order page will be in “back order” mode, and you should get a notification of some sort if the instructions are on back order.

Price for the premium instructions will be $30.

2. BMR 3×3″ Logo Sticker

We have some stickers available for you too. They’re a great way to show your support for the website and the Lego train hobby in general!

Price for the stickers is $1 each.

3. BMR Boxcar Decals

As shown in one of our recent YouTube videos, we’ve teamed up with Andrew Mollmann (a fellow BMR contribuotr) of OKBrickWorks to produce a decal set that can be used on your PS-1 Boxcar. The decals are printed vinyl and very good quality. You can see the decals tested on one of our boxcars in the video above. Buyers will be sent two identical sheets, one for deacaling each side of the boxcar.

Price for the decals will be $10 for a set of two.

4. Wheel sets with bearings

Everything you need to get rolling with ball bearings.

We will have an assembled option, which will include 8 wheels, 8 bearings, 4 axles, 8 washers, and 8 technic bricks, which is enough for one four axle car.

We will also have a single disassembled option, which will include 2 wheels, 2 bearings, and 1 axle.

Price for the assembled set is $12, disassembled is $2.

We have enabled the back-order option for the Premium Instructions, Boxcar Decals, and wheel sets. Once Brickworld is over, we will begin fulfilling back-orders. This will allow us to produce only as much as we need to.

By now you’re probably wondering when all this will be available for purchase. The new official release for all items listed above is Friday, June 16, at 3:00 PM EST. All transactions will be made through our on-site store, NOT Bricklink.

We are also donating a premium instruction kit to the Brickworld Chicago charity auction! BUT, instead of donating a regular instruction kit, we are adding something special. Included in this special edition is all parts needed to build the model! We’re glad to have such a cool item to put towards a great cause. If you’re at Brickworld this week, you’ll definitely want to bid on it.

That said, we’ve already selected our next model to produce premium instructions for. Based on the poll we created earlier this week, we seemed to get more of a response for the USRA 55-Ton Hopper! They will not be out for some time, but we would like to have them out sometime before the end of the year. And for those who would have preferred the tank car, no worries. We’d like to (and plan to) release that one as well.

And lastly, I’d like to thank the community for their patience. We wanted to work out the bugs first and deliver a quality product, and we finally feel we’re able to do so.

Be sure and check back to our store this Friday to pick up a set of premium instructions!

Thanks for the continued support.

Glenn

Community Feedback Poll (Please Respond)

Hello fans of Lego Trains and BMR…

As you (hopefully) know, we have started creating model/instruction kits (premium instructions is what we call them) for BMR’s mascot boxcar, which is a Pullman PS-1 40′ boxcar, lettered to advertise BMR. We almost have every problem solved, and therefore we’ll be ready to roll out and set a sale date soon, so stay tuned for that.

Looking a little farther down the road, we plan to release more premium instructions, and eventually sell a full kit. But we have to get there first.

So, we’re looking for your feedback. We have two models that are planning to be sold as premium instructions, but we want to hear back from you, the community, fans, and builders, what you want first. So, here’s a quick poll for you:

  1. Which premium instruction model would you like to see from us first?
    • USRA 55-Ton Hopper (Standardized design used by many railroads. An example model can be seen on the PennLUG layout.)
    • United States Railroad tank car (Undetermined design as of now, could be 8000 or 10000 gallon model from various railroads)
  2. In a general response, what kinds of premium instruction kits would you like us to produce?
  3. Would you be interested in a locomotive kit, provided all parts, electronic components, and custom parts were included? Price could be expensive (up to $1000 USD).

We’re really excited about producing more premium instructions and kits, but we want to make sure there’s interest from the community.

PLEASE SUBMIT ALL RESPONSES AS COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE, OR AS COMMENTS ON THIS FACEBOOK POST.

Thanks for your time and response!

New Video on Our YouTube Channel!

We just posted a new video!

Cale brings us a timelapse video of the construction of a BMR boxcar, as per our instructions.

We needed something to try out the decals we received from Andrew Mollmann at OKBrickWorks, and what better to use than an actual BMR boxcar! We’re really happy with the decals and how well they fit on the model. And, for those who are wondering, we WILL officially be selling these decal sets for use on your own boxcar.

We’re really excited, and we are getting ever closer to finally releasing the boxcar premium instructions for sale. We’ll continue to keep everyone updated on our progress.

 

 

PFx Brick Returns!

The PFx Brick is back on Kickstarter!

After an unfortunate end to the previous Kickstarter campaign, the PFx Brick is back, and they’re already more than halfway there! The new goal is $50,000. The new model has bluetooth compatibility for use on devices, and is also easily customizable from the computer program. As before, the brick supports light, sound, and motor controls with ease, with a WIDE range of options and cool features. The new Kickstarter campaign also has a wider selection of backer rewards.

Long story short, the community gave their opinions, and the PFx guys listened.

Hopefully you’ll consider supporting the campaign!