Before I begin, I should briefly touch on some of the standards for LEGO track configurations. More information can be found on Michael Gale’s L-Gauge.org. Standard spacing practices for most layouts (including my own PennLUG) use a 16-stud spacing between the centerlines of two parallel tracks. There are two main reasons for this standard. One, it was set by LEGO, when they produced the 9-volt switch tracks. Using a turnout, a return curve, and an extra length of straight track, you get two even and parallel tracks. Two, this yields a convenient way to build track: two lines evenly spaced on one baseplate.
For several years, train builders had been using the standard train wheels in those chunky, unrealistic encasings. Then some people came along and changed things for the better.
This past week, I watched an episode of James May: The Reassembler. In the opening episode of season two, May walks through the reassembly of his first ever toy train set, a Hornby Flying Scotsman with realistic chuffing sound, which he received one year as a Christmas gift. Quite ironically, a week before, I had begun exactly the same endeavor, rebuilding my first ever LEGO train set.
The 9-volt era had several diamond sets: the Metroliner and Santa Fe Super Chief among them. There were also several oddball sets, with no real prototype counterpart. Set 4561 Railway Express, which I received on Christmas morning around the year 2001, was one such set. But this didn’t stop me from enjoying the set. I built it with the aid of my father and we watched it run around the simple oval track for hours, loading and unloading the wagons countless times. Then, after I got bored of the set, I tore it apart and begun making my first rudimentary train MOCs.
Nate Brill of PennLUG has been very busy recently. Rather than go on about his work, I’ll let him tell you himself:
“Several members of my club have discussed the need/desire for larger and different sized train wheels, and the possibility of 3d printing them. Earlier this year, I was down with a back injury for a while, so I used the time to figure out some 3d design fundamentals and make my own. I don’t have any 3d printing equipment so I put them on shapeways for my own use.
I have had a couple requests for these since word got out that I made them, so I set up a shapeways store:
Here are some sample images:
I have made XXL sized (the next size up from Ben Fleskes’ XL sized), a size between medium and large, and a medium diameter train wheel i.e. not a steam driver, just a thin train wheel but with a larger diameter.
These are being offered at cost (I make no money) because I cannot guarantee the fit of the pin and axle holes and other aspects of the production which are out of my control, nor can I make any easy changes that would solve the problem. Anyway, I hope they work for anyone who tries them. Feel free to let me know.”
New driver sizes are always welcome and much appreciated in the community. Head to Nate’s Shapeways shop if you want to get a set of some sweet wheels!
Without a doubt, everyone is aware of the trinity of geared steam locomotives: the shay, the heisler, and the climax. However, even some of the greatest railroad aficionados will fail to mention this geared-hybrid locomotive: the Davenport Duplex locomotive.
In essence, the Davenport was designed as a hybrid mix between a conventional “rod” locomotive and a geared locomotive. There are two configurations: a duplex and a fixed frame locomotive. Featured in this article is the duplex design, pictured above. The boiler, cab, and tender rested on a single frame, which was powered by two independent trucks, complete with both steam cylinders and a sealed, oil tight, gearbox.
Rob Hendrix of LifeLites has taken inspiration in the Davenport design and created one in the brick for his second EVER steam locomotive MOC, and has done a fantastic job at it:
This locomotive, D.K. & S. No. 3, serviced the Doniphan, Kensett, and Searcy Railroad in White County, Arkansas in 1913. Rob has managed to capture the spirit and vivid detail of the duplex Davenport in his model.
The model uses BlueRail Bluetooth control and sound, LifeLites, and an 11.1 volt LiPo battery powering one L-motor.
For me, the best way to build is to have an end goal in mind. Putting bricks together is great and all, don’t get me wrong. But if you don’t know where you want to end up, how do you expect to get off on the right foot?
That said, there should be some thought that goes into a model before the building process is begun. I usually start a model with extensive research on the prototype. For the purpose of this article, the example model will be a Pennsylvania Railroad BM70m baggage-mail car.