Lately on Social Media platforms, there has been an uptick in “Can I have building instructions for…” type requests. While some of these requests are very specific, and the answer from other builders is usually “You’ll have to design it yourself,” there are sources available for a number of train related building instructions.
Following other designer’s instructions is a great way to learn different building techniques and trends. While it’s sometimes frustrating to see an amazing build and immediately want to build one yourself, it’s often better to step back, assess your skills, and start small. I’d wager to guess that most of us who currently design our own models started by following official LEGO instructions. After a while, we would modify those builds, adding our own touches (my first “designed” train was a modification of the My Own Train line from back in 2001). After modifying official models for a bit, we’d start experimenting with the techniques we’d learned, and we’d begin designing our own builds.
The following are some sources (other than buying sets) of train related building instructions that may help builders get started. Some of these are older resources, but the techniques displayed are as valid today as they were when they were originally assembled.
First, of course, is our own Brick Model Railroader Premium Instructions. Designed by Cale Leiphart and Glenn Holland, these models are in the 8-wide scale, designed specifically for builders looking for prototype realism in their models. Instructions are printed in book form, and include any custom parts needed for the builds.
Next, The LEGO Group, on their Customer Service website, offer Downloadable Instructions for official sets. Not all sets are available, but this is a great resource if you are looking for just the instructions for current or recently retired sets. Some older sets are also available, but again, not everything is there. Instructions are provided as downloadable PDF files.
Two other sites also offer instructions of official LEGO models. These sites include some of the company’s older sets, which may be of interest to builders wishing to delve into the history of LEGO trains and building techniques. Brick Instructions.com includes downloadable PDF files of instructions, or onscreen image files that a builder can scroll through.
The second site, Peeron.com has scans of instructions from as far back as 1955. Peeron was THE fan-created database of LEGO sets twenty years ago, and still contains a huge amount of information, including set inventories and catalog scans.
On the fan side of things, there are a number of resources for building instructions.
Back in 2004, Jake McKee, who used to liaison between the LEGO Group and the fan community, wrote Getting Started with LEGO Trains. Published by No Starch Press, the book included a history of LEGO Trains, as well as building instructions for a diesel locomotive and a number of freight cars. Though out of print, Getting Started with LEGO Trains can still be found at a number of used booksellers.
No Starch Press also publishes a number of other LEGO related books, including the new The LEGO Trains Book by Holger Matthes. Available in both print and PDF form, the book includes tips for different building techniques, as well as some step-by-step instructions. Glenn Holland reviewed the book for Brick Model Railroader back in October.
A third publication, this time in magazine form, was started back in 2007 by Jeremy Spurgeon. RAILBRICKS published 6 issues, in PDF and Print On Demand format, through August of 2009. In 2010 the magazine was revived with Jeremy passing editorial duties to Elroy Davis. The volunteer team of authors and content creators that made up the RAILBRICKS team published another 9 issues, ending publication in July of 2014. Each issue of the magazine included building instructions for things like locomotives, rolling stock, or scenery. An archive of the RAILBRICKS magazines is available here on the BMR website where each issue can be downloaded in PDF format. Print issues of the magazine can also still be purchased from MagCloud.
In addition to publications, a number of builders offer instructions of their designs via their BrickLink shops.
A search for “Custom Instructions” on BrickLink turned up shops selling instructions for locomotives, rolling stock, scenery, and modular buildings.
One of the largest offerings of instructions is Anthony Sava’s SRW Locomotive Works. His designs includes steam and diesel locomotives, as well as passenger and freight cars. I just recently finished building his Light Mikado, and can recommend his instructions as clear and easy to follow.
Bricks Northwest offers a number of diesel locomotives, including CSX, Canadian National, and Conrail liveries.
For the fans of the Emerald Night set, Zac’s Brick Place sells instruction sets for custom coaches in the Emerald Night color scheme.
For those who like high speed rail, LT12V in Italy sells instructions for three different passenger trains.
Next, Brick City Depot has a nice offering of rail buildings, trains, and maintenance of way equipment.
The BrickLink shops listed above are by no means the complete list. They are just a few of the instructions available from fans that I found with a little searching.
Finally, there are a number of fan sites out there that offer instructions as well.
One of my favorites is the L-Guage wiki. Instructions for ballasted track, roads, viaducts and more are available as downloadable PDF files.
A similarly named site, LGauge, offers a large amount of instructions for freight cars, as well as few diesel locomotives and small scenery pieces. The instructions can be followed online in HTML format, or downloaded as PDF files.
Michael Gale, of the L-Guage wiki, also has custom instructions for sale on his Brick Dimensions website. These include both passenger and freight models.
Like BrickLink, this small list of sites was found with just a quick search on Google. I’m sure there are other sites out there with similar offerings
Instructions are awesome, and while there are many available, nothing really beats just sitting down and experimenting. Don’t be discouraged if your initial builds don’t work out they way you think they should, and don’t compare yourself to builders who have a couple of decades of experience. Remember that we all started at the same point. Follow the instructions for a while, then have fun striking out on your own design path!