Just like our big sister from which we draw part of our inspiration (and part of our name), the Brick Model Railroader will have a recurring item where we (re)-visit layouts. For inspiration, to draw inspiration from, but also to showcase all the great stuff that has already been displayed across the world and had an impact on the Lego Train Hobby. Without wasting any more time, we would like to present our readers with the first showcased layout: Ararat 1972.
I mean, just look at it. You wouldn’t say from a distance that this is build with Lego bricks, do you? So let us dive a little bit deeper in this layout and learn why this is such a great piece of work.
For several years I’ve wanted to write a set of articles covering the design and building of a LEGO® train layout from start of finish. With the new year and the launch of Brick Model Railroader, I have the opportunity to do so. This post is the kick-off to a series of articles that I’ll write as I design and build a new layout: Matson’s Landing.
The original Matson’s Landing is an HO scale layout designed by modeler Jack Matson. I discovered the layout years ago while scanning through “Micro/Small Layouts” at the Carendt.com blog. While many model railroading publications feature the grand basement-filling layouts of master modelers, Carendt.com focuses on small track plans that fit into a minimum amount of space. The designs on this site perfectly capture what S scale modeler and author Trevor Marshall defines as “Achievable Layouts”. In other words, layouts that are small enough to be worked on in a reasonable amount of time, but large enough to be entertaining. Given our large track scale, Achievable Layouts are perfect for the L-gauge builder.
As can be seen in the original track plan, the Matson’s Landing layout offers lots of opportunities for a LEGO builder. The display contains two scenes, divided down the center of the plan. One side showcases a waterfront logging camp, where logs are off-loaded into the river/lake to be floated to a mill, while the other side of the display features a wooded landing area where logs are pulled out of the forest. While not a lot of space is allowed for train cars, there is plenty of room for switching a few loads of logs with a small steam or diesel locomotive. The setting of Matson’s Landing could also allow for some steep grades with lots of brick-built scenery.
My initial plan is to scale up the HO design to fit L-gauge track size and geometry. For the article series here on Brick Model Railroader, I hope to cover the following topics:
Benchwork – The base of the display
Layout Design – How the track geometry is planned
Landscaping – Everything visible above the base, covering brick-built hills and valleys
Locomotive Design – Planning, testing and building of a small steam-driven logging locomotive
Car Design – Planning, testing and building of log cars, and possibly others
Scenery – Covering trees, water, shrubs and other natural features
Building Design – The logging camp area features a couple of small buildings that are perfect for the LEGO medium
Operations – How the layout is run, and various options for running it differently
During the process of building this layout, I encourage readers to offer suggestions as we go, making it a community project. I look forward to everyone’s feedback, and welcome the opportunity to learn from other builders.
Understanding LEGO® track geometry, and best track layout practices, can be a little tricky for fans new to the hobby. And even veteran builders can learn new things about how the various LEGO track pieces can be used to create new layouts. Fortunately Hungarian LEGO train builder Ashi Valkoinen has written an excellent PDF on LEGO track Geometry, which we are happy to share with our readers here on Brick Model Railroader. It’s a great resource for any one who wants to understand better how to work with LEGO track.
You can read the PDF here, or you can download Ashi’s original PDF on LEGO 9v Train Track Geometry from the link bellow.
A common trend when designing an L-gauge layout is to attempt to pack as much track as possible into a space. We all like to show our trains, and, unlike buildings or scenery, we need track space to do so. Often we set up our railway yards as display areas, where visitors to our layouts can see the scope and variety of our creations. This works well until we get to our favorite part, moving the trains.
A standard ladder yard design works great as a display case. Trains are lined up in long even rows, waiting for their turn to run out onto the mainline. A problem arises, however, when you want to build up a new train consist from cars parked in the yard, especially if they are not already in the order needed. In order to shuffle cars around, it’s usually necessary to pull something out onto the mainline, where it could obstruct, or “foul”, the train that is running on that track.
Enter the A/D track. By adding a single Arrival/Departure track to our yards, we can eliminate fouling the main. The A/D track is a simple siding that sits between the mainline and the yard. This track can be used as an area to build up and then stage trains until they are ready to go. Cars can be shuffled around without interfering with any trains that are running around the layout. When it’s time to swap trains, the switches on both ends of the siding are thrown. The train on the mainline comes into the siding (the Arrival) while the train in the siding goes out onto the main (the Departure). The arriving train can then be broken down, if necessary, and shuffled back into the yard.
For small layouts with only one or two trains, an Arrival/Departure track may not be necessary. For larger layouts with busy mainlines, however, an A/D track can really help improve operations, keeping the mainline running while work is being done in the yard. For visitors to the layout, there is no break in the action, and for operators, there is more fun and less “Hand of God” shuffling of cars. Adding an A/D track is one small step in moving from “LEGO Display” to “Model Railroad”.