Category Archives: Layout Design

Layout Design Techniques and How To

The PennLUG Lines: Planning a LEGO Train, Club Layout

With Elroy’s articles on Matson’s Landing, and the A/D Track concept, as well as the the Track Geometry article, it seems we have a bit of a theme running right now with train layout design. I too am working on some layout planning, but unlike Elroy’s smaller, personal layout, I’m working on layout designs for my club, PennLUG. And since this is a different kind of beast from a home layout, I thought it would be great to illustrate all the planing that goes into a train layout like ours.

PennLUG Lines logo, based on Reading RR logo.

Planning the PennLUG Lines

Some of you may be familiar with PennLUG’s style of LEGO® train layouts. But for the benefit of those new to us, I will give a bit of background. Continue reading The PennLUG Lines: Planning a LEGO Train, Club Layout

Matson’s Landing in L-Gauge – Choosing Motive Power

This is the second in a series of articles documenting the creation of brick-built layout, from start to finish. For part one, see Matson’s Landing in L-Gauge – A Layout From Start to Finish.

Before starting on the layout proper, I first want to define and build my motive power and rolling stock. The actual design of the track plan, including grades, number of cars spotted, and so on, will depend upon the equipment running over it. There are a few things to consider before beginning:

  • Scale – Six-wide or Eight-wide? I used to build six-wide trains, but I’ve come to enjoy the detail that can be added to the larger eight-wide trains. Six-wide would make for a smaller, more portable layout, but eight-wide allows for more space for batteries and motors.
  • Era – Most logging operations that are modeled seem to fall into the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Choosing a specific year, or year range, will help narrow down what kind of equipment to build.
  • Location – What part of the world should I aim for? Eastern or western United States? Maybe another part of the world?

Here’s what I first selected:

  • Scale – Eight-wide. I really want to be able to add detail. This will make for a larger layout, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
  • Era – I’m aiming for the turn of the 20th century. This seems to be the height of logging by rail type operations, and research material for this time period is plentiful.
  • Location – I live in northern New England in the United States, and logging operations were plentiful around here back in the day. This also opens up research material, as I can literally step outside of my door and look at scenery that was logged by rail at one time. One of my favorite hiking trails, in fact, runs along a portion of what used to be the Lye Brook Railroad, a small logging operation run from 1914 to 1919 by the Rich Lumber Company of Manchester, Vermont.[1]
Lye Brook Railroad
Lye Brook Railroad as pictured in Volume 14 of the Walloomsack Review. Now a popular hiking trail.

With my basics defined, I started researching equipment. Generally, when one thinks about logging railroads, they think about small wood-fired geared steamers slowly crawling up steep grades, pulling strings of weather-worn log cars. The big three that immediately came to my mind where Shay, Climax, and Heisler.

Building the Clishay
“Building the Clishay” by Bob Maynard

A lot of builders put together Shay locomotives, with good reason. They look great while running! The exterior gear shafts provide some movement not seen on rod driven machines. I don’t consider myself to be a steam builder, or a Technic builder, though, so the gearing was a little off-putting for me. A Heisler, with its gear shaft underneath, might be workable, but, due to another of my other hobbies, I had Climax locomotives on my mind. In my Live Steam life, I’m working on a 1/8th scale “Clishay” locomotive. Billed as a cross between a Shay and a Climax, the Clishay[2] screams “small logging operation”. I love the hand-built look of it, and since the gearing is pretty simple, I thought it would lend itself well to a LEGO® design. The basic layout is similar to a Class A Climax with a vertical boiler. This, then, was where I began my prototype research.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll talk about the Climax designs that I looked at, and where I am currently with the build.

[1] Bristow, Preston. “Vermont’s Long Trail and Logging Railroads.” Walloomsack Review 14:31. Accessed January 6, 2017. http://benningtonmuseum.org/library/walloomsack/volume-14/vermonts-long-trail-and-logging-railroads.pdf.

[2] For a great overview of a Live Steam scale Clishay, visit https://youtu.be/hBkAVHcHCJk.

Going Off The Grid – Ararat 1972

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.

Mainly thanks to Elroy’s announcement post for his Matson Landing in L-gauge series, I couldn’t think of any other layout than Ararat 1972, by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta. And yes, it has been featured at the well-known TBB before, but no L-gauge blog can be without this layout in my opinion.

Ararat 1972 – front by Timothy Gould and Mike Pianta

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.

Continue reading Going Off The Grid – Ararat 1972

Matson’s Landing in L-Gauge – A Layout From Start to Finish

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.

LEGO® 9v Train Track Geometry: by Ashi Valkoinen

photo by Ashi Valkoinen

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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2pGVpZyXf5hU3NYRWNuRkVCbHM/view

And if you are invested in seeing more of Ashi’s work be sure to visit his Brickshelf gallery and Facebook page though these links.

Brickshelf: http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?m=AshiValkoinen

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ashivlegorailway/

LEGO® 9v Train Track Geometry by Donát Raáb

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The Importance of an A/D Track

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”.

AD Track Example
Arrival and Departure Track Example