If you’ve been to a model train show in the past several years, you may have noticed that the layouts on display have more than just trains running around track with some static scenery in the background. Modern scale train layouts are becoming increasingly more dynamic, with sound, advanced lighting, and animation beyond just the trains. These elements add a whole new world to the typical model train layout, from stock cars emanating the sounds of livestock, to signals flashing to let engineers know if it’s safe to proceed with their train, to animated scenes on the layout such as kids playing on playground equipment. These bring a train layout to life, and make the experience more fun for all. Many builders in the LEGO community have incorporated these elements into their own creations, but there’s never been an off the shelf, “Plug and Play” solution to creating and controlling many of them until today. From the minds of LEGO hobbyists Michael Gale and Jason Allemann has come the PFx Brick.
A few days ago, The LEGO Group announced a contest with a pretty amazing prize package. Since model railroads are as much about scenery as they are about trains, I think many of our readers will be interested in this one.
From the announcement:
Today we’ve launched a new contest on LEGO Rebrick, one we’re only sharing with RLUG/RLFM members. To mark 10 years of Modular Buildings, we invite you to build a mini modular for a chance to win the grand prize of all modular buildings as well as the Mini Modulars! This includes:
• 10230 LEGO Mini Modulars
• 10182 LEGO Café Corner
• 10190 LEGO Market Street
• 10185 LEGO Green Grocer
• 101097 LEGO Fire Brigade
• 10211 LEGO Grand Emporium
• 10218 LEGO Pet Shop
• 10224 LEGO Town Hall
• 10232 Palace Cinema
• 10251 Brick Bank
• 10246 Detective’s Office
• 10243 Parisian Restaurant
• 10255 Assembly SquareWe will also have two runner-ups in this contest, who will win the 10255 Assembly Square.
For more information on how to enter. Including rules and size requirements, please visit:
Following up on my previous article introducing LEGO’s 9V system and their Power Functions (PF) system, I’m going to go a little more in depth about building hybrid systems that utilize both PF battery packs and 9V train track. I’ve developed and iterated through several different systems that combine the best of both and have come up with several easy to implement systems. Anyone with a few dollars, a volt meter and a soldering iron can hack together one of these hybrids in a matter of hours. Continue reading Hybrid PF/9V Systems→
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:
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
Today, January 6th 2017, marks our first official week at Brick Model Railroader. And we have to say that the response so far has been awesome! We can’t thank you readers enough. It is for you and the LEGO® train community that we wanted to start BMR. You have all been wonderfully supportive of us as we get this project off the ground.
In our first week of BMR being online we’ve had 5,500 views to our site, 64 registered users, 15 published articles, and 275 likes to our Facebook page. And this is only just the start. We look forward to growing and serving the LEGO train hobby for a long time to come. But in the meantime, to celebrate our first week we have something special for you, our readers.
I’m sure many of us know that the LEGO® company has been producing train sets based on their plastic brick system for 50 years. And that’s an amazing length of time. But did you know LEGO trains go back farther than the bricks we all know and love?
The LEGO Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. LEGO continued producing wooden toys until 1960. During the wooden toy era of the LEGO company there were several wooden train toys offered for sale. Bellow is are pages from a 1950 LEGO catalog showing several different wooden trains offered for sale.