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Project Train Start


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#1 TheBrickster

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:08 PM

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I'd like to start a fun little project here on Train Tech for beginners and new fans of LEGO trains.  What I'd like to do is call upon our "master train builders" to provide some tips for those just starting to create train MOCs.

How will it work?

What I'm envisioning is list of useful tips and resources to help aspiring train builders in a single Train Tech topic like this one.

Those of you interested in contributing share your tip(s) here (in bullet format), and I will compile the list.  In addition, I don't think we need to limit these "tips" to just building tips.  They can be links to resources like where to find train wheels/parts, pictures of inspiration models, generic train designs that one can easily change, and many others certainly not limited to what I've included here.  These would be; however, geared to beginners vs. the highly technical engineers of the board.

As we build the list, I will add the person who provided the tip, and this document will become a project that everyone here at Train Tech has contributed to, rather than just one person writing a single article.

So many times I read comments like, "I love trains, but never tried creating my own", "I just don't have the train parts needed", or "LEGO trains are difficult to build".  I'm sure most of you would agree that these challenges can be easily overcome with some guidance and/or education.

With the large number of outstanding contest entries from our recent contest, I know that many of you possess a lot of train knowledge that beginners can benefit from.  Let's share some of this knowledge with aspiring train fans so that they can enjoy this great theme!

Project Train Start :thumbup:

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Tips from EB's Great Train Builders
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-------------------------------------------------
General
-------------------------------------------------
1) There is NO shame in starting small. Build a set with instructions or something simple and easy so you can get a handle on the whole genre. There are a lot of techniques to learn in order to build a complex train and it's better to learn the ins and outs of those techniques one at a time. -SavaTheAggie

2) Have a look at official LEGO set instructions. Alternate models for 10183 Hobby Train instructions are great if you can find them because of the diversity in building techniques. Problem is that they were only ever released as LDD files. I've converted James Mathis' eLoc to mpd, maybe there are others? -Duq

3) The FIRST rule in anything to do with trains is that a railroader's first layout is always his best! Its his enthusiasm; he built it himself AND its his. -Ward Kimball

4) Stay native just for the first few locos, as that gives you a better idea of what you want to build as you can see it in the metal. -Crabboy329

5) Try a diesel train as they are very square and makes building more esay. -Crabboy329

6) Build what you feel, as making a real train can be quite challanging for a beginner. -Crabboy329

7) Build what you like.  This may sound obvious, but I regularly meet people excited about building Lego trains but just can't pick a prototype or keep delaying trying to find something really impressive or original. Don't start building just to impress others, don't worry that its been done before, or that you don't have all the perfect parts or colors. Just find a prototype that you like and start there with the parts you have. You can rebuild it later. If you like streamliners, maybe start with a car. But pick a subject/prototype that you love and build from your passion because that will give you the best motivation and opportunity to share with others. -BMW

8) Join a local Lego train club / user group if available.  Don't be embarrased that you don't have a lot to share at first or aren't sure about your availability. While online building communities are wonderful, there is something more which live clubs bring. The point is that having regular face-to-face meetings and/or shows will force you to build with deadlines and eliminate procrastination. You can still participate in TrainTech nuggets to the club too. -BMW

9) Addititional Benefits of making joining a LEGO Train Club (LTC) a priority. -Eilif

  9a. More experienced members can help you avoid common pitfalls in collecting, MOCing building and layout construction.

  9b. Cooperative layouts will often give you the impetus to build structures or vehicles that you wouldn't otherwise build.

  9c. Seeing other's creations in person is even more inspiring and educational than seeing them online.

  9d. LTC public displays are a great way to take your hobby out of your room and introduce it to the world.

10) Make sure you check out these 10 Terrific Train Links. -TheBrickster

11) Get a small loop of track and a motor, you'll feel great when you see your first train running and it'll encourage you to keep going. -Peterab

12) Don't be afraid to compromise on your first build. Just make something, seeing it complete will encourage ideas for improvement, without being able to see it, its easy to be overwhelmed. Many of the best builders re-visit their models many times gradually improving them over years. After all Lego is never really finished, it can be always be rebuilt. -Peterab

13) Use the hard won experience of the experts. Many train builder offer Ldraw files or photos of the critical functions of their models. Build a copy to gain experience and learn new techniques. -Peterab

14) Don't be afraid to steal techniques, if you steal an original technique give credit. -Gcarstensen

15) Don't try to impress people, build a prototype that is pleasing to you and you feel comfortable building. -Gcarstensen

16) Build as many of the official LEGO sets as you can. It helps get a feel for the size, weight, and power of the various locomotives and cars. -TaltosVT

17) Don't ignore other scales. Scale modelers have been doing this for a lot longer than LEGO modelers have. Look to them for inspiration. Look through old copies of model railroad magazines. Join online forums for scale modelers. Talk to other modelers at shows. The forums and shows are generally also attended by people who work with the real thing. Get to know them. They can be a wealth of information. -TaltosVT

18) Don't worry about the opinion of other modelers. Some people just don't understand LEGO modeling. Just do your thing, and let them do theirs. -TaltosVT

19) Always have fun with it. -TaltosVT

20) Your first train doesn't have to be a perfect train with heaps of new techniques and clever color combinations. Don't try to begin with something original; start with sets and instructions, then try modeling after some famous builders (e.g. SavaTheAggie, TheBrickster). -Adam

21) Some background info is always nice. In addition to signing up for various LEGO Train sites, like this one, there are books you can look at to give you a hand. For instance, Getting Started With LEGO Trains, by Jacob McKee, is a favorite of mine. -Adam

22) If you're gonna try to design something that actually exists, get at least one diagram of it, preferably more. Then break it down into "key pieces", the things that make that item different from similar equipment. For example: GP-series diesels with numbers above GP35 in the US almost all look alike, aside from the GP40X's huge expanded radiators; so emphasizing, perhaps exaggerating, those rear "flared" radiators if you're building a '40X will make it more recognizable. Being accurate is good, but you're essentially building an accurate caricature, much as the Minifig is a caricature of a human being. -Diamondback

23) Start with a original lego model and rebuild it. -Freebee

24) Use programs such as MLCad and Lego Digital Designer to plan out models, get part lists, and even make instructions. -Yoshi648

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Steam Trains
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1) Big Ben Bricks for train wheels: http://www.bigbenbricks.com I can't recommend that enough. -Sava TheAggie

2) When building a steam always start with the wheels and running gear. Working running gears adds so much toy your engine. -Gcarstensen

3) Don't start by building a steam because they are very complex and extremely time consuming. -Gcarstensen

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Obtaining Parts
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1) Get your hands on a train set to get some wheels and couplings. The 10183 Hobby Train is great but probably hard to find. Right now I'd get an Emerald Night (get two, chances are you'll want to keep one on the mantel piece. -Duq

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Inspiration
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1) For inspiration have a look at Railfan Europe for European trains. -Duq

2) Read Railbricks (www.railbricks.com).  Great inspiration, pictures, and online instructions to get started building and learn from. Copy the techniques in the instructions and build on from there. - BMW

3) Take a look at the classics through Lugnet or Brickset.  Instructions can also be obtained through Peeron.  A new train builder should start simple and there's no better way than to base your train on a classic 12V or 9V set.  You might try changing the colors, or substituting pieces.  You'd be surprised with the results and pick up a few building tips. -TheBrickster

4) If you are going to build a model of a prototype: research, research, research! Find as many photos of the real thing as you can. Try to find photos of both sides of the locomotive or car that you are building. Look online for statics about its size and weight. Compare it to other cars to get a feel for its size. -TaltosVT

5) Look for pictures on the Internet if you want to clone a real train. -Freebee

6) Look around at other builders to get ideas from them. -Freebee

7) Visit train museums. The best way to get a sense of scale is to stand in the shadow of a Big Boy. We tend to seem them as toys, but some of these locomotives are massive. Many of the museums that I've been to have also been manned by retired railroad workers. These are the guys that can really tell you stories that will inspire you. Don't be afraid of that 90 year-old man behind the counter. He's likely seen and done things that you can only imagine, and if he's still working around trains, it's because he's passionate about them. -TaltosVT

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Layout
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1) If you want to build a LEGO layout, plan out where you want to put it. On a shelf? On a table? In the garage? Hanging from the ceiling? Its your choice. Also, make room to expand and for
your other LEGO buildings and models. -Brickstarrunner

2) If combining your train layout with a town, keep your layout simple.  Too many switches/points can take away valuable City/Town space, especially with smaller layouts. -TheBrickster.

3) It's great if you have a varied collection (even if small), but try to stick with one type of track and train. Having half of your layout 4.5V and the other half PF doesn't look good and doesn't play well, so if you want to make your layout primarily RC but you have a few 12Vs, for instance, just switch out the motors and wheels. -Adam

4) Savvy builders might have tons of slopes and inclines in their layout, but making those can be difficult, especially without RC track. My track is pretty flat, and there's no shame in that. There are some systems you can use to make the perfect incline but unless you have all the right parts: keep it flat. -Adam

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Power System
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1) What will you be using? 12v? 9v? RC? Or Power Functions? Heres my tip: 12v for great accessories (ex: lights that come in sets), 9v for more power in your engines, RC if kids will play; you don't like electric track; electric track too exspensive; or want to run RC trains on your non RC layout, or Power Functions if you want more control over your trains. -Brickstarrunner

2) For 12v and 9v, if you put 2 trains on the same track and turn on the power, they both go in the same direction and sometimes at the same speed. For RC and Power Functions, you
have unlimited control over your train. I like to classify these two groups; 12v & 9v = Runners; RC & PowerF. = Shunters. Runners are multiple trains that can only go in one direction at the same time (with a few minor acceptions). Shunters are multiple trains that can run in anydirection on the same track (with a few minor acceptions). -Brickstarrunner

#2 SavaTheAggie

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:30 PM

General Train Tip:  There is NO shame in starting small.  Build a set with instructions or something simple and easy so you can get a handle on the whole genre.  There are a lot of techniques to learn in order to build a complex train and it's better to learn the ins and outs of those techniques one at a time.

#1 Steam tip:  http://www.bigbenbricks.com   I can't recommend that enough.

I'm sure I can think up a book of other tips given more time.

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#3 Duq

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:33 PM

Totally agree with Sava: start small!
Get your hands on a train set to get some wheels and couplings. The 10183 Hobby Train is great but probably hard to find. Right now I'd get an Emerald Night (get two, chances are you'll want to keep one on the mantel piece ;-).

Have a look at instructions. Again, the 10183 instructions are great if you can find them because of the diversity in building techniques. Problem is that they were only ever released as LDD files. I've converted James Mathis' eLoc to mpd, maybe there are others?

For inspiration have a look at Railfan Europe for European trains.
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#4 Brickstarrunner

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:36 PM

Quote

There is NO shame in starting small

The FIRST rule in anything to do with trains is that a railroader's first layout is always his best! Its his enthusiasm; he built it himself AND its his. -Ward Kimball

#2 Layout Tip: If you want to build a LEGO layout, plan out where you want to put it. On a shelf? On a table? In the garage? Hanging from the ceiling? Its your choice. Also, make room to expand and for
                      your other LEGO buildings and models.

#3 Track Type: What will you be using? 12v? 9v? RC? Or Power Functions? Heres my tip: 12v for great accessories (ex: lights that come in sets), 9v for more power in your engines, RC if kids will play;
                      you don't like electric track; electric track too exspensive; or want to run RC trains on your non RC layout, or Power Functions if you want more control over your trains.

#4 How will you run it?: For 12v and 9v, if you put 2 trains on the same track and turn on the power, they both go in the same direction and sometimes at the same speed. For RC and Power Functions, you
                      have unlimited control over your train. I like to classify these two groups; 12v & 9v = Runners; RC & PowerF. = Shunters. Runners are multiple trains that can only go in one direction at the
                      same time (with a few minor acceptions). Shunters are multiple trains that can run in anydirection on the same track (with a few minor acceptions).
                      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Still don't understand? Let me explain. With 12 & 9v, you have limitations with how you run your trains. If you have only one, thats not a big deal, but if you have two or more, if you try to
                      back up one train, it backs up the other. This is solved with RC and Power Functions. You can have one train chugging along the track in one section while the other sits in the siding, not
                      moving until told to (via controller). THUS you can SHUNT (giving to the name Shunters) in a yard while another is running on the main line all in one controller, while with 9 & 12,
                      you cant.  :hmpf_bad:
                      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have plenty more in my head, but that will be for some other time  :wink:


-This is Brickstarrunner, signing out!

#5 crabboy329

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:53 PM

tip 1) stay native just for the first few locos, as that gives you a better idea of what you want to build as you can see it in the flesh metal.

tip 2) try a diesel train as they are very square and makes building more esay.

tip 3) build what you feal, as making a real train can be quite challanging for a begginer.

tip 4) strenth before style. as a srong one is allways the best start.

hope this helps, but i was only saying some of my personal views.(by all means try ignore me)

:pir-laugh: cb :pir-wink:

Edited by crabboy329, 16 October 2009 - 04:45 PM.

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#6 BMW

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:27 PM

OK, a couple tips for beginners on where to start...

#1 - (and I mean #1) - Join a local Lego train club / user group if available
Don't be embarrased that you don't have a lot to share at first or aren't sure about your availability.  While online building communities are wonderful, there is something more which live clubs bring.  The point is that having regular face-to-face meetings and/or shows will force you to build with deadlines and eliminate procrastination.  You can still participate in TrainTech nuggets to the club too :-)

#2 - Tony make a good point too about starting small so as not to get overwhelmed.

#3 - Build what you like
This may sound obvious, but I regularly meet people excited about building Lego trains but just can't pick a prototype or keep delaying trying to find something really impressive or original.  Don't start building just to impress others, don't worry that its been done before, or that you don't have all the perfect parts or colors.  Just find a prototype that you like and start there with the parts you have.  You can rebuild it later.  If you like streamliners, maybe start with a car.  But pick a subject/prototype that you love and build from your passion because that will give you the best motivation and opportunity to share with others.

#4 - Read Railbricks (www.railbricks.com)
Great inspiration, pictures, and online instructions to get started building and learn from.  Copy the techniques in the instructions and build on from there.

- BMW

#7 TheBrickster

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 02:09 AM

These are fantastic tips guys!  Thank you for sharing.  I've started listing and categorizing.  I'll change categories as we progress and have more tips.  I think this will serve as a great resource for beginners.

#8 peterab

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 03:01 AM

Get a small loop of track and a motor, you'll feel great when you see your first train running and it'll encourage you to keep going.

Don't be afraid to compromise on your first build. Just make something, seeing it complete will encourage ideas for improvement, without being able to see it, its easy to be overwhelmed. Many of the best builders re-visit their models many times gradually improving them over years. After all Lego is never really finished, it can be always be rebuilt.

Use the hard won experience of the experts. Many train builder offer Ldraw files or photos of the critical functions of their models. Build a copy to gain experience and learn new techniques.

#9 TaltosVT

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 12:59 PM

My tips:

1) Build as many of the official LEGO sets as you can.  It helps get a feel for the size, weight, and power of the various locomotives and cars.

2) If you are going to build a model of a prototype: research, research, research!  Find as many photos of the real thing as you can.  Try to find photos of both sides of the locomotive or car that you are building.  Look online for statics about its size and weight.  Compare it to other cars to get a feel for its size.

3) Don't ignore other scales.  Scale modelers have been doing this for a lot longer than LEGO modelers have.  Look to them for inspiration.  Look through old copies of model railroad magazines.  Join online forums for scale modelers.  Talk to other modelers at shows.  The forums and shows are generally also attended by people who work with the real thing.  Get to know them.  They can be a wealth of information.

4) Visit train museums.  The best way to get a sense of scale is to stand in the shadow of a Big Boy.  We tend to seem them as toys, but some of these locomotives are massive.  Many of the museums that I've been to have also been manned by retired railroad workers.  These are the guys that can really tell you stories that will inspire you.  Don't be afraid of that 90 year-old man behind the counter.  He's likely seen and done things that you can only imagine, and if he's still working around trains, it's because he's passionate about them.

5) Don't worry about the opinion of other modelers.  Some people just don't understand LEGO modeling.  Just do your thing, and let them do theirs.

6) Always have fun with it.

-Elroy

#10 gcarstensen

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 01:45 PM

my tips,

1. don't be afraid to steal techniques, if you steal an original technique give credit

2. DON'T start by building a steam because they are very complex and extremely time consuming

3. when building a steam always start with the wheels and running gear, working running gears adds so much toy your engine

4. don't try to impress people, build a prototype that is pleasing to you and you feel comfortable building

thank you

#11 Eilif

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:14 PM

Addititional Benefits of making joining a LEGO Train Club (LTC) a priority.

1) More experienced members can help you avoid common pitfalls in collecting, MOCing building and layout construction.

2) Cooperative layouts will often give you the impetus to build structures or vehicles that you wouldn't otherwise build.

3) Seeing other's creations in person is even more inspiring and educational than seeing them online.

4) LTC public displays are a great way to take your hobby out of your room and introduce it to the world.
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#12 Adam

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 08:39 PM

I wouldn't call myself one of EB's Great Experts (especially since I haven't posted a single MOC) but I have been playing with LEGO Trains for a long time, and as such, I have a couple tips that may come in handy.

1) First and foremost, to echo some others a bit, your first train doesn't have to be a perfect train with heaps of new techniques and clever color combinations. Don't try to begin with something original; start with sets and instructions, then try modeling after some famous builders (e.g. SavaTheAggie, TheBrickster).

2) It's great if you have a varied collection (even if small), but try to stick with one type of track and train. Having half of your layout 4.5V and the other half PF doesn't look good and doesn't play well, so if you want to make your layout primarily RC but you have a few 12Vs, for instance, just switch out the motors and wheels.

3) Savvy builders might have tons of slopes and inclines in their layout, but making those can be difficult, especially without RC track. My track is pretty flat, and there's no shame in that. There are some systems you can use to make the perfect incline (when I find a link to the instructions, I'll put it here) but unless you have all the right parts: keep it flat.

4) Some background info is always nice. In addition to signing up for various LEGO Train sites, like this one, there are books you can look at to give you a hand. For instance, Getting Started With LEGO Trains, by Jacob McKee, is a favorite of mine.

I hope I didn't copy anything that was already written down; I looked over the first post and couldn't find any of these. Oh, TheBrickster: the link in the frontpage post leads to your Brickshelf folder.

EDIT: TheBrickster brought up a very fine point: in my "e.g." I didn't mean to exclude anyone; if I were to include all the great train builders on the net, my post would be a heck of a lot longer. :grin:

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#13 TheBrickster

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:37 PM

ALL: Wow!  These tips are fantastic.  Thank you so much for taking a little time to gather your thoughts for the benefit of new train fans.  I'm sure that this will be an excellent resource. :thumbup:

View PostAdam, on Oct 16 2009, 12:39 PM, said:

Don't try to begin with something original; start with sets and instructions, then try modeling after some famous builders (e.g. SavaTheAggie, TheBrickster).
Adam: thank you for that very generous comment, but I think that there are many better builders than myself here at train Tech (in fact thank you for puting me in the same category of Sava/Tony.  Our Train Tech Building Contest was a good sample of the quality of many of our train fans' MOCs.

View PostAdam, on Oct 16 2009, 12:39 PM, said:

I hope I didn't copy anything that was already written down; I looked over the first post and couldn't find any of these. Oh, TheBrickster: the link in the frontpage post leads to your Brickshelf folder.
Not at all - these were all good, as have been all the feedback so far.  Oh, and I've updated that link.  Thanks.

Great job everyone!  I must say that I'm very impressed with all of you contributing to this.  As I mentioned previously, I'll expand the categories as we have more, esp. to break up the "General" tips.

#14 Diamondback

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:13 PM

If you're gonna try to design something that actually exists, get at least one diagram of it, preferably more. Then break it down into "key pieces", the things that make that item different from similar equipment. For example: GP-series diesels with numbers above GP35 in the US almost all look alike, aside from the GP40X's huge expanded radiators--so emphasizing, perhaps exaggerating, those rear "flared" radiators if you're building a '40X will make it more recognizable. Being accurate is good, but you're essentially building an accurate caricature, much as the Minifig is a caricature of a human being.

----------------
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via FoxyTunes

Edited by Diamondback, 17 October 2009 - 04:01 AM.


#15 FreeBee

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:44 PM

My tips are:

- start with a original lego model and rebuild it
- look for pictures on the net if u want to clone a real train
- look around at other builders (get ideas from them)

and the best tip i can think of is read : getting started with lego trains
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#16 DLuders

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 03:44 PM

Actually, General Tip #2 is not correct.  Building instructions for Hobby Train Set #10183 ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE from the Lego Customer Service website http://us.service.le...ns/default.aspx .  One doesn't have to find used printed instructions for sale at Bricklink.com .

#17 Yoshi648

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 03:48 PM

Tip - Use programs such as MLCad and Lego Digital Designer to plan out models, get part lists, and even make instructions.

#18 TheBrickster

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Posted 17 October 2009 - 08:24 PM

View Postdluders, on Oct 17 2009, 07:44 AM, said:

Actually, General Tip #2 is not correct.  Building instructions for Hobby Train Set #10183 ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE from the Lego Customer Service website http://us.service.le...ns/default.aspx .  One doesn't have to find used printed instructions for sale at Bricklink.com .
I believe this tip is referring to the alternate models, as most LEGO builders know that set instructions are generally available through LSAH (as least newer sets).
I have edited to make this a little more clear though.

As you're a new member of Eurobricks Dluders with this being your first post, why don't you introduce yourself first so we know a little bit about you.  There's the Train Tech registry here as well as the main EB introduction page. :wink:

#19 *thomas*

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:06 AM

Great and very helpfull topic to all newcomers (and even the more experienced ones) when it comes to trains !!!

Great forum also ;)

#20 missouri_bb63

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 11:13 AM

As my first venture into trains was not so long ago, I can remember the experience quite well. A lot of good advice has already been given so I will try not repeat anything (although I probably will  :hmpf: ).

General:
Base your first MOC on a train which you can visit locally instead of pictures that are on the net. Firstly I believe it creates a greater attachment to the project and secondly you will have the opportunity to do a walkaround and take pictures from every angle. Meeting people who work with the trains, especially if they are in a museum, is often also very inspiring.  :classic:

Genereal Links:
http://www.iltco.org/ (which seems to be down at the moment) has a presentation on building techniques for trains. Unfortunately I found it when I was already done with my MOC.  Once the site is up and running again I will post the direct link.
Check out the Lego Train Groups on Flickr.comfor inspiration. These guys are brilliant builders who share and discuss their ideas.
This site has many great pictures of trains from most angles. http://www.railpictures.net/

Steam locomotives:
I got ideas for future projects from here. http://www.steamlocomotive.com/.

Photography:
SavaTheAggie posted a good article on how to base an MOC on photographs. Look for the "modeling with photography" article here
If you have the opportunity to build an MOC on a train which is based locally, do a full walkaround and take lots of pictures. I found it helped to draw an overhead sketch of the train and draw from which angles, and of which sections I had taken pictures. That way you shouldn't miss anything.
What is quite important is that you get a side on shot of the full length of the train (at least individual carriages), and also head on front/rear shots to help you get the proportions right. You will see how that works in Tony's article.

Happy building!

Edited by missouri_bb63, 18 October 2009 - 11:14 AM.


#21 Mark Bellis

Mark Bellis

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Posted 18 October 2009 - 09:00 PM

If you want to build a train vehicle to scale, make sure you have a scale drawing to build from.
There are books with scale drawings of locos and wagons.  I have quite a few books with 4mm:1ft scale drawings for UK trains.  I know US loco drawings have been in the Model Railroader Cyclopedias (expensive but most valuable), not sure about European or other countries.  Go to model railway shows and ask - there will be book stalls at the show.

Choose a suitable scale.
"Minifig Scale" covers a wide range of scales, depending on which minifig dimension you work to.
For a fixed scale, 8mm (1 stud) to the foot is a good scale.  Trains are 8+ wide for the UK, 10+wide for the US.

Selective Compression
In Minifig Scale, missing out a few carriage windows makes shorter carriages.  They can be 28 studs long.
For a fixed scale, running trains of 3 coaches rather than 8 is more usual, as happens on other model railways.  Shortening vehicles is less usual on a fixed scale railway.  A coach is typically 64 studs long (+ corridor) in 8mm scale.
The whole layout design needs to centre on the train length, compared to the space available.  3 coaches + loco at 8mm scale = 16ft x 12ft, so fixed scale railways are for people with lots of space at home!

Curve radii
Design all vehicles to be pushed round a circle of curves at 40-stud radius.
A fixed scale might need a larger minimum curve radius on the main line, especially if the vehicles are longer than standard 6-wide vehicles.
Adding 1 or 2 straights between each curve can work well, but beware its interaction with the length between carriage bogie centres, or it could lead to oscillation of the train and derailment at speed!

Slopes
On a fixed scale model railway, the track slope should not exceed 1 in 30 (1 plate height per 12 studs length).  1 in 40 is easier = 1 plate per track piece.
Minifig scale railways can get away with a steeper slope, as long as all locos have good traction and trains are not too heavy.
The change in track slope matters.  Too much and you'll hear motors spinning up with wheel slip.

Engine Power
For all but the smallest locos, 2 train motors (1 per bogie) is recommended.
Connect a wire between them so that 9V trains give both motors the same power if one loses contact on the points.  PF trains would have both motors connected to the IR receiver anyway.  Cross connection prolongs motor life by avoiding them pushing and pulling each other.
If the load per motor of a 9V train exceeds 200mA constantly, or 250mA regularly, add another motor to the train.  Use a 0-9V bench power supply rather than the LEGO controller if you need more current than a controller will provide (if 2 motors are not enough to pull the train).  I use a dual 0-30V 0-3A bench supply for the main lines, and LEGO controllers in the yards.

Mark
Mark J E Bellis - 8mm Scale LEGO Railways, Scenery and Technic. Visit My Brickshelf
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