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Mixed Train Lengths


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#1 TheBrickster

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 03:19 AM

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Over the years that I've been a train enthusiast (even before I started collecting Lego trains), I always wondered why some train wagons are very short in length while other are much longer.

Take for example classic Lego 4.5 V and 12 V trains.  You'll notice that the majority are very short in length, usually no more than 16 studs.  Then came the newer 9V train wagons (like those from the My Own Train collection) with base plates around 24 studs in length.  The Santa Fe wagons extended the length another 4 studs making them 28 studs long (not counting any additional length added to the baseplate).  

Then there's some of the newer mixed length train sets like 4512 Cargo Train and 7898 Cargo Train Deluxe that combines train wagons with varying length, making the hoppers shorter than the other wagons.

For you train fans, is this realistic?  Is there any sort of standard for train wagon lengths? like the sets that are part of the My Own Train collection (minus the caboose)?

I'd be curious to know why some trains have such shorter lengths than others?  Is this part of narrow gauge railroading?  or perhaps simply the evolution of Lego trains (like vehicles getting larger over the years).

Share your thoughts.

#2 Captain Zuloo

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 06:40 AM

I think it's all to do with proportions. I don't know about it in real life, but with a hopper and a flatbed, I would see the flatbed as needing to appear longer than the hopper and because the wheels are huge it would appear really stubby if it were the same length as the hopper...I'm just rambling, I know what I mean though. :laugh:

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#3 TheBrickster

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 02:13 PM

View PostCaptain Zuloo, on Jun 15 2009, 10:40 PM, said:

with a hopper and a flatbed, I would see the flatbed as needing to appear longer than the hopper and because the wheels are huge it would appear really stubby if it were the same length as the hopper.
Interesting point.  Lego has created some short hoppers, but also some long ones like 10017 Hopper Wagon from the My Own Train collection.  I've seen real ones being just as long, if not longer than boxcars, esp. in the Western U.S.  The shorter ones remind me of the old narrow gauge hoppers used in copper/mineral mining.

EDIT: I was hoping to get a few more responses from the Train Heads on the board.  
- Just hoping no one trumps this thread with a Johnson Rod joke. :laugh:

#4 Section8

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 02:24 PM

In real life, freight cars are of all different lengths.  There are shorter and longer varieties of hoppers and tank cars.  I-Beam (lumber) cars and auto carriers tend to be a bit longer and universal in length.  Ore cars for standard gauge use are much shorter than the average hopper.  Then there are the special cars you don't see often, such as crane cars, oversized load cars, and special use cars like hot metal cars in steel mills.  These can be even larger and less uniform than the average freight car.

So including cars of different lengths is perfectly realistic, especially if you have a mixed consist train.  A unit train, where all the cars carry the same type of cargo, can sometimes have cars of identical proportions.  However, this depends on the cargo and how new the cars are.  Intermodal and newer tank trains would all be identical, while older tank trains and boxcars, etc, would vary in size.  At least that's how it is in the States.  I can go into a bit more detail on the reasons why if you want.

#5 Mark Bellis

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Posted 16 June 2009 - 05:47 PM

View PostTheBrickster, on Jun 16 2009, 03:13 PM, said:

Interesting point.  Lego has created some short hoppers, but also some long ones like 10017 Hopper Wagon from the My Own Train collection.  I've seen real ones being just as long, if not longer than boxcars, esp. in the Western U.S.  The shorter ones remind me of the old narrow gauge hoppers used in copper/mineral mining.

EDIT: I was hoping to get a few more responses from the Train Heads on the board.  
- Just hoping no one trumps this thread with a Johnson Rod joke. :laugh:

Wagons come in all shapes and sizes, and have done since before LEGO bricks arrived!

The extension from standard 6x12 or 6x16 truck bases to 6x24, 6x28 and 6x longer is just an evolution of LEGO trains.  In blue rail days there were no 2-plate-high wagon bases.  The extra thickness adds the strength required to make a bogie wagon.  Try a couple of 6x16 plates end to end and you'll see the sag, which would wither fall apart, or derail if it affected how the bogies sat on the track.  The bogie plate with a small pin was required as a step forward from the 2x2 turntable for the same reason.  It was probably also cheaper to have just two standard truck bases, along with truck and loco wheels, a loco base and a battery tender.

From my point of view, building 8mm scale trains, the length in studs is approximately the wagon length over headstocks in feet.  I use 6x24 wagon bases for 4-wheel wagons, not bogie wagons (except those for exceptionally heavy loads where a real wagon is built like that).  My Pendolino has coaches up to 80M long and I've put straights between the curves to make wider, more realistic, curves.

I have recently returned to the smaller end of the range in wagon building.  Many many British wagons had a 10ft wheelbase.  Coal trains of 99 wagons were common in the days when each coal wagon was shunted and tipped end-on.  The real train changed to 47 automatically-unloading Merry-Go-Round hoppers in the 1970s and more recently fewer, larger, bogie hoppers, improving the efficiency of getting coal from the mine to the power station.  There has therefore been a trend towards larger wagons in the transport of coal.  It happened for ballast hoppers too.  Steel also saw a similar change, with coil wagons moving from a 10ft wheelbase carrying 2 coils to bogie wagons with 5 coils over a few decades.

In the 1950s and earlier, some long loads were carried on two single bolster wagons, with the load (maybe a rolled steel joist) carrying some of the axial shunting load of the train.  There have been bogie bolster wagons since the 1960s, for loads that would not fit on a small wagon and were too weak to use single bolster wagons.  The UK underwent a modernisation in the 1970s with the advent of the TOPS system for vehicle classification.  The 40ft ISO container also moved freight towards longer wagons.  Given that the blue rail wagon bases were invented in the 1960s, I'm not surprised they are short because the majority of wagons were short.  The blue rail era lasted till 1980 and the change to the product allowed it to reflect the more modern real railway, which is probably why TLG trumpeted the achievement of the motor bogie in the brochures.  It is also the case that the majority of blue rail era engines were steam engines, including sets 171 and 182.  162 and 183 are notable exceptions but according to Herby's New LEGO Train Depot they didn't appear till 1976-7.  This is despite the advent of main line diesels in the UK in the 1950s and the demise of UK main line steam in 1968.  Also 7725 was the first Electric Multiple Unit in 1981, followed by 7745, aping the trend away from loco haulage of passenger trains.

So yes, train sets have followed the trend of the real railway in wagon size and motive power, albeit a few years behind, which accounts for product development time, which has probably reduced over the years.  We'll have to petition TLG to do preserved trains to regain the quality and nostalgia of those old wagons, but are there so many preserved railways outside the UK?

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#6 legotrainfan

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Posted 17 June 2009 - 09:25 PM

I've never thought of the different sizes of waggons much. However, discussing it is quite interesting. On the one hand I think it is just an evolutionary process of LEGO trains. On the other hand, there are waggons of different length in real life as well. So for me it's the same as in real life: shorter and longer waggons with the passenger waggons usually being longer.
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#7 TheBrickster

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 01:59 PM

View PostMark Bellis, on Jun 16 2009, 10:47 AM, said:

We'll have to petition TLG to do preserved trains to regain the quality and nostalgia of those old wagons
Great stuff Mark - it's alsways interesting to read your thought on trains.

I love the shorter lengths of the Classic Lego Train sets.  They have a certain charm about them.  Longer train wagons like the passenger car of the Emerald Night are very nice, but just don't remind me of the trains I remember seeing in the old toy stores.  I'd love for Lego to release another 9V classic set like they did with the Metroliner - one of the more colorful sets.

View Postlegotrainfan, on Jun 17 2009, 02:25 PM, said:

I've never thought of the different sizes of waggons much. However, discussing it is quite interesting.
Some really good thoughts.  I find it interesting as well.



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