xboxtravis7992

Has Anyone tried doing an Operating Session in Lego?

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If you have noticed my comments; you can tell that I dabble in both Lego and HO trains, and I have actually been planning for several years ideas to build that big dream HO layout (Lego is a lot more forgiving, it runs on the floor better when I need it to!) With that I have read a TON of model railroading magazines and books, and the one key idea that is always brought it up is prototypical operation. In short for those who don't know the term; prototypical operation is the use of a model train layout to run a railroad as if it was the actual thing; with passenger trains trying to hit a schedule, and freight cars destined to different industries and loading spots. A rather good visual description of a prototype operating session on a few different railroads is shown here:

So my question is simple; has anyone done this for Lego? I know Lego isn't quite a 'scale hobby' but some of the MOCs I have seen this community produce are astonishingly prototypical. If a layout was built in the right way with sidings and interesting industries, I think Lego could very easily be used to show prototypical operation of a railroad. And unlike say HO scale; Lego is robust enough we can actually 'play' with it while operating, for example after a car is spotted at an industry track it would be easy to place minifigures nearby to work on unloading it and what not. Or other aspects of operation can occur easily hostling locomotives at a rail shop (most LUG displays I have seen photos of have a locomotive shop, so they seem apt to have a hostler working on it). Any examples of prototype operation in Lego in the community?

Edited by xboxtravis7992

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It sounds like a pretty cool idea, but unlike model trains, if you want a sizeable layout for this type of function, you can't just go out and buy buildings and bridges and trains and such. Although you could use standard Lego sets, there wouldn't be much variety unless you convinced people to build engines and rolling stock for this layout.

It sounds like a pretty cool idea, but I think that it would be difficult to setup.

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I would not put it past PennLUG or TBRR to be able to pull it off :) Though most places that do this type of operation are permanent displays, no? I am not sure of any Train LUG that has that large of permanent setup. I know for us, we have to be able to setup in a few hours so having something that complex is probably a bit beyond our reach.

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This does sound like a cool idea...and I have actually done it. I have a large (20'x40') G scale layout which I run with my 2 grandsons who are 9 and 5. As Storms26 stated, going out and buying what I can buy for G scale on the market is not the same as dealing with Lego. But I built a 16'x12' Lego layout that is 4 levels and has both PF trains and the 9 volt trains (and we actually have 2 1080's vintage battery trains), with the metal tracks (9 volt) on level 3 and 4 and the PF tracks (all plastic) on level 1 & 2. They are not all connected but it gives plenty of controllers so that we can have a rather lengthy operating session. The PF trains can be used on all levels for obvious reasons. I have all of the modular buildings except the town hall, so there is a city with a trolley, And we have several scenarios like a winter village with the Christmas train delivering gifts, a mountain town with a small lake and outdoor activities, the artic sets digging for gems that need equipment and people, a large harbor with ships and the Deep Sea sets that need supplies and shipments to send back to town, a logging scene, a rail yard with three sidings and yard buildings, cranes, and an engine shed, an airport, a small town, and 4 different train stations for the passenger service between all of these scenes. There are several other scenes and 12 separate switches, which are all manual. The manual switches require perfect timing and requires us to move around the layout. We have a reversing loop in 9 volt track that is very challenging for the boys to handle as the change in direction has to be timed perfectly so the train continues to move on its way. I have the Op clock on the wall for the G scale layout and we use that for the Op session. We have plenty of fun, plenty of late trains, plenty of switching of cars, and some crashes too. I have collected all of this over the past 25 years, and the Lego layout actually replaced part of an older HO layout, some of which still exists and connects to the Lego layout. To make it really fun, we also include the HO trains at times to transfer between railroads and pretend we are going between scales like the old 2 foot gauge that is still used up in Maine, etc. and standard gauge trains. The Op session includes working the different scenes, like deep diving in the harbor, loading and unloading ships, logging logs, etc. So it is not only moving freight and people, it includes working the scenes too.

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I would not put it past PennLUG or TBRR to be able to pull it off :) Though most places that do this type of operation are permanent displays, no? I am not sure of any Train LUG that has that large of permanent setup. I know for us, we have to be able to setup in a few hours so having something that complex is probably a bit beyond our reach.

There is a modular group out of Illinois that do operating sessions at the shows they go to I don't know the name of the group. Also I am in the planning/ building stage of my Layout that is a switching layout.

Edited by Railfan9

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xboxtravis7992,

The idea is nothing new when you consider that almost any train fan longs for the chance to play with trains: be it to operate a model railroad or the grandiose of aspirations, operate a real locomotive. Starting small is most likely a safe bet when considering the limitations imposed by LEGO track geometry. (Which is less of an issue now when you take ME Model rails into consideration.) For such approaches I would recommend industrial shunting railroads that typically deal with tight curvature. Those that serve industries, older port facilities, steel mills, etc. Another option is electric trams that also operate limited freight services like those found in Europe. That would give a lot of play value in a small area. The other thing to remember is that coupling in LEGO can prove troublesome for this. The older 12v system had automatic decoupler devices though I do not know how well they actually worked at separating the magnets. This means you are back to having to reach over and decouple cars.

Of course if money and space are not an issue then I suppose you could go for broke and invest in something on the order of magnitude like that seen in Germany and at LEGO World with the massive grand curves or the similar French LUG speedway.

In short, it is by all means doable. The Power Functions system introduced a form of rudimentary remote control which can be further augmented by means of third party devices. (S-Brick) The main question is more along the lines of practicality as space becomes a premium. If it is only available temporarily, consider a modular approach - say brick-building the track sections for quick assembly. But do not let any of that hinder you from seeing your dreams through.

3D LEGO

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...and the one key idea that is always brought it up is prototypical operation. In short for those who don't know the term; prototypical operation is the use of a model train layout to run a railroad as if it was the actual thing; with passenger trains trying to hit a schedule, and freight cars destined to different industries and loading spots. A rather good visual description of a prototype operating session on a few different railroads is shown here:

...

So my question is simple; has anyone done this for Lego? I know Lego isn't quite a 'scale hobby' but some of the MOCs I have seen this community produce are astonishingly prototypical. If a layout was built in the right way with sidings and interesting industries, I think Lego could very easily be used to show prototypical operation of a railroad. ...

There is a European LUG (LTC?) that posts to EB every now and then about their shows. They do an open "C" layout (actually a very large open "C") with no loop and I THINK they do blocks, serve sidings and send passenger trains through. If I stumble on one of their posts I'll post back, it is a neat layout. Oh, wait... here's mention of it.

Meanwhile, I've done done semi-prototypical operation. The layout discussed in this thread was a long branch line with no loop, a passing track in the middle, 3 "industries" along the line and a few more at the end that needed servicing, a small yard for sorting cars and a wye at the end of the line to turn the engines. Since I was playing with my kids, it was simply, "quick, these cars need to go to that industry" type dispatching. This spring I got more ambitious and made a layout with a "class 1" that crossed over and had to interchange with a branchline (both open loops), this time with two industries on the branchline and maybe five on the mainline. There was an interchange yard at the transfer and a classification yard at one end of the mainline, with a couple of passing tracks. It was designed to be run by 3 kids. Never worked as intended, the kids had no patience for interchange, etc etc, but we still served the industries (and cardboard boxes were decorated to function as each industry, some with internal tracks). This time a little more sophisticated, boxcars had to go to industry A to load, back to the yard to go out on a switch run to industry B to unload, but then industry B produced parts that had to go out on a different type of car and a different destination. Not quite prototypical, but more than running in circles. I have photos somewhere and will hopefully post them some day. You need a lot of track and a lot of space to do such things though. You also quickly gain an appreciation as to just how long the receiving and sorting tracks have to be in a yard.

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Glad to see that it has been done by someone before. When I thought of the concept, I figured a small branchline or industrial park would be well adapted to Lego, something a lot of you have mentioned. The thought of a Class 1 mainline in Lego would be tricky, the staging alone would be HUGE.

As much as I want to get started on that long dreamed HO layout I want to build, I gotta admit someday a L-Gauge layout would also be grand.

Although one issue I noticed with operating Lego as the prototype; a lot of you have mentioned the difficulty in teaching kids how to operate. It occurs to me most adult model railroaders who know how to operate an HO layout, might be hard pressed to operate a Lego one! :D

Edited by xboxtravis7992

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I'm not sure that prototypical operation is beyond the abilities of children, but more that it's subtleties do not appeal so much to children.

The best and most satisfying layouts are often those with the greatest variety of operations, and that often means lots of scenarios of the type Zephyr outlines above. But that generally means that there are lots of boring rules to follow (e.g. raw materials arrive in one sort of car while finished products leave in another sort), cars to shunt/switch and running orders to follow. While this is very close to prototype it doesn't suit the sort of free-form creative play that children seem to prefer.

Prototypical operation is something more suited to adults who understand and appreciate the subtleties it brings. Any experienced model railroader from any scale should be able to get the same satisfaction from L gauge as from any other because the challenges and parameters are the same even though the medium may be different.

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I've run switching operations in the yard for NILTC, but hand to use the 'hand of God' to decouple. But that's about it for an actual operation. I remember seeing Scott Miller running yard operations on a joint PENNLUG/TBRR/GFLTC layout at Brickworld years ago which was inspiring to see. As for running trains on schedule....hahahaha. between crashes, requests to see a specific train run, and depending who brings what to a show...those are just a few of the daily show concerns. A timetable is one thing we don't need to stress about.

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I remember seeing Scott Miller running yard operations on a joint PENNLUG/TBRR/GFLTC layout at Brickworld years ago which was inspiring to see. As for running trains on schedule....hahahaha. between crashes, requests to see a specific train run, and depending who brings what to a show...those are just a few of the daily show concerns. A timetable is one thing we don't need to stress about.

Oh this reminds me of Michael Gale's layout at BW 2015, he had the whole layout automated with DDC.

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I like automated operations. I would like to eventually have some sort of automated trains running at our LUG displays. Simple stuff like trains stopping/starting at stations or cross-track of death. Nothing too complicated or involved as we have to dedicate cycles to watching and keeping little hands (or big hands) from knocking our trains over. Stanchions and signs aren't 100% effective. :classic:

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...but hand to use the 'hand of God' to decouple.

Technically the "hand of God" is prototypical operation, as a worker must go manually lift the decoupling lever to decouple cars on the real railroad. :wink:

While it may not be possible during the public hours of a show, it might be doable during the "off" hours at, say, Brickworld. Might be something to think about for next year. Not to volunteer any LUGs that I'm not a part of, but I know of at least one layout that usually has industrial sidings all over the place and a huge yard... Again, not trying to volunteer anyone though.

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Glad to see that it has been done by someone before. When I thought of the concept, I figured a small branchline or industrial park would be well adapted to Lego, something a lot of you have mentioned. The thought of a Class 1 mainline in Lego would be tricky, the staging alone would be HUGE.

...

Although one issue I noticed with operating Lego as the prototype; a lot of you have mentioned the difficulty in teaching kids how to operate. It occurs to me most adult model railroaders who know how to operate an HO layout, might be hard pressed to operate a Lego one! :D

Well... "class 1" as in just a little bigger than the branchline railroad. It was envisioned to have one train on the BL and two trains with meets on the CL1. While the kids were not up for all of the rules (and my definition of a schedule was very loose to begin with) the kids loved the need to go somewhere specific and throw the switches to get in. So maybe we were running in train order territory. As for why it did not fully fly, It wasn't so much a matter of attention span, more that I think you have to be really in to the nuances of railroading to get in to operations. Even most modelers just use closed loops for their layouts and nothing wrong with that.

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You don't need a large layout to run prototypical or semi-prototypical operations:

15804064976_6b1069a982_z.jpgInglenook by Vinnie Fusca, on Flickr

16681680099_e057f63ae6_z.jpgPort Lego by Vinnie Fusca, on Flickr

15829205592_4c209e41ca_z.jpgSwitchingLayout by Vinnie Fusca, on Flickr

ccrr_007_s.jpg

Claremont Concord Railway - Claremont, NH

Aside from Carl Arend't Microlayouts, Trevor Marshall dedicates a good deal of his blog to single-person small crew operations, including his own lovely CN Port Rowan.

Edited by greenmtvince

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Speaking slightly on behalf of PennLUG...

We *sort of* do some more realistic and prototypical operations. I wasn't at Brickworld this year, but in 2015 CrispyBassist and I had a good time operating our own locomotives as switchers. He used his GP-9, I used my Pennsylvania H10s consolidation. We would start by collecting cars from around our yards, siding, and roundhouse and assemble them into a train on our unused third line. Once assembled, we would then begin taking it apart and sending the cars to different places than they were at before. This resembles assembling a train before a trip, and also taking apart a train as if it had just finished a trip. I think I can speak for CrispyBassist When I say we both really enjoyed it.

That said, PennLUG recently has not done much of this. We have been focused on rebuilding and detailing parts of our layout, among other things.

So in a word, yes, we do that. Sometimes. :classic:

Glenn

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There was a group many many many year ago (back in the LUGNET days), that did a prototype meet. Sadly most of the information on the session has been lost. I've been wanting to do a prototype layout ever since I read about it.

I do have a layout plan, industry plan with siding lengths, and operations plan all written up for a possible session, I've just never found time and space to set it up. I've considered setting something up at one of the conventions sometime for the train heads to play on after hours. It's definitely easier these days with PF since more than one train can run in various sections of the layout, so a few engineers and conductors can be kept busy.

Hm. Maybe I'll dig that stuff up again and start planning for BrickFair NE next year...

-Elroy

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Hi all,

As one of the members who was involved in the lego operating session, the facts are mostly as has been laid out- we took over a church basement in Vancouver for 3 days, and did a prototype operating session. In general, things that I found were that experience in using some form of dcc was important, easy to use throttles were important, and that scenery didn't matter. I'd love to do another one, a con would seem in some ways ideal, but it comes down to cost per sq ft, and the requirement to have quite a lot of sq ft to run the layout through.

Feel free to ask specific questions- but keep in mind, it is something over 10 years ago since we did it.

James

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We ran our layout on schedule (with 4× time transformation) in the event of TEMOFESZT (Technical and Model Railway Festival) in years 2013,2014,2015, on 20,30,40 metres long layouts respectively. There was a schedule even for the locomotives and motor units which departure each train takes. And just as in reality, after an accident 20-30 mins of delays occured until the end of the day :D

These were arrivals and departures for my station in 2013:

03DSC88640.jpg

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I have greatly enjoyed reading all these responses! Would love to see this more prevalent in the hobby.

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Some great responses here, really enjoyed reading this thread.

Incidentally, I tried to incorporate some shunting in to my layout this year, mostly to entertain myself over the course of a weekend at shows. It only incorporated using a smaller shunter to re-order wagons in to an arbitrary order.

There's a video here of the layout (albeit with no shunting)

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