Sign in to follow this  

Wanting to get into 1:48 (L Gauge), where do I start?

Recommended Posts

Hello everybody! I know that this is a question that has been asked a lot, but I still have yet to get a grasp on where to start. Ive looked at multiple websites/posts/etc such as these:


I still have several questions while reading these.

1. What formula do I use to determine the length of the model? Is it by stud or inches?

2. Where would I start building when I find the measurements for the model? The chassis? The firebox?

I've been wanting to make a model of the Frisco 1501 that is a proper scale to the real thing. I've got the schematics here:

Would those measurements work, or would I need to find more measurements.




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It all depends on what you want to do. I would recommend building in the direction that is of the greatest interest to you. Some people go for hyper detailed "prototypical accurate," but most of those folks have built dozens of train MOCs. In fact if that is the destination you are ultimately aiming for, I'd suggest viewing it like writing, start out aiming for a pretty good rough draft. Don't worry if your first train MOC is a little too long, or too narrow, or whatever. Maybe try to get one or two of the distinctive features spot on. Then in later drafts (potentially years later) come back and bring in more details after playing with it and you start either thinking of solutions to the problems you've encountered or you spot how others solved those problems. The key to good writing is actually good editing, the same is true for MOCs. In either case both writing (building) and editing (rebuilding) are skills that take time to learn and you only learn by doing.

Many folks do not even think about prototypical accuracy, there is nothing wrong with that either. That can present way more challenges- but still many of these challenges are centered on how do you get the detail that you want in to the model.

In most cases where do you start is either picking a subject, or upon spotting a part, "gee, this would make a great ___". So you've picked a subject, a 4-8-2 steamer. Not an easy challenge for your first train MOC, especially if you are aiming for the standard R-40 lego curves. You might want to insert a few intermediate objectives- make an 0-6-0 work, then make an 0-8-0 work. Why? Because the mechanicals of a steam engine can be a massive challenge. You do not have to make either of these switch engines look like an actual steam engine (no boiler, no cab, don't even worry about color, just worry about getting them to work). In this way, you will have to work out how to do the wheels (e.g., flanged-blind-flanged-blind), get quartering working, deal with clearance issues, and figure out how you want to do the motor, battery box, and receiver. All things you will need for the 4-8-2. Next, extend your chassis for the 0-8-0 to be about as long as you think the 4-8-2 will be and build one or two layers of bricks as wide as you anticipate the rear of the cab will be, and build up a flatcar "tender" with a similar layer of bricks simulating the front of the tender. Now you can test and refine to make sure it goes through curves. Next, figure out how to get the pilot and trailing truck to work on the locomotive on the curves you plan to run on.

Once you have all of that figured out, now you have your constraints for everything that comes on top (boiler, cab, etc.) or at least you know that you need to tweak your frame to accommodate something you want or need up top. If you are going for prototypical accuracy, certainly know your target dimensions, but don't worry about bending one of them to make the other two fit.

Keep your prototype frame around (or at least documented in photo or CAD format) so that you can use it for test building as you work out details of the rest of the locomotive.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

To build on @zephyr1934's great post. You will want baby steps. LEGO is a modeling medium but has some limitations. You have a few questions in your post so I will hit them here:

1. Scale and what that means. You say 1:48. I build in 1:48 so this is a subject with which I am very familiar. First off the scale i based on 1 plate = 6" this actually calculates to 1:47.625 but that is not easy to talk about so I say 1:48. For a rough idea of size you take the length in feet and multiply 0.8 to get the length in studs. You would take the height in inches and divide by 6 to get the height. The smallest "reasonable" measurement that can be captured in this scale is 3" so dont kill yourself over very small details here. 

2. You would hopefully find a dimensional drawing as you did above and you have a few options. You can use a program like photoshop or illustrator to enlarge the drawing to a known scale (1/4"=1'-0" or similar) and print it then take your measurements from the printed document. if you print at the mentioned scale then your size will be 1:1 for the model. I use AutoCad for my day job so I do it all in AutoCad but that isnt a skill available to everyone. The last way I will mention is to use @Sariel's LEGO Model Scaler found here

Lastly, as Zephyr pointed out, a 4-8-2 is not an easy locomotive to start with. I would add that you should take a read over the RailBricks Magazine (available for free download at and build some of the examples in those. Also build an Emerald Night (buy the parts in a non-dark green color to save a lot of money) and use the improvements found in RailBricks to get it running. From there adding another set of driving wheels wont be easy but its not the same as starting from scratch. 

Hope this helps!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.