Toastie

MOD+ARTICLE: Motorizing Ben Beneke’s BR23

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Dear All,

I’d like to share a couple of pictures and thoughts upon “motorizing” Ben Beneke’s BR23 LEGO model – my all-time favorite steam locomotive. Has been done before, true enough, but …

br23_front_left_2.jpg

… this version is another “best of both worlds” train. The engine is equipped with two 9V mini motors (#71427/#43362) powered from the PF rechargeable battery (#8878) and the PF receiver (#8884). I am not aware of any attempts to power the engine of a steam locomotive driving six side rod coupled flanged wheels, which are running in a rigid engine undercarriage – but I may be very well wrong here.

To be absolutely clear: Ben has mastered all the BR23 design challenges way back in 2005; see his BrickShelf gallery here or this building instruction here (link to direct PDF download from RailBricks). This is just a report on how I modified his model for engine motorization.

For an overview, here is a video clip showing the performance of the motorized BR23:

You may want to skip the remaining part of this post - it is just a very long story

For me, the most important aspects when motorizing this beauty were:

  • Retaining the “light” running gear appearance Ben has replicated in his model. This gives the model the right look-and-feel of a real “Neubau-Dampflokomotive”. The Emerald Night on the other hand features a more or less “strongly reinforced brick-and-mortar” version of running gear – well I guess it simply needs that, with all the XL power on board.
    running_gear_wheel_set.jpg
  • And next of course the six flanged driving wheel design with the spring loaded split middle axle, simply amazing. Further, the driving and piston rods built with Flex system parts match the undercarriage construction nicely in size.
    running_gear_driving_wheels_1.jpg
  • Finally the detailing on the upper structure of this 7-wide LEGO model is simply fascinating to me. And it appears as if a good number of builders have used Ben’s ideas and techniques for their own steam locomotive creations.
    br23_front_left_4.jpg

As far as I know, all motorized 23’s (and engines alike) out there are “pushed” by either their motorized tender or car body. That works perfectly well – but one thing does simply not work: (Long boring story ahead …) When I was a kid back in the late 60’s, sigh, steam locomotives were still frequently operated in Northern Germany. They suddenly appeared as rolling thunder from the South or North on their way to haul cargo to and from Denmark. Sometimes the trains needed to stop in a small village called Juebek (Elevation 35 ft, Population 1200 souls, back then). This happens to be the place where I grew up, right in the middle of nowhere, but when these locomotives started-up again, all hell broke loose and the gigantic driving wheels sometimes where actually slipping! I simply could not believe that these monsters had that much power; that was the time when I desperately wanted to become a train driver ...

... and since that never happened, I am trying to make this dream come true in the LEGO Universe. But is it possible to keep the appearance of Ben’s BR23 “intact” and have a reasonably powered engine at the same time - with lift arms and flex system pieces delivering the motor torque to the front/middle axle? Or even a locomotive that can pull some decent number of cars and show some driving wheel slip? Well, see the movie around 6 min 37 sec …

Here is my personal list of challenges:

  • Retain the “light” driving gear appearance, particularly around the now powered rear axle. Powering the front driving axle took too much effort – the middle axle needed to remain split and spring loaded to keep all 6 driving wheels flanged – that left me with the rear axle:
    running_gear_rear_axle.jpg
  • Use the space in the driver’s cabin for the motor without significant change to the cabin’s outer appearance, particularly the characteristic “shielded” front windows. This means no PF motors since they are too long (the cabin would then have no back “door” or needed to be one stud longer, definitely a no go). The XL motor is furthermore too wide for the tilted side window construction. That meant playing around with good-old 4-wide studded(!) 9V mini motors ...
    motor_cabin.jpg
  • When I finished the first version and saw it running, I was very happy. Emailed Ben, he was excited as well … but soon I found out that the engine is more or less running close to the limits just on its own. So more power was needed and that meant modifying the boiler/firebox section to create space for a second motor, but again, not screwing up the entire model appearance:
    motors_cabin_firebox_2.jpg
  • Next thing was to find space in the tender as enclosure for the PF LiPo and the PF receiver and the bloody rigid PF cables.
    tender_top_bottom.jpg tender_pf_1.jpg
  • Then get wiring from the engine to the tender in a way that neither or both derail on tough track layouts; 9V cables are the first choice here …
  • And the model should run decently fast forward and backward, as the real locomotive could do (“Wendezug”) – at least to some extent.
  • And finally, the model should not fall apart after a couple of tough layout rounds or when pulling some load.

One more thing which may be specific to this model: The driving wheel set of the engine negotiates curves by pushing-in the respective part of the split middle axle. This creates some considerable “uplifting” forces in the front section, particularly when the engine body is heavier in the rear section. This is the case, since both motors are located here. In other words, the engine needed a “sliding bearing” underneath the cabin, which restricts any severe uplift possibly leading to derailing, see below, modification of the trailing truck.

Now, it took me almost two years to get this going – not in one stretch, just every now and then a couple of hours. I am simply not smart enough as so many other builders are. First I tried one motor – not enough power, then two; then at least five preliminary running gear/cabin drive combinations – none worked to the extent that satisfactorily met my challenge list. Sometimes frictional losses were too high; sometimes the gears on the driving axle could not withstand the torque created by the two motors. And then there was this nasty fractional plate height “offset” I was literally fighting with, created by Ben’s use of both, Technic (1/2) beams, e.g., #2825 and Technic plates with holes, e.g., #4442.

The main changes to Ben’s design are as follows:

  • The pilot truck has been (minimally) modified to act as a "sliding bearing", since the engine tends to lift in the rear section when running backwards and pushing some load.
  • The trailing truck has been modified. Ben’s original design kept the entire locomotive horizontically well balanced on the track. The changes made here tilt the locomotive (barely noticeable) in the forward direction; there is some load “resting” on the trailing truck. Again, some sort of "sliding bearing" adds tremendous stability with respect to hauling severe loads, particularly in curved stretches of track. Shear forces on the truck are considerable in this case and without the mechanical cabin/locomotive “pressure” acting on the trailing truck, the engine derails rather easily.
    running_gear_trailing_truck.jpg
  • The piston rod “enclosures” have been moved to the extent that they don’t leave the piston rod exposed in the full forward position.

Here are some more pictures, in case you are interested.

Oh yes, almost forgot – building across multiple themes – here’s BR23 relaxing and refueling at a coaling point and taking in some good amount of water. It was a long, tough day after all:

total_3.jpg water_crane_3.jpg

The crane (which an almost perfect fit to the German cranes used for that purpose) and most of the other “coal supply hardware” is from The Toy Story set #7596 (Trash Compactor Escape), the water crane design is basically a copy of the ingenious Monteur’s version, see his BrickShelf gallery here (and take a look around, this is fantastic stuff!). The rails in the back is future work, here is where the coal is arriving, preferentially in hopper cars. The coal weighing hopper in the front turns 360 degrees, so both tracks can be served … did the LEGO guys have all that in mind when designing #7596? I believe so.

The refueling “power” for the PF LiPo rechargeable in the tender comes from the track – I have 12V DC on my entire layout, so this is available anywhere. The 9V train power delivery cable (#10087) is of course a cool power pick-up cable as well. This one is modified with a bridge rectifier (inside the yellow Technic pin joiner #75535) so I don’t need to pay attention on the charging voltage polarity.

Guess this is it for the moment.

Thanks for reading and Play Well!

Thorsten

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Most masterful rendition of a design. You deserve to think of yourself much higher... it might take some time but this is really fantastic. And the information presented seems to deal well with your development; truly inspirational.

And yes, Trash Compactor was also destined for the same needs on my layout - just life got in the way first. Seems Lotso is busy trying to sabotage efforts again. Where are the Alien's hiding?

With all your freight cars (on the video - around 5m) it looks like there is wheel slip?... certainly it still pulls well which is a really great attraction. Are the wheels BBB with tyres? And if so - how were they added?

Edited by roamingstudio

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Thanks for sharing Toastie! :) :thumbup:

A fantastic motorized version of this BB BR23, and a wonderful movie.

I was wondering how you attached the O-rings/rubber-bands around the BBB-wheels?

Dis you glue them or make grooves in the wheels?

Kind regards,

Teddy

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I was wondering how you attached the O-rings/rubber-bands around the BBB-wheels?

Dis you glue them or make grooves in the wheels?

D - a - n - g i - t!

Of course, should have mentioned that: The drivers are wonderful BBB-wheels. Made grooves next to the flanges (axle + wheel + drill press + small round file) and put the red LEGO rubber band on - this tip came from Ben when I asked him about serious wheel slip issues. It works perfectly well. Just make the rubber band almost disappear in the groove, no fine-tuning necessary.

And yes, Trash Compactor was also destined for the same needs on my layout - just life got in the way first. Seems Lotso is busy trying to sabotage efforts again. Where are the Alien's hiding?

Well, actually the guy in front of Lotso is the bad one (can't remember where I picked him up, he has dark gray hands ... could be a movie guy) - he wants to run the 23 another couple of rounds, but Lotso is telling him to just g o a w a y. The Alien's screwed up during the casting for this movie, well we all know them, always trouble ... (so much for the really important information!default_classic.gif)

With all your freight cars (on the video - around 5m) it looks like there is wheel slip?... certainly it still pulls well which is a really great attraction. Are the wheels BBB with tyres? And if so - how were they added?

Actually there is no wheel slip when the engine is controlled with the large PF remote. The wheel slip occurs (as shown in the movie) when the bang-bang remote is used switching from 0 to full forward at once. The wheels are BBB wheels - see the other reply.

And thank you very much for the kind words.

Best regards

Thorsten

Edited by Toastie

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D - a - n - g i - t!

Of course, should have mentioned that: The drivers are wonderful BBB-wheels. Made grooves next to the flanges (axle + wheel + drill press + small round file) and put the red LEGO rubber band on - this tip came from Ben when I asked him about serious wheel slip issues. It works perfectly well. Just make the rubber band almost disappear in the groove, no fine-tuning necessary.

Hi Toastie,

thanks for your reply! Do you have any photos of the process? On my desk I have a prototype MOC of a BR 01-10 with the new red BBB-XL wheels. I tried powering it both with the medium and XL PF motor respectively, each snuggly hidden out of sight in a vertical position in the coal burning part of the locomotive. The red BBB XL wheels are all geared together out of sight in the under carriage via very small gears so I maintain a "see through" locomotive. Both the medium and XL motor just make the XL-BBB-wheels slip and shock the locomotive extremely slowly over the track. So, I opted for a tender pushed setup with the new 9V PF train motor, this for the time being. I left the medium PF motor in the loco in place. To re-connect it to the BBB_XL-wheels I only have to reconnect a single technic gear. The 9V PF train motor is comparatively fast and smooth, but ideally I would like a locomotive powered train. I live in an apartment building so I do not have all tooling equipment at hand to make the grooves. If I can see what you have done I might be able to use some of the machines at the workshop of the university. :classic:

Kind regards,

Teddy

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Hi Teddy,

Do you have any photos of the process?

Not yet, but I guess I can take some pics ... it is rather simple and straight forward though! Give me a couple of days ...

On my desk I have a prototype MOC of a BR 01-10 with the new red BBB-XL wheels

Oh my, don't wait much longer to show some pics! Even preliminary! A LEGO BR 01 ... a must see. And I am very curious to see your running gear solution, it sounds very interesting!!!

If I can see what you have done I might be able to use some of the machines at the workshop of the university. default_classic.gif

That will work for sure, you don't need any sophisticated stuff at all. I guess the most important thing is the right choice of the O-ring. I don't have any BBB-XL wheels, but the "red" LEGO O-ring (from the "red blue white" series, they are even better than the new red O-rings from the new large flanged LEGO train wheels) may be too small in diameter.

Let me dig-up something here as well, diameter and width-wise.

Need to find the camera ...

Best regards,

Thorsten

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Hi Toastie,

thanks for your reply. I don't want to hijack your topic of your wonderful BR 23 MOD :wub:, so if you PM me an email address, I can send you some photos if you want. The train is not finished yet, so I am waiting a bit with showing it. It is my first train MOC, although I built a mini-scale locomotive a while back. Since it is my first 1:45 scale train MOC, I need to figure out a whole lot of basic issues, such as for example putting O-rings on BBB-wheels. :classic: Currently, I am quite happy with the look of the concept vehicle, but it still needs some improvements on the detailing.

Kind regards,

Teddy

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Sorry to bump this up to the top, but I've totally missed this topic last year! :thumbup:

This motorization system is totally amazing! :blush:

Very top work Toastie, you have started a new era! :wub:

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I've totally missed this topic last year! :thumbup:

So did I, fantastic work to get all that gearing working perfectly on top of the beautiful design.

Some really nice tips, thank you so much for sharing and writing the instructions, have already ordered most the parts but I'm sure mine won't be as majestic.

BnB

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Anyone can help me to get instructions file?

Link don't work, I think original file was deleted so I ask if someone can share this file via PM.

Thank you very much to all

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Posted (edited)

Hi kr1minal,

oh my, hopefully they don't tell you not to bump old topics ... I'll put the instructions into my university cloud, give me a minute, need to find that stuff ... will edit this message with the links.

OK, here you go - found them on my old WinXP Laptop - I knew that one is still of value: https://uni-wuppertal.sciebo.de/index.php/s/hwpJrxylYQggVKB

Navigate to the "5 BR 23 Ben Beneke" folder.

A couple of notes:

LDraw files:

  • The LDraw MPD files are with and without LSynth generated electrical wiring. Olaf Müller made the latter for me.
  • When you open the files with MLCad, it will ask you whether or not you want to upgrade part to newer versions. Don't do that, just use as is, otherwise the model may get corrupted.
  • You need to have the official, and unofficial files installed, including the BBB wheels.

PDFs:

  • There is a higher quality file of some tens MByte size as well as a rather small lower quality file.
  • In these days (man, it is 7 years ago ...) there some (minor I remember) issues with the instructions.
  • The instructions were made by hand in PowerPoint using PovRay renders of the individual steps. It is sure possible that there are some slight glitches. 

Let me know if this does not work for you.

Best,
Thorsten 

Edited by Toastie
Added links

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Link work perfectly, also download of .pdf

Many thanks @Toastie  :wink:

I hope to build this train before the end of year :laugh:

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