Paul B

Are LEGO Trains Classed as "Real" Model Trains?

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I have been looking around online at various forums related to model trains, it seems that none really cover L gauge trains at all.

Does a feeling exist in the model train world that Lego trains (L gauge) are not "real" like the other types of model trains and because of this they are not talked about and in some ways "looked down upon" by people with "real" model trains? I wonder why this is the case and what if anything we can do as a hobby to change this and gain support for them?

Paul

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You want a good argument that L gauge can be considered a model train scale. Get them to look at Carl Geartrix's work.

Totally justifiable.

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I find this to be a really interesting topic/question. I can see the rational of answering Yes and No.

I think some HO and other scale model train hobbyists might discount LEGO for being more along the line of a toy without a better understanding of the elaborate layouts and trains that expert builders create (as Mikka mentioned above). Train fans have always been looking for life-like appearance and realistic display; to a point that taking a photograph provides a visual as if one were looking at a real picture/scene. Due to the obvious limitations of working with LEGO pieces in a limited variety of colors, this can certainly be a challenge and extremely difficult to obtain the same result as molded/model-built trains.

At the same time, working within these limitations create a much higher degree of complexity compared to purchasing an expensive HO or other model scale train. I don't think that many model train hobbyists (non-LEGO train fans) build their own trains, but rather focus on creating life-like layouts with custom landscaping and scenery.

So being a LEGO Train fan, I would tend to answer your question with a "yes" and pointing out that the LEGO Train hobby has grown over the years with elaborate LEGO Train displays that are popping up in public places throughout the world. L-gauge train popularity has grown, at least in my opinion.

I would consider LEGO Trains to be "Real Model" trains, especially those from expert or advanced LEGO Train builders, some of which are members here.

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I agree that most people in the wider model community don't see Lego Trains as models or 'on par' with scale models. Then again, most scale modelers have never seen the sort of trains the people in our community make. Many are not aware that Lego even makes trains (this comes up repeatedly for my club at train shows). I also agree with The Brickster that few scale guys actually design and build all of their equipment from nothing. I think we deserve a lot of credit for that.

Personally my goal is to make the most accurate models possible within the medium. I do it because I like model trains and model making in general, and I also do it because I find working within the limits of a prototype forces me to get better at other building. I certainly think Lego trains are real models and I'm continually impressed with what people manage to do with it.

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To me is doesn't matter if others think our trains are "Real" Model Trains.

While I'm still very new to LEGO Trains and my MOC/MOD skills are basic I do enjoy having to work within the limitations of the medium. That's one of the reasons I've decided to fully cover the base of my layout with baseplates, it makes me work within those limits. I would be a lot easier to lay track a plain surface instead of ballast it to baseplates. The scenery would be a ton cheaper if I didn't plan to make it 100% LEGO.

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For years at model train shows in SE Queensland, Lego trains have always been considered as 'toys' by the ho and n people.

I believe a lot of this is jealousy as the crowd around the lego train display is usually 3 deep all day whereas some dusty old n scale set-up might be lucky to have 3 people stop and look in an hour. Some of these 'purist' set-ups are same each year; maybe a new loco. The lego display changes from year to year.

When parents complain about paying AU $300 for a Lego train set, I always make 2 points.

1. Go to the trade stands and have a look at how much you will need to pay for a n scale set.

2. If you buy that set, will you let your 5 year old play with it?

Sometimes they will come back and ask more questions about Lego trains so their kids can get into trains.

A Lego train can turn into something else and then into a tram and then ???????? This is the magic of Lego.

A lot of the Lego train sets have been based on real trains and some of them are classics; the Metroliner and Emerald Night stand out.

Some of the 12V trains were very good models of real trains and the current models are excellent as they are built from a larger range of elements.

At train shows, the kids decide what they like the best; it is usually a race between the Lego and Thomas.

We even have a few of the ho scale people come over and chat as their own kids have deserted their display and spent hours watching the real action. Some have even bought Lego trains so that their kids can play trains.

One bloke had just purchased a AU $400 HO loco. I asked him if his 8 year old son would be able to play with it.

He replied, "Yes! When he is 35."

The answer to the question is, "YES !"

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It really depends on who you ask, I've noticed. In my experience, I find it better to introduce my "L-gauge train hobby" with pictures rather than words. Very few people I've met can appreciate LEGO trains as a legitimate model train gauge/medium without some persuasion. My soon-to-be grandfather-in-law (Gracious, that's a lot of hyphens) heard about my LEGO trains and seemed somewhat indignant about it at first; he'd grown up with one of those old Lionel sets as a boy. I suppose a lot of people still don't think much of LEGO past the basic blocks and techniques; and can't imagine anything built with LEGO can come close to the intricacies they ascribe to models. To finish the story, though, I did manage to change his opinion after a picture of two of my GWR 5700.

Even with my love for LEGO aside, though, what always brings me back to LEGO trains is the challenge of the build. Getting to not only build but the design the engines themselves and then run them around the track feels like an accomplishment.

There's a large amount of work that goes into each model and scene, every detail you have to craft yourself however you see fit from a limited parts choice. It's a constrained medium, sure, but it doesn't make them any less "real" models. People like SavaTheAggie I think really show what you can do in the medium, and whenever I feel like showing someone an amazing LEGO train to make a point I know exactly where to look.

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I agree 100% with you brickie and The Brickster, and I'd like to add that realism isn't everything, entertainment value is a big part of any model. Something mass produced, while it is possible for it to be beautifully done, can never be as unique as someone's MOC of a loco or scene, built from the ground up, and as a result, they are usually not as engaging. I have found people usually love to see the details that have been achieved, rather than just been painted on or molded in.

As well as that, what could be more enjoyable than a train set that can crash and be rebuilt relatively easily, which provides endless possibilities of scenery and different ways of doing things? Surely LEGO has that over other model systems, you are limited only by your own imagination and patience, and the few LEGO track pieces. Speaking of track, LEGO track is more versatile than it at first would seem, even from a purist point of view. In my opinion, the biggest problem LEGO rail themed models have compared to other models is the size, LEGO tend to be quite a bit larger and heavier, which makes making a full scene a little more difficult, but also very rewarding too :classic:

LEGO wins every time in my books! :thumbup:

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Having been invited to a train show last year I experienced the negative feelings towards Lego at a train show, but by the end of the show I if not converts but at least a respect for the brick on rails from those commenting negatively. Especially after seeing the large number of children around my display....made the mistake of letting them free range except for my Aussie town....my poor city sets haven't been the same since ! :laugh:

But it's like the Friend's or LOTR topics, there are those liking something and those not....everyone is different and have a different opinion. :classic:

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I think it's the mental image that non-AFOLs have that Lego Trains will be a rather crude arrangement of basic bricks in primary colours that vaguely resembles the shape of a steam train. When people see what can actually be accomplished by more creative builders, they are more likely to develop a certain amount of respect, even if they're not really convinced it counts as model railroading.

Still, I'm happy with that as I have never been able to see the appeal of "proper" train sets because to me it's always seemed that you're far more limited in what you can do. I like the idea that if I get bored of a train I can make something completely different from it. And the kid in me likes crashing them too! :devil:

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On my N Gauge layout when I was younger it was all about creating a good scene. The fact that it happened to have some trains in it was rather by the way, the main thing was the town, country and what the over all picture looked like.

With LEGO trains it is all about or at least more about creating the whole thing, the train obviously being essential. You can then make it as complicated or as simple as you like or can afford and design. It is up to you, whereas a model train is pretty much a model train and that is that.

So yes, they can be models but they can also be toys, it is for each indivdual to make of LEGO what he wants, rather than having an outside manufacturer do it for him/her.

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At the couple train shows I've been to this past fall, I saw that the Lego was a definite attraction for the children to get into.

Yes, there was some attention by some of the "purists" as it were, but most of it was snubbing.

The paying customers aka the target audience aka the public at large was very impressed and overawed by the massive scope

of the overall layout of the lego.

A lot of people were happy and amazed that I put out the Sante Fe Superchief (A / B units, 7 of James Mathis' superchief cars,

and a remodeled club car).

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Interesting discussion :thumbup:

I think the same discussion goes for all Lego model work. Personally I'm am into Star Wars UCS modeling. When I look at the non-Lego model sets, I must admit that they often "leave me cold". Don't get me wrong, I think many of them look ├╝ber cool, but for me they don't have the same magic because they are created from ultra custom pieces. With Legos the result will never be perfect - thus a lego model is always an ongoing process - a quest to minimize imperfections if you will. And for me it is the quest that is the fun part :wub: Should I buy a non-lego model I think I would be much less forgiving should it have any shortcomings - and the only way to fix it would be to "break the mold". I think that making the "custom" custom parts is perhaps the challenge for many model builders - but that is not for me :classic:

Thus, in conclusion I must admit that I am perhaps a bit biased - against non-lego models :wink::laugh:

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I find this to be a really interesting topic/question. I can see the rational of answering Yes and No.

I think some HO and other scale model train hobbyists might discount LEGO for being more along the line of a toy without a better understanding of the elaborate layouts and trains that expert builders create (as Mikka mentioned above). Train fans have always been looking for life-like appearance and realistic display; to a point that taking a photograph provides a visual as if one were looking at a real picture/scene. Due to the obvious limitations of working with LEGO pieces in a limited variety of colors, this can certainly be a challenge and extremely difficult to obtain the same result as molded/model-built trains.

At the same time, working within these limitations create a much higher degree of complexity compared to purchasing an expensive HO or other model scale train. I don't think that many model train hobbyists (non-LEGO train fans) build their own trains, but rather focus on creating life-like layouts with custom landscaping and scenery.

So being a LEGO Train fan, I would tend to answer your question with a "yes" and pointing out that the LEGO Train hobby has grown over the years with elaborate LEGO Train displays that are popping up in public places throughout the world. L-gauge train popularity has grown, at least in my opinion.

I would consider LEGO Trains to be "Real Model" trains, especially those from expert or advanced LEGO Train builders, some of which are members here.

LEGO guage or "L" gauge is in fact a train system. Whether the model railroad global community accepts it or not does not matter. The different scales "Z" to "HO" to "O" to "S" to "TT" to "G" ect. is based on track dimensions. We have our own track dimensions!!

At the National Toy Trail Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania (United States) www.nttmuseum.org there is a display dedicated to LEGO TRAINS! Right along side Lionel, LGB, Marklin, and many others! As a TCA member (Toy Train Collector Association) I have been there many times and have had discussions with other members about our "L" gauge. The general perception is that it is wonderful to have/add NEW train enthusiasts to the hobby no matter what the scale or type.

I feel the same way! Eric and I plan on making "L" gauge a marquee train system that will be here for a long time.

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I can see it from the perspective of someone spending a lot of money to make a realistic, miniature world. Especially if they have an image in their head of the Lego Police Station they saw at a toy store.

To be clear, I am here because I love the challenge of MAKING a train set, especially the train itself. I don't think that is a part of many train enthusiasts love for the hobby/

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In my view yes they are model trains, I have N and L ! Both have distinct differences, but some of those differences are no more than comparison of scale.

L has the issue of not a huge range of trains, stock to buy, you actually have to design and make it all yourself, along with everything else.

The challenge in the traditional model trains is the building layouts and scenery.

There is nothing to stop a person taking L trains as far as they can go in similarity to traditional model trains, that is except the blocky visualisation and sheer cost!

Edited by CBFasi

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I can see it from the perspective of someone spending a lot of money to make a realistic, miniature world. Especially if they have an image in their head of the Lego Police Station they saw at a toy store.

To be clear, I am here because I love the challenge of MAKING a train set, especially the train itself. I don't think that is a part of many train enthusiasts love for the hobby/

None of the other gauges can say/do that! "It's a different toy (engine) everyday"

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Any normal train modeler biased against LEGO can build a train out of a kit with glue. Nobody but a LEGO Train nut can look at that model and try to build it on the same scale out of little plastic bricks. Every train modeler can look at a LEGO train and say 'it's not a real model train' is kidding themselves, and they day they'll be able to do what LEGO Train builders can do is they day they get bored of staring at a perfect model train and try to take it on LEGO scale.

I'm sure it does take skill and such to build model trains, but rather than putting certain pieces together to build a train, LEGOers have to build a train out of every piece available. It's like taking apart every model train one owns, dumping them in a pile, and trying to build a specific one - on the condition that you do not have to exact kit to build that exact train. You can only build out of what you have and what LEGO sells, and the latter doesn't sell that train you're trying to build. It's a mix of building a model train and doing a puzzle.

Of course, given I know nothing of either model trains or even LEGO trains, perhaps this post is void... :grin: But I still do believe that you really have to think to build a LEGO train. That makes them more than the equal of normal model trains, and should easily be classed as such.

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Oh there is definitely a bias against LEGO trains in the greater model train community. But it really isn't hard to change hearts and minds, you just have to demonstrate the potential.

5178023062_19d242fd32.jpg

texlug_11-13-10_50 by SavaTheAggie, on Flickr

--Tony

When I see the work of masters like Sava, Teddy or other genius I can say that lego trains must be classed as real model trains! :thumbup:

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My self, being a former N scale modeler, and new to LEGO trains, I would say if a scale modeler is biased against Lego, it is because they don't see Lego sets or accessories for sale in the hobbyist shops they use to supply their layouts.

So, in their mind if Lego can't be purchased in the hobby shop, it is merely a toy. I feel that is the biggest flaw in LEGOs presence and promoteing of their product, unless a person knows where else to look, LEGO trains can only be found on a shelf in a toy store.

And, I believe another reason would be, for someone considering starting a LEGO train layout, is the limitations of track geometry and quantities. Also the fact that there is not a large variety of premade buildings an landscapeing for LEGO, like there is for scale modelers.

But, I love my LEGO, and I love that I can share it with my children without fear of damageing any of my models.

So, Yes, LEGO trains are "real" model trains, a person just has to be more dedicated to modeling to create a LEGO layout.

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The Sydney L Gauge Group (SLGG) has displayed at the Australian Model Railroad Association's (AMRA) Sydney show for a few years now (previously as the SLTC).

I am fairly new to the group and have only displayed for two years, but in 2011 we won the peoples choice award for the first time!! We made an effort to make a highly detailed layout and it was very popular with the public. Numerous model railroaders had a good look and we got very positive feedback.

The Lego trains attract the kids to the show and this is a good thing for the model railroading hobby.

6200077310_d03efd76ff_z.jpg

Flickr SLGG

Dr Rod

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I'm not much of a train builder myself, having built only two in the 20 years, but I have displayed LEGO models at general model building events and there always are a few people who run trains on our display. The event is Brighton Model World in particular and I'm going again this February.

This discussion goes beyond trains. I build scale models of real cars, aircraft and military vehicles. I have the impression that model builders who use kits or who build their models from scratch generally don't see LEGO as a medium for building models. They see it as a toy.

The fun thing about Brighton Model World is that there the public and other model enthusiasts are confronted by a bunch of people who do build detailed scale models, including trains, using these little plastic bricks. The reaction is almost always positive, and I've often heard people express surprise that it is possible to build recognisable scale models using LEGO. There's a degree of unfamiliarity with the sort of stuff AFOLs can do.

Cheers,

Ralph

Edited by Ralph_S

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I grew up in a house with an attic full of N-scale trains. As a child I never had Lego trains because "we had enough trains in the house already". Once I had left the dark ages behind me I started making up for lost time... I still read (model) railway magazines for inspiration; the things some people build are just amazing.

A few years ago I took part in some Lego displays with lowlug.nl at model railway shows in Holland. This year with Brick.ie we exhibited at two model railway shows in Ireland, the first time there was Lego at those shows in Ireland.

The experience was similar; on set-up day you see the looks from the 'serious' builders and you hear some comments like "Tsk, Lego, what are those guys doing here?"

Then as described in a number of posts the public come in and they all love the Lego display. Gradually the other builders come and have a look and are amazed by what's possible with Lego.

Organisers of shows love to have a Lego display as it brings in a younger audience to their show. Model trains as a hobby has a bit of an image problem as it tends to be mainly for men over 50...

A number of people have said that traditional model railway builders don't build their trains but just buy them. That's true for some but there are also many Lego fans who are happy to run unmodified sets on their tracks. The same can be said for buildings. However there are many model train builders who create landscapes and buildings from scratch/scrap. Their challenge is to use whatever material they happen to have or can get their hands on to create as realistic a model as possible. For me the challenge with Lego trains is to build as realistic a train model as I can within the constraints of the available parts. It's a different challenge and it's hard to say which would be harder.

Lego trains will never compete with N-scale, HO-scale etc on pure realism. As a creative challenge though I think it can match the traditional train hobby.

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