Trains by Chris

Scale-Model LEGO Steam Engines

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First Off:

Allow me to say welcome. My name is Chris Stone, and I build LEGO Trains. If you’ve never visited this site before, this is a great page to choose to start on. It is also a great page if you just like reading, because there will be plenty of that to do here as well. Before I get started, I would like to thank you for having even enough interest to stay on the site long enough to find AND read the Introduction page. Building trains is a hobby I very much love and enjoy, and knowing that other people may like my work as well is really great.

It’s no secret, I love trains. Engines, cars, rail maintenance vehicles, the whole caboodle. Steam Engines, especially, have mesmerized me since I was cognizant. I have always found an incredible amount of ingenuity to even the small parts of steam engines, the cleverness of the designs and their age is truly mind blowing. I could, and have, spent hours talking about them, but I’ll cut short so as to still have room for another admission: I also love LEGO. LEGO, too, has been a lifelong passion of mine, and I’ve gone through a lot of different themes/genres of building before I landed on trains. Once I did, though, there was no looking back; and I find it incredible it took so long.

Almost all the engines I build are directly modeled after real machines, which I note in each individual engines post. I try to spend a lot of time making sure that my engines are as detailed as possible, given the chosen medium. Correct proportions, details, stability, and actual running abilities are among the many important aspects of the design. Each engine is compatible with LEGO track, which is referred to as “L-Gauge”. They can make it through all curves and points, which does occasionally require design compromises. Not every engine is motorized, though some are, as I feel very strongly against making large aesthetic sacrifices to hide ungainly motors and electronics. With my latest engines I have also been making an effort to include working valve gear, although due to being in LEGO not every engine will be able to have it.

Working with LEGO to make scale model trains is a bit tricky, as it’s a “restricted medium”; basically meaning I have to make do with LEGO’s pre-defined parts. This can be challenging, but it is also quite fun. LEGO’s system of bricks is a very intricately designed system with a lot of rules, abilities, and potential. I believe strongly that you can build just about anything imaginable with these pieces, you just have to keep trying at it to get it right. Sometimes, there are mechanisms and concepts that may be possible, but impractical due to space or model stability reasons.

There are several dispositions regarding custom LEGO parts and customizing/mutilating LEGO pieces towards specific goals. The extremes of each group are of course, Purists and Non-Purists. I lean closest to Purist, myself, but here I’ll lay out my ground rules so you know what to expect. The only custom parts I allow myself to use come from two places: BigBenBricks, who makes a wide variety of custom steam locomotive drivers and wheels; and Benn Coifman, who uses rapid-prototyping technology to produce custom driver rods. The wheels are very nearly a necessity, as LEGO only produces train wheels in two sizes to Ben’s four; making them ideal for having the right wheels for the right scale. Benn Coifman’s drive rods may not be a necessity, and in fact all my engines run well with all-LEGO solutions; the rods Benn produce are much nicer looking and on some engines even increase their running reliability (As a matter of science, having the wheels coupled with a solid rod reduces a lot of the flex and slop inherent to all-LEGO rod solutions.) I will also use some stickers as necessary, but try very hard to avoid an excess. Some builders use so many stickers that it’s quite hard to see any actual LEGO surface, which simply isn’t to my taste.

I Need to give credit to many people out there. To anyone who ever designed, built, or ran a steam engine; thank you so much for the inspiration. There is also a very large and wonderful LEGO community, and even closer to home a wonderful LEGO Train community to whom I owe a lot of inspiration. I’ve learned many techniques from some amazing builders like Tony Sava and Cale Leiphart (My two favorite train builders, actually). If you want to see more trains when you’re done here, I strongly encourage looking them up on Flickr. There’s also my family: siblings, parents, and my wife! All very supportive. And, anyone who’s ever expressed interest in these trains; thank you! A big shout-out to LEGO, for being a wonderful company and for set 10194 Emerald Night; the definite catalyst for my newfound obsession.