Thursday, 30 June 2011

Breaking ground

Breaking ground. It's a term sometimes used to describe the point at which the design process stops and construction, or more specifically digging the foundations, starts. The good news is that I now have some of the parts I need to start building my LEGO City layout (look here for details). But the bad news is that I don't yet have the parts to allow me to build very much..... My meagre progress to date can be surveyed below (click pics to enlarge).

OK, so 24 baseplates and an oval of track might not look like much, but it's a start. And as well as the symbolic act of having finally moved beyond the design stage, it means that I finally have a complete and permanent oval of track to run a train on. This is a source of considerable delight to my son, and I have to confess, to me as well. We've finally been able to give the Emerald Night a good run on a decent stretch of track, with the promise of more to come....

Even at this early stage I've had to overcome a couple of building challenges. Firstly, how to lay curved track over the corner baseplates. Not too tough, thankfully - it was as simple as raising the track to a height of one plate above the baseplates all the way round. This was accomplished via a large handful of dark bley 1x2 and 2x2 plates which secured the straight track sections to the baseplates, while the curved sections were anchored at either end via 1x2 plates and then supported throughout their length by strategically-placed dark bley tiles. I did investigate the possibility of using 2x2 turntables to attach the curved sections to the baseplates, but after some experimentation it became clear that this wasn't really necessary, and that just providing support with tiles would be sufficient. It's admittedly not the tidiest solution, but once the track is fully enclosed the supporting tiles won't be visible anyway, so no harm done.

The other challenge I've faced required a more drastic solution. Due to the length of the straight track sections and the geometry of the curves, the baseplates at the corners of the layout initially jutted out by 2 studs in an unsightly fashion which you can see here. After trying to figure out a way of dealing with this without expanding the layout by 2 studs all the way round (not a satisfactory option given that the layout will already overlap the edges of the table by a couple of studs) I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that the best solution would be to physically trim the baseplates to fit. A plea to the Brickish Association forums for tips on cutting LEGO baseplates yielded some useful advice, and a few swipes of a craft knife later the evil deed was done; you can see the results below. The cut edges could do with a rub with some fine sandpaper, but you get the general idea....

If there are any LEGO purists out there preparing to berate me for my heinous willful LEGO vandalism then save it - I'm done agonising about it for now. And it's just the beginning - completing the corner sections of the layout will necessitate me cutting a number of dark bley 16x16 baseplates down to 14x14 studs, so apologies in advance. You'll just need to trust me - it'll all be worth it in the end. Hopefully.

The 16x16 baseplates will hopefully arrive within the next month, after which all I'll be waiting for are some light bley bricks and then I can crack on with building the tunnel that'll enclose the track. I'll post another update when the parts have arrived and building can recommence.

<-- LEGO City layout : previous blog entry       LEGO City layout : next blog entry -->


  1. Congrats on 'breaking ground'. Looking forward to seeing your layout develop.

    Did you find a reasonably priced source of baseplates? They never seem to be cheap...

  2. Joao1/7/11

    Please keep us all posted every step of the way. Concept design, sourcing the bricks, detail design and assembly, ...

    For once, I would actually be interested in a webcam setup if you could make it.

  3. Cheers, guys - thanks for the comments.

    I plan to keep posting updates, although there may be a short hiatus while I wait for the arrival of the rest of the parts I need for the next phase of construction.

    I think a webcam would be overkill, though - I'm such a slow builder that days or weeks would go by without a single brick being laid !

  4. Anonymous2/7/11

    I seem to have a number of 16x16 Dark Bley baseplates with your name on - and some lt grey bricks, but not nearly as many as this project needs.

  5. Great - the 16x16 baseplates have arrived - thanks, Iain ! Most of the outstanding Light Bley bricks are being sourced from elsewhere, but you should have a few 1x16's for me I hope.....