You may recall that work on my LEGO City layout came to a grinding halt a month or so back as I was waiting on some specific pieces that I needed to proceed. Then came the frantic rush to complete a number of LEGO Star Wars UCS sets in time for the Brickish Association LEGO show at the UK National Space Centre. That's now done and dusted, however, so my mind has returned to the work at hand, namely making some progress on my City layout. Problem is, the awaited Light Bley bricks still haven't arrived, and thus my 'idle hands' have had to busy themselves with something else. More specifically, I've started to re-examine some of the layout design choices I made initially, and as a result experiment with some alternatives....
Firstly, the track layout. The original plan was to have a completely enclosed lower loop of track running within the lower level of the layout, with an independent upper loop of track plus sidings etc. running at ground level. Then some bright spark suggested that it would be really cool if there was some way of linking the lower and upper track loops together so that a train could travel between the lower and upper levels of the layout. While twiddling my thumbs waiting for my missing pieces to arrive, I started thinking this suggestion over, and decided that it would indeed be cool if I could carry this off. It was however quickly evident that it probably wouldn't be as simple as it sounded.... After picking the brains of a few people on the Brickset Forum, the consensus seemed to be that in order for a LEGO train to be able to reliably negotiate a gradient, it would be inadvisable for the track to rise by more than one plate in height for every standard section of track. Given that the upper level of my layout will be around 13 bricks higher than the lower level, that's nearly 40 track sections required to get a train from the lower level to the upper level. Still, I sensed a challenge, so got cracking trying to see how it might work, and you can see the results of my experiment below; click to enlarge the pics.
|......and after !|
As you can see, a whole circuit of inclined track was required to raise the level by just 13 bricks ! The gradient looked pathetically shallow to me, and I initially thought that the "one plate per track section" advice would turn out to be too conservative, but I soon discovered that it was spot on - my Emerald Night struggled to negotiate the curved track sections at anything other than full speed due to insufficient traction between the wheels and the track. You can see Emerald Night hauling herself up and down the slope in the short video clip below.
In practice, Emerald Night won't be used on the lower section of track - she won't fit comfortably within the tunnels which will enclose the lower loop, and hence wouldn't have to negotiate the gradient anyway. My choice for the lower loop is the train from Set 7938 Passenger Train with a couple of extra coaches bolted on for good measure, and it's this train which would have to scale the gradient if I decide to go with it, so my next job is to unseal the box, build it, and see how it fares on the uphill section.
|Set 7938 Passenger Train - my choice for the underground tunnels|
The other potentially significant design change I've been contemplating concerns the road system at ground level. Early on during the design process, MOC builder extraordinaire legoloverman aka Pete asked me whether I'd be using brick-built roads in my layout. My response was that it'd be nice to do, but that I wanted to try and keep things relatively simple to start with so as to maximise my chances of actually getting the layout built. I won't quote his response here, but suffice to say he was not in agreement..... Even so, I went ahead with the plan to use standard LEGO road plates in my design (click pic below for a reminder).
I've recently started to question that decision, however. Occupying a maximum area of 2.25m x 1.25m, my layout really isn't that big, and use of road plates would I think waste precious space, particularly as a result of excessively wide pavement areas. Also, the road plates are very inflexible - if you don't want a straight, curve, 'T' junction or crossroads then tough..... Finally, brick-built roads would look less generic and, I suspect, just better full-stop (or 'period', if you're an American). So time for another experiment, then ! There are a number of useful resources on the Web for anyone considering brick-built roads, and a number of techniques from simple to highly complex (you can get a taste here). After some enjoyable messing around, the result of my road building experiment can be seen below (click pics to enlarge).
|Experimenting with brick-built roads, with help from Green Grocer...|
|Emerald Night pays a visit|
So will I change tack and use brick built roads instead ? Well, I'm not sure yet, to be honest - they certainly look good to me, and the section I attempted wasn't too hard to build or integrate with other aspects of the layout (although to be fair I haven't attempted to build a junction or a curve yet...). It would however require one hell of a lot of Dark Bley bricks, not to mention a handy number of white and yellow plates, all of which I'd have to source. I'm definitely leaning towards doing this, however....
And as for linking the upper and lower track loops ? Well, once again it's a nice idea, but I'm wary of the impact that this would have on my building area at surface level, so unless I or any of you can come up with a viable workaround I'll probably not run with this idea. We shall see !
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