Wednesday, 18 January 2012

One step back and two steps forward....

You could be forgiven for thinking that I'd given up on my city layout, last the subject of a blog posting almost 6 months ago. I'm well aware that things have gone rather quiet on that front, and apologies to those who've e-mailed me asking for progress reports. To be fair, my activities came to a grinding halt not as a result of unforgiveable sloth, but as a consequence of not having the pieces I needed to proceed and the delays I encountered while trying to source them. To my delight, however, I eventually took delivery of a few thousand light bley bricks of various sizes at the end of November, and it was game on....

City Layout : Lower Level on LDD
For those of you that haven't been following along, here's the story so far : the design of the lower level of my layout is done and has been consigned to LDD (screen grab above - click to enlarge). I've cleared sufficient space for the layout in my study, found some tables of an appropriate size to support it, and started to lay down some baseplates and railway track. While waiting for a large order of parts, I experimented with brick-built roads, which I decided to go with, and investigated the possibility of linking the upper and lower levels of the layout by way of a inclined loop of track (see picture below - click to enlarge) which I eventally decided not to do. And now you're caught up with everybody else....

Having rejected the notion, I have to confess that it was still with a somewhat heavy heart that I dismantled the lengthy section of inclined track and supports, thus stripping things back to the bare bones of basically just a loop of track on a bunch of 16 x 32 baseplates (below). I loved the idea of linking the two levels of the layout, but given the relatively small area I have to work with, it just wasn't practical and would have seriously limited what I could have built on the upper level, so it got the boot.

As you were....back to basics
Once the debris had been cleared, there was one final thing to figure out before I could start building in earnest. Having previously convinced myself that a one-stud clearance between the track and the outer tunnel walls of the lower level would be sufficient to allow my subway train of choice (the red Passenger Train) to be comfortably accommodated during its travels round the loop, I started to wonder whether it wouldn't in fact be better to give myself the option of using other trains as well, for the sake of variety if nothing else. Predictably, a one stud clearance wasn't nearly enough to allow most other trains I own to travel round the track, specifically at the corners where at least a 2 or 3 stud clearance was needed. Cue another delay while I pondered whether to just press on as planned and restrict myself to only using the red Passenger Train in the tunnels for all eternity, or whether I should bite the bullet and increase the clearance to give me more options. In the end, I decided to do the decent thing and increase the clearance between the track and the outer tunnel walls from one to three studs; this of course rendered my LDD mock-up somewhat obsolete and meant that I'd be to some extent flying blind. It also meant that the edges of the layout would overhang the tables by around 4 cm on each side. While this doesn't sound like much, only time will tell whether the loss of support around the edges will turn out to be a problem....

Having made my decision, I could finally get building. A combination of dark bley 32 x 32, 16 x 32 and 16 x 16 baseplates were used for the corners and held together with dark bley tiles; as well as loosely holding the baseplates together, the tiles also serve as support for the curved track sections. The curved sections are only attached at their very ends to the baseplates via a couple of 1 x 2 plates, but having run the red Passenger Train round and round the loop with my little boy more times than I care to recall, this hasn't been a problem thus far.

Below you can see the first few light bley bricks that I put into place. Having waited so long for these bricks to arrive, it was strangely exciting to be finally using them in earnest.....

From a very early stage I've planned for the layout to be modular. This'll allow for easier disassembly and subsequent reassembly, and hence potentially enable me to eventually display it at AFOL events if it turns out OK. The sections will be joined to each other via the track connections plus a few technic pins which fit into holes in the adjoining wall sections as you can see below. The intent is not to produce a strong join, merely to hold the sections in place and prevent them from moving around too much, while making it relatively easy to pull the different sections apart when desired.

A few subsequent build pics can be seen below (click to enlarge); it was actually pretty liberating to be able to temporarily stop scratching my head about design issues and instead just do some building and watch my LDD mock-up start to come to life.

The pictures below (click to enlarge) reveal where I'm at currently - an enormous amount still to do to complete the lower level, of course, but it's a start at least. The rear right corner section has reached the required height, and next it's just a case of building the walls up to the same height all the way round. Reassuringly, the red Passenger Train is comfortably accommodated within the tunnel and can move without obstruction; I suspect that this would also be the case for all the other trains that I own, with the notable exception of Emerald Night which needs an obscene amount of space when it negotiates curves, certainly more than I'm willing to provide it with....

As an aside, you can see from some of the pictures above that I'm afflicted by that scourge of AFOLs the world over - storage issues. I've had to resort to using the area to the right of the layout for 'temporary' set storage while I make alternative arrangements. I guess that subsequent layout progress reports will reveal whether I've been successful in doing this or not. I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, I unfortunately know where I'd place my bet....

Further updates to follow, as and when I have more to show you.

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


  1. I'm more impressed/stunned by all the unopened sets, even doubles. Do you just grab stuff on crazy clearance? =)

  2. Being a table top city builder myself, I am intrigued by your current design and proposal but I also find myself admiring all your boxed sets. Impressive!

    In fact I forwarded the link of this blog to my girlfriend warning her that I too will one day have a room like this. =D

  3. I have to admit that I too was mesmerized by all of the boxed sets in the background. Do you build an of those or is the hobby split between MIB sets and MOCS?

    Bummer you had to tear down the original design for the new one with the train, but then it's better to realize that the change is needed now than when you are 50% done!

    I'm almost scared to ask how many bley bricks you had to order for this!
    Nice work.

  4. Mostly I split my time between collecting sets and building official stuff, Dan, but having attended a few AFOL events over the past couple of years I've been inspired to try and create something of my own. As as for how many bricks, you're right - don't ask !

    We unfortunately don't get too much on "crazy clearance" in the UK, Ro-Bot, but if you're patient you can almost invariably pick up non-exclusives for 30% off RRP or better, and that's my policy - wait for the deals and then pounce ! Many of the sets you can see in the pics are in fact older ones that I've sourced from eBay over the past few years, and most aren't in fact sealed.