Best way to build a LEGO City with LEGO Trains

DawnTreaderDawnTreader Chilliwack CanadaMember Posts: 10
edited January 2016 in Building and Techniques

Hello all

Each of my family members are into building and collecting LEGO. Currently we have over 50000 pieces and have a room dedicated to having a place to store and play with all of it.

In about a week or 2 we will have the opportunity to move it all to a bigger room and expand our LEGO table. Currently I am trying to figure out the best way to layout the new LEGO train tracks that we added this year over the Christmas holidays.

We have sets 60050, 60098 and 7895. We will be picking up 7499 about the same time we get the new room completed.

We would like to put this and 60047, 60004, 4207, 4204, 3368, 7281 and 7280 in some sort of layout that will allow for the buildings to be accessible and yet have the trains be part of the city layout.

I am finding that there are 2 big problems. 

  1. Base plates and tracks are a different thickness. 
  2. The track corners are made wrong.

Problem 1 means that I either put the tracks on a base plate or not. There is no way to build something on the tracks and connect it to something on a base plate because the base plate doesn't match the thickness of the tracks.

And because of problem 2 if I did put the tracks on a base plate and want to make a corner I would have to use 1 full straight track of the base plate to attach to a corner track because the studs of the corner follow the shape of the corner rather than working like a wing where the shape is allowed fit on top of studs even though the shape of the wing is angled. This problem is worse than the first because it makes it impossible to integrate corners into anything other than being connected to straight tracks.

Does anyone know the logic behind LEGO's decision to make the corner tracks this way?

Any ideas or suggestions about how to design our LEGO City would be greatly appreciated.


Maniac4Bricks

Comments

  • RobertoRoberto Imola, ItalyMember Posts: 116
    It's an interesting point. The answer, for me, it's simply that I don't think it has never been a LEGO priority how to successfully integrate train tracks with TOWN\CITY layouts. Take in mind that the main target is always one: the child with its modest and quite heterogeneous collection over the adult collector which its gigantic but specialized collections. This translates into precise priorities: the immediate use for everyone over the specialized and following one, but for few.
    If you take in mind this, you'll realize that, except for the classic four types of road baseplates, space baseplates, airport and others, almost every baseplate has been designed in function of a set and then, at most, reused later for some similar project. There are several remarkable absences among these baseplates, and many of them have been generated just by introducing new types of baseplates. Examples can be river baseplates, which can generate the need of a spring baseplate, or of its estuary baseplate, both never produced. It's only an example.

    Nothing which can't be solved in a creative way, however, and speaking of solutions for this particular case, the most used is the one to create a little level between the track and the baseplates (or roadplates, whatever they are) with a mix of plates on the straights and of 1x1 plates on the curves.

    However, pictures speak better of any words so the best advice I can give to you is to look at all the pictures of layouts you can find on the web for taking inspiration by the ones that better suit with your project.

    Good luck for your search.

  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 11,859
    I think in order to incorporate a functional track layout, you are compelled to cover the whole table with baseplates and lay the track on the surface.  

    I agree that trying something else would require considerable precision - particularly if you want to use rail platforms, grade crossings, etc.

    I'll upload a couple of pics of my fledging stages of a table w/track.

  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 11,859
    Perhaps my phone will cooperate now.


  • DawnTreaderDawnTreader Chilliwack CanadaMember Posts: 10
    Roberto said:

    It has never been a LEGO priority how to successfully integrate train tracks with TOWN\CITY layouts. Take in mind that the main target is always one: the child with its modest and quite heterogeneous collection over the adult collector which its gigantic but specialized collections. This translates into precise priorities: the immediate use for everyone over the specialized and following one, but for few.

    Nothing which can't be solved in a creative way, however, and speaking of solutions for this particular case, the most used is the one to create a little level between the track and the baseplates (or roadplates, whatever they are) with a mix of plates on the straights and of 1x1 plates on the curves.

    I guess that is a valid point... but it has frustrated my 8 and 5 year old that the curved track doesn't fit on to a studded base plate. You would think that LEGO would have tested the parts with children before putting them out there and come to the realization themselves. I never even noticed it until my boys came to me to help figure out the layout and why the corners wouldn't work.

    I both like and hate that idea at the same time. Yes raising it would work, but then you have to have the parts to do that and now everything else that interacts with the tracks on the straights would have to be raised as well. 60050 for instance would now be another layer of plates higher. And the vehicle crossing in 60098 would also have to be raised. Now instead of the corners being a problem it is the things that interact with the track.

    Here is another thought about this lack of "integration" that LEGO has been practicing. Take the 60047 police station and the 60004 fire station. Both sets are put on a full thickness plate in the design. Even the 4207 garage, 4204 the Mine and 76038 Avengers tower are put on a full thickness plate, but the 3368 space center wasn't. Would it not be better to put the 60047, 60004, 4207, 4204 and 76038 on the thinner plates so they would integrate easier with the road and regular base plates? I guess the Avengers tower would be a different kind of problem, but the others would work well on a thin base plate.

    Is it a matter of fitting things in the box? Not for the larger box sets, the fire station, police station, garage, and even the train stations box were large enough.

    Is it a cost vs consumers price thing? Probably. :\

    Thanks for the idea of looking for MOC pictures of city with track layouts. I forgot that google is my friend. :)

  • RobertoRoberto Imola, ItalyMember Posts: 116
    edited January 2016
    ^
    Till some years ago police stations, fire stations, gas station and others City buildings used baseplates. But that simplified nothing because those baseplates, in some cases, covered only the footprint of the building, and in other cases had a rectangular section, so that, in an perspective of adaptation to a City layout, there was always that 50% of baseplate in need of compensation.
    The point is that you can get building instructions for all the sets, but not for City layouts. Those need only your creativity, your ingenuity. But this is the happy aspect of LEGO, isn't it?
  • JenniJenni USAMember Posts: 1,378
    If you decide to invest in raising your train tracks we have plans on our LUG website at

    http://www.tnvlc.org/resources/town-train/lego

    It takes a lot of parts but does look really nice.
    1265bluedragonkiki180703Dedgecko
  • GalactusGalactus NLMember Posts: 255
    I have no experience in building a train/city layout in that manner,  but the first thing that came to mind was to put everything on baseplates, the straight track on plates, and the curved track* on tiles.

    But then you pointed out that things like crossings aren't fit to deal with this. First solution for this that popped up to me, was to leave all baseplates with curved tracks on them directly on the table (and tiles underneath the curved tracks), and raise all the other baseplates with one layer of tiles. The straight track on the latter wouldn't have to be raised with plates any longer. The open areas on the unraised baseplates can be filled with regular plates to even the terrain. This would of course take a humongous amount of tiles and plates, but the result would be a track layout at the correct level.

    *) where I put 'curved track' I also imply switch points etc.

    About the logic of the curved track not having their anti studs lined up with the studs of an underlying baseplate: there would have to be many variations of the curved track piece to accomplish this. Consider a circular track layout made out of 16 curves, which has every piece in a different orientation. One would need 4 different types of curved track to attach the circular track layout directly on baseplates. And this is only an example of the simplest layout with curves...
  • MattsWhatMattsWhat Studley, UKMember Posts: 1,643
    edited January 2016
    SumoLego said:
    Perhaps my phone will cooperate now.


    I like how your need to keep the sets MISB doesn't stop you making them into a LEGO city. ;)

    In answer to the orignal question - if you use road baseplates they dont have studs in the middle.  You could place them in such a way as the straight tracks go on the few studs they have and the curved tracks just sit on the baseplate being held at the right height maybe?
    Ronyar
  • PaperballparkPaperballpark UKMember Posts: 3,421
    The thing to remember is that these days, Lego simply doesn't use baseplates in sets. The only real exception is the Modular buildings, and I suspect that's only to keep them compatible with each other.

    It's not like 30 years ago, when I was a child, where you could make a whole city using the road plates and the plates that the police station, fire station etc came with. I guess most kids play differently these days, and there's less of a demand for an all-encompassing layout.

    The main problem with baseplates is that they're slightly the wrong size (the gap between studs is very very slightly too big). Try to connect long plates to one and you'll see it curve upwards as the plates you've attached bend it to the 'correct' length. The front corner of my Grand Emporium is about half a centimetre above the shelf it sits on because of this. I believe this is one reason that they don't really use them in sets anymore.
  • GalactusGalactus NLMember Posts: 255
    The main problem with baseplates is that they're slightly the wrong size (the gap between studs is very very slightly too big). 
    That's weird. Why would that be? I've never noticed that myself though.
  • MrShinyAndNewMrShinyAndNew Member Posts: 243
    The train track curves don't play well with baseplates. The outer radius is 44 studs, which means your quarter-circle will be over 3 32x32 baseplates, or less than one 48x48 baseplate. The sizing doesn't work well. The only way to attach the curves is to raise them up by one plate. Some of the ties can be attached via jumpers or turntables, the rest will have to sit on tiles. This link shows how you can arrange the track to fit on 48x48 baseplates but doesn't really address the connections.

    Raising the track for the curves might be fine. The trains can usually handle one or two plates per segment of sloping, so a slight bump as it goes around the corners might be okay. Some train layouts specifically raise and tilt the corners so that the trains can go around faster.

    Alternatively, just leave the baseplates out where there is a corner track and put the track directly on the table.The slight drop in height won't bother the train; it's less than one plate.

    You could investigate getting baseplates that have flat sections (see here) but it's unlikely that you'll find plates that have just the right parts flat for your layout. Each 32x32 section will need to have a different flat part where the curve fits. You could modify a standard baseplate by removing its studs (if that thought doesn't horrify you). 

    It might also be possible for you to raise your baseplates instead of raising your track. I can't find the measurements but I've heard that if you sit a baseplate loosely on top of lego bricks, the resulting thickness lines up with an adjacent plate. That is to say, if you raised all your baseplates by 1 plate (by sitting the baseplates on plates) then any gap where there is no baseplate would be 2 plates high. This would allow you to fill in the curved sections with plate+tile-built constructions. If you only use a few plates to raise each baseplate, you might end up with far fewer plates needed than if you raise all the track.
  • TigerMothTigerMoth Member Posts: 2,343
    The main problem with baseplates is that they're slightly the wrong size (the gap between studs is very very slightly too big). Try to connect long plates to one and you'll see it curve upwards as the plates you've attached bend it to the 'correct' length.
    The distance between the insides of the bottom of long plate is always less than the distance between the studs - even on the same plate. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be any clutch. The difference between a baseplate and a normal plate is that the baseplate is thin enough to bend when pressure is applied across a number of studs.
  • ricecakericecake Maryland, USAMember Posts: 879
    You could modify a standard baseplate by removing its studs (if that thought doesn't horrify you).
    I actually gasped when I scrolled down and saw that picture.
  • ecmo47ecmo47 North CarolinaMember Posts: 2,086
    edited January 2016
    Once you start sticking your track to base plate, the piece count grows exponentially! In Sumo's picture, He's got a problem once he get to a curve. Either there are no base plates under the curve track or the curve sits one stud height above the straight track. The easiest solution is to pave the curve with tiles (usually 2x2, green ones are pretty cheap) and raise all the rest of the track with one 2x8 plate. This will give you even track height all the way around. 

    So either all the track needs to be on plates or none of the track is on plates. Hard to do only part of it.

    Here is Tony Sava track ballasting program that I am following.

    http://l-gauge.org/wiki/index.php?title=Reference_Instructions

    Here are a few pictures in my Flickr album that may help:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/72157657943586808

     
  • SumoLegoSumoLego New YorkMember Posts: 11,859
    MattsWhat said:
    SumoLego said:
    Perhaps my phone will cooperate now.


    I like how your need to keep the sets MISB doesn't stop you making them into a LEGO city. ;)
    I get sets that have damaged boxes, or are used.  (One to keep... one to open...)

    Those I can muster the mental fortitude to liberate them from their cardboard and plastic prisons...
    madforLEGOkiki180703
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,331
    edited January 2016
    ^-- Yeah, I find it a bit easier on the psyche if the box is a bit damaged or already popped open so I do not have to agonize over cracking the seals on the set, especially a long retired one. I still have a Green grocer, Fire Brigade, Grand emporium, and 2 Maersk trains all in damaged boxes. I got a Haunted House on Amazon's warehouse deal for a discount AND the box was trashed (but contents were all there) which makes that a real easy set to liberate as it already is open. The two sets I have to crack open that are in a nice box are my Cafe Corner and Town Hall boxes, but Ill just have to find a way to 'deal' with myself on those.
    kiki180703
  • DawnTreaderDawnTreader Chilliwack CanadaMember Posts: 10
    Galactus said:
    About the logic of the curved track not having their anti studs lined up with the studs of an underlying baseplate: there would have to be many variations of the curved track piece to accomplish this. Consider a circular track layout made out of 16 curves, which has every piece in a different orientation. One would need 4 different types of curved track to attach the circular track layout directly on baseplates. And this is only an example of the simplest layout with curves...

    I have no means to check, 3D CAD is not in my skill set, but could a curved piece not be made to fit a stud grid no matter which way it was laid down? LEGO makes completely round pieces that fit the stud grid...

    Wing pieces have 2 forms, left and right, even if corner tracks cant be made to 1 type fits base plates anywhere surely 2 would be enough...

    Roberto said:
    Till some years ago police stations, fire stations, gas station and others City buildings used baseplates. But that simplified nothing because those baseplates, in some cases, covered only the footprint of the building, and in other cases had a rectangular section, so that, in an perspective of adaptation to a City layout, there was always that 50% of baseplate in need of compensation.
    The point is that you can get building instructions for all the sets, but not for City layouts. Those need only your creativity, your ingenuity. But this is the happy aspect of LEGO, isn't it?

    I totally agree with creativity and ingenuity being necessary in building and playing with LEGO. I just find it really strange about how LEGO dealt with the corners of the train tracks. It seems like they didn't even try to integrate it with anything else.

    I disagree about the buildings and baseplates. It would be easy to put 2 32x32 grey base plates in a box for the fire or police station and build off those. That allows them to be easily added to a layout with roads and other buildings. You don't even have to tell the builder where to lay it out on the base plates, just build the station and then let the builder decide where to put it on the base plate. Then I could build a side walk or road area with tiles to match up to a road base plate.

    Another option is to put in base plates that are the same thickness as a road base plate and make it just fit under the buildings footprint. Then I can line it up with road plates without having to make adjustments to the structure. And when I want to "square it out" so that it matches up with my base plate layout make base plate "sets" I can buy that allow me to fill in the "holes".

    I know that a lot of what I am proposing would increase LEGO's expenses as they would need to make molds for all the new types of base plates, but obviously they could make use of them in all sorts of sets, make them in all sorts of colors and shapes and still come out ahead in the end as I would buy packs of them to help in my family's LEGO City layout.

    The corners are my biggest beef. I really don't understand how they came up with the design of the corners. Of course the other problem that they would have are the flexible tracks working with both the straights and the corners that would be laid on base plates. There would be no way to make those work...

    Thanks for the pictures and links, I have to look them over.

Sign In or Register to comment.
Recent discussions Categories Privacy Policy