A layout away from home – building a LEGO train layout
A layout away from home – a little background to the LEGO model of Locomotion Museum I built for Shildon Brick Show 2023.
Shildon Brick Show is a real draw for me as a LEGO train fan, and as ever the LEGO Northern UK Railway were attending with its club layout.
This LEGO show in a train museum is a little slice of heaven for me each year, and I decided very early in 2023 that I wanted to build a LEGO version of Locomotion Museum for display for this year’s show as part of the club’s display. The museum staff are brilliant to deal with each year and this felt like a nice way of recognising their support since the show began.
Last weekend saw the return of Shildon Brick Show at Locomotion Museum in County Durham. I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit each year of the show, the first of which appeared all the way back in 2016. The show has grown considerably since then and it now attracts from across the UK – 2023’s event had over 100 participants, from humble beginnings of around 30 or so!
I started designing the Locomotion display in February or so. The first step was to come up with a track plan for the 3 x 1 metre footprint I decided I could build in the time available. The club layout is built in modules which are 128 x 128 LEGO studs in size (a little over a metre squared), so this display would cover 3 modules.
My knowledge of third party track parts isn’t particularly strong, and I was gratefully able to lean on LUKR members Shane, Levi, Henry and Dan from TechBrick to get the right plan in place.
The final track plan ignored some of the real life restrictions to allow for better running and more operational interest during shows. We flipped a trailing point in the line the museum use to run brakevan trips to allow an extra passing loop, and added an extra headshunt at the far end of the museum to permit shunting without the need to run on to the main line, in which we generally try to keep two trains running at all times during public show hours. The seven roads in to the shed at Locomotion became three due to the restriction of the depth of the modules behind the running lines, leaving around 48 studs for scenic depth.
I began building the “boring bits” – the track ballast and front embankments, before moving on to the road bridge at the right of the three modules. I have a particular impatience for ballasting curves and points even with the help of third party ballast plates, so I knew I needed to get the majority of that completed before I moved on to the pretty bits! I’d previously built a LEGO model of Shildon Signal Box which handily filled a gap on the far side of the road bridge. Rightfully, there’s a junction before the signal box, but a little artistic license removed that to help maintain my sanity.
Prior LUGbulk orders from years ago provided the bulk of parts required by a total fluke, so I only needed to make minimal orders from Bricklink for parts. My living room at the time was huge, and so I was able to have the full 3 metre section out and available for building which made the whole process a lot easier – I got in to a routine of adding at least a few LEGO bricks to it each night to keep progress flowing. Some nights, I’d add a few sleepers – others, I’d build an entire buttress for the bridge. The next night, I’d take it all apart and rebuild it!
Having the whole section in full display was also instrumental in finessing the display, from the placement of little scenes including one of the most popular vignettes from the public’s point of view – a construction working with a jackhammer animated with a Circuit Cube motor to look like he was hard at work.
I spent quite a lot of time playing with ideas for the roof. The museum was going to be fully enclosed initially, but I quickly discovered when built that it was
After all the effort to cover an area of 49152 LEGO studs for the Locomotion museum modules, the exhibitor gift this year was a microscale version of Locomotion too – that would’ve saved a lot of effort!
Complementing Locomotion was a 3 metre long station built by Shane, based on Great Central Railway’s Rothley station. With the familiar overbridge and island platform, this also proved to be a showstopper piece of scenery, also adding more sidings for locomotive and rolling stock model display.
As you can see, the sidings entertained many AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO) simultaneously!
Shildon Brick Show hosts a “best MOC” (My Own Creation – a custom built model) award each year as voted for by other exhibitors, and the LNUR layout was luckily awarded the best model in show trophy.The trophy was totally unexpected, as years of shows have lulled us in to the expectation that train layouts don’t win!
The hard work of Shane and Lewis (and Will’s dry stone walls) on other scenery sections, and Levi and Joe’s help with the new baseboards really contributed to our victory, and I am really grateful for all of their help.
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