Lego train
Overview
 
Lego Trains is a product range and theme of the construction toy Lego
Lego
Lego is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company's flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts...

, which incorporates buildable train set
Train set
A train set is a set, normally consisting of a model train and a small circle or oval of track. A set of rail tracks of more appropriate size for a train set is a model railroad layout...

s. Products in the range have included locomotive
Locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

s, tracks
Rail tracks
The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, sleepers and ballast , plus the underlying subgrade...

, rolling stock
Rolling stock
Rolling stock comprises all the vehicles that move on a railway. It usually includes both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches and wagons...

, train station
Train station
A train station, also called a railroad station or railway station and often shortened to just station,"Station" is commonly understood to mean "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g...

s, signal houses
Signal box
On a rail transport system, signalling control is the process by which control is exercised over train movements by way of railway signals and block systems to ensure that trains operate safely, over the correct route and to the proper timetable...

, and other track-side buildings. The theme is popular among adult fans, as well as children, and has spawned international associations and conventions. The train system is sometimes referred to as 'L-gauge' amongst fans, in reference to traditional model railway scales
Rail transport modelling scales
Rail transport modelling utilises a variety of scales to ensure scale models look correct when placed next to each other. Model railway scales are standardized worldwide by many organizations and hobbyist groups...

.
The design of Lego trains has developed substantially, with several different systems introduced, with varying degrees of cross-compatibility.
Lego trains were first introduced in 1966 with Lego set number 080.
Encyclopedia
Lego Trains is a product range and theme of the construction toy Lego
Lego
Lego is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company's flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts...

, which incorporates buildable train set
Train set
A train set is a set, normally consisting of a model train and a small circle or oval of track. A set of rail tracks of more appropriate size for a train set is a model railroad layout...

s. Products in the range have included locomotive
Locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

s, tracks
Rail tracks
The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, sleepers and ballast , plus the underlying subgrade...

, rolling stock
Rolling stock
Rolling stock comprises all the vehicles that move on a railway. It usually includes both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches and wagons...

, train station
Train station
A train station, also called a railroad station or railway station and often shortened to just station,"Station" is commonly understood to mean "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g...

s, signal houses
Signal box
On a rail transport system, signalling control is the process by which control is exercised over train movements by way of railway signals and block systems to ensure that trains operate safely, over the correct route and to the proper timetable...

, and other track-side buildings. The theme is popular among adult fans, as well as children, and has spawned international associations and conventions. The train system is sometimes referred to as 'L-gauge' amongst fans, in reference to traditional model railway scales
Rail transport modelling scales
Rail transport modelling utilises a variety of scales to ensure scale models look correct when placed next to each other. Model railway scales are standardized worldwide by many organizations and hobbyist groups...

.

Development

The design of Lego trains has developed substantially, with several different systems introduced, with varying degrees of cross-compatibility.

Initial Design

Lego trains were first introduced in 1966 with Lego set number 080. The train sets used blue rails, and the first train sets were simply push-along. Set number 115 introduced 4.5 Volt
Volt
The volt is the SI derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force. The volt is named in honor of the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta , who invented the voltaic pile, possibly the first chemical battery.- Definition :A single volt is defined as the...

 battery
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

 operated trains (initially the battery box was handheld, but train sets soon contained a railcar that carried the battery box), and train sets numbered 720 (1969) and up operated on 12 Volt electrified rails, introduced in 1969. In 1972, 4.5 Volt trains gained a monolithic railcar that carried the batteries and contained both a bottom-mounted stop button to be actuated by signals, as well as a side-mounted lever for manual go/stop/back control and tripping by a track-side pivot. All three kinds (push trains, 4.5 Volt battery operated trains and 12 Volt electric trains) existed next to each other and even allowed for upgrade. The motors were the same size, the push trains used a motor-shaped dummy block of bricks, and all used the same wheel style. These wheels had the same press-fit metal axles as used in the two larger sizes of rubber-tire Lego wheels, which also meant that both 4.5 V and 12 V motors were not restricted to use in trains. A push train could be updated to a battery operated train and a battery operated train could be updated to an electric train. Since 1969 the motor housings for 4.5 Volt and 12 Volt are equal and can be equipped with either a 4.5 Volt or 12 Volt Bühler motor unit. These motor units were sold separately as a replacement part until around 1990. In or before 1976, the 4.5 V motor gained a hole for driving the then white cross-axles of the size not yet known as Technic. Railcars began as spartan constructions of train-specific wheels and couplers attached to car bases made from universal plates and bricks, but these were quickly replaced by black single-piece bases in two lengths that included captive wheels and couplers.

Second Design

In 1980 the trains theme received a major overhaul. The colour of the tracks was changed from blue to grey, and the 12 volt transformer changed to support utility functions in a more streamlined style with control switches that docked alongside the transformer, following the design style of increasingly streamlined model train controls of the time. The utility functions now included remotely-controlled points, signals
Railway signal
A signal is a mechanical or electrical device erected beside a railway line to pass information relating to the state of the line ahead to train/engine drivers. The driver interprets the signal's indication and acts accordingly...

, wagon de-couplers and level crossings. The models gained a much more realistic appearance, including some with much longer carriage/wagon bodies and swivel bogie
Bogie
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

s, and there were special windows which simulated having a pull-down glass section. The railcar bases were now again assembled from train-specific wheels and coupler and a greatly increased number of universal pieces.

Battery operated trains were still available. The motor was kept unchanged. Upgrading a battery operated train to a 12 volt electric train required changes to the train to fit the smaller, redesigned 12 volt motor underneath. The fixed wheels of the new 12 volt motor were black, finalizing the color scheme that had developed in the blue-track era, where 12 volt locomotives started to be distinguished by black wheels.

The 1980 train catalog enticed Lego fans with nighttime diorama
Diorama
The word diorama can either refer to a nineteenth century mobile theatre device, or, in modern usage, a three-dimensional full-size or miniature model, sometimes enclosed in a glass showcase for a museum...

s featuring lampposts and lights inside the trains. Even though light bricks of the same size were available in both 12 Volt and 4.5 V guise, the train headlight/taillight (using unique prisms and holder bricks) and lamppost sets were normally only available with the expensive 12 volt light bricks included. Making these theoretically universal features available only as 12 volt items served to further elevate the 12 volt system away from the more limited 4.5 volt system.

Notable train sets include the Electric Intercity (7740) and Steam Locomotive (7750), particularly for its large wheel pieces not found in any other set.

The 12 volt line was promoted in a 1983 UK television advert featuring a group of adults planning a 'mail train robbery'.

9 volt system

1991 saw again a major overhaul in the train line. Tracks gained a new appearance with power being transmitted directly through metal strips on the two running rails. The new line abandoned the 12 volt power in favor of the 9 volt system to make it compatible to the battery operated elements found in the Lego 'Light & Sound' line of sets. The remote-controlled accessories from the 12 volt system were also abandoned, with only manual point control available and no signaling capabilities. At the same time, the 9 volt train motor was made train-specific by its fixed wheels, while the similarly sized 9 volt universal motor changed from individual metal axles wheel holes to axle holes for Technic axles, for which there were no train wheels available.

Previous 12 volt locomotives were not compatible with the new system without modification, due to the change in voltage and means of powering the motor, although it was possible to retrofit them with 9 volt motors. The gauge
Rail gauge
Track gauge or rail gauge is the distance between the inner sides of the heads of the two load bearing rails that make up a single railway line. Sixty percent of the world's railways use a standard gauge of . Wider gauges are called broad gauge; smaller gauges, narrow gauge. Break-of-gauge refers...

 did not change, therefore older rolling stock could still be used.

The continuing availability of the train system was thrown into doubt in 2006, with the release of the first 'remote control' train sets, which used battery-powered motors and did not have metal conducting strips in the tracks. For about a year, both systems were available, with the 9 Volt system being marketed under a "Hobby Train" brand, available direct from Lego. By the end of 2007, the 9 volt system had been discontinued.

RC Trains

In 2006, Lego introduced a new line of remote control trains. In an effort to reduce the cost of the track, Lego returned to making track entirely made out of plastic (foregoing the metal rails), and introduced a new train motor powered by batteries and was controlled via an infrared remote control. To enable the models to be battery powered, the powered vehicles had a specific train base, which was 6 studs wide to accommodate a snap fitting battery pack.

The new battery-powered system had some advantages over the 9 volt trains; it allowed more than one train to be controlled independently at once, and track layouts did not have to worry about matching up the polarity of the rails. However, the infrared remote control introduced problems of range, and the use of batteries required them to be replaced or recharged at regular intervals.

The cheaper production costs of the tracks allowed Lego to introduce a new double crossover track piece (first produced in 2007), and the track itself was available at a cheaper price than the 9 Volt tracks.

Power Functions Trains

On October 1, 2007, Lego announced that they would discontinue both the 9 Volt and the RC train formats in favour of a new system. The announcement cited a lack of sufficient demand for the 9V product line to be profitable, caused partly by the need to replace key machinery and place minimum orders for motors and power regulators. The new range was announced as launching in 2009, and would use the new 'Power Functions' system also used in the Technic
Lego Technic
Technic is a line of Lego interconnecting plastic rods and parts. The purpose of this series is to create more advanced models with more complex movable arms, such as machines with wheels, in addition to the simpler brick-building properties of normal Lego....

 line, which would allow the company to "amortize the development and on going cost across multiple themes".

The new system was introduced in the summer of 2009 with the release of a new train called "Emerald Night", modelled on a classic steam locomotive
Steam locomotive
A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning some combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler, which drives the steam engine...

. This train was sold without a motor as set number 10194, but was also available as a 'collection' along with the necessary parts to power it, which were also sold separately. These included a new rechargeable battery box, a new infrared remote controller, plus a Power Functions motor and infrared receiver.

The track was unchanged from the RC Trains sets, and in 2009 flexible track was introduced.

Community

Lego trains are very popular amongst adult fans of Lego. Various Lego Train clubs exist around the world, who are in turn supported by the worldwide International Lego Train Club Organization, which was founded to promote Lego railroading as model train standard.

A number of these Lego train clubs exhibit large model train layouts at various community functions, train shows, and Lego conventions, such as BrickFest
BrickFest
BrickFest was the first convention for adult fans of Lego in the US. The focus being to have fans bring their favorite creations, often referred to as MOCs , to display and share with fellow enthusiasts....

. Some of the largest layouts in the United States have been the result of combined efforts by several train clubs at the 2005, 2006, and 2007 National Model Railroad Association
National Model Railroad Association
The National Model Railroad Association is a non-profit organization for those involved in the hobby or business of model railroading. It was founded in the United States in 1935, and is now active in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and the Netherlands...

national conventions. Lego has also introduced train sets designed by members of the Lego community, for example, Santa Fe set by James Mathis, and the Train Factory set in March 2007.

The community is also supported by a magazine about Lego trains called Railbricks, created by Jeramy Spurgeon and written by Lego train fans from around the world.

A computer program called Track designer was created by Matt Bates to help fans plan track layouts.. This program is no longer supported, but was the inspiration for similar programs such as TrackDraw by Cary Clark (no longer supported), and BlueBrick by Alban Nanty.

Further reading

  • Getting Started with Lego Trains. By Jacob H. McKee. No Starch Press, 2004. ISBN 1593270062.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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