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May 29, 2021: Lots Of Event Plans

If, and only if, COVID things go well in Texas, then TBRR has no less than four appearances queued up, about a month apart, starting with Brick Rodeo!
Our event page at www.texasbrickrr.com/events.html will always have up-to-date information. Event planning takes place on our Google group at groups.google.com/g/tbrr.

Brick Rodeo – Sugar Land, TX (near Houston) – July 22-25

The annual Texas AFOL show, now with a new name. We are currently allotted a huge 20' x 40' space. Talk to Ed Chang if you want to participate. You will need a membership – if you don't have one, visit brickrodeo.com. TBRR is sponsoring the Funny Freight Contest at this show.

Austin Area Train Show – Austin, TX – August 28-29

We have been attending for the past few years. For 2021, the show moves to the Palmer Event Center in Austin proper. Our space will be a 24' x 21' island. Admission for exhibitors will be free; so will parking if you get there early enough to grab a space. Talk to Steve Jackson if you want to participate.

Bricks Killeen – Killeen, TX – September 18-19

This new event will be held in the Killeen Civic & Conference Center. It is sponsored by the City of Killeen and will have at least 10,000 square feet for Lego! It will be free to the public. There will also be cash compensation to TexLUG Austin, the hosting club, and the possibility of free or at least discounted lodging for exhibitors. Kudos to Deanna Frazee for putting it together. Read the web page, talk to Deanna, or read the TexLUG-Austin Google group for further info.

Texas City Museum Train Show – Texas City, TX – October 23

A one-day event, with setup Friday and public admission Saturday. Please support if you can! Tony Sava is the contact.



May 18, 2021: Townhouse Tweaking

By Steve Jackson
Townhouse front

The second building in the "Book Shop" modular set (10270) is a little teal-colored townhouse. The front is pretty, and the inside is very detailed. The sides do not matter – they are not meant to be seen. But the back looks like it was phoned in, with big flat areas of color and a lot of bare baseplate. In a public display, that won't do.

Still, it can be improved without any major rebuilding at all. This is not an article about building technique; none of this was "hard" at all. It was just a matter of doing it.

To the right is the front of the townhouse, built to plan, except that the baseplate was replaced by four 16x16 plates for stability. Here on Flickr are pictures of the back, built to plan and then jazzed up. Top to bottom:

• The very plain roof now features a dish antenna and a plumbing vent. Just greebling to give the eye something to fall upon.

• The two rows of flat gray at the top of the second story have been separated with a band of profile bricks. This not only looks spiffier, but also freed up some teal to use elsewhere . . .

• A minifig is standing on the second-floor patio, observing the shenanigans below.

• The great expanse of flat teal wall on the first floor is the worst part of the original back side. Here, it's been interrupted with a window. It's skinny, because there are stairs behind it. However, you can barely see the window, because in front of  it is a rose trellis, and in front of that is the ladder from the basement. Standing on top of it, which you should never do with a real ladder, is a fellow trimming the roses. These multiple layers of scenery are much more interesting.

• The bare baseplate has acquired another raised bed and a lot of grass. A lady is standing there to steady the ladder and complete the trio of people in the scene. She's daft if she thinks she can keep the gardener from falling down, but perhaps she can give him some sympathy afterward.

None of this was hard at all. The only challenge was scavenging the needed 1x1 and 1x2 teal bricks from elsewhere in the set. And it makes the townhouse a lot more interesting to look at.


April 30, 2021: Green Logging Crane / Circuit Cubes / Studly Motor Review

By David Tapia

Green Logging Crane

This is my first actual build using the Circuit Cubes Bluetooth kit. I used one of the motors from Studly Trains for the string, mostly because I didn't have a third motor from Circuit Cubes for that. It seems to work great and is strong enough for the need. I had to change the size of the log bundles so that it could work, but I was going to make that change anyway since I don't have enough reddish brown 2x2 round bricks.

This was basically built before the Circuit Cubes kit reached me. I had ordered a set of Studly Trains control/motor systems as well. They actually arrived first so I tried to use them to power the various parts of the cranes. I found that the motor coasting feature of that system didn't allow for good control of the crane, so I had to shelve the build until the Circuit Cubes kit came.

I am planning on using the Studly Trains setups for something else. I will say that the Studly Trains system should be used for a trainlike build because of that. Also the fact that it works with the PF IR remote is awesome! The instructions for setup are well written and easy to understand. Two drawbacks: one, the battery is a LiPo battery which can be dangerous. Two: because the system is so small and open it is easy for the wires to break off at the connection points. I was able to resolder the wires back without issues, but if you don't know how/can't do that it might be a deal breaker.

The Circuit Cubes Bluetooth system is pretty good and straightforward to use. I would recommend it for this type of build. The app works well and is easy to use, though I did have trouble with it dropping the connection to the device when using it on an older device. Also, using more than one Cube on separate devices in the same room caused the same issue. So there is space for improvement.

As far as the Bluetooth Cube goes: it's pretty good and was easy enough to build around. You can see in the video that I was able to build an easily removable cover over the switch to make it easy to turn off and on, and a cover over the charging port as well. The positioning of the two might be better if they were both on the same face of the cube.

The motors are reasonably powerful and seem to have a fair amount of torque. The speed isn't much but it seems fast enough for the size and possible applications. The fact that they can be connected on three sides gives a lot of flexibility. They have eight studs on top and eight anti-studs on the bottom in a 2x4 brick shape. There are also three anti-studs / Technic pinholes on the long sides that match up with a 1x4 Technic brick's pinholes. A Technic half pin will fit and makes a strong connection point for the motor. I used this method to turn the motor vertically to turn the crane's body. I would say that the various connection points make this a better part than the Studly Trains motor.

I may decide to extend the length of the flat car body of the crane to make it more stable on the track. It is a bit unbalanced with the body of the crane being a pretty solid mass of plates and bricks to counteract the boom and claw. Hopefully lengthening it will help.

Here's the video on Facebook.
For more pictures, and pictures of the Circuit Cubes set, see my Flickr.



April 24, 2021: Table Building Continues

By Steve Jackson

Skinny Table


Here is an almost-finished skinny table. It is 6 baseplates long but only 1.5 wide, and is very light . . . it's an easy one-hand carry.

We are excited about the potential of these tables for layouts that connect two (or more!) town centers or other areas. Maybe Derik's petroleum refinery . . .

Lots more are in progress. The next building session will be announced on the Google group.


April 17, 2021: WBI Presentation

By Steve Jackson

Tim, Ed, and I just wrapped up our "Introduction to Lego Trains" Zoom presentation for the Women's Brick Initiative. We had about 15 participants, and there were some good questions. And we learned more about how to do this kind of virtual event; the next one will be better!

We hope we were able to inspire more people to get into participating with train layouts, and we anticipate some actual physical collaboration once it's safe to have in-person events.

And the WBI may do a club boxcar with their logo. Can't have too many club cars!

March 31, 2021: Petroleum Engineering LEGO Style

By Derik Melton

A unique addition to the display!

When I joined TBRR last year we were in the height of COVID-19. I have yet to meet anyone in person or attend any shows, but one thing is for sure – I have had a lot of fun visiting with the members, seeing theirRefinery designs, and rekindling my love for building with LEGO.

I started off building some trains and rolling stock with my son but wanted to contribute more to the club's display. I thought for a few weeks about what I would like to create, watched videos from past shows and gathered different youtubers' ideas.

One thing I noticed was that I had not seen a lot of oil and gas infrastructure integrated into the builds online. I quickly noticed Ed's Octan petroleum tanks and refueling racks and drew some inspiration from that. I am a Pipeline Engineer and have been around facilities for most of my career so I thought this would be a good starting point and something that really hit home for me to attempt to create.

I began creating a large storage tank out of 1x2 bricks. I was not sure how many it would take to form a full circle but soon found out the minimum is 66 bricks. I wanted to create another tank with a different design, so I found another method for creating a round structure. This one was much more parts intensive. I wanted to also create a natural gas cryogenic facility. From there I just drew inspiration from facilities I had seen in person, pictures online, industrial looking builds on Flickr and freelanced the rest of the 96x192 stud layout. I asked Ed what he thought, and he liked the idea. He gave me tips and opinions on different looks along the way that proved very helpful. I hope everyone likes my work.

For more pictures, see my Flickr.

March 24, 2021: Joint Meeting With Women's Brick Initiative

We have arranged to hold a joint Zoom meeting/event with the Women's Brick Initiative to talk about LEGO trains and other topics related to trains and train layouts.
The idea originated following a discussion on the WBI Facebook group, when one of the coordinators of the Brick Train Awards noted that 95% of interactions with the contest's IG profile was from male users. Many WBI members related poor experiences with trying to get involved in their own LUG's train builders, feeling intimidated and/or just turned off by the way people can get about LEGO trains.
The event will be held Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 4 PM Central. The link will be provided later.
We are going to discuss topics including:
LEGO train basics
Track ballasting
Layout design
Planning and coordinating joint layouts
Building the community
The goal is for this to help beginners get into building more MOC trains and train layouts, to help lower the barriers to entry into this aspect of the LEGO hobby, and to increase the diversity of builders and participants within the train community. Maybe it will be a way to spark new collaborations at future conventions.

Everyone is welcome to attend. If you would like to present or lead discussion on a topic, please let Ed Chang know.

March 15, 2021: The Angly Tower

By Timothy Howell

Train displays aren't all about trains. As one Texas Brick Railroad member has said, "There are trains, and things that go behind trains."

One of those things behind trains is a building named the Angly Tower, a MOC that I originally built in 2017. While the design of this MOC is entirely my own, it was inspired by real-life architecture.
Basic LEGO® bricks are often assembled like real brick - stacked on top of another, overlapping from one row to another. Known as a "load-bearing" wall, this simple, sturdy method of construction has been around for centuries. The wall that you see is the actual structure holding up the building.

In the first half of the 1900s, urban architecture was growing rapidly, and much of that growth was vertical. A typical masonry load-bearing wall can only be built a few stories high before the weight of the wall itself is too much. Architects, engineers, and developers looked for ways to build higher.

A new technique was developed called "curtain wall" architecture. With this type of construction, a structural frame was built and a cladding assembly was attached to the frame. What you see from the outside provides weathertightness and aesthetics but does not hold up the building.

One of the very first (and very famous) curtain wall buildings is the Lever House in New York City, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, construction completed in 1952. It was so well received that the style was copied and adapted, over and over. Curtain wall design is extremely common these days. Watch the construction of almost any commercial building more than 2 or 3 stories high - you'll see a steel or concrete frame going up first and the exterior cladding installed later.

Having spent several years as an architect, I was well aware of the architectural history of skyscrapers. With my LEGO hobby, I decided to move away from typical studs-up, load-bearing walls, and experiment with curtain wall construction. Using the Lever House as general inspiration, the result of that experiment was the Angly Tower.

This MOC has columns of 1x1 bricks supporting the corners of the floor and roof assemblies. The walls seen on the exterior are panels attached to the frame with clips. This is true curtain wall construction built from LEGO(R) parts.

Not only are the exterior walls not load-bearing, but they are constructed with studs facing sideways. This was necessary to get the appearance of steel ribs on the outside, by using 1x2 and 1x8 plates with rails, installed vertically.

What about the shorter, angled part? It's there because it added variety and allowed for an entry plaza and sculpture, for more interest. This is also what eventually gave the building its name – one day a TBRR member said something about "that angle-y building."

The Angly Tower often appears in TBRR displays. Watch our Events page to see when we will next be setting up things and trains that go in front of them. Hope to see you there!

For more pictures, including interior, see Flickr.


March 13, 2021: Brick Train Awards And Hispabrick

Feast your eyes on the winners of the 2021 Brick Train Awards! Amazing builds in all kinds of train categories. Props to the sponsors and judges for making this effort possible.

While you're at it, check out the new edition, #36, of the highly respected Hispabrick Magazine. It's free! Articles of special interest include a primer on model photography and the results of a survey on BrickLink.

February 17, 2021: Funny Freight Contest!

The Texas Brick Railroad is sponsoring a "Funny Freight" contest. You have nearly six months to design and build your entries – judging will take place at Brick Rodeo (Houston, TX) on Friday, July 23, and all 12 winners will be announced Saturday night.

What It's About
    Create a LEGO railcar (or string of cars) that is . . . funny. It's funny if it makes us laugh. Or at least grin. That's the only definition. Parody, satire, weird historical rolling stock, plain old absurdity . .  . whatever floats your boat. Just keep it rated G or PG, since Brick Rodeo is a family event.

    FIRST PRIZE – an 8-wide TBRR tank car kit designed by Edward Chang, with custom award printing. (And maybe more – we're open to prize sponsorship, and some has been tentatively promised.)
    SECOND PRIZE – A new-in-box Brickstuff animated Metroliner billboard for your town. (And maybe more.)
    THIRD PRIZE – A LEGO "Charles Dickens Tribute," 40410, new in box. (And maybe more.)
    BUILD BONUS – $100 in booth credit at the Brick Rodeo "Too Many Bricks" booth – for the best physical entry that is actually brought to the show. That is: If the first place winner is an actual build at the show, it will get the build bonus. If the first place winner is not at the show but the second place winner is, the second place will get the bonus . . . and so on.
    AWARD BRICKS – We'll create a dozen "2021 Funny Freight" 1 x 8 bricks, and give one each to the top dozen people who enter.

    Who can enter? – Any living human being. But no more than two entries per person, please. Judges will be asked not to vote for their own entries.
    Required info – We need the name of each entry, your own name (or a screen name), and a means of contact if you win. We will not share your info with anyone, or retain any info after the contest except the names of the winners. We do ask that if you run your entry on our track, you put an identifying sticker on the bottom so we can get it back to you.
    Scale – From 6-wide to 10-wide, as long as it runs on standard LEGO track.
    Judges – The contest will be judged by the TBRR members displaying at Brick Rodeo.
    Format: Your entry may be an actual build brought to the show (preferred!), or a photo/video of a real build, or a virtual build. Virtual images or photos should be sent to texasbrickrr@gmail.com, and should arrive by noon on Friday, July 23rd.
    Rights – You retain all rights to your entry, but we get to display images of it, and to build one for our layout if we love it.
    Awesomeness – When choosing between equally funny entries, the judges will favor real builds over any other format, and will take into account technical excellence, light, sound, and movement effects.
    Novelty – Entries must never have been displayed at a Brick Rodeo before. But this is the first Brick Rodeo, so bring out your best!

    Send questions about the contest to texasbrickrr@gmail.com.


Q – Can one entry be multiple cars?
A – If the joke requires multiple cars, sure, that's one entry.

Q – Tell me more about Brick Rodeo.
A – Ten years of awesomeness, now with a new name. www.brickrodeo.com.

Q – Should I explain the joke?
A – That's up to you. Many good jokes don't need explaining. If your entry embodies a witticism about court intrigue in the days of Louis XIV, you'd better explain it. But often the title of the entry will be enough additional explanation.

Q – Do I need to include instructions?
A – No.

Q – Can I do a funny locomotive?
A – What do you think pulls all the funny freight?

Q – Do you have a disclaimer?
A – LEGO is a registered trademark of The Lego Group. This contest is not sponsored or endorsed by TLG.


January 29, 2021: More Railcar Building!

We did another distanced building session Wednesday night. Gareth finished his Crocodile and found that the finished piece fits very precisely into the box. Steve completed the frame in his test-assembly of the club tank car.

January 17, 2021: Building Get-Together, With Masks

On Tuesday the 12th, the Western Division of TBRR held a masked and carefully distanced building event at Steve Jackson's house. Also present were Will Heron, Glenn Copeland, Joe Herbert, and Gareth Ellis. We worked in Steve's three-car garage; the car was parked outside, giving plenty of room for everyone to have their own table and work on their own project. And lo, many mighty bricks were stuck together. We will probably do this again sometime! (We are still waiting on the spinners to arrive from PV-Productions so we can build their ball-pit variant of 42100, the Liebherr excavator.)

December 24, 2020: Dec. 19 Meeting Report

by Ed Chang

Virtual meeting - Brian Lasseter hosting.
Participated in the meeting:
Brian Lasseter
Jacob Gooch
Mattti Schaelicke
Sarah Silverman
Steve Jackson
Tim Howell
Tony Sava
Amy Meyer
Matt Sailors
Ed Chang
1. MOC updates:
Steve showed some nearly-complete GP40s based on Benn Coifman's design, in Conrail blue livery.
Matti showed a new modular building in Studio, work in progress.
Tim showed his new dark orange modular building, also a work in progress. We considered some possible names/purposes for the building.
Tony posted a video of his motorized mini trains.
2. Club car update:
First draft of the instructions are done. Ed will be making some revision moving forward.
We considered making a Playbill font variant of the Texas flag design. We may be able to have variants with each type of font.
When the instructions are complete, LUG members can email Ed for link/password to the online hosted files (Dropbox/Google Drive or something)
3. TBRR Blog:
Steve is always taking submissions for blog posts. This is meant to be a LUG blog, not a solo Steve blog.
4. New items in the community:
Matt received a KeyBrick One prototype rechargeable battery insert for the PUp Hub. We expect he will report back once he's had a chance to try it out.
We discussed the new LEGO official road system, and speculated on how they might do curved roads. It seems to have some potential for use in the club layout.
Tony showed a preproduction sample of the BrickTracks R104 switch. They look very promising and have some neat features including modularity to make a ladder yard, and a removable rotary switch stand that can be place on either side of the track. Several LUG members have placed preorders, expected in Feb. 2021.
5. Brick Rodeo:
We didn't make many specific plans for this.
We would like to come up with a good way to incorporate Tony's Galveston terminal station into the layout.
It sounds like there will be some new tables built in Austin "soon." 3x3 tables, including dropped tables would be useful. Tim's new turntable will need a new 3x3 dropped table.
The next virtual club meeting is tentatively set for Saturday, January 23, 2021 at 4 PM.

If there are people who regularly cannot make Saturdays, please let us know and we can alternate Saturday/Sunday meetings.

December 12, 2020: Online Meeting / Club Car Photos

We have an online meeting coming up Saturday the 19th. Visit the TBRR Google group for details! We hope you can join us.

Ed Chang has completed the design of a tank car for TBRR and has executed it in two color schemes – one red and white with the TBRR graphic logo, one red/white/blue like the Texas flag. Pictures are on Flickr.

November 30, 2020: TBRR Club Standards And Suggestions

by Steve Jackson

A question we get once in a while: What are the TBRR club standards?

There is no WRONG in Lego, except Mega Bloks and Krazy Glue, but a collaboration needs to agree on a few points ahead of time. These are ours.

•• The big standard, the meta-standard, is Plan In Advance. With enough communication, anything is possible, even if it breaks the rules. We coordinate our displays using our Google group. Please read it.

•• Play well together! We are all ambassadors for the hobby.

PennLUG track profile

What We Bring

• We use plastic track ballasted to the PennLUG standard, with black ties. That way the track is uniform throughout the layout, which really ties it all together. So to speak. An end view is to the right. Match this profile and you're golden.

• Track positioning is vital if things are to link together. The PennLUG standard calls for double track on mainlines. The outer rails occupy the 6th stud in from each edge (see the image). Varying from this takes a lot of planning.

• Wide (third-party) curves are strongly preferred because they allow for bigger engines and longer trains.

• Monorail positioning will be the subject of a separate post.

• We do our best to keep city streets consistent, but which street style we use depends on whose collection of streets is used. We do expect all sidewalk surfaces to be tiled.

• Our basic grid is the 32 x 32 baseplate. We use features as small as 8 x 16, but they take more planning! Everything is built on either a baseplate or a plate. Some of our members are enthusiastic about basing systems like MILS, but some of us are less so. There is no consensus, and we don't do things without consensus. If you bring something cool that is built on a raised base, we will find a way to work with it.

• Our display is train/town themed (except for little vignettes, which can be just about anything), and generally urban unless we have so much space that we can do some countryside. If you want to work in pirates or Minecraft or Hogwarts or something, look for a way to give them a Town context. Discuss it on the Google group!

• No vignettes past PG; we have lots of kids in the audience.

• For AFOL shows, MOC buildings and trains are preferred, followed by modified sets. Unmodified sets are filler at best. At train shows, Maker Faires, and so on, most of the audience doesn't know which sets are which and there is no reason not to use the good official ones.

• Please don't bring unauthorized clones!

• Lighting is awesome. Motion is awesome. Humor is awesome.

How We Display

• We use black plastic skirting around the tables, and store as much as we can underneath.

• No bare tabletop! At a minimum, every space must have a baseplate, preferably with landscape . . . unless it is being used for literature display.

• Our standard club tables are 3 x 6 baseplates (30 x 60 inches). They are 30" high. (Table design by David Hawkins, with later refinement by Joe Herbert and Gareth Ellis – plans are elsewhere on this site.)

• Rather than assigning each member a zone, we plan the whole layout in advance, mixing up the contributions to create the most interesting and liveable town plan that we can.

• We have stanchions. Sometimes we use them. Often we don't. We do put up Please Do Not Touch signs, and they mostly work.

• Everybody who brings a train will get the chance to run it at some point, and at AFOL shows we welcome visiting trains. We have never needed a formal schedule; everyone always plays nice.

• We are as kid-friendly as we can possibly be.

• If it's dusty, wash it!

• No "stuff," and especially no food, on the display tables. We set up separate places for these.


These are not rules, but they seem to be good ideas.

• Landscape! Visitors like it. We do not have a standard for trees, any more than Nature does. Build trees that you like.

• If a layout stops at least an inch from each table edge, then kids have a place to lean while they look. Most kids will not abuse this privilege!

• Trees or other features on the outside of curves will help slow down a runaway train and may avoid a death plunge.

• It is a very good idea to put your name on both your property and your boxes.

• Building sidewalks, like those on the modulars, look best at 4 to 7 tiles wide.

• We have a lot of fun with our Seek and Find slips.

• Most trains are 8 studs wide (though 6 is okay). Most trucks are 6 wide. Most cars are 4 wide.

• Wear your nametag!

Up To You

• Whether you use batteries, PF, or Powered Up is up to you.










November 21, 2020: Living Room Layout

by Steve Jackson
My Brick Town

Finally, I will get to enjoy some of my Lego in between shows. My living room is now host to four club-sized tables, plus the original living room table with a green-painted sheet of builder Styrofoam to protect it and bring it up to height. Not quite six tables' worth of area. So tiny by the standards of what we do at shows, but as a home layout it will be nice. The goal is to use as many of my buildings as possible.

I started by building a plan in quarter scale. I was able to get almost everything in; I even have room for the plaza behind Posh. The only compromise I had to make was to leave one of the Bluestones on the shelf. There will be sidewalk along all streets, even in front of parks and beside buildings that weren't made as corners.
Thanks to Gareth Ellis for great help on setting up the tables!

The next step was one of my favorite parts: excessive landscaping! I didn't quite use up the whole tree collection, but it came close. And I put plastic skirting on the tables.

On the end of the row you can see my quarter-wide Sushi Bar MOC. It pairs with a 3/4 wide building to fill up a full space and adds some variety along the street front.

At this point I called it finished, enjoyed it for a couple of weeks . . . and then tore it up again.

As originally constructed the curves were R40/40. Using BrickTracks curves, I upgraded the whole loop to R56/40, and the trains like it. Replacing the first outer curve with the R56 track was very time-consuming, with several false starts. The second went better. At that point I had a system, and the last four were done at the same time. The only catch is that the "inside" curve puts an R40 radius in what is otherwise an R56 loop, so speed is still limited. But the tables are nice and smooth. I can run long trains, even pulling through two R40 curves at once. I am very pleased with the BrickTracks curves.

The Trans-Blue Tower stays lit all the time. It is a great living room night light. There will be more lighted features as time goes on.

And I haven't used up all my living room space. The next expansion will add another table and a monorail loop. More on that as it happens . . .

More photos are on Flickr.



November 11, 2020: We Have A Blog!

    Thanks to Kira for writing the code to make this happen!
    We'll update this blog every week or two with news, reports of interesting projects from our members, and whatever else seems right.
    We will also continue to maintain the sections on upcoming events and trip reports, just so all our events are easy to find.
    If you have something you think we should write about, email me – sj@sjgames.com. Pictures are good, too!
    Comments on blog posts should go to the Google group – that way, all our club discussions stay in one place.
– Steve Jackson