Supertrain 2001 - Calgary, Alberta
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I didn't know LEGO® made trains. Are they something new?
A: LEGO® trains have been around since the 60s in one form or another. In 1966 came the first sets with track and battery powered motors. LEGO® trains are usually divided into three groups based on their operating voltage, but all are compatible to a certain extent. They all run on the same gauge track, measuring just over 4 LEGO® studs internally. Battery trains (4.5V) and 12V DC electric trains were available concurrently through 1992. Unfortunately, the 12V sets were never available in North America. The current 9V series has been available since 1990, and is the main focus of this display.
Q: This stuff isn't "real" model railroading, is it?
A: LEGO® trains are toys as well as models. They are similar in ambiance to the classic toy trains of the early 20th century, in that they cannot be, and are not intended to be, exact scale replicas of prototype equipment. They can get close, and are a significant challenge to build and operate as they involve more "scratch building" than most commercial scale model railroad kits. And, they're kid pleasers.
Q: Are they kits or do you just make them up?
A: Many of the trains here today are from regular LEGO® kits, but most of what you see is custom designed and built. These custom models were built by AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO®), using standard LEGO® bricks, without any instructions. Try to guess which models are originals! The nice thing about LEGO® trains is that you can always change what you have built. If you don't like the original LEGO® designs, you can change them into anything you can imagine. It's the ultimate in kit bashing, with no waste as your mistakes just go back in your parts bins!
Q: Is this ALL yours?
A: All of the LEGO® you see on the layout is privately owned, but not all by us. Most of the trains, as well as the buildings, bridges, and mountain are ours, but some of what you see is on loan from other AFOLs. The LEGO® Company has very generously donated all the LEGO® in the "kid's play area", and the Calgary Model Railway Society is taking care of the rest of that section. We would like to thank The LEGO® Company and the Calgary Model Railway Society for their help in making the "kid's play area" a reality. James Powell is also due our sincere thanks for sending a large portion of the trains and over half the track all the way from Newfoundland. Some of the trains you see have even traveled from outside Canada. David "Zonker" Harris has sent part of his amazing collection from San Francisco, California. The CP engine (bricks only - no decals) and those cool logging cars are just some of his creations. We would also like to thank Larry Pieniazek and other members of LUGNET for their help and advice.
Q: I've never seen LEGO® like this in stores, where do you buy the sets and parts?
A: Unfortunately, few stores carry LEGO® trains, and if they do, it is a very limited selection. Most of the parts and trains you see here were bought directly from the LEGO® "Shop at Home" service. You may reach them by phone at 1-800-4LEGOLAND (1-800-453-4652) and they will send you the latest catalog. You may also go to the LEGO® website [ LEGO.com ] and look under trains for the current selection to buy over the web.
In addition, there are a number of AFOLs who are marketing their own designs, targeted at the adult hobbyist who enjoys additional features and complexity. Visit 'The Guild of Bricksmiths' website [ Bricksmiths.com ] for more information. You'll need parts to make your own creations; lots of them. One of the best resources for individual LEGO® parts is [ BrickBay.com ]. Other websites you'll want to visit are the official LEGO® site [ LEGO.com ] and the LEGO® Users Group Network [ LUGNet.com ]. LUGNET is where all of us AFOLs hang out. Without it (and its "predecessor", the Rec.Toys.LEGO newsgroup), none of us would have "met", and you wouldn't be seeing this display today.
Q. How can I contact you for more information?
A: You may contact NALUG by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. NALUG is an informal group of adult LEGO enthusiasts based in Edmonton and area. More information on NALUG can be found at the NALUG web site [ www.nalug.org ]. At this site you'll find photos of our layout at GETS 2000, and soon, photos of this layout too. You are also welcome to read and/or participate in our discussion group [ lugnet.com/org/ca/nalug/ ].
Q. This is great, but it sounds expensive. Are many specialized parts required?
A: You can get started relatively inexpensively, (costs per car are similar to high quality G or tinplate) as the train specific parts needed are a very small percentage of the total parts in any given model. The "kid's play area" is a great example of this. Each of the three tables has an oval of track comprised of two boxes of straight rails (4515), and two boxes of curved rails (4520). The only other train specific pieces are twelve "blank cars" (3737). The other 30,000+ pieces are the same "bits of imagination" you'd find inside any other LEGO® set. Of course, the usual way to start with LEGO® trains is to buy a set that has all the necessary pieces and add parts to it. The diagram below, courtesy of the Pacific Northwest LEGO® Train Club [ PNLTC.org ] illustrates the various LEGO® train parts: