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May 11, 2024: Temple Train Day

Report by Steve Jackson

May 4 was our first visit to Temple, which was an important railroad hub in the last century, declined as the railroads did, and is now regaining stature. The big depot was preserved as a museum and it now once again holds a manned Amtrak station. The museum is excellent, with lots of well-interpreted exhibits.

Exhibiting were Mark, Steve, Ed F., and Gareth. We had only an 8 x 10 space – six tables – but that let us set up quickly and concentrate the good stuff. We got into the building about 8:20am and trains were rolling when they opened at 10 . . . though we were not really finished till 11, and most of the cars and minifigs were never put out. The show ended at 3. A lot of effort for a five-hour exhibit, but it made people happy.

There were about 400 visitors, and probably every one of them saw our layout. Seek and Find did well – we took 98 slips and ended with one. We got thanks, and a return invite, from both museum staff and the Amtrak station agent, who had taken a big part on the planning.

We had our standard double loop with a lot of display track, an engine with sound, and a couple of lighted buildings. Nothing completely new was displayed this time, but we got Studgate onto the layout (though still not connected to the mainline).

The expected rain was light and sporadic. The only disaster was with my Emerald Night, which gushed smoke when activated. Looked very realistic, but smoke is not actually a feature of that model! It turned out that the receiver chip had fried itself.

There was concern beforehand because about half the buildings use raised ("MILS") baseplates, and half sit on plates or regular baseplates. In the end, we set them out and they didn't look too weird, as long as the facing on the MILS part is light gray.

Teardown took almost exactly an hour.

Lessons learned: Print out the layout key, preferably ON the layout guide. Maybe ask not to be next to the game area where kids are throwing a big ball around. We can do a quick small setup when we have to! We need to be more mindful of where our club tables are at any given time . . . there was Friday stress when it turned out Gareth did not have six that would work. He made a run to Derik's (THANK YOU GARETH!) and picked up what was needed.

Photo by SJ.


May 5, 2024: Galveston Railfest 2024

Report by Steve Jackson

Railfest was April 27-28 this year, with setup the evening before. As usual, we had the whole side room at the museum. We set up 16 tables and barely fit in. There were some big new benches that had to be moved to the side, but once they were out of the center they were very useful. Setup took more than 6 hours for several people, though, partially because the floor in that room is so very un-flat that the tables required a lot of leveling. (Tim thinks that only cost us about an hour; it looked like more to me, but he was one of the ones down there doing the work.)

Attendance was good. The show had done some advance advertising.

Exhibiting and/or helping to set up were Ed, Ka-Un, and Chu-Un, Tony and AJ, Steve, Mark, and Tim and Ann. And Fletch came down from Colorado (!!) to run his CB&Q #5625 engine.

My heart stopped briefly when I noticed that a couple of my buildings had been stacked other than This Side Up. On opening them, zero damage was found!

We had a rectangular layout with a long double mainline loop, a trolley route, and a lot of lighted displays. The important new building was Mark's Studgate Station, which was displayed to the side because the approaches don't yet conform to system. The other important new train was Tony's steam loco, Pere Marquette 1225.

Things went very smoothly. We were appreciated. There were no really major problems – a few derailments, but nothing hit the floor. Breakdown took only a couple of hours.

Lessons learned: A shirt pocket is a handy place to keep Seek and Find slips (thanks, Mark!). The cloth tablecloths work all right but the samples we have are toobig for most uses.  We need to make up a special package of Galveston shims . . . thick ones!

Tony Sava's photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/savatheaggie/UpeY904x26
And a video: https://youtu.be/_9lktXcn3Y8?si=MtNvC4VDKmTPEl75

February 19, 2024: Ten Years Old!

The Texas Brick Railroad hit its tenth birthday a few days ago. Our first event was the Great Train Expo in Houston on February 9-10, 2013. From the report:

"This was the first show for the Texas Brick Railroad, and it was a big win. 13 AFOLs were present, and about 5,000 attendees. We operated eight trains (including a monorail!) at once. Old-timers agree this is a record for a LEGO show in Texas. We'll see how long it is before we break our own record. SJ was the organizer, with backup from T.J., who brought the tables and printed layouts.

"Highlight MOCs of the display were T.J. Avery's Pennybacker Bridge, David Hawkins' railroad station, Tony Sava's Palestine (Texas State RR) layout, and (just created for this show) Pat Hough's monorail/train Union Station. We also did a presentation to introduce attendees to the world of LEGO trains. And we had a great dinner at Pappasito's!"

And here we are, ten years later, going strong and building trains. Come along for the ride, y'all!



February 14, 2024: Ten Ways To The Wow

We've been talking recently about how to enhance the Wow Factor of our layouts. "Good modeling" should go without saying, but what else? Here are some completely personal thoughts . . .

1. Movement – everybody expects the trains to move, so when something else moves, it draws the eye.

2. Light – any light is good. A variety of lights is better. Some of them should flash!

3. Sound – again, a variety is better. It's hard to hit the balance between "audible in a crowded hall" and "annoying," but go for it.

4. Popular culture references. Batman FTW.

5. Humor (especially slapstick) and self-referentiality, such as a LEGO store or Tony's tiny train.

6. Narrative – tell a story! Just have people doing things. Show a problem being overcome in an interesting way. Show a crime in progress, or being prevented. Which leads into . . .

7. Shock or surprise – even something as trivially vulgar as a "honey wagon" or a men's club will get a giggle, and that giggle means the viewer is involved and telling themself the story. It works.

8. Interactivity – let them push a button to make something happen. Buttons should be easy to replace, as they will get broken.

9. Easter eggs, if people KNOW there are things to look for. The Seek and Find works excellently to keep visitors involved.

10. Great size – scale office buildings or radio towers, or giant rockets, or super-long trains, or just a coherent layout with 20+ tables. Massed figures also fall into this category.
Therefore, clearly, a very good layout would be one in which, once a day, a huge, highly detailed Godzilla appears, roaring and breathing fire. By pushing a button, the spectators can make Godzilla trample a LEGO store.

– Steve Jackson

January 1, 2024: Online Meeting Schedule For 2024

We'll meet monthly, except when we don't. The second weekend of the month, alternating Saturdays and Sundays, at 2pm Central time. The "site" for the first meeting is Google Meet: meet.google.com/cxx-ssuu-etw - we shall see how that works out.

January  13
February 11
March 9
April 14
May 11
June 9
No online July meeting due to Brick Rodeo
August 11
September 14
October 13
November 9
No online December meeting,. Potential TBRR holiday party December 14. Note also that Steve will resume his customary all-AFOL all-day party on December 7. Save the date!

December 10, 2023: Holiday Party!

Over a dozen TBRR members gathered at the Ellis home for a holiday party. We played Dirty Brickster and LCR (using LEGO track, bricks, and minifigs). Parts were swapped. A draft was drafted. Snacks were eaten and drinks were drunk, though no drinkers were. Fun was had!

In the evening, we took the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion of club business, including:
• Should we buy/build new tables, repair the ones we have, or both?
• Should we replace the plastic tablecloths, which are not wearing well, with cloth?
• Should we hold monthly Zoom meetings? (Yes. Details will appear soon.)
• Where do different members find the fun, and the not-fun, in club activities?
• Should we print a huge number of business cards? (Yes. Steve will get on it.)
• Should we change the focus of our displays or the venues we use, and if so, how?
• What should we do with the mosaic exhibited at the last Brick Rodeo?

These are all things we will be able to talk about next year at our online meetings - the schedule will be the next post.



November 8, 2023: OKC Train Show

OKLUG invited us to come to this big Oklahoma City show. Tony Sava was our only representative there. He reports:

It's a long drive, but doable in a day from south Houston (7.5 hours).  With others involved it'd be a fun road trip. I drove up Thursday and stayed overnight, arriving at the venue Friday morning. They wouldn't let us drive in for setup, but they did have pallet and pallet jacks that made moving things from the loading dock easy.

Cale Leiphart from PennLUG was in attendance, and, I think, at least one or two people from Illinois. With ARKLUG and OKLUG, we had maybe 25 folks.

The venue was large, with plenty of room between spaces. Attendance was apparently paltry compared to previous years, but simultaneous events in the same fairground space were probably partially to blame.

Tables were an issue. ARKLUG and OKLUG both use commercial 5-foot plastic tables, with a few exceptions. Each table had adjustable feet to bring them to LGMS height.  It made initial setup very quick.

However, they are completely dependent on laser leveling their tables.  While it's accurate, and they had brick-built rulers that let them gauge the correct height for MILS and non-MILS modules, it took hours to level that many tables, and half of them had to be adjusted later to fix lumps. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. To add insult to injury, older plastic tables can develop burrs on their face, which cause permanent lumps between tables. Table setup lasted several hours, but we got most of the layout set up by 7pm.

Because the tables aren't 100% to LEGO dimensions, an intentional gap of about 1 inch has to be left between each table. That means skirting has to be individually cut per table, or enough slop given between tables if the tables need adjusting. The gap itself isn't a problem for MILS, but for a non-MILS person like me it made placing details – trees, minifigs – around gaps difficult.

Because of the gaps, the tables can't be locked together and constantly get bumped from beneath the display (there were no catastrophes, though).

The tables are super thin, though. They could probably fit nearly 2 tables for every 1 of ours in the same trailer. And they're cheap and easy to replace. Still, it made me long for our tables.

The layout was huge – 100 feet by 60 feet (I think). It was advertised as the largest LGMS layout to date. But there were only two loops – the larger main outer loop with half the layout being a double-back, and a smaller inner loop in the one side.  Next year they plan to change this to many more independent loops.

However, one of the modules went from 2 center tracks to 1, which forced us to stop and wait for traffic to pass. While this is realistic, we had several accidents because of it, and one over-eager AFOL running a Power Functions city train "until the batteries die" was a particular thorn. One side of the offending module also relied on a BrickTracks switch that was allowed to freely swap back and forth as the trains went through. There were no issues with this except for my T1 – that huge train with XXL wheels kept taking both sides of the switch at once and derailing.

Saturday started early, with doors opening to us at 7 am and to the public at 9. Security would have let us stay till 9 and play with trains, but after the show another contingent wanted to go visit non-bramded LEGO stores in OKC.

Sunday was much like Saturday but ran 10-4. The crowd was light, but interested.  Lots of comments, lots of questions. Teardown went quickly. Most of us were completely packed by 6:30. I was one of the last to get packed because my module was mostly built in place, rather than slid out of a box. But I wasn't too far behind.

As much as I have seemingly complained here, overall it was minor stuff, and I'm glad I went. The OKLUG guys would like to see this event grow to be a sort of LEGO train mini-convention.  They would like to know if there are any events or contests or whatever that would help entice folks from further away.  What could they offer to make Texans more interested in attending?

My photos are here.


October 8, 2023: Texas City 2023

A small one-day show with an enthusiastic crowd. Tony & AJ Sava, and Tim Howell, created and manned the layout, with setup help from Robert Carlisle and Ben McCurdy and breakdown help from Ed and Ka-Un Chang, who drove in just to help get things packed. Tony reported that he was home, unpacked, and relaxing 2 hours and 15 minutes after the end of the show.

Tony Sava's photos are here:

September 8, 2023: Ellis City Featured In Brick Journal

Issue 81 of Brick Journal featured – as its lead story! – a six-page article about the city block created by Gareth and Catherine Ellis. It starts with a row of buildings, anchored by Gareth's Pacific Electric station based on Who Shot Roger Rabbit? In front of the buildings, an Arduino-controlled trolley goes back and forth automatically, with sound effects. As usually displayed, a double row of regular mainline, with switches, runs in front of that. Closest to the audience, a walking path is full of pedestrians.

Perhaps most spectacular of all: the whole layout is lighted. All the buildings have internal illumination, the trolley is lit, and even the streetlights work. A 12v power bus runs beneath the streets; the baseplates connect with magnets, and the power is stepped down to 5v for the lights.

Ellis City is more than a technical tour de force. There are lots of great little features here. On the side of one building, a street artist is drawing rainbow graffiti. There's a minifig fight in front of the pub. One of the dog-walkers has seven – or is it up to nine now? – different dogs to handle.

TBRR is very proud to display Ellis City at many of its shows, and we're doubly proud that Catherine and Gareth got a magazine feature!

August 28, 2023: NMRA 2023 National Train Show

The NTS came to Texas this year – specifically, to Grapevine, which is within our driving range. So we drove, and put up a good display. The crowd was interested; many of them were relatives of traditional model railroaders, and were surprised and pleased to encounter the Lego layout.

The show floor was enormous, yet was dwarfed within the giant hotel and convention center. We all found it eventually . . . One thing that we could not find was any office or command center for the NTS itself. There must have been one, someplace else in the hotel. But the door guards and so on were all hired help who could not answer questions, even questions like "Could you understand the announcement that just came over the speakers?" So the show just kind of ran itself.

We had two full loops, two different trolleys, and Tony's mini-train. Motion was also provided by two Vestas wind turbines and by Gears' airplanes and pumpjacks. There were a lot of lighted features, including Ellis City. The yard was large, with an X design; one loop could be routed right through the yard as long as we used an engine that tolerated switches.

Breakdown was slow and painful because we could not bring cars onto the show floor. It was a long walk from the layout site to the exterior door!

Tony Sava's photos (with some photos of another layout at the end) are here.

May 8, 2023: 2023 Austin Train Show

The big Austin show moved to May this year to get farther from the National Train Show coming up in Grapevine.

This one was mostly notable for showing that the club can do two shows essentially at the same time. All our Eastern Division folks were at the Galveston show the week before. It also showed that it would have been more FUN with a bigger group. And everybody was critical to our success. Had we lost any one of the four exhibitors, the whole layout would have had to go to half size or less.

Gareth designed and managed the layout this year. Displaying were Gareth, Steve, Derik, and Michaela. Also represented in the layout were Joe Herbert (by the solid wood box he built to transport Ed's new bridge). Rob Clarady and Doc Geracci (both of whom loaned buildings), and Matt Sailors (the big flag, which was great for filling a layout hole). By the way: happy 80th birthday, Doc!

Setup was routine but slow with only four people. Michaela was a hero for picking up Steve's stuff in their Megalodon, since he had to bring more than his car would carry.

The crowd was appreciative, as usual, and we got enthusiastic remarks from several other exhibitors during breakdown. The bridge got oohs and ahhs. Seek and Find was popular. They still go crazy looking for the tree frog.

There were small incidents but no big ones. No trains left the table.

We did a short presentation about TBRR in an upstairs room; there were only six attendees but a couple of them were already Lego trainheads who didn't know about us, so it's possible we'll get some new members.

Breakdown was fairly routine, but our location next to the loading dock meant that those who broke down quicker had to make their way around us. This has been pointed out to show management; maybe we can be more out of the way next year. The kids will still find us!

Photos from Gareth here and here.


May 2, 2023: Galveston Railfest

After a hiatus, we were back at the Galveston RR Museum show!

In attendance: Tony and AJ Sava, with assistance from Christina and Mr. Sava Sr.; Ka-Un and Ed Chang; Brittany T; Tim Hutchings, with Tim Howell's buildings/track; Pat Hough; and Christie M.

Displaying the Galveston museum at the Galveston museum is good . . . People noticed, and the museum appreciated it. Having separate town sections kept interest spread out around the layout. The R104 S-curve was a little extreme for the larger/faster trains, but having the track run around behind some buildings helped keep some variety in the layout. Theree were two loops and a long reversing trolley track.

We set up without a level; it would have been useful. Shims are faster than threaded feet, especially on the older tables (this was also the conclusion after Grapevine). We were slightly delayed in unloading, but we finished setup in under 5 hours and were fully running when doors opened.

Tony's Texas State RR #7 RS-2 returned to service using the Deltang receiver. Brittany brought several things, including the new Jazz Club modular, some Disney 100 CMF figures, and the ice cream truck from BTS Dynamite. We reused the Texas City Seek-And-Find (thanks to Brittany for providing Big Bird). We had one minor train collision when the T1 lost its front end and then its wheels.

Attendance was probably comparable to last year, but we don't have official numbers yet.

The museum allowed us to tear down starting around 4:15, and we were ready to load by 5:15. We are invited back again to Galveston for next year. We also received an invitation for the Houston Area Model Train Show, hosted by the Houston T-Trak Association, November 18-19 in Pearland. This is a different event than the Greater Houston Train Show.

Photos from Tony Sava here.


April 17, 2023: New Braunfels Spring Train Show

We set up an 18 x 18 display on the stage at the New Braunfels show. Attending and displaying were Gareth Ellis (sadly, without the clan this time), Joe Herbert, Rob Clarady, Steve Jackson, Glenn Copeland, and Doc Geracci.

New at this show were a lot of Rob's modulars that had not been on a TBRR display before, including a very nice 3 x 2 railroad station. Also new was Steve's Chocolate Factory (which is a chocolate shop with smokestacks, not a real factory).

On the whole, we had two mainline loops, the bouncing trolley in Ellistowne, and more lights than we could count. We did not do Seek & Find this show, due to time constraints, and at least a dozen people asked about it!

As always, the San Antonio TexLUG group had their own display, and this time it featured some really excellent monorail track design.

We very much missed our friend Kermit Baese, who had been a keystone of the New Braunfels train shows. He passed away just the Sunday before. Without his hand at the wheel, the show was sometimes a bit bumpy, but everyone got out alive. Setup and breakdown were both efficient.

Photos from Gareth: Instagram and Facebook.


March 15, 2023: Lone Star Hi-Railers Train-A-Palooza 2023

Hosted by the Lone Star Hi-Railers model railroad club at the Grapevine Convention Center, this event featured operating model train layouts, seminars, vendors, and access to the LSHR's train layout inside a restored baggage car at the Grapevine historic railyard.

We had only four AFOLs there - Derik, Gears, Ed, and Gareth – but that was plenty for a 10 x 18 space. Track was a simple double loop. Gears' pumpjacks provided extra movement interest. The crowd was relatively small and the show went off without incident. We appreciate the invitation!

January 31, 2023: International Lego Day At The Killeen Public Library

January 29 was International Lego Day (who declares these things, anyway)? TexLUG Austin held an event at the Austin public library, and TBRR went to Killeen for a Killeen Library show there.

The whole Ellis family, along with Steve Jackson, trekked to Killeen for a seven-table setup that started about 7 in the morning. The show ran from 10 to 4. Breakdown took only about an hour, and everyone was back home safe the same night, after a victory dinner of excellent enchiladas.

Our display was a miniature version of our usual show setup, with lots of lighted buildings and two loops plus the trolley. There were no serious disasters, nor really any moderate ones. While it would have been fun to have more people, the six of us there were enough to create a display that was adequate to the needs of the event. (And everyone was useful, even our youngest!)

The show was a big success. There was a long writeup in the local newspaper. Organizer Deanna Frazee estimated that there might have been 1,500 appreciative kids and parents there, playing with Lego on several large tables and watching the trains go around. A repeat is already planned for January 27, 2024!



October 30, 2022: Longest Passenger Train

Congratulations to Switzerland for setting a new world's record for the longest passenger train - on European rail gauge, no less!

In Lego, that train would be around 170 feet long.


October 20, 2022: Texas City Show 2022

By Tony Sava

The Texas City Museum Train Show 2022 went very well.  The museum was more than thrilled with the layout, and we're already invited back next year. And the next. And the next.

This year there was no simultaneous Touch a Truck outside, so there wasn't as big of a public attendance as it has had before. There were some disagreements with the use of the building across the street used for the big scale trains – the TaT organizers wanted the building and weren't willing to give it up.

My son AJ and I arrived about 6pm to begin setup. Once again the members of the host model railroad club helped unload my overloaded truck, and began helping us set up tables. Ben McCurdy arrived shortly after and helped us set up the rest of the layout. By 9:30 we were mostly done. Ben drove all the way down from North Houston to help and it was very appreciated.
Saturday morning AJ and I arrived and finished putting out trees, flowers, people, and verified the Seek and Find was populated. Curt Vaugn, his wife, and son arrived to help watch the layout and later help tear down. Curt's son brought and ran a MOC Hogwarts Express, and he and AJ discussed design tips for it.
The seek and find was a huge hit. We only had a few sheets, so we were going to tape them to the wall for people to use. But the museum printed up 200 copies (100 sheets cut in half) so everyone could have a copy. Public was a little light, but we had a pretty constant stream of folks. Several families came back after viewing the rest of the show.
The only disaster of note was my PRR T1 losing its wheel facades and derailing. But nothing fell off the table and everything was back up and running in short order.
4pm came quickly, and Curt and family, AJ, my wife Christina, and I began teardown. By 5:20 we were completely packed, and again the host club helped us load.  By 5:45 we were on the road.
A good show – scary that I own that much Lego. I had enough track to do at least another table of yard, but as it is it took two vehicles to bring it all home.

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/savatheaggie/9U7Yv0H389

October 17, 2022: Bricks Killeen

By Rylee Joens

Bricks Killeen has come and gone, and what an amazing event. This was the second annual Bricks Killeen show, as well as the second time that TBRR has participated! None of it would be possible without the two awesome organizers, Ed and Deanna Frazee. Bricks Killeen turned out an impressive number of exhibits with about 80 different displays along with 8-10 vendors this year. There were two public viewing days and public participation was driven largely by the free entry, which was another great feature of this event! As host, Ed and Deanna found a way to provide dinner to all of us needy displayers on not only Friday evening during setup, but on Saturday evening too!

Through the duration of the event, we were able to enjoy looking at fellow displayers' layouts; including a Great Ball Contraption made by two brothers in Lubbock, a modest town and train layout by DFW LUG, and many other impressive Lego creations. One of the unique benefits of the Bricks Killeen show is the space itself. This year, TBRR had its largest train display layout in history, and this was all made possible by the sheer size of the Killeen Civic Center space that was provided to us. This display boasted a humongous Texas-sized layout, because everything is bigger in Texas, 80 feet long and 30 feet wide.

Setup began early Friday, at 8:00am, with the arrival of Gareth Ellis and Rylee Joens. They had the arduous task of setting up the tables for the "Texas-Sized" layout. Their arrival was followed soon after by a steady flow of helpers, guests, and other members. It is worth noting that the last brick was placed at approximately 11:00 p.m.

Aside from the sheer size, the TBRR layout was a bit different from previous shows in that the design was made almost entirely of mini displays within a larger display. Each TBRR member or guest was assigned their own modular space. Which brings up a good point: TBRR had some pretty special guests that weekend. Traveling the farthest distance, we had Robert and Jocelyne Immell all the way from Oklahoma City. Among their display pieces and modular spaces were an impressive grain silo, sheep field and cotton field, an apple orchard, a wicked awesome train station, and lots of cool track geometry and locos, including Sava S7 units, Royal Gorge, Union Pacific #807, and a FEF-1 version. Our next special guest, joining us from the Dallas area, was Conrad Schlenker. He brought his magnificent New York, Ontario, & Western 'Class E' 4-6-0. We felt very lucky to have them join us this year. Our actual member attendees included Joe Herbert, Gareth Ellis (and his family, including Cat, Logan, Rylee, and Aedan), Derik Melton, Cassie Walton, Steve Jackson, Tony & AJ Sava, Robert & Ace Clarady, and Chant.

For this particular show, TBRR had a wonderful feature in Joe's detailed, kid interactive, sorting, and transporting quarry. This creative section used three EV3s, pneumatics, and 9v track along with trains. We found this to be a huge crowd draw and seamlessly integrated into the overall layout.

New trees were on display,  including magnolia trees with white flowers made by Cat. There was an update and refreshed farm by Aedan. From a technical standpoint, Derik was able to test and run his dual loco consistently with some new RC equipment installed. Another (not so new) addition, which we haven't seen in a while, was Tony Sava's impressive cathedral. The details both inside and out were a crowd pleaser for sure. He also ran a personal record with the Allegheny locomotive, pulling 43 wagons. Last but certainly not least, we had Robert and Ace displaying Robertsville, with everybody particularly liking the science experiment gone wrong. In our first year display at Killeen, we included a Vestas windmill. This attracted a lot of attention from the crowds and that was with just one. Thus for this display, Gareth had the great idea to include a whole wind farm section made up of Vestas. In total, we were able to set up 7 Vestas. This was only made possible by the contributions from James Browder, Glenn Copeland, Lori McMorris, Gareth Ellis, and Jason Kulpe – thank you! Another special shout out goes to TBRR members, Ed Chang and Tim Howell, for lending us the People Bridge 2 and track to complete the layout. We were very excited to test out our first ever crossing for the main loop! Some additional key features included Ellisville, Tony's locos, Gareth's Intercity 125, and Steve Jackson's tower and police cars.

Now for the incident report. We would love to tell you that the largest ever display went off without a hitch and that there were no incidents to report; however, that would simply not be true. So, on to the incidents, crashes, and derailments. The first derailment was experienced by Robert's tankers, followed closely by Gareth's Intercity. Derik's coaches incurred the first crash which actually led to the second crash – of Derik's F7 loco falling clean off the table. Thankfully that was  a speedy fix. We had stanchions around the entire perimeter of the exposed display except for the interactive portion set up by Joe. Ironically, this is exactly where the last incident occurred when a child was able to grab one of Gareth's BR 5700 clean off the track.  The small thief immediately took off, pursued on foot by their mother. Once they were some distance away, and upon hearing the stern warning of their mother, the train was sadly dropped on the floor. The distraught and likely quite embarrassed mother found as many of the exploded train pieces as she could and returned them back to their original place on the track. This was shocking for sure but overall not irreparable.

Overall, we feel Bricks Killeen was a success! We look forward to participating again next year and can't wait to see how we can build upon the ideas tested this year.

Joe Herbert 's video is here.

October 17, 2022: Austin Train Show

By Steve Jackson

We had a great, attractive display at the Austin Train Show on August 26-28.

We had a 21 x 32 space. Setup on Friday went well, with almost all the track and a lot of the scenery going into place. Things were easily finished up Saturday before opening. We used all venue tables except for a couple of dropped tables to hold the lake and small ones as footings for the New Bridge.

FOLS of all age included Ed and Ka-Un, the whole Ellis family, Lasso, Glenn, Gears, Joe, and Steve. Others participated via the MOC box. A couple of regulars could not make it because they were at another Lego show, which is a fine excuse.

We actually had so much space that we ran short on track (which does not happen often any more!), so we dropped the small loop from the plans, and Lasso saved the day by unboxing and installing his whole Scout camp and energy production center.

We had two big loops and a good assortment of lighted and motion features, most notably Elliston, with its lighted buildings, sound effect, and bouncing trolley. There were no major disasters.

The public was interested and enthusiastic, and we actually ran out of Seek & Find slips on Saturday afternoon (more were printed for Sunday). The audience was shoulder to shoulder for more than an hour in the morning, and the layout perimeter is 106 feet!

Breakdown was incredibly fast, taking about 90 minutes.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of this show, and maybe we can do something special – perhaps a NMRA preview?

Photos from Gears: https://www.flickr.com/gp/196651595@N04/48B04Yhg7w


September 20, 2022: Polo Shirts!

Thanks to Gareth, we now have club shirts – dark gray with a TBRR logo.

Nobody is required to buy or wear them, but they look great!

In other news, yes, there will be reports soon on the very successful Austin and Killeen shows.

July 10, 2022: Brick Rodeo 2022

by Steve Jackson

TBRR at Brick Rodeo 2022

Held in Austin over the pre-July 4 weekend, this was the biggest and best Texas brick show ever. And our TBRR layout was probably our best yet. I counted 25 participants - from those who brought multiple tables worth of scenery to those who helped on setup and breakdown. With everybody working together, the experience was outstanding and the public got a great show, all the way from gleaming Galveston to glittering Ellis Towne.

The layout was a huge C shape stretching across 29 full 3x6 tables and three 1.5x6 tables (549 baseplates total). There was one loop around the whole perimeter and one on each half. There were also two bouncing trolleys, one on each aide. There were several motion features, notably Craig's new-to-us windmill, and more lighted buildings than I could count. It was thoroughly dramatic during the Dark Hour!

The Ellis family got to be the big stars this time. Their family project, a full lighted street (12 baseplates long, 4.5 deep!) was finally ready for display. We've seen parts of it; now we got to see the whole thing. The buildings are powered by 12V current that runs through raised baseplates and feeds LEDs in the buildings, streetlights, and even one automobile. And, to put the cherry on top, Gareth won the Best Train award for his lighted Inter-City Express.

Another highlight was Ed Chang's new bridge, which may end up being called . . . wait for it! . . . the New Bridge. Like his earlier People's Bridge, it carries double mainline track and raises to let people through. But it requires less ground space and can bridge any size gap up to 30 inches. And it's lighted! Technology advances!

Also new were Ed's trolley shed, water tower, and dog park, Pat Hough's hypermodern Powered-Up train design, Chant's big arcade, and Derik's detailed Brickbucks (a Lego-brick reappropriation of a set by a knockoff company!). This was the first time at one of our shows for Gears' pumpjacks and Jake's fast Powered-Up train. Robert brought a row of townhouses, the Montpelier and Suffolk Seaboard stations, and the park and display track with a couple of 9V engines (a N&W and a Chesapeake Western). Travis brought a platform and some cars. Craig brought the large operating windmill and an 0-6-0 steam engine running an Fx Brick/soundcard/lights and USB battery box. It ran very well.

Some older exhibits were spiffed up. My Trans-Blue Tower was re-lit and re-powered, and is far brighter now. Derik's refinery pumped glowing effluent into Gareth's lake, to the dismay of the fish. Tony worked on his Daylight on-site, and it now has a working headlight. Michaela, they of the Rodeo Goat Tote, assembled a farm with a gory surprise for those who looked carefully. Ed's trolley had its operational rough edges polished off, and ran flawlessly.
There were a couple of dramatic crashes due to switch failure, but no permanent damage (Ed recommends preventive maintenance on all Bricktracks switches). There were no guest-induced disasters at all.
We had visits from Richard and Flynn, the keynote speakers, and from Beyond the Brick (which hit a million subscribers during the show). We had our picture taken by Tanja and Russell from the Bricklink team, so we may be featured on some Bricklink social media in the future.

We went through more than 100 Seek-and-Find slips – we probably would have used more if they had been outside the chains. Lesson for later: have a separate literature table if we have room to get away with it.

Everyone left tired but happy.

Tony Sava's photos are here. He also took the big photo at the top.

Pau Hough's photos of the whole Brick Rodeo display area are here.


June 24, 2022: Brick Rodeo Is Next Week!

Our display will be huge and excellent. Everybody come visit!

April 18, 2022: New Braunfels Spring 2022 Show

By Steve Jackson

By now, we definitely know how to do a New Braunfels show . . . and this is a good thing, because our original plans had to be discarded when Gareth, and then Cat, came down with a serious stomach flu and could not bring the club tables. (Spoiler alert: They are now fine.)

So the original plan was revised to allow for fewer features, and to work with venue tables, and everything went ahead, and the spectators never knew a thing. We used 27 venue tables in a 20' x 18' space at the front of the stage, and we had a good crowd at all times. The gate was over 1,000 people on Saturday.

Present were Ed, Joe, Lisa, Steve, and Derik. Chant and Doc also brought things for the layout, and Tony was a game-saver by sending 120/104 curves. And Gareth made it for a while on Sunday.

New at the event were Ed's coral townhouse and Lisa's burned-hotel-turned-garden. We had two town areas; one used raised baseplates, and the other didn't. There were three full train loops plus Ed's trolley, which at some points was running two cars at once. There were a couple of other motion features, too.

Lessons learned included: The venue tables there are showing their age. A 6" strip around the edge of the layout proper is a very good place for kids, and even adults, to lean. The crowd was pleased at the return of "Seek and Find." We printed 160 slips and had four left over at show's end.

Setup took about 36 AFOL-hours. The show ended at 5pm on Sunday, and we were carrying the last boxes out at 6:30.

We had no troubling incidents of any kind!

Photos by Joe Herbert

December 12, 2021: Orange Show 2021

By Tony Sava

Thanks to a power outage at our hotel, we were up and at the venue earlier than planned, about 7:30.  By 8:00 we were fully unloaded and setting up tables. The layout design we chose was mostly things that took very little time to set up, so by the time the show started at 10 am, we were just finishing putting up trees and people. The layout was a big X. Putting another row of buildings behind the Bluebonnet gave a good sense of depth.
AJ got my new T1 up and running quickly, but when testing his powered boxcar (pushing a dead head steam engine and tender), it kept dying.  Maybe pushing two dead weights was too much, so we swapped to a dummy diesel. No luck. We decided to test another set of rechargeable batteries, but they died too.  Then a third set of batteries. I began to think my batteries had gone bad.
We moved to a different locomotive; maybe the motors were bad.  No, it died too.  By this point it was lunch time, so I went out and bought two huge packs of AAA alkaline batteries,  thinking my rechargeable batteries were all bad and we'd need something for the show.  I also got some lunch and headed back.
By now the T1 had used up what I thought was the only good set of rechargeable batteries left, so AJ installed Alkaline batteries in it. It ran fine. Then he installed the Alkaline batteries in the other locomotive - it died, just like the rechargeable batteries. Finally we decided to swap the battery box, as it was what we kept installing in all the locomotives we were testing- success.  The battery box had gone bad.
From then on, the show went smoothly - no accidents, no errant hands, no purses knocking things only.  The show attendance was heavier than in years past, maybe 75-100 people.  One of the host club members brought a MOD set/MOC train and ran it for a few minutes on our layout.  I neglected to get a picture of it.
We were in the same location we've had in previous years,  but this time they moved some furniture which allowed our layout to be flanked by two others - a desert HO layout and a G scale Christmas Lionel layout.  As always, their big collaborative HO layout took up the other half of the room. 
Come 5 o'clock, it was time to tear down. AJ and I got everything packed by 6:00, and thanks to our host club members, we had the truck loaded by 6:20. 
It was a good show, and it was good to go back.  I think the last time we displayed there was 2018.  The folks in Orange were thrilled with the layout, and we we're mentioned in the local paper.

Photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/savatheaggie/R934R8

November 12, 2021: New Braunfels Fall 2021 Show



TBRR's display at the Fall 2021 New Braunfels Train Show was smooth and self-organizing. We had "only" an 18' x 21' space; comparatively easy, after some big recent ones. Present were Gareth, Joe and Lisa, Steve, Glenn, Frankie, Doc, Chant, and Michaela. Those sending things to build out the display included Will, Paddington, Tony, Aedan, and Cat.

Setup took about 40 AFOL-hours. Breakdown was less than 2.5 hours after the show closed – and would have been faster if we were not up on the stage.

We used 32 venue tables and had a full double main loop, R120/104, plus a small R40 loop and Joe's 9V R40 within his crane display. There were several lighted buildings and items, though Chant's laundry was the only motion feature other than the trains themselves. We had no bridge this time; Doc has offered to build one and display it at the NB RR museum between shows.

New at the event were Will's modular-style burger joint with Halloweeny displays, Chant's hyper-small "Cobra Kai's Dojo," and two small LED-lit things from Steve: the King of Halloween, and a 4-wide police car with flashing red and blue lights. Gareth and Cat had upgraded the lighting on her townhouses, and Lisa had built her necropolis into a full 3 x 3 square.

There were no dives to the floor or, indeed, track problems of any kind. The public was appreciative and good-mannered. We had fun.

Photos by Joe Herbert


October 3, 2021: Bricks Killeen

Bricks Killeen was a first-time convention but rarely felt like it. There were about a dozen vendors, a lot of exhibitors, and Lego games after hours. There were no admission or table fees of any kind, not even for vendors, and more than 4,000 of the public showed up to enjoy the Lego. (Late addition: this show will repeat in 2022 and 2023.)

Our layout was nearly as big as it has ever been – long and skinny this time, about 60 x 15' – but not as complete and fancy as it sometimes is. We really could have used one or two more people to do this size layout. But it looked good, and the public enjoyed it. Thanks to all the helpers, setup was fun (about 8 hours for about 8 adults and 4 part-time kids), and breakdown was relatively painless (3 hours).

There were three large loops plus the mini-trains, three other motion features (one in a brand new 16 x 16 laundromat created by new member Chant), and several lighted buildings. The Galveston Museum was there with its full yard, which drew a lot of "oooohs" from the train fans.

We experimented with the Texas Loop and determined that it will be about 55 feet in diameter (which will fit in one bay of the event center there), and a couple of hundred more sections of track are probably needed. Trains ran fast and well on it, and we let kids run trains there under supervision. Since it was on the floor, it was fairly safe for the equipment.

We had more derailments than usual and one table dive, but the train was reassembled and back in operation by the end of the show.

Fans liked the mini-trains, the variety of trees, the way the scenes worked together, and the tall Vestas windmill (a former Vestas employee took his picture with it.).

Lessons learned: The long layout is awesome, but we are at or beyond the number of club tables we can routinely transport. Lighting is beautiful. Kids are a blessing at setup and breakdown. The Texas Loop works. And Steve needs to triple-check which boxes he loads!

Photos from Tony: https://www.flickr.com/gp/savatheaggie/py9VmU

September 12, 2021: Austin Area Train Show


The Austin Area Train Show was in the Palmer Event Center this year – an even better venue than the fine Taylor facility where it was held in previous years. We had about a dozen active participants and made a great showing. It was probably our second best display ever, with the best still being Brick Rodeo.

The show was well run, the venue staff was friendly, and organizers say attendance was notably up from 2019.

Kurt Baty displayed a big new MOC, a multiple treehouse, which got a lot of attention. He also brought his iCorp Tower and A-frame Whataburger, which drew comments, respectively, for their great height and accurate Whataburgerness. Cat displayed a new row of four lighted townhouses riffing on the theme of the one that comes with the Book Store. Derik displayed his refinery, and some big beautiful rolling stock we had not seen before. Aedan brought the Powered Up passenger train. Conrad joined us for the first time, with some MOC rolling stock including a special car that will be revealed later. We also met Edward from El Paso, who has been building an impressive home layout. We hope Conrad and Edward can join us on a regular basis!

We had an exterior double-track loop, good for long trains. There were also a small R40 loop and two back-and-forth trolley setups. Gareth brought his moving fairground equipment. Lighted items included Gareth's ferris wheel and several buildings; Steve's Deli is now on the "lighted" list.

Some areas were MILS and some were not. Ed worked wonders in blending the standards.

CK Brick Collection, one of the vendors, gave us a mini steam engine name badge. We turned it into a quasi-relief art piece for the side of Tim's Library.

Lessons learned: Lasso's Scout camp is a perfect "top layer" for Gareth's 6 x 6 lake. A carnival is an excellent last-minute filler when members have to drop out due to possible COVID exposure (they didn't actually catch it, though). The Powered Up sensor is just not reliable enough – Arduino may be the answer for the trolleys. And coming from Houston can easily take a whole day, and this should be allowed for.

There were no major Bad Things. A lot of tables and track were unavoidably delayed, but we got set up by opening on Saturday, and thanks to lots of help, on Sunday we were broken down in about 90 minutes!

Photos from Tony Sava here.

August 13, 2021: Show News

Busy times ahead as we come off Brick Rodeo. Preparations are on track for the Austin Area Train Show at the end of this month. It looks as though we will have more than a dozen members, and most of them will bring structures or rolling stock or both. We're going to make a good showing.

Next month is Bricks Killeen. This is the show that is giving us all the space we want.

On October 23 is the one-day Texas City show.

And we have just been invited to the New Braunfels RR Museum fall show at the end of October. Dust off your spooky displays!

August 9, 2021: Funny Freight Contest Results

[Image]Crocodile nom nom!

At Brick Rodeo, TBRR members judged a dozen entries for the Funny Freight contest (and one more showed up after the judging, and ran on the railroad). We were very happy with the turnout and the quality of entries – some of them really made us laugh out loud!

The winner was "The Crocodile" by TerribleMOCs. Based on the recent LEGO Crocodile engine, it roars down the track chomping its teeth. Nom mom nom. And its eyes glow red! TerribleMOCs gets a copy of our TBRR club car and some other tchotchkes.

Second place was "Looney Tunes" by Nathaen Koski. As this car moves down the track, a chain drive moves Sylvester and Tweety around and around. This one appeard "in person" at the show, took the at-show bonus award, and captivated everyone who saw it. (For another build, Nathan was also the Best In Show winner for Brick Rodeo!) Nathaen wins an animated Metroliner billboard donated by Ed Chang.

Third place went to Rob Hendricks for the "Rivet Counter Detector," to smoke out those pesky rivet counters that plague your layout. Its radar dish spins when the car moves. He wins a Charles Dickens set.

An honorable mention went to the "Nameless Thing Cargo" by Teazza in Italy. (Note the use of inside-out tires to build icky tentacles!)

Honorable mention also went to Hod Carrier (Andy Mitchell) for a car we called "Destructo." This one got the loudest laughter of all during the judging, and only lost points for the technical detail that it couuld not actually run on the tracks. Watch the video . . .

And a shout-out to our youngest entrant, Aidan E., aged 8.

All our entrants will get lovely lavender engraved badge bricks for participating. Thanks to brickengraver.com for making these.

July 29, 2021: Brick Rodeo!

Our display at the first Brick Rodeo, held in Houston last weekend, was an unqualified success. The show was sold out. Our layout was huge and beautiful – the biggest one ever, and probably the best. Contributors and helpers included Ed, Tony, Steve, Tim Howell, Tim Hutchings, Derik, James, Dove, Chloe, Jeff, Matt, Nathaen . . . Who else?

We had three operating loops, all with wide curves, plus Ed's new PU "bouncing" trolley line. We were actually able to conduct some operations without using the Big Hand! There were at least four motion features, and more lights than I could count. New structures included Ed's Imperial Sugar Mill - which won Best Trains award! - Tony's huge Galveston Santa Fe Station, new member Derik's refinery, and Steve's sparkly purple Evil HQ. Significantly revamped were Tim Howell's roundhouse . . . its turntable can now be kid-powered via a crank on the side of the table . . . Tony's mini-trains, now motorized, and Tim Hutchings' Avengers Tower.

We had 12 entries, plus one late one, in the Funny Freight contest, and some of them were hilarious. That contest will get its own post soon, with pictures and videos.

Tony's pictures on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/gp/savatheaggie/ji72kx

Beyond the Brick covers the layout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSxmIymISAw

June 21, 2021: The Time For Funny Freight Approaches

Whether or not you are going to Brick Rodeo in mid-July, you can still enter the TBRR Funny Freight contest!

Page down to Feb. 17 for details.

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 a pair of 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