February 18, 2017
Trains On A Train
November 26-27, 2016
Houston Fall Model Railroad Tour
We had three FOLs: Tony, Ed, and AJ. The show went well. Only one major train related incident - Ed's Berkshire decided to take an unplanned stroll from the outside track to the inside without the aid of a switch. This was caused by an ME model R88 that separated from its connector. I have decided that, at least for me, it is time I used MEK to fuse the ME Rails to their connector plates. That will come in time.
The show itself was very quiet, probably the smallest number of public attendance ever at this show - which is especially disappointing after last year's highest number. I have no insight as to why. But our host club was nevertheless very happy with us and our layout. We were given an honorarium of $120.
We arrived a little before 7:30 am Saturday, and were able to unload, setup, and had a train running by about 10:15, fifteen minutes after the show started. We continued to set up and finished with all details (figs, flowers, etc) by about 10:45 am. Thanks to Ed, I was able to repair the Allegheny back to running status, and it was great to see the old girl rolling again. At 5, the show was over for the day and we went to dinner.
Sunday morning AJ and I went and visited the Orange Depot, a train station that several members of our host club (among other community members) are working to refurbish. It's closed, so we could only see the outside, but we took photos. We also went on a journey to take some reference photos for Tim of some local locomotives, and luckily we were successful. Photos of both are here:
The public attendance of Sunday was even lighter than Saturday, so our hosts suggested we begin tearing down at 3:30. Two hours later we were packed and on the road.
New MOCs for this show:
Ed's fantastic Winter Village, including a custom Winter Train Station
Jurassic City Park (Tony's Diplodocus Skeleton modified from another AFOL's design plus Glen's dinosaur skeletons)
Thomas tied to a flatcar
The Thomas was quite popular with the kids, and will probably become a regular sight at shows.
We are, of course, invited back; the next show may be inside the Orange Depot. In addition, we have been invited to participate in a Grand Opening show inside the Depot sometime this spring, dates to be determined.
November 12-13, 2016
Houston Maker Faire
Tim Howell reports:
AFOLs (and one TFOL): 17. Public attendance: 6 to 7,000,
• assorted MOCs, including Nathaen's USS Constitution, and (life-size?) BB-8 by Steve and Lili.
• Jeff's classic space monorail layout, now up to at least 6'x8'
• TJ's (almost life-size) crane
• TBRR layout, 10'x20' (13 TBRR tables)
Activities included Minecraft play brick and an Xmas ornament fundraiser. Minecraft play brick was popular. Several of us decided that is a good collection and should be kept separate from the rest of our play brick. TJ took some good photos that will be sent to Lego to fulfill the Minecraft activity obligation. Thanks to Erin, Kevin, and Tim 2 for spending much of their time with this activity.
The ornament / charity activity had pretty steady business most of the weekend. I do not have a final tally for the amount collected. Many thanks to Steve and Lili for organizing that, designing the ornaments, and spending most of the weekend with it.
The TBRR layout had contributions from Tony, Ed, Mike N., Donna, Nate, Vincent, and Tim 1, and turned out very well. Unusual for TBRR, over half of it was city, not rural. Mike had a great-looking start to his elevated railway, and Tim's trolley had its own dedicated loop for the first time. Ed's Princess Train was a big hit, as always. There were a few derailments, mostly due to little fingers getting past the plastic stanchions. No serious damage done, fortunately. We did not do a seek and find, but it would have been popular. Vincent had impressive lighting in his buildings - hopefully he will post info about that. Another big round of thanks to Ed and Tony, as this was their 4th train show in 4 consecutive weekends.
Jeff's space layout and TJ's crane got their usual amount of admiration. TJ rigged the crane to hold a TexLUG-Houston banner.
Closing time was 5:00 Sunday. We started packing up a few minutes before that, and cleared the building about 6:45. Many thanks to Mike C. and Tim 2 for staying until the end and helping!
My favorite quote of the weekend .. the youngster on Sunday afternoon, looking at the MOC's, and asking his dad, "How much allowance do I have?"
Sunday morning I talked a little bit with David Brunet, one of the main organizers of the Maker Faire. He is really appreciative of our time and effort, and told us next year we can have as much space as we want.
Overall it seemed to be a good show. No major disasters, plenty of AFOLs helping out, lots of other things to see.
November 5-6, 2016
AJ and I arrived about 5:30 Friday evening, and once again our hosts came out in force to help us unload. In less than 10 minutes my truck was completely unloaded, tables and all, in the display room. Ed wasn't going to make it Friday, so AJ and I leveled and clamped the tables, and set up what we could without getting too cluttered. We were out just after 8:00.
Saturday morning Ed arrived bright and early, beating me and AJ, and had already started setting up his stuff. We ended up not using table skirting, but we utilized the two large horizontal banners, and that did quite a bit in the small room.
Just after 10:00, we had a a train running and were very close to finishing.
The layout was a traditional small one for this show - our assigned room limits our size, but that also keeps the details packed in. Only two loops and a little sidings, but a nice city and farm. We chose to focus on mostly using fall trees, given the time of year.
Those who were at the Austin NMRA show may remember the Allegheny making all sort of racket while moving. It seems now that one of the motors has an internally chipped gear. It will only spin in one direction, and only if given a push. After 6-7 years and all the work we've made it do, I guess it’s time for new motors.
Saturday had two events running in tandem - the model train festival as well as the "Touch A Truck" event outside. Between the two events and the gorgeous weather, attendance was steady and relatively high. The actual attendance figures are still outstanding.
Sunday the Touch a Truck was over, so the attendance was significantly less. Tim Howell showed up to help man the display and help tear down. Christina, AJ, and Katie showed up midday as well.
Jon, the event coordinator, came by to say at 3:30 we could start packing up, but to leave trains running till the show close at 4. Again, the host club helped us carry boxes to the cars, and after all was said and done we were on the road by 5:30.
We heard several comments from the public that our layout was their favorite, and more than a few came back to see us a second time after seeing the whole event.
We are invited back next year, same time, same room.
Photos from Ed: https://flic.kr/s/aHskN9P7rN
Photos from Tony: https://www.flickr.com/photos/savatheaggie/sets/72157676248621415/
PS: One of the kids in attendance has seen us every year we've done the Texas City Show (Facebook says we started in 2013).
He said, quoting: "I've been seeing the LEGO layout as far back as I can remember."
He also could pick out all of the things we repeated from last year and everything new.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now a thing. :)
October 29-30, 2016
This was our second biggest display ever – 18.5 tables, second only to the last Brick Fiesta (22 tables). The footprint was 23 x 24 feet, and we were on the main floor.
We did this with only 5 AFOLs putting up the display, though others brought or sent MOCs. Arguably we bit off almost more than we could chew. The final result was excellent, but tiring, after a very long drive for Ed and Tony.
We had four operating loops and a lot of sidings (track 6 deep on one side of the layout). There were two motion features with Arduino control, one (Gareth’s Ferris wheel) with lights. We had two TFOLs – Noah Jarrett and his friend Griffin – visiting and running their Mikado engine. It ran just fine, too!
MOCs on display for the first time: Tony’s crossing signals. Steve’s track fire. Ed’s wire bridge for the amusement park and floating one-track grade crossing.
There were no track explosions or major wrecks.
We had a lot of visitors and many appreciative comments.
Tony’s photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/savatheaggie/sets/72157674601755231/
October 22, 2016
Austin NMRA Meet
We had a great opportunity to demonstrate LEGO railroading to the local chapter of the National Model Railroad Association. Six AFOLs came, including Tony and Ed driving in from Houston. We got to talk to a lot of interested and friendly folks from the traditional model RR community. We had seven tables, two loops, a yard with custom switches, and one light/motion feature (Gareth's custom lighted Ferris wheel), as well as some lighted buildings. We had radio controlled engines with inertia, and Gareth's Mallard had a RC controlled sound card, all of which went over very well. It took us 2.5 hours to set up, and only about an hour to break down.
New at this show was Gareth's MOC signal box. Almost new was Tony's big blue Railroad Office.
Photos from Tony:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/savatheaggie/sets/72157675978879885/ - with his favorite being https://www.flickr.com/photos/savatheaggie/30665247476/
September 17, 2016
TBRR set up an 8-table narrow layout for this one-day event. We went with a more urban theme this time, with a town occupying most of the layout. We used ME R72s for the first time, paired with R88s for 6-baseplate wide U-turns. The R72s fared well, with no significant problems during the show. They do suffer from the same warping issue as most of the other ME rails, but they had better clutch power and held together better than our R88s and R104. Battery drain was probably only slightly more than the R88s, but it's hard to tell. The garage at the museum has a tilted/cracked floor, so our layout had a downhill end and an uphill end. This and the temperature were probably the dominant factors affecting battery life on Saturday. Tony's Eneloop batteries got very hot.
Jeff Schroeder also displayed his NCS monorail layout, representing TexLUG-Houston. Jeff was able to use the PF Lipo+IR receiver to power his monorail train - this seemed to work very well.
In total there were 7 of us participating (including Christina who brought much needed sustenance, hydration, and ICE). It was very hot, and very muggy. That was pretty much the dominant experience for the weekend. Public attendance was officially over 1900.
Tony's photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/savatheaggie/sets/72157674404311231/
August 6, 2016
Carver Branch Library, Austin, TX
It was a fun meeting. We built Gareth's new, inexpensive design for compatible ballasted track. We had 9 AFOLs, a KFOL, and two supportive others. MOCs and WIPs were displayed.
July 7-10, 2016
Ed Chang reports -
Thanks to members of PortLUG who joined us - Rick, Steven, Grant, and JJ.
Our layout was 22 tables, 3 loops of 3 ME curves + 1 grand curve, reusing the "Big Cut" module from Brickworld, and a point-to-point monorail and static trolley line. This is about 40% more display area than our layout last year.
We had a greatly expanded town plus Brian's station/hotel "vacation destination." It seems we are slowly making in a dent in our ratio of set to MOC buildings.
It was our first time to integrate Tim's roundhouse into the working layout, and it won the Best Train award. We also displayed David's train shed on the layout for the first time...since GTE 2013 I think? JJ brought two of his UP diesels and Rick brought some Technic-based trains to make this a cross-LUG collaborative.
In terms of setup, or even pre-setup, the biggest thanks goes to Tim Howell for running to Austin/Bastrop for the tables at the last minute despite being essentially Brick Fiesta Co-chair #4. Also thanks to Gareth for lending his trailer and tables and helping with the move, and to Tony for taking the tables back to Austin. Also thanks to Joe for building the ramp for the hill climb. Unfortunately we were not able to bring the ramp part home, though we saved the vertical support - so perhaps another ramp can be built if we want to do the events again...more on that later.
Setup was leisurely compared to most weekend events. The only real problem we had was that perhaps the tables (or baseplates) were not set up exactly square, so there were a few places where the tracks/baseplates were slightly separated. No problems with running trains - just the table/tarp/tape showed through in a couple places. A thing for us (well, maybe mostly me?) to improve is to find a way for other people to help with setup.
We did run out of trees. We need more trees. Or random buildings or other features that don't need to be on roads. Doesn't have to be trees.
The public days were . . . well I only spent maybe 3 hours at the layout in total, so I don't really know. No major disasters. My trains did the usual- Princess Train ran a lot, 765 ran a while until the valve gear started acting up. Tony's Daylight got lots of fan love from the public, the Dreyfuss looked great running at high speed, and the Allegheny made lots of use of our 3rd track. Brian's monorail was mostly problem-free, except that one time it tried to sabotage the princesses. =)
Also, Joe was set up on the end of the hall, so we couldn't really see how he was doing. Seemed like he had a good crowd, when I went by on Sunday. His setup has grown, and picked up a couple of nominations.
The train talk was on Saturday morning. I think it went reasonably well, but in retrospect, it should've been done on Friday. I gave a talk on general concepts of MOC trains, and a couple specific engineering points. There were several people there who were interested and had questions, so I'll take that as a good thing. I ended up spending a lot of time Friday and Saturday entertaining guests as well.
Sunday was the train events. The hill climb in the morning was attended by... Tony, AJ, and me. But we had some fun. The maximum ramp level was about 15 degrees (4 ft tall, about ?16 ft long). The 9V trains gave out around maybe 10-12 degrees. My dual-PF diesel was able to get up the maximum slope, but in the pushing configuration only (can anyone explain the physics of that?? and maybe implications for train design outside the hill climb?) We didn't have enough straight 9V track so we put a little back and forth curve section in the middle for extra challenge. We also invented a second game of "controlled downhill descent" on the steep slope - with the challenges of not derailing on the curves and stopping without crashing at the bottom.
One interesting thing from this was the demonstration that when you press the stop button on the PF motor, the motor controller "shorts" the motor circuit, causing a the motor to exert a braking force for about 1 second, before going to "float." So you can control your descent just by repeatedly pressing the stop button. Practical application? I don't know. But that's why pressing stop on a heavy train at speed can cause derailments.
Train racing with the figure-8 track was...ok. Several kids including public spectators came by and participated. I think they had fun, but it really just turned into just randomly crashing trains. I'm not sure I'd support doing this again. First, there's very high risk to the train motors, because frequently kids will try to reset trains by holding them against the track with the motors stalled. And you know, crashes. Second, the 9V cross tracks aren't reliable to begin with. There are no check rails so the wheels frequently hit the middle sections of track. Third, I think the younger kids don't really understand what they're supposed to do. Simple oval track would be better.
Teardown took about 3 hours, again with help from PortLUG, TexLUG, and some junior TexLUG-SA members. Here also I'd like to figure out ways to be able to involve more people if they are available to help. Packing took some tetris-ing, but besides the ramp, we were able to get everything to fit. We have transportation issues.
Photos from Tony Sava:
Eurobricks thread: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=138039
May 7-8, 2016
Austin Maker Faire
"Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned."
Austin Maker Faire was May 7th and 8th in Austin, at the Palmer Events Center from 10am to 6pm. This year we had an impressive display and a good crowd. Maker Faire estimated 15k-22k people, though I suspect we were on the low end of those numbers, so I will say 18k. We ran a 20' x 50' booth with a number of activities and displays:
- TBRR City Display
- TBRR Mosaic signs
- TBRR Lego Free Play Area
- TBRR Pull-back Race Car Track
- TBRR Interactive Minecraft Display
- Creative Brick Builders Technic Area
- Creative Brick Builders Duplo Area
- TexLUG monochrome Free Play (with only green 2x4 bricks)
Load-in on Friday:
Setup was 4pm - 8pm. As they say, many hands make light work, so 7 people showing up for load-in was a real help, and we were mostly setup in 3 hours, but I think we left at 7:45pm or so after setting up some free play brick, and planting Steve trees around the layout, and doing other touch-up items. Gareth's 3x3 river and train bridge MOC took a nose dive off of a table, so we made a last minute swapout, but beyond the one tragedy, everyone and everything that we expected to arrived and was setup. Our city looked really good, but it would not have been possible without Steve donating his track and landscapes and without Gareth donating tables and his trailer to transport items.
Ben Rollman showed up with the last two missing MOCs before opening, and we setup the Minecraft Lego layout as well. We lost two "Steve" Minecraft minifigures before the official opening of Maker Faire (We had 6-8 kids gather as soon as the Minecraft landscape was unveiled), so this did not bode well for the weekend.
We had lots of hands during the day, and things went vey well. Our layout was well received, Ed managed to keep swapping train and Ferris wheel batteries as needed, and things went as expected. There were some large crowds, and we were in a very good central location. Many parents were struggling to remove their kids from our display. At the end of the day on Saturday we had to break down the children's MOCs made from the monochrome brick, and the free play brick. It is interesting how you get very tall creations from the box of 2x4 bricks. I left a little before closing on Saturday, but the display was in good hands.
Ed and others were there early, I arrived around lunch time on Sunday. The Minecraft landscape was still mostly intact, so things were going well. A TFOL named Noah arrived with a MOC train, but he could not get it to function well, so he left after a little bit. I wish I could have convinced him to stay and leave it as a display piece. The crowds were at least as big on Sunday afternoon as on Saturday afternoon, surprisingly, and did not really start to die down until after 5pm.
Tear-down on Sunday:
Maker Faire ended at 6pm, and I was in my car checking my watch at 7:15pm... Record time. We had 9 people helping with teardown, and things went very fast. So fast that most of my personal time was spent putting away the Minecraft activity box, putting away the monochrome brick, putting away the race track, and putting away the free play brick. We broke down the Minecraft display completely into its component parts. Ethan's son was most helpful in procuring us some dolly carts to whisk away our boxes. So far as we could tell, everything got where it needed to go.
I made some 48 x 96 stud mosaic Lego signs that mounted to speaker stands. I think the effect was really nice, and I look forward to using them again in the future.
Pull-back Race Car Track:
Lego sent us 80-100 pull-back race car bodies, so I collected enough tires to create 30 functional race car blanks. We created a racetrack near the free play brick, and allowed kids to try their hand at building race cars. People liked it, and it was not very much effort to set up. So I think this is a winner that we will do again.
Monochrome Brick Free Play:
Everyone loved making huge towers, I was surprised that we often ran low on brick so older MOCs had to be "recycled" about 1-2 times per day. We even had one builder who made a tower, and then filled the tower with loose brick just to use all the brick he could find.
Lego Minecraft Activity Box:
Minecraft Number of visitors: 18k to the event, at least 1,000 directly watched or played with the Minecraft activity.
Minecraft Number of RLUG members participating: 12 (We had more helping to build it who did not show at the display.)
Minecraft General comments/perception from the audience/visitors:
Far and away, I think people loved this the best, but we had to put a lot of work into making this happen. At the TexLUG meeting before Maker Faire, we built a 96 x 144 stud Minecraft landscape using a Duplo foundation, the minecraft brick, and the copious quantity of green brick. I even created a number of Minecraft trees. The landscape did its job, and provided an imagination foundation for the kids to play with.
Josh and myself played "Micro Managers" about every 3-4 hours to the Minecraft display. We removed cruft and distributed the minifigures and ore across the landscape. Most kids were being constructive, but it was interesting in that the first things people did was collect all of the ore, and start building a house. They would also grab "Steve" or "Alex" and keep them nearby. They did not play with the minifigures, they just kept them near as some sort of talisman as they did the job of "Steve" in playing and building. While the event was successful, we lost a number of minifigures over the course of the weekend. Lego provided us with 1 Steve, 1 Alex, 3 skeletons, 4 creepers, and 3 zombies. I personally added another 20 creepers, 1 Alex, and 5 more Steves. Over the course of the weekend we lost 8 creepers, 5 Steves, 1 Skeleton, 1 Zombie, and 1 Alex. While allowing kids to play with the display was great fun, and we think it is most in line with what Lego would like to see happen with their activity box . . . they need to provide a lot more minifigures to make a public display workable, as the Minecraft figures have a high tendency to walk away.
Lego should really take the loss of minifigures into account and send something on the order of 40 Steve minifigs, which would allow us to safely run 4-5 large events in the year with the box of brick. Sending 1 Steve for a box of brick that large could make for a display, but not with interactive activities.
Volunteer hour listings: