In a city of 5+ million people it can be surprisingly hard to meet new friends. Fortunately we live in the future and there are helpful social tools on the web . Meetup.com has been useful to me in the past for professional networking. Perhaps it could help me meet some new folks that are into the same things as me. With that in mind I started a new group, Atlanta Adult Fans of LEGO.
I was surprised to get 10 people to join in the first weeks and a half. This prompted me to schedule a meetup at Mellow Mushroom in Sandy Springs. Two people joined me and we had a good time talking about LEGO, life, and other subjects while drinking beer and playing trivia. We had a good time and look forward to growing the group. We’ll see how it goes; so far so good.
While poking around on RailBricks I came across a treasure trove of LDraw files for LEGO roads. LDraw is an open format for LEGO Computer Aided Design (CAD) software useful for designing and rendering models. This work is a superb example of on the Studs Not On Top (SNOT) building technique. It includes files all kinds of roads; straight, curved, rail crossings, turn lanes, cul-de-sacs, etc; in addition to intersections with traffic lights and roundabouts. These files allow you to literally inspect the designs brick-by-brick providing an insight into the engineering and design. Building them is made easier because parts lists can be exported and bricks gathered or procured.
I can’t imagine the amount of work that went into these models. If you use them make sure you credit GallagharsArt.com where you can find the LDraw files and download them yourself. Links to the LDraw files can be found in the forum links listed below.
Lately I rediscovered my love of LEGO and turned it into my hobby. Everyone needs a hobby and, while somewhat expensive, LEGO is as good as any. It seems to stimulate the same part of my brain as coding. My first project was a new Christmas train to ring the Christmas tree in the living room. This new train was to replace my 2 year old Lionel 30068 North Pole Central train which was destine for Ebay. Suzanne and I discussed it and, while more expensive, determined a LEGO Train would be cooler and could evolve over the years. It would also dove-tail with my new LEGO hobby.
The funds for the train came from the sale Lionel 30068 train and the sales of an unopened Transformer from 1984 (that’s another story). The first purchase was a set LEGO started producing in 2009; Emerald Night. This was a great start for the project because of LEGO’s amazing job designing this beautiful train. It’s loosely based on British Flying Scotsman and makes for an innovative example of what is possible with LEGO bricks. The train uses Technic gears as a transmission powered by a LEGO Power Functions motor. The coal tender serves a similar purpose as it’s real life inspiration by housing a lithium-polymer battery powering the motor.
Intrigued by the Emerald Night and I wanted to expand the set. Unfortunately LEGO does not offer any expansion sets, so I knew I was on my own and was going to have to build it myself. I was disappointed after sniffing around on eBay and Google so I decided to asked the experts on the unofficial LEGO StackExchange. They pointed me in the direction of BrickLink, which I had found before, but as a web developer I was turned off by the >10 year old web design. Deciding instead not to judge a book by it’s cover I dove in. BrickLink is cool because it allows you to build a “wanted list” of individual LEGO bricks, specify the quantity, choose the condition, and specify the color. Using the “wanted list” you can find sellers that have some, if not all, of the bricks you need. I made a few “wanted lists” for each of the parts of the train I wanted to build. I ended up buying 1530 bricks from 16 sellers located in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands. These bricks combined with parts from the LEGO City Cargo Train #7939 allowed me to assemble my 9 car long (including engines) LEGO Super Emerald Night Christmas Express.
The train is lead by the aforementioned Emerald Night engine and tender. This is followed by Christmas cars carrying Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, some toys, and Christmas trees. The next three cars are passenger carriages with Christmas lights decorating and wreaths decorating the exteriors. The next-to-last car is a power car providing supplemental rear power and is dressed up to look like a baggage and crew car. The final car is of course the iconic caboose, based on custom instructions sold by juliochavez1 on Ebay, fitted with rear tail lights. I embedded the Flickr set below, if you don’t have Flash, check it out on Flickr.
Though LEGOs are cool as heck the unfortunately reality is that they are a mess. This issue has become acute the past few weeks while balancing the frustration of mess and disorganization while trying to build stuff. More time can be spent digging through LEGOs as actually building cool stuff with them. Fortunately I found a post on the web that’s helping me, and my patient wife, cope with this issue.
A couple months ago I was stressed out and needed a hobby. It occurred to me that downstairs, in my garage, was a gigantic tub of Legos. It was a big tub and one night, while my friend Pete was over playing video games, we went downstairs and dragged the tub upstairs. This box was filled over a decade ago as I was moving my stuff out of my parents house. We popped and open and inside were thousands of Legos. I had managed to hold on to my Lego collection that I had accrued as a kid from 4 to ~12 (when Legos became lame). Also inside was a New-in-Box Generation 1 Transformer, but that’s another story.
My kick-ass wife, who volunteered, helped me sort the jumble of Legos into some sense of order. We managed to consume a weekend laboring, sorting the bricks. It actually turned out to be good quality time. There were many themes; the castle, pirate, and boats where eclipsed by the space and town themes. Then occurred to me, it was time to rebuild.
Unfortunately I didn’t save the directions, but thanks to the magical Internet, I found a site, Worldbricks.com, that saved the day. They have Lego instructions going back to at least 1955. Based on my memory and what I think I saw in the piles I identified at least 45 different sets.
Then I got on Ebay and start poking around. The memories from hours of staring at catalogs came flooding back so I picked up several more sets to round out my collection. Ebay is also an excellent place to pick up spare parts.
I didn’t have all the parts, but I had many, and pictures of the ones I rebuilt are below. Notice the big Space Shuttle model. I couldn’t help it so Suzanne and I went to the Lego Store in Lawrenceville and I got a big-boy set with a mere 1204 pieces, definitely my favorite.