About Zonker and LEGO bricks

First Thing: These pages are NOT sponsored or endorsed by the LEGO companies. They are the creation of an enthusiast of LEGO bricks. (The official LEGO home page is www.lego.com.)

The Big Project

I like my LEGO bricks, because I like puzzles, and things that stimulate my mind. I have almost as much fun taking models apart, and sorting and storing them. I tend to always have some 'big project' underway, which I use as a stress reliever. When I need a stress break, I go to my LEGO bench, and I work on the big project, or sort stuff.

My first Big Project was Fire Station One. A two-story main fire station. The first floor was the dispactch center, a three-bay apparatus room, and an equipment preparation area. The second floor was the kitchen, day room, two different crew quarters, and a sliding pole to the apparatus room. You could remove the roof to get to the second floor, and the second floor could be removed to get to the apparatus room.

My current Big Project is my Round House, complete with Turn Table, and refining my design for small, easy-to-build LED-based Train Signals.

In my own opinion, most LEGO models are too expensive. While the costs tend to be very uniform around the globe, the cost of living varies much more than the cost of LEGO. This point was brought home during a trip to the Czech Republic, when someone commented that a large Freestyle bucket of bricks could cost that school teacher one weeks pay! (I pay $20(US) for that same bucket.)

I also think that the LEGO train models are generally too pricey. I'm also disappointed that most models seem to me to be produced for only 2-3 years, and are then replaced with newer models. While I applaud the introduction of newer models, I'm sorry there isn't more overlap time between new and old models. (Yes, I understand that controllers and track and motors are the expensive bits, and I applaud the new 3225 train for being 'just the train'. I'd like to see more individual cars, and the track sold separately.)

(The current rumor is that the MetroLiner passenger train, or a similar model, may be coming back in 2000! I hope that this is true!)

My First Train - (Return to the Top)

I was lucky for a few years in early 1990, because a nearby Toys 'R' Us store was also a LEGO 'Flagship Store'. This was one of only 14 such stores in the U.S. at that time. This meant that they carried more of the models, as well as a small collection of Service parts kits, and most of the trains, including the monorail. Every visit, I could look at the trains, stocked on the shelves beside the HO and Lionel-gauge trains, and I would dream. I knew that the trains would be an expensive addiction, and I was reluctant to make the first small purchases, knowing where it would probably lead.

Eventually, I started buying some of the smaller single-car kits, and some track. I watched as the Metroliner and Club Car models were discontinued, then the old yellow train station. By the time I had finally decided to buy a train, AND saved up the money, I had missed them by a week. My favorite TRU store was no longer a Flagship Store, and the selection was reduced. There were no more big train sets, only a few single car kits, and some track. None of the other TRU stores had been stocking trains. I continued to check back for a couple of months before I finally asked when they would restock, and that's when I found out about the status change.

I started checking other stores, to see if I could find a train, without success. Finally, I broke down, and decided to pay the premium to buy from the Shop At Home folks...but I was too late. They didn't have any of the old trains, and I didn't want the new train. I checked the Rec.Toys.LEGO newsgroup, but didn't have any luck.

On a summer trip to Europe, I finally found both the Metroliner, and the old 4564 freight railway in a small shop in Poland. It was closed, as we found it during our last evening in Poland. I left some money with our hosts, and asked them to try to purchase the freight train first, or the Metroliner, if the freight was already sold. I'll skip the part where I needed to send more money, and tell you that I finally received the freight train after many weeks. Hooray!

During the rest of that vacation, I visited a number of train yards in Germany, and the Czech Republic, and took pictures of Work Trains. I also used my video-recorder to capture video of a working round-house in action. I decided I would try to make some models based on trains I saw in Europe and at home in the U.S. To that end, I bought all of the rail-wheel sets, magnetic coupler sets, and boggie plates from one small shop in Prague that carried an extensive Service parts collection. I also bought some interesting Technic gearing sets there.

My LEGO Journal - (Return to the Top)

I've also started keeping a LEGO ideas journal. It's a blank college notebook-style, with quadrille (1/4" graph paper) pages. This allows me to keep LEGO ideas I have in one place, for the day when I have time to test the ideas. As embarrassing as it is to say, I've dreamed of building LEGO things, and if I wake up and remember the ideas from the dream, I sketch out the ideas on Post-It notes in the dark. This usually works OK, but there have been a few that have just been gibberish the next morning. If I could make sense of an idea after the sun rose, I'd transfer the idea to the book. I put a lot of ideas for train stuff in the book during my summer trips to Europe.

After creating a large yellow diesel engine, ala the Union Pacific Railroad, and a smaller freight-yard engine, I finally decided that my next BIG project would be a working roundhouse for the LEGO trains. This would require destroying the large Fire Station project that had been my labor for over nine months, in order to get the doors for the engine bays.

I have a page for the Roundhouse project, and a separate page for the turntable itself. I began by creating the basic turntable, then I developed the basic structure for the entrance to the bays, as well as a mechanism for locking the track into a fixed position. I also have a few ides for the signals in the freight yard itself, but I'll need more track and switches.

Turn Table

Round House

Train Table Plans


Maintenance of Way

LED Train Signals


My Trains Page

My Top Page

Copyright 1996-99, David K. Z. Harris, N6UOW
Questions? Comments? Additions? Email 'frenezulo' at baylug.org

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