The LEGO Trains Book

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Last year we took a look at the book LEGO Eisenbahn – Konzepte und Techniken für realistische Modelle by Holger Matthes (HoMa here at Brickset), We enjoyed looking at the pictures and instructions but couldn't really review it because the text is in German.

Since its publication Holger has been busy working on an English translation and the result is The LEGO Trains Book, published by No Starch Press.

Now we can actually understand it, we can review it properly...


Holger is one of the most respected builders of LEGO trains in the world. He was involved in the design of the Hobby Trains set 10183, and he and I participated in Power Functions train workshops in Billund in the late 2000s that resulted in the release of the Emerald Night, so you can be sure that he knows what he's talking about.

The 230-page hardback book is divided into five sections that cover every aspect of LEGO trains:

A history of LEGO trains

Starting with the 1960s-1970s blue track era, right up to the current Power Functions era, Holger discusses every aspect of the different systems, the track, the power system, specialist elements such as wheels and couplings and also takes a look back at them from today's perspective, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

View image at flickr

Basic principles

The book is aimed at everyone from the complete LEGO novice upwards so a short chapter on the basics of the LEGO System, elements, connections and building techniques is included. Although it starts off covering what you'll already know, it ends with advanced techniques for SNOT, 'off the grid', building in odd dimensions, micro-striping and texturing: techniques that are commonly used when building trains.

Designing your own models

Many books provide instructions for models but few actually cover how to go about designing your own. This chapter will help you translate your ideas into a LEGO model, starting with deciding what scale to build it in and ending with how to model realistic details such as roofs and corridor connections.

Case studies in design

This section covers how Holger went about designing models of real life trains; in other words, putting the basics in to practice. Case studies include the Siemens Vectron electric locomotive (shown in the middle on the cover) and BR10 steam engine. The latter is particularly interesting because he discusses how his model has developed over time, since first building it in 2001, as new parts become available and new techniques are discovered.

View image at flickr

Building instructions

The last section provides instructions for four models:

  • Inter City Express (6-wide, Power Functions)
  • A simple gondola (4-wheel open wagon)
  • Swiss 'Crocodile' locomotive (7-wide, Power Functions)
  • Vintage passenger coach (7-wide)

Layout and presentation are excellent and one would have no problem following them. A bill of materials is provided for each allowing you to assemble the parts before commencing building.

Instructions for the BR10 and a BR80 steam locomotive are available online, via links on the No Starch website.


Verdict

This is a very comprehensive book, illustrated with excellent photographs and diagrams. It covers every aspect of LEGO trains, written by a subject matter expert who has successfully distilled his years of experience into the pages of it.

Whether you're just starting to think about getting into LEGO trains, or you've been building them for years, you'll find a lot of interesting and informative information within it.

I can't really find fault. The only criticism I can make is that the examples and instructions are mostly based on mainland European trains and rolling stock which are very different to those in the USA, UK and elsewhere. However, armed with the tips and techniques used to design and build them you'll be well placed to tackle local prototypes.

The book has just been published in the UK and is out later this month in North America. It can be ordered from Amazon:

Amazon.co.uk (£14.27), Amazon.com ($24.94), Amazon.ca ($30.03)


Thanks to No Starch Press for providing a copy for review. The review is an expression of my own opinions.

 

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23 comments on this article

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By in Netherlands,

Typo in the 2nd paragraph: Trans instead of Trains ('...the result is The LEGO Trans Book'). Wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't the title of the book.

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By in Ireland,

@BeaR the Builder political correctness gone too far?

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By in United Kingdom,

Thank you ;)

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By in Netherlands,

@gunther: Depends on who you ask. My remark was aimed to be constructive (hence my 2nd sentence) but can, apparently, be perceived differently. I hope (and think) Huw didn't take it that way.

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By in United Kingdom,

182 and the non motorised 171 were my first Lego trains when I was a kid too. Happy days. I will always love them.

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By in Australia,

^^ 182 was my first train too :)

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By in Sweden,

How good is the translation?

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By in United Kingdom,

Word perfect. Holger is a good English speaker and in any case I suspect the No Starch editors assisted where needed.

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By in Netherlands,

Ordered at amazon.co.uk but it is temporarily out of stock now. A situation I'm already familiar with. Yes I'm looking at you [email protected]!

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By in Canada,

must have.... I'm a Lego fan AND a huge train fan...this is perfect!

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By in United Kingdom,

Can't wait for this, I had been hoping for an English translation since you reviewed the original German edition - I've been planning to start moc'ing trains and this sounds like it will be invaluable.

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By in Hungary,

How many pages deal with the history of lego trains? Are there dedicated pages e.g. for 7740 or 4558? Thanks in advance.

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By in United Kingdom,

About 40. The chapter doesn't discuss specific sets but instead covers the characteristics of the era: track, wheels, controllers etc.

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By in Germany,

@Dude45 ... translation was done by Duq ( https://brickset.com/profile/Duq ), technical review by Michael Gale ( https://brickset.com/profile/brickdimensions ) and quality assured by No Starch Press

@kari ... The History chapter spreads from page 10 to 43. 7740 is shown on some pictures but the history of LEGO train sets was not my focus for this book, e.g. you will not find a complete set list of each era. Furthermore the History chapter provides an overview of princeples and parts specific for each era and it's today usage. The main focus of the book is about building your own train MOCs.

@Huw ... thanks for your nice review here at brickset!

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By in Hungary,

@Huw @HoMa that sounds great, thanks for the info. I will definitely buy one. After collecting LEGO trains for years it is time to make my own MOCs. :)

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By in Australia,

I pre-ordered this book months ago and received it last week. I've only had a quick flick through but can attest to its' quality. I was initially disappointed that Lego Official Set Train history is glossed over in a few pages, but that's not really what this book is about as it's more focused on giving advice on building your own MOCs. I was pleased in the end that the focus on building techniques and the authors own creative process, as a run down on every official set is something I could get from Brickset and numerous other websites. A lot of thought has gone into this book, I commend the author and the trouble he went to in translating it from the original German.

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By in Ireland,

@BeaR bad joke on my part, sorry. :)

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By in United States,

I already have this in my Amazon cart. If the price does not drop a bit Ill be asking for it for Christmas

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By in United Kingdom,

in stock on ebay for 16.99 free postage not sure what the normal price is but I found a few available

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By in United Kingdom,

I purchased my copy directly from No Starch Press and it was delivered very quickly, which gets a straight 100/100 from me. As for the book itself Holger Matthes has produced a wonderful reference book, giving fine historical data, enabling me to identify sets that I did not know I had.

I have read the book a couple of times since I received it a week ago and am still discovering little snippets I had missed. This is a great addition to my Lego collection giving me some great reference material with which to build more trains. This is definitely a good book to buy and thanks to Holger Matthes and No Starch Press!

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By in Bulgaria,

Bought the original German version half a year ago and I absolutely loved it - thanks Holger, this is a great book! Very happy to hear it's now also available in English - it would make a perfect Christmas present for fellow Train fans :)

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