Lego - my second and biggest railway layout project 2020


How I developed my second project using new and more efficient building techniques.

This massive new layout will be displayed in a new room at OPW when this is ready, some time in 2021.
It will be a rectangular layout around the four walls, but with room to walk about along the middle.

The build will consist of 48x48 stud modules built on standard grey baseplates. The anticipated size of the layout will be 16 x 7 modules. I have already started constructing about a dozen of the modules, these being mountainous structures hosting two railway lines, on different levels.
The centre-piece of the layout will be a wide river in a red gorge with several spectacular railway bridges crossing the gorge.

I have already partially built three of these bridges.
There are two tunnels inside the mountain to the right of the large gorge, which runs north to south, with a smaller river joining it at module I4.

My main focus this year has been on building the mountainous modules, mainly using 48 x 16 or 32 x 16 stud rectangular frames, which I have dubbed 'mulberries' after the structures used offshore during the D-Day landings.

26th May 2020
In this photo I am building a 3 x 3 block of 9 modules on my living room floor.
The smaller river will flow across modules I4, J4 and K4.
There will be two railway and one road bridge crossing this smaller river.
I will uploa further photos when I have made significant progress on this part of the layout.
The Corona virus pandemic has meant I can't get buy any more rarer or specialist Lego bricks so I'm having to wait patiently for the global situation to improve.
June 3rd 2020

Several more modules have been added south of the smaller gorge - these are I5, J5, K5, I6, J6 and K6.

A single span steel arch bridge will take the higher line over the small gorge at K4.
The line will then follow an embankment and then curve round to cross Red Gorge on a spectacular stone and steel bridge (which I've already designed and partially built).
The lower line will come out of its tunnel and immediately cross the gorge at J4 on a one span steel truss bridge, then proceeding in a cutting on a right bend to cross the Red Gorge on a multi-span steel bridge.

I can't wait to get these bridges in-situ, but it won't happen until I have the new room at the Old Peat Works ready.

The Corona Plague means I can't get special bricks on the Lego website, so the project currently looks like the remains of the tractor factory after the battle of Stalingrad!
When I get the red bricks to finish the gorges it will look a lot better.
June 3rd 2020

A different view of the construction.
In the lower right of the photo you can see an arch of the steel bridge for the higher line.
I need more bricks to get it finished and looking tidy.

It's not easy to build things with large sweeping curves in Lego so there will be some rough edges, but I look forward to trains crossing the gorge across this red-brown steel structure.

I haven't done much regarding buildings yet, nor have I got any roads in my plans, but I do want to have some roads and bridges in the set in the future.
June 16th 2020

Awaiting another large order, I decided to transfer my attention to Modules H2 and H1.
I first built the water surface for H2 and the first of 3 concrete piers for the low level railway bridge.
This bridge will be a light blue plate girder construction with 4 spans, the first of which is just about complete.

After H2 I then tidied up H1's water sheet. I'm looking forward to extending the river to the west and adding new piers for both the railway bridges.
At present I'm using clear transparent 1x2 bricks for the water, but I may experiment with light blue transparent bricks to see if they make the river look prettier, but without obscuring the plants, fish and other objects that will live below the water surface!
June 29th

The last three modules of the central mountain range are in place and under construction.
These are I7, J7 and K7. The higher railway level has been achieved on K7 and soon will extend west to the banks of Red Gorge and then onto the spectacular high level steel and brick bridge.
A big order of red bricks is at Billund and these bricks will allow me to do some more work on the gorge banks.
July 31st

following the delivery of thousands of dark red bricks from Denmark, work on modules J4 and K4 went ahead.
These two modules form the north bank of the smaller river which flows west and joins Red Gorge.
The bridge which starts just outside the north-south tunnel has been redesigned as a deep girder bridge rather than a traditional steel truss example.
I have started work on this bridge and hope to complete it after a further delivery of specialised bricks.
New techniques are employed to shape the vertical cliffs, using SNOT bricks (Studs Not On Top), where plates overlaid with slopes and bows are stuck vertically onto the SNOT bricks to create realistic undulations on the cliffs.
The highest point on the two modules is formed of dark green rock, which represents a different kind of metamorphic rock which overlays the red rock which dominate the gorge sides.
August 1st

The module I4 will be at the point where the smaller river joins the Red River.
The extensive use of SNOT bricks is being used where there are vertical sides.
This is an efficient use of bricks and allows a lot of options to sculpt the sides of the gorges.
There is also the easy opportunity to rip off a vertical panel and redo it without needing a major rebuild of the gorge wall.
Next task will be to recommence work on the module north of I4, which is I3.
August 31st

Modules K4 and K5 are linked by the high steel arch bridge above the small gorge.

The river surface has been implemented using clear and light blue transparent bricks.
The river bed is made from medium nougat and dark orange tiles, with occasional plants amongst them.

Both these modules are nearly finished and work will continue to the west of them.
August 31st

Modules J5 and I5 form the south bank of the small gorge, west of the high bridge.

The low level girder bridge will link the tunnel exit at the north bank to the cutting in module J5.
The line then curves to the west from where it will cross the Red Gorge on what will be a spectacular long bridge!
August 31st

Another view of the J5/I5 pairing.
A large order of red bricks is due from Denmark soon and work on completing the cliffs and hills on I5 will then resume.
September 15th

Attention has been turned in the last 6 weeks to the smaller gorge.
Looking up the river my idea of having blue transparent bricks as well as the clear ones has made a big difference.
The river surface blocks for both J and K are finished. Note the river bed below is fairly plain, just dark orange and medium nougat tiles, with a few plants on the river bed.
Both the high level steel arch bridge and the low level twin girder one are nearly ready.
The four modules involved are J4, K4, J5 and K5.
More dark red bricks are on order and these will allow me to improve and complete the gorge sides.
September 15th

A shot from higher up. Note the grey retaining brickwork at the tunnel entrance and at the other end of the bridge.
September 15th

A drone's camera view this time.
Both the railway lines will end up turning 90 degrees and will cross the Red Gorge on two spectacular long bridges.
September 15th

A shot looking west showing the steel arch bridge in its glory.
There is a good view here of the high retaining wall at the end of the bridge.
September 15th

Another aerial view.
While I wait for the Denmark order (long delays in delivery because of the plague) I am experimenting with creating various kinds of trees.
If I make the trees to scale, however, they will make the gorge seem much smaller, so I will use smaller trees above the gorges.
October 5th

The mega-module K6 is the tallest one yet.
After crossing the small gorge over the steel arch bridge, the high level track enters what will be a long, curved tunnel, the portal of which can be seen in this shot.

I have created a new and more efficient way of 'building' tunnels; instead of building solid 2 stud walls as the tunnel lining, I am using a hinged 'curtain' technique which is neat and relatively easy to implement.

Module K6 is actually in two parts. Everything above the tunnel portal's top row of grey bricks is in a detachable module, which sits on flat tiles which line the rim of the lower module. This makes the modules easy to store and transport.

The height of the mega-module is 79 rows of bricks.
This works out as 75 cm or nearly 2 foot 6 inches!
The module behind it - K7 will probably be even taller than that.
October 7th

Making good progress on the build, I now have got K5 and J5 just about finished.
These two have cliffs rising from the south bank of Small Gorge and also crags, scars and grassy areas at the tops.

I am fortunate to have chosen dark red as the predominant rock colour for the gorges - although most dark red bricks are more expensive than the greys, browns and tans, there are some very useful wedge-shaped plates and bricks and unusual slopes in dark red.
Some of the most useful of these special bricks are not available in the common colours.

One of my next tasks will be to create J6, which will sit behind J5 - it will be another tall module surrounded on four sides by others, so I will need to ensure all five are nicely integrated when they are assembled in their final home.
October 26th

Now I'm building the mega-modules which represent the highest points on the entire diorama.
Modules K6 and K7 host the high level tunnel which curves to the west and will emerge shortly before the high level stone and steel truss bridge which will cross the Red River.
K7 is even higher than K6 and lies behind the latter. At its highest point K7 reaches 98.1 cm above table level. It has a series of red and green rock formations, with a natural amphitheatre near the summit which has at it's lowest level a boggy area with bright green 'moss' and patches of water.
K6 and K7 took a good few hours to build; both have a detachable upper section to allow easier transport and disassembly.

October 26th

In this side view can be seen K6 and K7 with the heavy, detachable sections which begin at the level of the tunnel portal's top edge.
There will be plenty more crags and cliffs to come when I begin building the central mountainous modules J5, J6 and J7.

November 11th

I've now completed (except for flowers & trees) the modules K6 and J6.
The southern mountains are taking a lot of red and green bricks and will be the highest points of the whole creation.
December 4th

Another couple of monster mountain modules!

J7 and I7 are at the bottom of the layout in the highest mountainous terrain where red and green rock strata meet.

J7 has a straight stretch of tunnel below the mountain crags (not visible in this photo).
I7 is behind J7 and contains the tunnel entrance portal at the point where the steep cliff meets the Red Gorge.
I7 has the tunnel portal at the east bank of Red Gorge, facing west.
This module was a challenge I was up for - how to make a very high, steep cliff not look like the side of a skyscraper.

These modules took a long time to complete, using mountain building techniques I've learned in the past year - and new ones.
Both modules were built in two parts vertically, as they are so massive to move about.

I have been doing more work on the various bridges which will cross the gorge - before working on the actual river I still need to complete two other modules on the east bank of the gorge.

18 March 2023.
Over three months have passed and some solid progress has been made on the layout.

Six spans of the stone viaduct are now complete.
There will be one more to build once I've begun work on the unfinished side of the gorge.

The cutting which used to have the upper railway line is now abandoned and used as a dog walk.
Sheep graze on the grassy hillside and the first Lego figures have appeared in the cutting, along with several trees and shrubs.

Bridges 3 and 4 in their glory.
Bridge 3 represents a steel arched suspension bridge and Bridge 4 a steel truss bridge on brick pillars.

My BSc in Civil Engineering has at last been of some use, but on a small scale!

The original bridge spanning the tributary to the Red Gorge was the reddish brown steel one that I built ages ago.
I was never happy with it, but it wasn't until I'd built the blue girder bridge (soon to be erected as Bridge 2) that I built a replacement bridge based upon the former.
This bridge, in it's yellow paint job is definitely one I'm happy with!

The beginnings of the railway station, near the portal of the new lower line's tunnel on the east bank.
I may well redesign this building at a later time as it looks a bit bland in its current form.

I will, off course, also build a detailed interior with a waiting room, offices, a cafe and other bits.
A view showing the high ground, including the new area I've added to the layout, which will be mountainous and have a stream.
Note the tunnel portal beyond the viaduct and the mountain above it.
That took a lot of work, and there's much more to do.
27 July 2023.
Today was a major milestone in my epic Lego railway project.
I have finally completed the huge sheet of water which forms the surface of the gorge and its tributary.

I have used thousands of 1x2 transparent bricks in clear and blue tones. It wasn't possible to create the surface without seams, but as far as I'm concerned, it will do for me.
Towards the end of this project I will probably add a few surface features on the water, such as small boats or floating debris.
In the meantime it's a major component of my creation now complete.
View from a different direction.
And another view.

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