Update Jan. 2010

Written by TJ on January 19th, 2010

We’re already in the back-half of January 2010 and I honestly don’t know where time has gone. It almost makes a whooshing sound as it flies by.



My older son has been building a lot in the past several months. He’s built many small sets and has also started to use his imagination to make his own MOCs.



It’s been a lot of fun watching him build and play. A lot of my “LEGO time” is just being with him and helping him when he needs it.

So what’s new?

The complete Memorial Hermann tower model is pictured below. Sometime later, when they get the model in its permanent display, I’ll visit it to take my own photos.



I’ve been helping out our LUG (TexLUG) to build modular train tables. Here are some photos from Tony Sava.

I continue to tinker with PF trains and making powered bogies. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before here, but I’ve been wanting to “upgrade” my existing trains to PF, and I’m experimenting with various wheel and gear arrangements to find something that works smoothly and is durable.

My crane project sits idle. I disassembled the base and plan on building a new turntable. Rather, I need to finish the design that I came up with last year.

I’ve not yet disassembled the 10+ foot long arched truss bridge I built last year. I’ve decided to re-use it for an upcoming TexLUG event in March. But I’m going to widen the bridge by 8 studs to make passage of TexLUG’s monster-wide trains possible :-)

I think that’s it for the to-do list. Oh wait, there’s the white tower crane project as well….

So many ideas… too little time :-)

Memorial Herman Tower

Written by TJ on December 2nd, 2009

Whoops… I’ve let a lot of time slip by. I’ve been sitting on a special project for a long while now. It’s done as of about two weeks ago, but I have yet to upload the finished photos. Here’s a sneak peak of the unfinished model.



click for larger view

This is a 1:130 scale (roughly) model of a new hospital building here in Houston. I was contracted to built it, and planning and construction took place this past spring. I ended up passing along a portion of the model to another builder, Kurt Baty, so the MOC is actually co-designed and built by us.

Aside from that, nothing LEGO-related has been going on around here since the 10-foot bridge. I’ve messed around with some custom trucks for my train rolling stock, and I’ve played along with my 4-year old son quite a bit. He’s into building his own MOCs :-)

August Update

Written by TJ on August 28th, 2009

Ugh… sorry that it’s been over a month since my last post here. I have not touched my bricks lately because of a hectic, super-busy schedule (work, life, etc.). That’s just how it goes…

Plus I’ve got a load of stuff to break down and sort. I’m not looking forward to that so much :-)



But hey, I built some trees for the train show last month. That’s something new here on the blog.

The big tree makes use of a bunch of different brown Technic connectors. These brown parts came mostly from all the old Starwars Technic sets I got years ago, and until now, I haven’t found a good use for them.

I also have a small back-log of ideas that I need to photograph and post here. Yep, I have plenty of house-keeping work to do!

On the side of serious building… I’m stuck in a rut. I cannot decide what to do. I’ve been wanting to build a new, very large crawler crane. I’ve built crawler cranes in the past, but I want to build the ultimate crawler crane MOC now that I have a lot of lessons learned and experience. The trouble is that everyone and their dog has built crawler cranes.

Sometimes I can’t get motiviated to build a MOC if there are too many similar ones out there by other builders! :-)

10-foot Bridge Success

Written by TJ on July 15th, 2009

The bridge made it through our train show (see photo gallery)! It held up great. I was quite surprised to find that no member or cross bracking loosened noticeably. Usually, on trusses like this, a piece of cross bracing will come loose at some point due to vibrations from the trains.



packed up and ready for the show (click for larger)

I packed up the model by breaking it into four sections, and then piggybacked two section pairs together.



at the show (click for larger)

TexLUG’s layout consisted of three 8-foot long tables on either end of the bridge. One of our members (Matt S.) brought two 2.5-foot small truss bridges, and we used those on one side of the layout.



inside view (click for larger)


Super Chief crossing (click for larger)

The bridge did endure some heavy loads. At one point, we had two very long trains on the main loop, and they managed to end up on the bridge at the same time. Both trains were longer than the bridge :-)



Tony’s Allegheny (click for larger)

Their were a few accidental human contacts, but it survived. The worse was when my 4-year old son was underneath and suddenly popped up. He buckled a section of deck with his head. I managed to press it all back together quickly before the train came back around :-)

10-foot Bridge

Written by TJ on July 8th, 2009

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been working on a new bridge. This will be for TexLUG’s display in an upcoming model train show.

The design length of the bridge, measured from center-to-center of the end supports, is 10.46 ft (3.19 m). The actual clear span will be just 1/2 inch, or so, less than this distance. The actual length, in reality, will be just slightly less or more, depending on how the structure settles.



click larger view


click larger view

I designed the bridge by determining the sizes of all the main members and also the deck and hanger pieces. I modifed my old truss spreadsheet for this design: www.texbrick.com/model_10ftbridge/bridge_10ft.xls



member sizes (click for larger)


deck members (click for larger)

I changed a few things about the construction of this bridge as compared to how I normally build trusses. I’ll describe all the fine details later on when I make a formal webpage for this bridge.

I had to correct a few things after I had mostly built the whole bridge. I wished I had realized some of these things from the start:

1. It wasn’t wide enough. The original design would have accomodated 8-wide trains just barely. However, I realized later that we’ll have 12-wide trains (i.e. “natural” 10-wides with extras hanging off the sides; e.g. Tony Sava’s monster Allegheny). I spent a lot of extra time making the portal frames wider.

2. Height. The end portals of the bridge were lower in height in the original design. I had to change up the design (by lengthening some members) to create extra height so that trains passing through would have adequte clearance.

3. Strength. After I had the original structure built, I noticed that the main chords deflected a lot when I loaded the bridge. I experienced the same trouble with the 17-foot bridge I built 4 years ago. So, I doubled-up most of the main truss chords on this new bridge. When Tony’s Allegheny rolls accross it, I want the bridge to stay intact! :-)

Anyway, the bridge is nearly complete, and I hope it will hold up this weekend at the show.

Small Turntable 2

Written by TJ on June 25th, 2009

Here’s a small turntable design using a thrust roller bearing. It’s still a work in progress, but I think I’ve sorted out the main geometry.



click pics for larger views

Not shown is the matching ring. When assembled, it kinda creaks a little bit. I’ll have to fine-tune things to make it roll smoother. But I think this one will turn out well. I’d like to make a different design for the rollers – I’d like more of them and with smaller diameter wheels.

This design uses the “solid core” concept that I’ve used on some of my other turntable designs. This concept proved to be too flexible for a large turntable, but I’m hoping that it works for a smaller one like this.

I’ll post a part 2 later on when I finalize this design.

I’ve just finished a new medium-sized turntable design that looks like it will work well. This turntable will be used in my new tower crane (see the triangular cross-section truss entry below – these developments are all for the tower crane). I need to take some photos of this new turntable, but I’ll post it here in the coming weeks.

Crane Boom – Triangular Cross Section

Written by TJ on June 11th, 2009

One of my next projects is to build a simple tower crane. I’ve developed a new turntable (more on that later :-) ), and I’m working on a boom with a triangular cross section.

It’s not too hard to make a triangular cross section, but it’s an added challenge to create a design that will transition between sections of different heights.

This design (below) makes use of a truss chord on the top that is oriented normally. This allows the height of the truss section to change along its length fairly easily (it’s the link between sections that becomes very difficult unless the top chord is oriented normally).



click for larger


click for larger

My goal is to build the boom of the tower crane as a cantilever type and not use guy wires as typically seen on many tower cranes. The tower base of the crane will make use of the boom sections I built for the crane project.

Small Turntable 1

Written by TJ on June 2nd, 2009

This post continues the Ideas section here on my blog. I want to point out that one of the main reasons I created this blog is to help me communicate these ideas and works-in-progress.

I’ve decided that I want to present my ideas (even the ones that don’t work out) and the stuff I’m currently developing. It takes a long time for me to finish a MOC and then present it on my website. While I’m building a typical MOC, I’ll go through many design iterations and mess around with many different ideas.

So, I’ll show them here. Maybe they’ll inspire some readers. Maybe some readers will help me out by leaving constructive comments. Anyway, here’s the next installment of my Ideas section:

Small Turntable 1

The classic Technic turntable is a fantastic part. It’s one of my favorite LEGO elements.



click for larger

However, it has its cons, especially when you attempt to build a large and heavy model with it. Specifically, there is a lot of friction generated within the turntable and it also pops apart when loaded by an overturning moment (think about a crane lifting a heavy load).

A better turntable design will use two things: 1) a thrust roller bearing, and 2) some means of “capturing” the top and bottom components so that they don’t separate under load.

The turntables I’ve built so far have been rather large, just because it takes a lot of space to incorporate the above two ideas into a functional assembly.

I’ve been wanting to build a turntable that is similar in size to the classic Technic turntable. Below is one, quick idea that incorporates rollers to provide a low friction bearing and a method of “capturing” the assembly so that it doesn’t pull apart under a high overturning moment.



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The double-stacked 40-toothed gears are captured by 8 rollers. The flat edge of the gears (on their sides) ride against the rollers.



click for larger

The “core” of the assembly is squeezed together with multiple threaded axles. The Technic threaded axle is a rare part and is no longer produced by LEGO. Note that this concept of a “core” made using threaded axles was used on my 4×4 telescopic crane. You can see that core design in this photo.

This assembly is not finished and is not functional. It’s basically just developed to a point where the major parts and geometry have been worked out.

What’s left to do is make a base that the “core” will attach to. It also needs a stronger centralizing support (the red 2×8 Technic plate) so it will rotate about a fixed center and also handle lateral loads applied to the turntable assembly.



click for larger

I’m not sure how this assembly will function. My gut feel is that the method of “capturing” the 40-toothed gears with rollers is a little flakey. They might slip off. They might grind too much under load and not rotate smoothly.

I’ve stopped development of this idea in favor of a new one (a different design for a compact turntable). I’ll present that one later.

Turntable for Crane Project, Phase 1

Written by TJ on May 28th, 2009

For the first phase of my recent crane project, I designed a new turntable. The concept of this turntable is based on having a thrust roller bearing and also having the whole assembly centered about a solid core.

I first developed a 12-segment ring for the round bearing.



base of turntable
click for larger

This ring is based on “perfect” spacing, i.e. every other segment pins into normally-spaced holes. This basically means that the “round” ring is affixed firmly to a square frame and can be easily integrated with the framework of the crane.



geometry of turntable ring
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The next step was to create a set of rollers. The ring of rollers shown below is actually a new concept, one that I didn’t actually use in Phase 1. This new one is the same roller ring as the original, except that the holders for the rollers are on the outside of the ring instead of the inside.



with roller ring
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My new idea for this turntable was to have the whole thing centered about a solid core made of stacked Technic turntables. The core would extend upwards through the superstructure and contain a “cap” with counter-rollers to keep the whole assembly pinned together.



core of turntable
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One of the primary loads on the turntable is weight (vertical, downward load), but it also has to resist an overturning moment. For example, when a crane picks up a load, the whole thing wants to tip over. Therefore the turntable has to hold the superstructure down against the base, so to speak.



partial assembly
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The photos above were taken after I broke the crane apart into its main components. Here is a photo of the crane when it was assembled:



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Here is a diagram showing the cross section of the turntable. Note the different sections and bearings (rollers).



cross section diagram of turntable
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One component I haven’t shown in the photos is the assembly that actually centralizes against the Technic turntables in the core. It is a fairly straightforward design that uses two sets of four 24-toothed pinion gears (spaced at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock). Two of these gears are powered so that the turntable can be rotated by a motor.

Phase 1 of this project proved that this turntable functioned well but couldn’t handle much load. The rest of the crane was robust, much like my marine pedestal crane.

When lifting, the overturning moment on the turntable pried it apart greatly. I pushed it until I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t break anything. The solid core in the middle is just not strong or stiff enough to keep the superstructure flat against the base. The other downside was that it kept throwing rollers. The 2×2 round bricks would frequently pop off due to the flexing of the whole assembly.

So, in Phase 2 of this crane project, I’m going to try to redesign it.

A Few New MOCs

Written by TJ on May 28th, 2009

Along with the major site update, I’ve also uploaded several new MOCs (My Own Creations, or models).

First up is a 4×4 telescopic boom crane I built in 2004. It’s an old model, but I’ve only recently created a webpage for it.



click to see model

The next three are all train related. I’ve recently updated an old UP diesel locomotive model that I built in 2002. I’ve also built a new diesel model. Both can be seen via this link:



click to see models

Last year I built my first steam locomotive. It’s a 0-4-0 dockside switcher:



click to see model

And finally, rolling stock. Two of the models are old ones I bulit back in 2002. There’s a third model (a tank car) that is brand new. You can see all of them via this link:



click to see models