An Afternoon At BWI 2017

Brickworld Indy happened on March 18-19 at the Indiana State Fair grounds and a few of us went down to see it.  FortLUG didn’t have an official display there, but members Luke and Kim were displaying an expanded version of their Zoo, a smaller version of which debuted as part of FortLUG’s display at Brickworld Fort Wayne late last summer.  I took my railcar camera bracket and made a highlight video.

PF & 9V Hybrid Locomotive


Locomotive 2133, with its electrical connections exposed and railcar camera bracket in tow.

Update 3/23/17:

2133 has successfully completed a few trial runs, though more are needed to understand how it will perform with a full consist and over different grades.  So far, it’s only been tested on a flat grade under minimal load.  The IR regulator, while slightly recessed, still seems nicely responsive to the remote control, though the hybrid electrical system itself had a critical defect that had to be fixed before the locomotive would even move at all.  When power was applied from either source, the motors wanted to go in opposite directions!  The PF and 9V systems, while compatible, are apparently wired differently, which had to be corrected.  I had to add a short length of 9V wire to the 9V motor so that a polarity-reversing electrical connection could be made inside the chassis.  Once that was done, locomotive 2133 passed its initial tests with stellar performance.  There may still be some minor, purely aesthetic revisions to be made, but otherwise, this build is complete.

Update 2/16/17:

Locomotive 2133’s hybrid conversion has been completed.

The hybrid conversion on locomotive 2133 is complete and ready to perform trial runs.  The build was delayed a couple weeks while parts arrived.  The PF motor was back-ordered from LEGO and didn’t arrive until last week.  I also ordered some parts through Bricklink, which arrived Monday.  For those that don’t know, Bricklink is an alternative LEGO marketplace that can best be described as an online bizarre.  Buyers connect with sellers from around the world or down the street selling individual pieces, complete sets, MOCs, and other things not available directly from the LEGO Shop.  Many thanks to Nick’s Brix on Bricklink for providing the finishing touches on this build!

Nick’s Brix store on Bricklink

Original 1/30/17:

Hello again fellow minifigs!  I’ve been working on a new build the past few days.  If you have a LEGO railroad like I do, then perhaps you too have considered this:  I want to build a hybrid locomotive, capable of running on any LEGO rails.  LEGO discontinued the 9V system in 2008 and replaced it with the Power Functions system in use today; the major difference being that PF uses battery packs instead of electrified rails.  This causes problems when trying to run a train of one type on the rails of the other type.  PF motors have no way of drawing power from 9V rails and 9V motors need an alternate power source when on PF rails.  Fortunately, the 9V and PF systems can be linked with official LEGO parts to create a hybrid electrical system.


The New Nickel Plate Railroad’s locomotive 2133 is undergoing a hybrid conversion.

Locomotive 2133 is MOC and was built in 2011 for my 9V LEGO railroad, the New Nickel Plate Railroad.  It used two motors for extra power, but was still a simple locomotive.  That problem was highlighted at Brickworld Fort Wayne 2016 when, as part of FortLUG’s layout, a PF segment was included to facilitate running two trains on different parts of the layout.  The PF and 9V segments were connected by a crossover to allow the PF trains to traverse the entire layout, but no such reverse capability existed for the 9V trains.

I’d been thinking for a while about the practicality of a hybrid locomotive, so after receiving a PF train motor kit for Christmas, I started experimenting with the idea.  In theory it’s pretty simple:  the PF motor needs to draw power from the 9V rails and the 9V motor needs to draw power from the PF battery.  In reality, however, it’s a more complicated undertaking.  I’ve encountered a few issues already and am trying to work around them.

The PF system is more complex than the 9V system it replaced.  The wires for the PF system need to be run to the motors with the excess bundled inside, so space is at a premium.  The wire connection on the 9V motor slightly impedes its pivot radius and restricts space on the underside, whereas wiring was nonexistent when it was a simple 9V locomotive.  The battery pack and IR regulator are large and awkwardly-shaped, making it difficult to fit them on the locomotive without being seen.  All this extra equipment has made the locomotive larger and heavier, while doing little if anything to increase its tractive effort.

The question in my mind going forward is how well it will work.  I’m confident the hybrid electrical system will work, but if the locomotive derails at every corner because wires are impeding the pivot of the motors, that’s a deal-breaker.  If it can’t pull a train up the inclines of my layout while on battery power, that’s no good.  If both electrical systems are activated at once, I see the potential for a short circuit and damage to both systems.  Do any of you out there have any experience with a project like this?  Let me know your thoughts or suggestions in the comments.

Brickworld Fort Wayne 2016

After that particularly grueling election season, I need a vacation.  What better place to go than the LEGO universe on display at Brickworld Fort Wayne this year!  Brickworld Fort Wayne 2016 happened on August 27 & 28, which may have caught some of you off guard.  If you missed it, I apologize for not getting the word out.  Brickworld Fort Wayne, FortLUG has been assured, will be back in October of 2017.  So right now, let’s take a break from politics, put the rhetoric aside, strap on our creative helmets, and escape to a place where minifigs work together to build something truly great.

Hover your mouse over each image for a brief description.

Manchester University Summer LEGO Camps for Kids

With school’s imminent break for the summer quickly approaching, kids are going to have more free time with energy to burn.  Why not channel that time and energy into something creative?  This is why Manchester University is pleased to announce the 2016 line-up of summer camps, with fun and creative activities for kids of all ages!  You can use the link below to browse all the camps offered, but I would like to highlight the two LEGO-oriented camps.

Browse all MU summer camps

LEGO Camp; June 27-July 1; Grades 1-6; $99 to register.

LEGO Camp at Manchester University is a fun and interactive way to teach basic engineering principles, science, technology, math, and problem solving to students of all ages.  Registration fees include instruction, use of LEGO kits, and a t-shirt.

Grades 1-3 will use LEGO kits to create up to 14 different simple motorized machines, including a dragster, dogbot, catapult, land yacht, and more.

Grades 4-6 – in addition to the kits – will get to use pneumatics to create air-powered models.  Students will work in teams to solve the daily challenge of creating items such as a robotic hand, scissor lift, stamping press, and more.

Register for LEGO camp here

Robotics 101; June 20-24; Grades 6-8; $150 to register.

In LEGO robotics camp, students will build, program, and test real robots that can move using motors and interact with their environment using sensors.  Brainstorm to find creative solutions, then implement those solutions by programming the robot.  Campers will have opportunities to compete with their robots.

Register for Robotics 101 here

Both LEGO camps are being held at the Manchester University Science Center, which is located on the University’s main campus at 604 E. College Ave., North Manchester, IN 46962.  North Manchester is in Wabash county, about 45 minutes west of Fort Wayne on state hwys. 13 & 114.

Building Blocks – Episode 1 – Storage Silo

Greetings fellow minifigs!  This is the first session of Building Blocks, where we at FortLUG would like to showcase some of our building techniques and give step-by-step instructions on how to build useful things that you might be able to incorporate into your own LEGO layout.  We’d like to make this a new recurring series, so check back periodically.

In this session, we’ll be building a free-standing storage silo.  This 155-piece structure will require the bricks listed below.  Keep in mind that this is just one way to do a storage silo, so feel free to experiment, expand, extrapolate, and any other ext-ing you need to make it your own.  FortLUG loves encouraging the creative spirit in all, so happy building!

Brick List:

  1. 1 8-stud diameter parabolic dish
  2. 1 2×2 round brick w/ cross hole
  3. 1 2×2 round flat tile
  4. 2 2×2 round plates w/ cross hole
  5. 2 4-stud length cross rods
  6. 4 1×2 bricks
  7. 4 1×2 bricks w/ cross hole
  8. 4 2×2 bricks
  9. 4 2×4 bricks
  10. 4 1×6 flat tiles
  11. 4 2×2 plates
  12. 4 4×4 plates
  13. 8 1×2 plates w/ one stud
  14. 8 1×4 plates
  15. 8 2×4 plates
  16. 12 1×2 plates
  17. 12 2×3 plates
  18. 16 1×2 bricks w/ two friction hinges
  19. 56 1×8 flat tiles

Building Instructions:

Step 1: Frame Rings

Picture 1 of 23

Start with the frame rings. You will need 8 1x2 bricks w/ friction hinges, and 4 1x2 plates w/ 1-stud.


The LEGO Batman Movie

I hope at this point everyone has heard of the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie.  For those of you who haven’t, check out the trailers.  It looks like it’s gonna be hilarious and features voice talent from Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, and Zach Galifianakis.  I will be seeing it on opening weekend, which is scheduled for February 10, 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie on IMDb

Brickworld Fort Wayne 2015


Everyone, meet Sean.

Hey everyone!  My name is Sean and I’m a friend of Geoff’s.  I recently visited Brickworld Fort Wayne 2015 and had a blast!  The people were nice there and they didn’t hesitate to answer my questions.  I took a bunch of pictures and would like to share them with you while I wait for the bus to arrive.  There was so much there to see and not enough battery power in my camera to possibly capture everything, but I managed to get some good shots for the Internet.  I’m going to take you on a guided tour through a room full of all kinds of awesome LEGO creations; from trains and cities to mosaics and million-piece battleships, and everything in between.  So let’s get started and hopefully we’ll be able to get through it all before I have to go.  Hover your mouse cursor over each image for my description or click the Show Thumbnails link to scroll and read at your own pace.  I hope you like what you see!  I know I did and I know everyone worked hard on their displays.

FortLUG Is Back

Yes, the rumors are true, FortLUG is back!  Technically, we were never gone, but this website was down for a good chunk of the summer due to some Internet problems, which made contacting us a bit more difficult.  Add to that the fact that nothing new has been posted since last year and it’s easier for one to believe that we had indeed fallen off the map.  Obviously, if you’re reading this, the site is back up now and has been freshly updated with the latest version of WordPress.  In the meantime, though, FortLUG has been planning a display for Brickworld Fort Wayne 2015, which is just around the corner.  I would love to go into more detail about our display, but the show is next weekend, October 24 & 25, so I don’t want to spoil the awesomeness we have in store for you.  Suffice it to say that it will be of epic porportion once again, both our display and Brickworld Fort Wayne in general, so please come out and see everything next weekend.

Brickworld Fort Wayne 2014

Hello and welcome to Brickworld Fort Wayne 2014!  FortLUG is glad you have taken the time to come out and enjoy the many amazing LEGO creations on display this weekend.  Each builder poured their heart and soul into these displays and without their creativity, this show wouldn’t be possible.  Many of us displaying today have been excited about LEGO since we were kids and we hope to instill that same spark in the kids here today.  So browse around the room slowly, spend plenty of time at every table, and take in all of the details that have been painstakingly added to give each layout that deep sense of realism.

Today’s layout by FortLUG is the extended City of Legopolis.  It is the result of months of planning and preparation by seven dedicated members.  If you were at last year’s Brickworld Fort Wayne event, you might recognize some of the individual city sections.  If you see us around the room with our name badges, please feel free to talk to us and ask us questions.  We would love to hear from you!

Where has the time gone?

It has been an awesome summer and it seems to have flown by in an instant.  Kids will begin going back to school soon as autumn rolls in, but with the autumn also comes the next Brickworld Fort Wayne event, scheduled for October 11 & 12 at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne.  That’s only two months away!  After a year of getting to know each other and working semi-publicly with a few local organizations, FortLUG is excited to make their debut at this premier LEGO fan expo.

The group is nearing the final stage of planning for the combined display.  A general layout has been determined and the details and dimensions are being finalized by participating members.  The remaining issues with the layout will be the main topic of discussion at the meeting next Wednesday, August 13, at 6:30PM at the Little Turtle branch of the ACPL.  There will also be advertisment postcards given to members that can then be handed out to friends, family, and acquaintances.  All participating members should make it a priority to be at this meeting.  Other members and interested parties are still welcome to attend, though at this point, inclusion in the group display will be very limited.

Tickets for Brickworld Fort Wayne 2014 can be purchased online or at the door on the days of the expo.  Door tickets, however, are cash only and slightly more expensive.  For more information on Brickworld or to purchase tickets, please visit the Brickworld website from the URL below.

Brickworld website