Back in September of last year I decided to take my family up to the Texas State Railroad to their first Railfest. Those of you familiar with my work are aware that I have long had a love for the organization. When I first switched from being a primarily castle builder to a train builder, the third and fourth train MOCs I built were based on two of the locomotives owned by the Texas State Railroad - #500, a gorgeous pacific class steamer in a stunning green livery, and the #300, a consolidation class steamer in red and black (pictured). I first built the #500, wanting to build a pacific class steam engine with a wheel arrangmenet developed between myself and Ben Fleskes. Building #300 was quite literally an afterthought, and I really didn't put too much effort into her.
At the Railfest, as I learned through their website, the Texas State Railroad was planning on debuting #300 after a long and extensive boiler rebuild and a fresh coat of paint. I thought just how cool would it be to get a picture of my LEGO version with the real thing. And what an impressive sight she was. She was gorgeous, and I gained the appreciation for her that I had of the #500. But as I stood there next to this giant, breathing, groaning machine, I began to realize just how inaccurate my little LEGO version truly was. The dimensions were off, the drivers were the wrong size compared to the boiler (something I was aware of but decided not to do anything about at the time), along with a long list of the myriad of things wrong with it.
When I got home I did some further research on my two locomotives and discovered that my #500 was grossly misshapen as well. So I decided to rebuild them both. Originally built in 6 and 7 wide respectively, I decided to rebuild both the #300 and #500 as 8 wide MOCs, enlarging the boilers and bringing their proportions to the real things. While I began planning out the two locomotives, using the scaling techniques I've discussed previously on this blog, things were going rather well but I still had some unanswered questions. So... I sent off an email.
You see, while I was there at the Texas State Railroad I met quite a few employees. I made it a point to ask a lot of questions (including for permission to put my MOC on the locomotive), and I even was able to convince the engineer of the #300 (pictured) to use my camera and take several detailed shots of the backhead. Among the people I met was a lady who I had been referred to after giving a TexLUG business card to one of the employees in the depot. She was very interested in talking with me about my LEGO versions of the TSRR locomotives, and we exchanged contact information. So on a whim, I sent off an email to her with an attached word document - five incomplete lists of detail information for each of the five steam engines owned by the TSRR (locomotive length, width, boiler diameter, etc.). I politely asked if she could pass the information to those who would be in the know, and said if it was too much trouble I understood, and that I wasn't in any hurry. To be honest I never really expected to hear back from her on the subject.
Time went on and I began to rebuild my #300, and then the #500 afterward. I increased the size of the #300's boiler from a studs up 4 wide design to a 5 wide SNOTted cheese slope design, and increased the overall width from 6 wide to 8 wide. Of course I changed quite a bit more than that, such as updating the piston design, credit to Cale, adding details I never added before, and lengthening the locomotive and tender. So, too, did I change the #500's boiler from a design that started 4 wide on the nose and ended 5 wide at the back, to a cheese slope design that started 5 wide and increased to 6. I also increased the overall width of the locomotive from 7 wide to 8. The #300 only grew by two studs in length, but the #500 grew an impressive 7 studs, which posed quite a few design challenges. But in the end I was not only able to adjust for the extra 7 studs but I was able to build a fully functional 4-wheeled pony truck that navigated around the pistons. With my locomotives built my thoughts turned to other things.
How surprised I was last friday to find an email from the lady at the Texas State Railroad sitting in my inbox with an attached PDF. Someone had printed out the word document and filled in all the data I had requested on all five locomotives - locomotive height, weight, boiler diameter, even tender dimenions. What a truly awesome thing they had done for me (and I replied and told them so). But the awesomeness didn't stop there, my friends, oh no. A tidal wave of awesome washed over me as I looked over the data and began doing some rough calculations and cross referencing.
#300, the red locomotive, has a uniformly sized boiler which turns out to be 6 feet in diameter, which I modeled in a 5-wide cheese slope boiler. #500's boiler, which increases in size, starts out at 5'11" in diameter and increases to 7 feet, which I modeled in a 5-wide cheese slope boiler that increases to 6 wide. Not only did I get the relative sizes of the boilers correct, which I thought the nose of both boilers were the same diameter, the increase in size of the #500's boiler more or less fits with what I modeled. #610, the massive 2-10-4 Texas Type (pictured), I was going to model with a 6 wide boiler with an 8-wide overall MOC. The diameter of the real #610? 86 inches, or 7 feet 2 inches! Everything started falling into place.
The widths of the five locomotives (measured at the cab) are 10' 6", 10' 3", 10' 3", 10' 6", and 10' 6". Which means not only did I do right by building both the #300 and #500 the same width, but building all of them as 8 wide MOCs will make them relative in scale to each other. On top of that, the boiler diameter of the two other locomotives, #201 and #400, are just shy of 6 feet, which means I can build them with 5 wide cheese slope boilers as well. This is all a round about way of saying that my calculations based on scaling out pictures turned out to be pretty darn accurate, and I'm rather proud of it.
But there were some surprises as well. I knew #300 was quite a bit shorter than #500, but I didn't know it was a full 2 feet. I also now know that the smallest locomotive, the ten wheeler #201, is not small in all dimensions - it's 14' 11" tall (counting the stack). That's only shorter than the massive #610 by about 6 inches. The tallest locomotive, which was a complete shock, is the #500 - taller than the #610 by about 6 inches. The #610's boiler increases in size, something I guessed at but didn't know - by about a foot. And since I also asked and received the dimensions of the locomotive's tenders, it will be a HUGE help in rendering any future engines in LEGO, as well as allowing me to go back and double check the tenders I already built - who knows, I might find some more room for PF equipment in there.
The moral of the story? Be nice to and engage with those who help preserve these great pieces of technological art. And don't be afraid to ask questions - you might just get all the answers you're looking for