Thursday, November 10, 2016

16mm Scale Power Upgrade

A few months ago, I decided to update the working parts for my scratch-built engines, and purchased a start-up purchase of LEGO Power Functions equipment.


Illustrated are all of the necessary parts needed for operation. One loco needs a train motor, an IR receiver, a battery box with wall transformer, and a remote!

What I really like for the rechargeable battery box is that all you need to power it up is to plug it in a wall outlet with the extension cord, which is sold separately. While it seemed expensive at about $50 for the battery, it saves on having to buy so many spare batteries to power up more locomotives! You can of course get a batch of either Energizer or Duracell rechargeable batteries for other Lego versions.


While I was making a new model custom for Rusty the diesel, I made use of the new system and made a LEGO chassis to support the operating system. The body shell will fit over this once completed and detailed.

You can operate as many accessories with the IR receiver's linked to the same channel, and you can operate two separate engines at once with the two-knobbed controller.


Operation was very smooth. It runs at set speeds and aren't as gradual unless pulling cars, especially a heavy load which it handled well. I needed to be as close as 1ft - 3ft to make the loco start or stop when I needed to.

Also, because LEGO's railroad system is not battery powered, I don't need electric track! I could potentially hand-lay 2ft 3in track for these engines to scale for my dioramas to film.


I also got a set of Big Ben Bricks LLC's custom engine wheels, which I found run beautifully with the LEGO power functions very well. These are size large, both flanged and blind drivers for Skarloey and Rheneas, and other locos. Medium would be great for Duncan.

The counterweights were made from cutting card drawn to shape, and painted once the glue dried. This made the wheels look more believable as locos have varying styles.


I painted and weathered them using acrylics from Plaid FolkArt, Apple Barrel and Deco Art's Americana.This gave it that extra touch of realism for grime and ware, which would look good in motion for the finished loco to operate, once adjustments are made for the interchangeable chassis!

Rheneas is pictured above with his previous LEGO 9V engine motor fitting chassis removed. I have the train motor assembled to test the fitting of the custom wheels to see how much of the floor I had to cut with my craft knife to be sure it ran smoothly without distressing.

After I finished with the painting, I spray painted my wheels using a matte primer, so as the loco runs on the rails, the paint will stay secure and not scratch off in case of any wheel-slip.


This is how the LEGO 9V engine motor looked with custom balsa and toothpick rods and wheels overlays with glued card before painting. Although it looked good, the wheels felt out of scale, and needed larger wheels to not only look believable, but operate much more smoothly.


For Rheneas, I had a separate LEGO chassis assembled together to put in place. I needed to extend the back a little bit, so that meant that only one wheel could the motor power, which I haven't found to be a problem yet, and I may find I might need to customize with an extra set of LEGO gears.


The battery and receiver are set in place. I left room in between them for the wires to run through them with enough clearance.


The custom chassis is made from balsa and black card, with holes punched for the wheel connectors to slide through the motor each end.


For Skarloey, here is the complete removable chassis with balsa rods! The cylinder casings are also from paper card, with craft wire valve extensions.

Rods are from balsa, with bent paper card to model the connecting ends to the LEGO wheel facets, all painted with acrylics.

I found I really liked the longer length for him, and for Rheneas I could go longer to match his prototype.


Comparing Skarloey and Rheneas' new operating coupling rods. I find it highly satisfying to adjust the wheelbase to accommodate specific locomotives, like Rheneas' long chassis.


The best part about making a custom Lego motor chassis, I can interchange locomotive shells to have different engines running at a given time anyway I like, which makes these highly customizable and easy to put together.

Overall, I am very pleased with the upgrade. When I test the parts out before painting, I try making sure they run smoothly without any kinks before moving on to detailing. It makes a better operating system for the model when I take my time on things like this, because it can make or break how it runs on set.

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