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LEGO train sets usually come with enough track pieces to make a simple loop, and may also include a small station for passengers and cargo. Other than these basic features offered by official LEGO train sets, LEGO fans are on their own when it comes to building train layouts. This is, of course, not a bad thing, as LEGO is all about creativity. However, because LEGO train layouts tend to be quite large and complex, it is best to establish some kind of a standard. Today, we will discuss systems LEGO fans adopted to standardize LEGO train layouts. 🙂

Having an agreed upon standard for train layouts is especially important when collaborating with other LEGO fans for large public displays. And it can also be a good idea if you are just building for your own pleasure. The available LEGO track elements, the geometry of the track pieces, and the size and shape of the trains all establish a certain scale. This scale can help you design other sections of the layout like roads, houses, commercial structures, vegetation, etc.

Another important aspect to think through is the management of electronic components. Modern LEGO trains run on batteries, but if you want to add lights and other electronics, you will need to have a system for neatly running wires through the layout. And, if you are using the old 9-volt train system you will have to think about the wires of the tracks as well.

The LEGO train system is usually referred to as ‘L-gauge’ among fans, in reference to traditional model railway scales. LEGO trains use a nominal gauge of 37.5mm, 5.5mm wider than O gauge, derived from a centerline gauge of 40mm (or five LEGO studs). The incompatibility of LEGO trains with traditional model railway scales makes it all the more important to establish a consistent standard, especially for collaborative projects.

The L-gauge.org information resource website was set up for exactly this reason. L-Gauge is the result of the collective knowledge, wisdom, and best practices from LEGO train fans from around the world. The goal of the project is to help support, promote, and educate fans and hobbyists interested in learning about and building LEGO model trains and layouts. Please note that the information is not official, but it is used by many LEGO User Groups and LEGO conventions around to world in order to ease collaboration among LEGO train fans.

Building a L-Gauge train layout involves many of the same factors of design and artistic flair as building a train layout in any of the traditional model train scales. The L-gauge.org website contains detailed information about LEGO track elements and geometry, track configurations reference, overview of train wheels, and more.

In addition to information on LEGO trains and tracks, there are also detailed guides for building MILS modules, which stands for “Modular Integrated Landscaping System”. The MILS standard allows multiple builders to build sections of train layouts and landscapes separately, and then bring them together as a cohesive display. We talked about this system a few years ago in the following article, which includes some educational videos on building MILS modules: LEGO Tutorials by Back Room Builder

The MILS standard was developed and documented by members of the HispaLUG/HispaBrick community for collaborative diorama displays. Among its key features is that it is simple and flexible and can be used with many different LEGO themes besides trains. MILS modules are primarily based on 32×32 baseplates. They are raised 1 brick (3 plates) above the baseplate reference level. This allows modules to interconnect with LEGO Technic bricks and pins, while also making the sections much stronger than regular LEGO baseplates. In addition, there is plenty of room to hide wires for electric components inside the modules.

The MILS standard is easy to understand, easy to implement, and can be expanded indefinitely. Even if you don’t collaborate with others for building large displays, it is an efficient system for your own layouts that can come very handy. As an example, if you ever need to relocate, you can take apart and move your entire display with relative ease. However, the system does require planning. For example, if you want to incorporate the LEGO Modular Buildings, you would build them on a MILS base rather than on the baseplate provided with the set, or build them a MILS to Modular Adapter Base (as pictured below).

If you like to work with LEGO trains, build LEGO City displays, or any other large dioramas, I highly recommend studying the MILS standard. It is based on decades of knowledge by experienced LEGO fans. At least it will give you some key pointers to think about when designing your own project, and thus potentially having to build and rebuild repeatedly down the road (which may or may not be a bad thing). So, visit L-gauge.org and look around the site. I think you will find it valuable.

What do you think? Do you have a LEGO train or other large LEGO layout? Are you using any systemized way for setting the up, expanding them, and possibly move them? Have you used the MILS standard before? Did you ever participate in a larger project that used the MILS standard? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

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The LEGO Build Your Own Adventure book series by DK Publishing has been very popular with young and old LEGO fans alike. They include stories, building ideas, and LEGO bricks to build some of the models from the books. For kids, they are great for learning to read and build at the same time, and also ignite the imagination with seed ideas. The books also carry well for travel. They come in a slipcase that contains a normal hardbound book and a separate compartment for LEGO parts. Adult LEGO fans and collectors also like the books because of their high quality, and because they are basically unique LEGO sets. 🙂

So far, there has been eight books in the series; the LEGO Ninjago: Build Your Own Adventure and the LEGO Friends: Build Your Own Adventure from 2015, the LEGO Star Wars: Build Your Own Adventure and the LEGO City: Build Your Own Adventure from 2016, the LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Build Your Own Adventure and the LEGO Nexo Knights: Build Your Own Adventure from 2017, and the LEGO Disney Princess: Build Your Own Adventure and a new LEGO Ninjago: Build Your Own Adventure from 2018. This year, we are getting two more books; the new LEGO Star Wars: Build Your Own Adventure is not yet released but can be pre-ordered, and the LEGO Harry Potter: Build Your Own Adventure is already available.

We talked about the previously released titles in the series previously (see links at the end of this post), so today we will only discuss the recently released LEGO Harry Potter: Build Your Own Adventure book. Just like the previous books, the LEGO Harry Potter: Build Your Own Adventure book comes with a slipcase that keeps together the hardbound book and a separate compartment for LEGO parts. This book also includes a poster and a couple of bookmarks, which are a nice surprise.

The book itself is 80 pages long, and features building instructions for two alternate models; a Sorting Hat spinner, and a revolving fireplace. These can be built from the included LEGO pieces. The other projects featured in the book are seed ideas that you can build and expand on from pieces of your own LEGO collection. There are also little dialogues and stories to make the book more interesting and tie the builds together. DK Publishing is known for their high quality books with sturdy paper and brilliant printing, and the books in this series are no exception.

The separate compartment for the included LEGO pieces is basically a shallow cardboard box. Again, the box is high quality with nice printing. Inside the box, you will find all the building pieces (about 100) and a Harry Potter minifigure. The minifig is not exclusive, but the Sorting Hat is a rare piece that so far only appeared in one regular set; the #75954 LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall. In addition, the book comes with four printed 2×2 tiles with the Hogwarts House crests. These are exclusive to the book and do not appear in any regular LEGO sets.

I have always been fond of the LEGO Build Your Own Adventure books, and this latest addition doesn’t disappoint either. The stories, the featured models, the included pieces and minifigures are all carefully selected and brought together into a high quality item that’s worthy of both the DK Publishing and LEGO brand names. Below is the official description of the book.

Conjure your own magical world with more than 50 ideas to inspire your own LEGO Harry Potter models. Plus, a Harry Potter minifigure and all the bricks you need to make an exclusive 2-in-1 LEGO Harry Potter model! The perfect gift for a LEGO Harry Potter fan, LEGO Harry Potter: Build Your Own Adventure features model ideas and expert build tips to help you recreate classic movie moments from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Send Hogwarts letters flying in the Dursley’s living room. Explore Diagon Alley with Harry and Hagrid. Cook up a Halloween feast in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Build your own wizard chessboard and Devil’s Snare plant. Exclusive LEGO Sorting Hat spinner model can be rebuilt as a magical, revolving fireplace. LEGO Harry Potter Build Your Own Adventure also contains Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore bookmarks and a fun poster. Recommended for ages 6 – 9 years. Hardcover, 80 pages, dimensions: 8.9 x 1.7 x 10.8 inches. Regular price: $24.99 – BUY ON AMAZON

As I mentioned above, the new LEGO Star Wars: Build Your Own Adventure book won’t be available until August, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. Here is the official description: Want more ideas for LEGO Star Wars( models to build? You need this book with bricks that inspires children to build, play, and learn all about the LEGO Star Wars universe. LEGO Star Wars Build your Own Adventure: Galactic Missions combines action-packed story starters with more than 50 fun ideas for building. Once you have built new creations, play out exciting adventures of your own using your personal LEGO collection. Use your favorite Star Wars minifigures to complete five top secret missions! This book comes with a minifigure and the bricks to build an awesome exclusive vehicle that features in the story. Recommended for ages 6 – 9 years. Hardcover, 80 pages, dimensions: 8.9 x 1.7 x 10.8 inches. Regular price: $24.99 – PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON

The regular price of the book appears a little high, although in my opinion totally worth it, and you can almost always find them cheaper on Amazon. Here is a list of all nine books in the collection that were released so far, with links to their Amazon pages:

What do you think? Do you have any of the LEGO Build Your Own Adventure books? How do you like them? And which one is your favorite? Did you build any of the suggested models found in the books? Feel free to share your thoughts and own reviews in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the LEGO Books section for more book reviews, or select from the following related posts:

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Your favorite LEGO books – publishing survey

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Despite the huge increase of the popularity of interactive digital media, many people still enjoy reading printed books, including books related to the LEGO hobby. LEGO books have been with us since pretty much the very beginning of the company. Kids have been leafing through books with inspirational models and comics for decades, and there […]

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San Diego Comic-Con 2019 starting today!

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San Diego Comic-Con 2019 is starting today! The four-day event showcases a wide variety of pop culture and entertainment elements across virtually all genres, including comic books, fiction and fantasy related film, television, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, fantasy novels, and more. There are also workshops, seminars, and discussion panels with […]

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LEGO sets & events to celebrate Space

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July 16th marked the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing. LEGO took the opportunity to celebrate this day by sharing the result of an interesting survey they conducted with children and parents in three countries about space travel. They also discuss some upcoming events you and your family can participate in at […]

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LEGO medieval windmills and more!

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We haven’t gotten a good medieval windmill since the release of the #7189 LEGO Castle Mill Village Raid in 2011 (pictured below), so I thought to share some of my favorite custom LEGO windmills built by LEGO fans. Windmills were (and in some places still are) an important part of daily life. They make it […]

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New LEGO VIP Awards Center now live!

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As we discussed previously (see links at the end of this post), LEGO has been working on restructuring the LEGO VIP program by adding more ways to earn and redeem points. The new LEGO VIP Rewards Center is now live so we have a chance to check out all the changes and additions to the […]

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LEGO Christmas in July Sale this weekend!

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The LEGO Christmas in July Sale is now live! This is basically LEGO’s way of clearing out items before the next big batch of summer and fall sets arrive. Please note that this event is only this weekend, July 12-14. You can also earn Double VIP Points on a couple of sets. Details below. 🙂 […]

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LEGO Stranger Things poster & more!

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The third season of the American science fiction-horror web television series Stranger Things premiered on Netflix a few days ago, which means new interest in the recently released #75810 LEGO Stranger Things: The Upside Down set (for more info and full review check the links at the end of this post). To celebrate the event, […]

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Brick Breakdown: LEGO Apollo Lunar Lander

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(Written by William) To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the Moon, LEGO recently released the #10266 LEGO Creator NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander. We discussed the set already in previous articles (see links at the end of this post), so today we will focus on the unique building techniques. However, […]

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