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How to Motorize the LEGO Orient Express Train

The much-talked-about #21344 LEGO Ideas Orient Express became available at the beginning of December. It’s a beautiful set bringing back one of the world’s most legendary trains. The original Orient Express was the world’s first international luxury train that carried thousands of passengers across Europe to Istanbul from 1883 to 1977.

Released to celebrate the train’s 140th anniversary, the new 2,540-piece LEGO set transports builders back to the Golden Age of travel, with some stunning features including the main locomotive, tender, dining, and sleeping cars. The set also features removable roofs to allow access to detailed interiors, and eight LEGO minifigures including the conductor, a chef, staff, and passengers. This was originally a LEGO Ideas project submitted by a LEGO fan, then turned into an official set by the LEGO Ideas design team. You can watch the designer-video here: LEGO Orient Express Train Designer-Video

An important question about this train is if it can be motorized. Many LEGO trains come with parts for motorization, others don’t include motorization components but offer alternate instructions and a list of parts you will need to motorize them. And sometimes LEGO releases some trains that aren’t meant to be motorized and do not include either the parts or instructions to make them run on their own. The #21344 LEGO Ideas Orient Express falls into this third category.

Fortunately, you can always make your own customization with LEGO, and some fans are already offering solutions to motorize this beautiful train. Common options include motorizing the locomotive, the coal car, or one of the passenger cars. Motorization requires a powered train motor that is already optimized for trains, or a regular motor that takes up less space but requires more customization, a battery hub, and a remote. Either the older Power Functions or the newer Powered Up system works for all LEGO trains. (The benefit of the newer system is that it works with the LEGO Powered Up app and you don’t need a separate IR receiver unit.) You can find the parts needed at the Powered Up section of the Online LEGO Shop.

In the following videos, LEGO fan and reviewer Balazs from RacingBrick talks about the set in general, and then also goes into detail about the different options to motorize the train.

I do not have the Orient Express just yet, but plan to purchase it as soon as it fits my budget. I love LEGO trains, especially classic-style trains. They are delightful to watch running through a LEGO city and are fun to customize. My preferred method to motorize LEGO trains is to place all components into a custom car that is either similar in style to the rest of a particular train or generic enough to fit with any train. I like this method because there are no wires running between train sections (i.e. motor in the locomotive, battery hub in the coal car), and I can quickly switch the custom car between trains and place it anywhere behind the locomotive. I’m curious to see if my method will work with the Orient Express. As Balazs explains, it’s a fairly heavy train, and also long, which can cause motors to struggle or cars to derail. We shall see…

What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Orient Express? Do you have it already? Or are you planning to get it? And is motorization important to you for LEGO trains? Which motorization method do you prefer? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below!

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Pepper December 23, 2023, 9:58 AM

    They should always include the option to motorize. There us no point of having a train that doesn’t run. Anyway, it seems fairly straightforward, but I still feel that the passenger cars are too long.

  • Eriks lego December 25, 2023, 5:09 PM

    I still prefer the older system. Yes, it has a separate it receiver, but I don’t have to fiddle with the app. And it’s a small thing, I prefer the color scheme better.

    • Eriks lego December 25, 2023, 5:10 PM

      Sorry, I mean IR receiver. Dummy autocorrect.

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