Thump. It was just before Christmas, and a brown package slammed onto the hallway floor of TLCB Towers. A dozen TLCB Elves immediately ran towards it, but thwarted by its weight were unable to make off with their prize. A lot of post goes missing here.
Fortunately this TLCB writer is considerably bigger than a TLCB Elf and thus was able to pick up said package and, with some Elves still attached, retreat to the TLCB ‘staffroom’ (an ancient sofa in the corner of the office).
Usually heavy packages received here at TLCB Towers are ‘Cease and Desist’ notifications wrapped around a breeze block from The Brothers Brick, but this time we had a present! No Starch Press; we like you!
No Starch have been in the Lego book game for a while, consistently churning out books about our favourite plastic building blocks for some years. Their latest publication is this, the 230-page ‘The Lego Trains Book‘ by Holger Matthes.
In compact landscape format and produced in No Starch’s usual glossy high quality form ‘The Lego Trains Book’ really is surprisingly heavy, but does the content live up to the cover?
‘The Lego Trains’ book begins, after a brief Forward and Acknowledgements section, with a chapter detailing the history of LEGO’s official Trains line, following the range from its beginnings in the 1960s, through the battery era, live rail era (this writer’s favourite), to the latest remote control Power Functions sets. It’s a comprehensive compilation of the LEGO Trains history and one that’s sure to be of interest to anyone who loves the theme, although it is perhaps a bit too in-depth for the more casual Lego builder.
Chapter two is entitled ‘Basic Principles’, and it’s brilliant. Detailing building techniques and parts ratios it’s perfect for any builder of any theme (not just Trains) looking to create more advanced Lego creations. Utilising well-chosen digital depictions the author makes even the more complex techniques easy to understand, and whilst these aren’t quite as high quality visually as LEGO’s own they are good enough to make for useful teaching-aids.
Chapters three and four build upon these techniques with practical application, detailing the considerations and choices available when designing your own train models. This is a very thorough chapter offering insights into a variety of scales, how to ensure models can handle tight corners, how to connect carriages to one another, how to create realistic steam train mechanisms and such like.
It’s a gloriously nerdy section and as such Holger includes links to third-party products and design software that can help a builder reach the utmost level of realism. This may be a bit too in-depth for most builders (ourselves included), but it’s usually better to have too much information than too little.
The final chapter, which at 100 pages long makes up nearly half the book, is where ‘The Lego Trains Book’ comes alive. With instructions for four real-world trains, Holger uses the techniques and details from the first chapters to create a suite of absolutely superb models, which include variations for alternative parts, how to fit motors, and the all-important parts-list at the start of each build.
It’s a similar set-up to Peter Blackert and Quarto Motorbooks’ excellent ‘How to Build Brick Cars‘ as well as No Starch Press’s own ‘Tiny Lego Wonders‘ publication, only the models here are much more complicated. Instruction are clear, well produced, and – whilst trickier than LEGO’s own increasingly dumbed-down offerings – straightforward to follow.
‘The Lego Trains Book’ continues No Starch Press’s hot streak of Lego books. Holger Matthes’ passion for the subject matter is evident in every page, with each oozing his comprehensive knowledge of both Lego and real-world railways.
If like the author you’re a Lego train enthusiast with an eye for absolute attention to detail you will adore ‘The Lego Trains Book’. The techniques and tools within will make your own Lego models more realistic, more functional, and even more playable too. If like us you’re a bit more of a casual trains fan, you may find a lot to like too.