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Trains/Monorail Gantry Crane

January 29th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

My first Trains creation, also featuring Monorail and a remote-controlled gantry crane.  


Completion date: 25/01/2015
Power: electric (Power Functions)

For years, I have resisted temptation to start playing with Lego Trains line, deterred by the prices of sets and the amount of room required by more complex track layouts. I managed to see the end of 9V Trains era, and then came Power Functions Trains, along with the 60052 Cargo Train set which finally made me yield to the temptation. I liked the set so much, I have modded its locomotive to include SBRick as well as LEGO LEDs in front and rear, and I expanded my collection by buying the 3677 Red Cargo Train set, whose locomotive I’ve modded too, this time keeping the LEGO IR receiver just to see the difference.

With two cool trains, both designed to carry cargo, it was time to add some serious cargo-themed infrastructure. I have a thing for gantry cranes, having built two before, so it was a natural choice. I decided to combine two LEGO systems – Trains and Monorail – just to get the hang of how different they are, and to make the entire setup more interesting. I’ve kept cars from the 60052 and 3677 intact, adding one simple car of my own, and also adding some 4×8 cargo boxes to the 4×8 cargo palettes used in both sets. I have employed essentially the same way of handling cargo as in my Cargo Terminal, replacing traditional hook on a string with a horizontal bar on a rigid beam that could go up and down. This made sure the cargo wasn’t swinging when the gantry was moving, and allowed to pick the loads up and put them down by moving the gantry horizontally.

Unlike my Cargo Terminal, the gantry was controlled remotely with PF system and not with the 9V Control Center which allows programming movements. This was because for a program to handle cargo properly, the trains would have to stop at the exact same spot at all times, which was possible but complex and I wanted to keep my first foray into Trains area simple. Thus, the entire gantry relied on three groups of motors for movement in three planes, and all of them were geared down essentially to provide good accuracy. The only exception were two PF L motors driving the entire gantry horizontally, which I chose to control with the speed dial PF remote, because I wanted to be able to make the gantry move at various speeds, and also without me sending commands from remote all the time.

Playing with the entire setup gave me a number of interesting experiences. First of all, the PF-operated train proved more comfortable because it could be left driving on its own after the initial input from the remote, and because it could drive at several specific speeds. The SBrick operated train, on the other hand, required constant input from a smartphone, and – being controlled with a slider – had speed that changed fluently, without any specific thresholds. Because of this, it was difficult to have both trains follow the same track at matching speeds. With two PF-operated trains, it would be fairly easy. Second, the Monorail clearly paled in comparison to the Trains system. Not only was it permanently limited to just two cars, but it had to be smaller, because the narrow platforms for cars would fall off the track if the superstructure on top of them was too tall or too wide. The effective cross-section of the Monorail locomotive had to be kept at about half of that of the Trains locomotives, and so it was impossible to make it just as large, pretty or interesting. I have also realized that the two Monorail motors I own are both over 25 years old and won’t stay in the working order forever, so transition from Monorail to Trains may be a necessity (not to mention the exorbitant prices of the Monorail tracks).


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Categories: Monorail, Trains Tags: , , , ,
  1. EV3fan
    January 30th, 2015 at 14:05 | #1

    Nice! I really like this moc. I love lego trains but they are very expensive and I don’t really have the space so I think I’ll invest in LEGO technic first.

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