End of summer 2012 I decided I want to build a huge train layout as exhibitor at LEGO Fanwelt 2012. It was an ambitious plan considering I never built a big layout and I was far from implementing the digital controlling system for the 9V LEGO trains. The preparation started slowly and got more and more intense getting closer to the deadline. I even took some days off from work just for building bricks. In almost every step of the process I underestimated the time required. Mainly because even if one step took 5-10mins you have to multiply this by 30 to 300 times depending the task. Like building 16 x 16 studs modular blocks or converting 9V motors.
After having some initial planing of the layout and the trains I knew I will need to order lot of bricks from bricklink to be able to fill the 7m x 2.5m area I registered for. I also wanted to have track bedding under each train rails and also build some discontinued modular houses like the Green Grocer and Cafe Corner. Soon I realized this will be a huge order from many-many bricklink shops. I even made a small software to optimize my order for the best price.
For two weeks I was receiving smaller and larger packages from almost 40 bricklink shops. Afterwards I realized that one mistake I made was to order one type of brick from multiple shops when the price was small. This made the package verification and sorting much much slower because of the high number of lots.
I also bought lot of 9V train motors which needed cleaning and converting to be used with digital decoders. Even today I'm not finished this task for all my 9V motors. I will write a detailed post about this process later.
Another problem I faced was my fingers not being able to keep up with building. I needed to build hundreds of different sized modular blocks for rails, switches or just plain fields. At the end it hurt putting together two bricks. So I started using gloves.
As I mentioned earlier everything took more time as planed. I only had just a few weeks before the show when all the bricklink orders arrived. I started building the trains and tried also to make at least a few own creations. The most successful was the basic train station with windows. I also gave some original modular house sets to friends so they would build it for me. Vickey even came to visit me in Germany to help out on a long weekend. It was great fun!
In the end I had to simplify my layout track plan, I gave up building some modular houses and could not finish all the modular blocks. I didn't want to use expensive proprietary commercial digital control centers so I had to write build one and write my own software. The first "command line" version was ready on the last weekend and was only tested with one locomotive at a time. It was a big gamble if it could even work at the show in large scale.
In my next post I will write about the Fanwelt 2012 show as my first exhibition. It was a great experience!