New with Ninjago City Plans

Another new guy here. Putting together an approximately 7' x 9' city themed loosely around the Ninjago TV show. The base is inspired by MILS but not quite the same, so I'll have plenty of space to run wires "underground".

I'm about at the point where I want to begin laying the first phase of lighting in the soonish future -- a torch or two in a small cave, subway platform single-stud circular floor lights, and subway platform ceiling lights. In a dream world the motion of the train would trigger the platform lights to blink as the train approached and shutoff as it passed.

But first things first for this beginner.

What will be key is I anticipate a few hundred lights across the display when done. The more consolidated they are with power and controls, the better. I want to be able to expand and limit my power supply source to hopefully one, and one that will plug into a wall. So these first small "test" areas need to be wholly expandable to much larger endeavors like skyscrapers.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I'll continue to research and self-educate as well.

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  • Hi Dan, welcome to the forum and thank you for your message!  Sounds like you have quite a project teed up.  We love those large projects, and are happy to help any way we can!

    Jim Pirzyk is pretty much the resident expert on pre-wiring large cities.  He gave a talk at Brickworld 2017 about his work, and shared his slides on this forum:

    Our technology has evolved quite a bit since Jim's original presentation but much of what he outlined is still relevant.  I'm sure he would be glad to share more thoughts if you have any plans of your city you'd be willing to share.

    Another great resource for large-scale wiring is Paul George , and Freakmaster has done some great incorporating of wires into the base for his Hogwarts Castle.

    Again, welcome!  We look forward to working with you.

    • Dan B
    • Dan_B
    • 4 yrs ago
    • Reported - view

    Rob Klingberg  Thanks, Rob! Nice to virtually meet you.

    Jim's stuff is very DIY. I suspect I'll be sticking with the Brickstuff approach but did pick up on some layout ideas from his slides.

    I'll check back shortly with my proposed first step (two flickering torches in a small cave and main power) and tag the guys you recommended as well when needed.  I don't have drawn out master plans -- more like a giant table with a rough layout mess on it and the beginnings of conduits to run wire. Most of the MOCs I plan on adding exist conceptually only at this point.

    The centerpiece -- Borg Tower -- is 80% built. You can see that here:

  • Dan B Sounds good, thanks Dan.  FYI we are also working on some new magnetic connectors to allow multiple sections of baseplate to be electrically connected/disconnected easily.  Those connectors may help with your setup at some point, if you plan on making it modular.

    Thanks for sharing the pics of your building!  The tower is amazing.  One suggestion for larger structures that are open inside, like this one, is to stagger our light strips on several different circuits.  That way you can have lights come on and off either automatically or via remote control.  We took that approach with a city we lit back in 2015-- you can check out those pics here:

    Please do keep us posted!

    • Dan B
    • Dan_B
    • 4 yrs ago
    • Reported - view

    Rob Klingberg  Thanks for all the great info, Rob! I had checked out that 2015 city previously. Great work.

    The magnetic connectors sound interesting. I'm aiming for modular on 48x48 plates, but train track will make separating a little more difficult. I'll check out the magnetic connectors when they're ready.

    Are you OK with me beginning my specific questions here? I'll start, and if a problem then please direct me to the best place to post.

    For my first purchase I want to get the main power source in place (into a wall outlet, not batteries!) and the first "sub" level being the subway and a small cave.

    For power, I'm assuming I want a USB-type plug like you'd use for a phone. Correct? 

    See the crude attached diagram. It's a combination of Pico LEDs and regular LEDs.

    The two flickering torches might be problematic as most of the torch shaft-type pieces have the tiny holes going through them. Thoughts? I'll post a pic of how I assembled a test torch. Similar to the flickering candle two-pack and using the same flame element, but different shaft parts.

    There are two subway stations next to each other. Each will have four 1x1 circular transparent tiles in the floor that should blink on and off in unison. I'll probably use yellow tiles but won't decide that until I have the lights in hand and test.

    The ceiling of each station will have a couple LEDs to light the overall space.

    The train passes into the tunnel where the right 48x48 plate meets the middle plate. Above the tunnel opening I'd love 1 red and 1 green pico LED lighting a 1x1 transparent circular tile, with each light blinking alternately. 

    And of course this all needs to be expandable, so whatever the "hub" is for expansion in any direction.

    Hope that all makes sense! Any guidance on the best way to plan out this first phase with the least amount of light parts/costs would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi Dan,

    Looking at your amount of lighting you are planning in phase 1 I think it should be easily done with 1 USB Power adapter, and yes any USB wall wort will work with the adapter.  I have 3 different ones around and they all do the job.

    As for my DIY stuff, just think of it as "fancy" extension cords.  My primary goal was to cut down the amount of resistance between the USB adapter and the lights, the less resistance, the brighter the lights or more lights (in my case).

    For what you are proposing I do not expect you would need to get in as deep as I have.  In my early days I used exclusively Rob's stuff, and only when I started to hit the limits of what I could do, then I looked to make alternatives.  It has been an iterative approach and as Rob will attest to, I am still working on improving it.

    Good luck and enjoy the journey :)

    - JimP

    • Dan B
    • Dan_B
    • 4 yrs ago
    • Reported - view

    Jim Pirzyk Thanks for the note, Jim! I like the approach you took and can visualize myself doing something similar: start with Rob's out-of-the-box stuff and then move beyond into DIY extensions when the build necessitates it.

    I assume with the DIY cords that you were measuring exact lengths for minimal resistance, correct?

    Phase 1 is for cutting teeth. Getting used to the lights and the wires. And of course the beauty with LEGO is it's easy to rip down experiments and start over. I don't expect to nail anything on the first few passes.

    The more I research, the more I realize that only one USB power adapter probably won't suffice for the entire build. I'm a lot more open to additional plugs now.

  • Yea I was making cords longer and with thicker wires, for the temp cords I use 26 AWG stranded wire, for the streets themselves I use 20AWG solid wire.  The street wires are cut to length and connectors solderd on.

  • Dan B Thanks Dan for the additional detail.  Sounds like you are making progress figuring out the power situation.  In terms of the lights, we could do some little effect controllers for you in places where you need the flashing lights.  You won't be able to get two Pico LEDs inside the space of a single 1x1 circular transparent tile-- you'll need to have multiple transparent pieces, one for each Pico LED.

    Also, with regard to tiles vs. plates, when you have a transparent tile directly on top of a non-transparent part, there is no room for an LED.  So you'll need to plan to have either a plate on top (which you probably don't want given the need to have a smooth surface), or plan to have an additional transparent element (ideally a brick) under the transparent tile, into which you can mount the Pico LED and have it shine through to the top.

    Let me know if this makes sense, and keep the drawings/photos coming.  Thank you!

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