Remixing 12V Trains: Modernizing Classic LEGO Trains

Getting hooked into vintage LEGO 12V trains is a descent into madness not unlike the world of classic cars. Both hobbies consume unreasonable amounts of time, money, and nerdy street cred! Luckily, my addiction is not the “collector” flavour, but rather the restoration artist.

I am happy to find 12V train sets or element specimens in any condition and restore them to showcase condition (as described in my previous article on 12V track restoration). This also involves “remixing” classic 12V era train models—that is, rebuilding them using a very restrained combination of both old and modern LEGO elements to a contemporary re-interpretation.

It would be too easy to blame my exploration of vintage LEGO 12V trains on my friend Holger Matthes since the release of his incredible book LEGO Eisenbahnwelt (shown below).

No, this passion for 12V trains started with my exploration into the 12V electrical accessory system (shown below).

I have always been fascinated with this amazing modular system’s functional accessories, so much so that I decided to build a showcase layout to play with them! Illustrated below is my layout which is still under construction:

This exploration of the 12V electrical accessory system is so over-the-top nerdy that I designed and fabricated a set of custom electrical printed circuit boards (PCBs) to connect the 12V accessory control panel elements to the layout accessories using standard CAT-5/6 computer LAN cables! This might be the subject of a future article… if I can finish this layout someday!

Custom circuit boards for interconnecting lego 12v accessory panels to layout power accessories using lan cables. a very nerdy dimension to my already very nerdy 12v train addiction!

Remixing Classic Trains

The main topic for today’s article is a brief showcase of some of my “remixed” LEGO 12V train models. What do I mean by remixing? Quite simply, it is building the model using a combination of both older and modern LEGO elements, yet retaining the essential character and aesthetic of the original model. It is obviously a subjective interpretation and requires artistic judgment on how far to take this process. I must admit that I very much enjoy these alternative building projects. “Remixing” sits somewhere on the spectrum between building sets and building MOCs.

The 7740

Where to start? Well, for me, it was an easy choice: the 7740. This set has always featured prominently in my fondness for LEGO trains and the nostalgia of classic LEGO themes. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to indulge in the classic LEGO 12V train era when I was growing up because these sets were not available in the North American market. In any case, the 7740 is the aspirational iconic poster image set capturing the distinctive aesthetic style of this much-loved era.

The locomotive was a tricky model to remix. I wanted to combine both the scale and aesthetic of the original model yet give it features that made it more recognizable as the prototype locomotive it was intended to represent: the DB BR 103 locomotive.

Deutsche Bahn BR 103 Locomotive (top) and the “REMIXED” 7740 locomotive on which it is based.

The cab front end was sculpted with a combination of curved slope elements to capture the distinctive rounded features of the prototype—this also included the correct representation of headlamps. Next, the cab windscreen was narrowed and framed with slope elements, leading to the flared transition to the revised roof. The rooftop details represent the biggest departure from the original LEGO model. Realistic representation of the pantographs and mounting hardware use generous quantities of the 32828 (bar 1L with 1×2 round plate) element as well as the modern LEGO pantograph element. The roof is removable and sits atop the revised body shell. The key change to the body shell is the substitution of the 1×2 light grey windows with more realistic body ventilation grilles.

Remixing the 7740’s coaches involved changes that are not very recognizable at first glance. However, these upgrades subtly enhance the model shape and increase the level of detail. The intermediate passenger coach and the classic “Speisewagen” (restaurant car) are illustrated below.

revised 7740 “Speisewagen” (restaurant car) with distinctive pantograph rendered with modern lego elements.

The key changes to the coaches can summarized as follows:

Coach end vestibules built with 1×4 double bow and the addition end partition doors.

Roofs rendered in light bluish grey using a combination of 2×3 curved slopes and 1×4 33º slopes. The roof line was also extended down by one plate interval. This attempts to represent the deeper curved roofline of the prototype coaches. It also helps with blending the remixed 7819 mail wagon shown later in this article.

Bogies remade to represent a sloped bogie frame with centre bolster suspension.

Underframe remade with 1×2 and 2×2 curved slopes to blend with the shape of the body shell and with subtle equipment details.

Revised coach end vestibules with light gray end doors and curved black top. revised removable roof using modern elements in light bluish gray.

Revised coach bogies with a representation of bolsters and suspension.

revised curved underframe details.

Supplemental Wagons

The 12V train system included many supplemental wagon sets. This allowed lucky train fans the opportunity to grow their trains and add more variety to their layouts. Two supplemental coach wagons were offered as a perfect complement to expand a 7740 train consist. These were the 7815 sleeping compartment and the 7819 postal wagon.

remixed 7815 sleeper wagon supplemental set.

remixed 7819 postal wagon supplemental set.

The 7819 postal wagon had one design attribute which bothered me: it’s roof line was one plate taller than all of the other coaches in the 7740 + 7815. When remixing this wagon, I corrected this imbalance by making its roofline at the same consistent height as the remaining coaches. I also blended the sliding door rail elements (4510) in the same body colours for a sleeker appearance.

7820 Postal Wagon

The 7820 was a terrific add-on coach that was suitable for both passenger and freight train consists. It had tremendous play value and had a smart, purposeful appearance. I admired it so much that I also made a version in blue (and probably will make a green one too!).

Remixed 7820 postal wagons in red and blue with revised deutsche bundespost logos.

7760 Diesel Shunter Locomotive

I’ve always loved this diminutive yet cute locomotive. Remixing this locomotive represents one of my bigger indulgences and the reason why is very surprising: the 1×3 blue cab windows! These classic 1×3 glazed window elements (element ID 31) were relatively common; however, the blue frame version was only ever available in this set. Therefore, attempting to recreate this classic with these elements requires you to spend outrageous amounts of money to source 2x in good condition! After building the classic blue 7760 remixed locomotive, I loved it so much that I built a red one, too!

The 7760 Diesel shunter. Original (top), remixed in Blue (Middle), remixed in red (bottom)

Other Models

Overhead line equipment maintenance of way wagon (based on the wagon from the 7735 freight train set)

Freight wagon based on the 7730 steam freight set.

Generic box wagon moc in the same style as other freight wagons from the era.

A generic steam locomotive roughly based on the steam locomotive from 7730.

Other Details

It is important to emphasize that my interest and passion for classic 12V trains is not from the perspective of a collector—rather as a train builder/modeler. Therefore, in order to decorate these remixed models without sourcing original sticker sheets, I designed my own sticker sheet which I had professionally UV-printed by my trusty source at

This sheet includes both reproductions of graphics from the original set models as well as new elements. For example, my two postal wagons include accurate logos of Deutsche Bundespost and the station clock graphics are accurate reproductions of the classic German DB station clocks.


I think it is clear that my recent 12V train obsession has achieved very high nerd standard! Not only is this about building these lovely model trains, but it also involves side projects in electronics, layout building and graphic design! I still have more work to do on the showcase layout and I am thinking ahead to new topics in remixing classic LEGO town buildings and vehicles to populate the layout. Hopefully all these explorations will form the basis of future articles on this topic and I look forward to sharing more as I make progress.

What other classic train sets would you like to see modernized and remixed? Let us know in the comments below.

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