Friday, 21 August 2015

"And I thought they smelled bad....on the outside!"

Being a LEGO Star Wars collector can be a pretty thankless task at times, particularly if you have completist tendencies. If it isn't the countless remakes, many of which seem little changed from the previous versions, it's all the blasted event exclusives and limited edition promos. These tantalising chase items, which are generally only available in small numbers, have been the subject of numerous Gimme LEGO rants over the years (for instance here and here), and I've long given up trying to collect them all. That having been said, I'm always delighted to pick up these curios when the opportunity arises, and I got lucky recently, managing to score the item below from a fellow member of the Brickset Forum.


The set in question is designated LLCA53 Han Solo On Tauntaun in the Brickset database, and it's apparently owned by just 14 of Brickset's 117,000+ registered members. The previous owner was given the set by LEGOLAND California as a thank-you for contributing Lego Star Wars photographs to their Fan Gallery, although it appears that the sets were originally designed for Ambassador Pass holders attending the 2011 Master Model Builder Class. The set wasn't supplied boxed - the elements are divided between three numbered grip-seal bags which are themselves packed into an opaque LEGO Factory bag along with six folded and loosely stapled sheets containing the building instructions. The instruction sheets are colour printed on both sides; the artwork above can be found at the top of the first page while the inventory of parts below (click to enlarge) is printed on the back of the last page. The quality of the printing isn't up to retail standards from the perspective of either sharpness or colour representation, which isn't altogether surprising in a promo set such as this.


Bag 1 contains the parts needed to build the display stand, which is of course designed to look like snowy terrain, and the tauntaun's feet. This stage of the build utilises common elements - only the six tan modified 1 x 1 plates with tooth which form the claws on the tauntaun's feet could be described as remotely uncommon, and even these have appeared in 20 sets to date.


Bag 2 contains the parts needed to build most of the tauntaun plus its harness. Once again, the parts used appear to be unremarkable - predominantly light bley slopes of various types with a few common plates, small bricks and clips thrown in for good measure. Certainly I don't think sourcing them would be too much of an issue for would-be builders. A number of SNOT bricks, specifically 1 x 1 bricks with a stud on one side, are utilised to hold the harness in the correct alignment and provide an attachment point for the tauntaun's puny T-Rex-like upper limbs. The tail is suspended from beneath the body and doesn't actually touch the ground, with the consequence that it's relatively fragile and liable to fall off if not handled carefully.


So far so good, but the magic really happens when the contents of Bag 3 come into play. First a brick-built reddish brown saddle with a couple of saddle bags is constructed (below) and it's here that sourcing the parts you'd need to exactly replicate the build starts to get a bit more challenging. The saddle incorporates a pair of reddish brown modified 1 x 2 plates with handle on side and free ends which have only ever appeared in eight retail sets. Worse still is the use of two reddish brown modified 1 x 1 plates with horizontal clip. These are used to attach the saddle bags to the saddle, and according to Bricklink they've never actually appeared in a retail set, so you might need to substitute these with equivalent elements in a different colour unless you have access to a LEGOLAND model shop.... I'm afraid that it's a similar story with the pair of reddish brown modified 1 x 1 plates with vertical clip used to attach Han's pack to the back of the saddle - these have also apparently never appeared in a retail set, although thankfully a close variant is available in reddish brown.


With the saddle complete it's time to build the tauntaun's head and carefully mount it on top of the neck. It's quite a job to wedge the pair of light bley 1 x 1 tiles into the clips on the top of the head to form the ears, and it places considerable stress on the clips which is why LEGO defines this as an 'illegal' building technique and doesn't normally permit its use in official sets. With the tauntaun now complete, all that's left to do is build the intrepid rider who is of course Han Solo. Han's dark tan legs are attached to his torso by way of a pair of 2 x 2 turntables; these allow the legs to be rotated outwards so as to adopt a more natural riding position. Once completed, Han can be carefully lowered into the saddle and handed the tauntaun's reins, at which point we're done!



You can see the completed build in the pictures above and below. Although the tauntaun is attached to the base, there is some scope for posing the model, albeit limited - the position of the tauntaun's upper limbs can be adjusted, and Han's head can be rotated and his arms bent. It wouldn't take much modification to enable the tauntaun to turn its head as well if desired


For all their rarity value and collectability, I've often felt that many of the LEGO Star Wars promo items aren't especially interesting in their own right, but that's certainly not the case for this model which is superb. I've always had huge admiration for builders who can transcend the crudeness which is inevitable at this scale and craft models which are elegant and immediately recognisable, and I'd say that this is a perfect example of that art. On the downside the build got a bit fiddly towards the end, and the completed model isn't as robust as a typical retail offering, but really these are trifling details; it's a lovely display piece and it'll take pride of place alongside some of my other LEGO Star Wars favourites.


I'd like to offer my thanks to fellow Bricksetter Mark a.k.a. smokebelch for selling the set to me for an amount which, while admittedly not exactly cheap, was still a long, long way short of the ridiculous sums being asked by sellers on Bricklink; in case you're wondering, at the time of writing there were only two of these sets listed for sale on Bricklink, and at $1,995 and $3,500 respectively they might remain unsold for a while yet.... Unless you're a lottery winner, your best best would be to just source the 336 parts needed to build the model yourself - the vast majority are fairly common and inexpensive, and those that aren't can be readily substituted by alternative parts; I'll aim to scan the instructions and upload them to the Gimme LEGO Flickr stream here over the next week or so which will make it easier for you to build your own copy if you wish.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Desert Delight?

Unless you've been living under a stone for the past few years you can't fail to be aware of the phenomenon that is Minecraft. I have to confess that I came to the party quite late, stubbornly refusing to get caught up in it all until I was eventually dragged into the fray by my Minecraft-mad youngster (nickname Super B, or just B for short). Although I've since dabbled a little with single player, most of my Minecraft game time has been spent playing co-op with B on an XBOX 360, building somewhere for us to live, exploring different biomes and digging down to the bedrock layer looking for diamonds while trying to avoid being blown up by creepers or falling into lava.


As well as enjoying Minecraft the game, B has built some of the Minecraft LEGO sets including a couple of the original Microscale offerings as well as a selection of the more recent minifigure sets such as The Mine and The First Night. I therefore thought it'd be interesting to involve him in a review of one of the new summer wave of Minecraft sets. His job would be to build the set and simultaneously provide me with a stream-of-consciousness commentary, while I would be relegated to the role of parts monkey as well as adding my own thoughts about the set into the mix and trying to pull everything together into a coherent Gimme LEGO posting. Read on to discover if I succeeded....


We reviewed Set 21121 The Desert Outpost, kindly provided to us ahead of its general release by LEGO's Community Events and Engagement (CEE) Team. First off I sat junior down, put the box in front of him and asked him for his thoughts. It was interesting that he immediately zeroed in on the minifigures, particularly Alex, who I have to admit I'd never heard of, and the wolf. He didn't think that either of these characters had previously appeared in any of the Minecraft sets, and he couldn't wait to get his hands on them. He was also excited to discover that the set contained two skeletons, both of which had bows, and one of which was wearing armour. It was only after he'd closely examined the minifigures that his attention eventually switched to the Desert Outpost building itself, which he said looked like it was made out of cobblestone and dirt and reminded him of First Night with an extension.


Both the front and back of the box carry the "Build your own creations" mantra which is I assume a reference to the fact that you can substantially reconfigure the Desert Outpost building by design as we'll see later. Consistent with this, the back of the box shows a reconfigured version of the Desert Outpost as well as showcasing a number of notable play features. It was the latter that caught B's eye, particularly "the launcher that fires TNT" and "the exploding area where the TNT lands". Oh, and for some reason the fact that Minecraft hero Steve is holding a cookie in one of the pictures was also a cause of much amusement.


The box contains three numbered bags of elements, an un-numbered bag containing large tan plates and a single instruction booklet (front cover above). There's no sticker sheet. B's trawl through the 108-page instruction booklet stopped abruptly when he got to an advertisement for LEGO's Minecraft microsite as it featured a Snow Golem, and he was also drawn to a two-page spread showing all the Minecraft minifigure sets.


In addition to the obligatory building guide for the Desert Outpost model the instruction booklet contains some interesting additional content. Notably, there are 16 pages of supplementary instructions, of which more later. The booklet also contains a number of other adverts and a two-page inventory of parts. My eye was caught by a somewhat bizarre two-page Mojang advert, one half of which (below) features what looks like a 1970s photograph of a bearded man watching on while a little girl plays with a Commodore PET or similarly ancient personal computer; a Minecraft scene is superimposed on the computer screen to make it seem like the kid is playing Minecraft. It's all a bit surreal....


As previously mentioned, B couldn't wait to get hold of the minifigures, with Alex (below) taking star billing. He was right that Alex hasn't previously featured in a LEGO Minecraft set. An alternative version of Alex featuring what looks like the same orange head and sand green torso but sporting a diamond helmet and a diamond sword appears in another of the 2015 summer Minecraft releases, Set 21122 The Nether Fortress. Neither the head nor the torso are back-printed. Alex comes complete with an iron pickaxe.


Next up is Minecraft stalwart Steve. With his minimally printed dark azure torso and dark purple legs, this seems to be the same version of the Steve minifigure that appears in the first wave of Minecraft minifigure sets, although I don't recall him being provided with a cookie before; B didn't think that the cookie had any special significance, concluding that Steve must just be hungry.... In this set Steve gets an iron sword and an iron helmet in addition to his cookie but he isn't provided with armour to protect his torso. Like Alex, neither his head nor torso are back-printed.


The skeletons appear to be the same as those which appeared in the first wave of Minecraft minifigure sets. Each of them is provided with a wooden bow.


One of the skeletons sports an iron helmet and iron body armour. B wanted me to point out that in Minecraft skeletons are destroyed by sunlight, but wearing a helmet protects them and hence its significance. So now you know....


Last but definitely not least we come to the wolf, which is my own favourite minifigure in this set, if you can even call it a minifigure. The printed head appears to be a new element, while the legs are represented by a couple of light bley modified 1 x 2 bricks with groove which have previously only appeared in 5 sets. B reminded me that the red 1 x 2 plate immediately above the front legs is supposed to represent a collar and shows that the wolf has been tamed.


The first bag of elements contains all the parts needed to construct the minifigures plus a real mixed bag of accessories which you can see laid out in the picture below. First up are the crafting table and furnace, both structures that any self-respecting Minecraft fan will immediately recognise; if that's not you however then they're the cube-like structures on the left of the picture. These structures utilise a number of printed elements which were expressly produced for this purpose, specifically a medium dark flesh 1 x 2 brick with reddish brown and dark brown lines and 2 x 2 tile with dark brown Minecraft grid pattern, and a dark bley 2 x 2 brick with light bley and black Minecraft geometric pattern printed on the side. Each of these elements has previously appeared in a couple of the 2014 Minecraft sets. With the crafting table and furnace constructed, some torches of both the standard and Redstone variety, a small square wooden boat for Steve, some sugar cane fashioned from lime green 1 x 1 round bricks, some crops consisting of bright green round 1 x 1 plates with flower edges and bright light orange Carrot Tops, and a bed were next to be built. These were quickly followed by a cactus which makes effective use of green 1 x 2 - 2 x 2 brackets, a TNT launcher, a medium dark flesh and reddish brown door, and finally a small outside section featuring a simple mechanism for flipping sand blocks into the air. I could see B's attention beginning to wander as he reached the end of this laundry list of accessories and it was no surprise when he said he wanted to take a break. When I asked him what the problem was he said that it was a bit boring to build all the accessories at once and that he'd have rather built the Desert Outpost first and made the accessories as he went along.


After a break Mini Me was ready to get stuck into the front section of the Desert Outpost; this requires the contents of Bag 2 plus a 16 x 16 tan plate from the unmarked bag. Bag 2 contains predominantly basic bricks and plates, which is not a surprise given the nature of the Minecraft sets but still relatively unusual in a licensed set. The 16 x 16 plate is the starting point, and a few basic bricks are attached to the underside to raise it up off the ground.  Soon the walls of the outpost start to take shape. These utilise lots of light bley jumper plates which are used to offset sections of dark bley masonry bricks as you can see in the picture below. With the beginnings of the walls in place the previously-assembled crafting table and furnace are put in place and the door is attached. A rudimentary upper floor is then constructed, after which the section featuring the mechanism for flipping sand blocks into the air is attached adjacent to the door. Finally the cactus is put in place and and TNT launcher is placed on top of the upper level. When the launcher is activated the TNT block falls to the ground, at which point you can simulate an explosion by pressing down on the flipping mechanism and shooting the sand blocks into the air. It was no surprise that B was highly amused by this play feature, recruiting the set's minifigures to participate in a minigame which consisted of them taking turns launching the TNT block from the upper level of the Desert Outpost and sending sand blocks cascading into the air.


Once B had finally tired of his sand block flipping minigame he got back to the job in hand and started on the rear section of the Desert Outpost. Once again the floor, which is constructed from the remainder of the tan plates in the un-numbered bag, is raised up off the ground via the attachment of a few strategically-placed basic bricks underneath; the floor of the rear section actually consists of two distinct sections joined by hinges for reasons that will soon become clear. The walls of the rear section are made up of a number of detachable brick-built wall panels. These panels sit on light bley modified 2 x 2 tiles with one stud at the centre which hold the wall panels in position while still making it easy for them to be detached and swapped around if desired. At various points some of the accessories constructed during the first stage of the build, namely the bed, sugar cane and other crops, are put into place. Once the rear section of the Desert Outpost is completed, it's attached to the front section using hinges. Three reddish brown roof sections are then attached, torches are placed in strategic locations, and the build is complete.


Access to the upper level is provided by a ladder which you can see in the rear view below.


The completed build populated by its complement of minifigures can be seen below. Note Steve in his wooden boat on the right of the picture, and the mechanism for flipping sand blocks on the left. While B was pleased with the finished build, I have to say that my immediate reaction was that the outpost seems insubstantial, with the walls reaching no higher than two blocks in some areas. Even so, it does undoubtedly capture the Minecraft vibe in terms of the construction style, some instantly recognisable accessories, and of the course the minifigures.


Some of the floor sections are connected to each other via the use of hinges, meaning that the build can be unfolded (picture below) in order to provide access to the interior. In order for the model to be fully opened out the reddish brown roof sections need to be detached from the rear section of the outpost.


As previously mentioned, there are 16 pages of supplementary building instructions at the back of the instruction booklet. Entitled "Rebuild Inspiration" and bearing the words "Build your own creations" these pages walk the builder through a partial disassembly of the primary model and a reworking into an alternative build (picture below). This basically involves removing the detachable wall panels from the rear section of the outpost, completely dissassembling them and then using almost all of the newly-liberated pieces to build a tower. In truth the alternative build looks unfinished and pretty uninspiring, although I guess that the intent is merely to get the creative juices flowing and hopefully encourage the builder to finish the job with additional pieces from elsewhere.


Although the set carries an age recommendation of 8+ it's not a particularly challenging build - B is younger than the recommended age, but having had some previous experience building LEGO sets he managed to complete it without too much difficulty. The highlight of the set from his perspective was the minifigures, with Alex and the wolf being his two favourites. The play features, particularly the TNT launcher and the mechanism for flipping sand blocks, also got a big thumbs up. He concluded proceedings by providing me with an overall set rating of 9.3 out of 10 "because the set has lots of cool features" after which he made it clear that he was done talking and wanted to be left in peace to play with Alex and the other minifigs. So clearly a satisfied customer, then.... From an AFOL perspective, however, I have to say that even though I've grown to appreciate the joys of Minecraft to some extent the set didn't particularly grab me. I agree with B that the minifigures are neat, particularly the wolf, but the build itself feels insubstantial, and it's hard to believe that the set contains 519 elements. That having been said, I had the same lukewarm reaction to most of the other Minecraft minifigure sets as well so if you liked them then you'll probably like this one too. You might not like the price, though - while I've not seen an official RRP yet, the set is already listed for pre-order on a couple of UK sites at a price of £59.99 which seems a bit pricey.

Thanks again to Kim from LEGO's CEE team for providing Gimme LEGO with a copy of the set to review ahead of its general release.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Offsite set reviews - an apology....

Although my intention has always been to update the Gimme LEGO Offsite Set Reviews section when I post a set review elsewhere, a quick glance suggests that I'm doing a terrible job of this, with none of the recent (or indeed not-so-recent) set reviews that I've posted on Brickset or elsewhere having been added to the list.

Given that many of my offsite set reviews and articles are written in a similar style to the stuff that I publish on Gimme LEGO, it actually got me wondering why I don't make a bigger deal of publicising them here. After all, one of the most frequent complaints I get from you guys is that I don't post often enough, so such offsite content might help to address that somewhat.

I've therefore decided that in future I'll aim to post brief notifications of my new offsite set reviews and articles here so that Gimme LEGO readers can get a heads-up and go and check them out if they're interested. First up is my review of Set 70173 Ultra Agents Ocean HQ which I posted over at Brickset yesterday (12th July 2015) - click here to read.


Rumour has it that none of the three Summer 2015 Ultra Agents offerings, including the Ocean HQ set, will be coming to Europe. I'll try and seek confirmation of this from LEGO, but if true it'd be a real shame. Let's therefore hope that the rumours are wide of the mark, or if they're true that fan pressure might change their minds - we can always hope!

While I'm on the subject of offsite set reviews, I guess it might be worth providing a brief recap of some of the other offsite set reviews which I've posted since around the turn of the year but which haven't as yet appeared in the Offsite Set Reviews section - read on to get up to date.

City Set 60080 Spaceport. Review posted on Brickset on 9th June 2015. Click here to read the review.


Jurassic World Set 75919 Indominus Rex Breakout. Review posted on Brickset on 18th May 2015. Click here to read the review.


Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Set 75095 TIE Fighter. Review posted on Brickset on 1st May 2015. Click here to read the review.


Speed Champions Set 75913 F14 T & Scuderia Ferrari Truck. Review posted on Brickset on 11th March 2015. Click here to read the review.


Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series Set 75060 Slave 1. Review posted on Brickset on 9th December 2014. Click here to read the review.


In addition to the Brickset reviews above, I've also written a number of set reviews and articles for Bricks Magazine, and prior to that for Blocks Magazine. Given that these are paper publications I obviously can't link to the content directly, although if I can get permission to republish articles on Gimme LEGO (as I did for my review of Set 5975 T-Rex Transport which appeared in Blocks Issue 1) then I'll certainly do so. For the sake of completeness, you can see a list of articles below which I wrote for those publications and which may be of interest.


I hope this recap has been helpful, and has maybe flagged something of interest that you weren't aware of, in which case happy reading!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

And the winners are....

Many thanks to all of you who entered the recent Gimme LEGO competition to win a copy of the limited edition Jurassic World Dr Wu polybag below. As shipping costs weren't going to be such an issue this time round I was able to open up the competition to Gimme LEGO readers regardless of their location, and it was great to receive entries from as far afield as Australia, Malaysia, the U.S. and Singapore as well as from closer to home.


In order to win you had to tell me upon which island the original Jurassic Park was located, and if you identified Isla Nublar as the correct answer then your name went into the hat for the prize draw. I then asked my wife and my visiting in-laws to close their eyes and pick out one name each, so if you didn't win then you can blame them....

The three lucky winners are:

  • Andrea Reynolds from Leicestershire, UK
  • Chester Ng from Singapore
  • Oliver Donlon from Massachusetts, USA

Congratulations, you guys - a new, sealed copy of the Dr Wu poly will be winging its way to you shortly.

Thanks again to everybody who entered, and thanks also to LEGO's PR folks at Norton for donating the prizes.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Jurassic Perk

Last week's release of the Jurassic World movie and the launch of the LEGO Jurassic World videogame provided the backdrop for a family-oriented LEGO Jurassic World launch event which was held in London's Hyde Park on Saturday 6th June. Mark Guest, editor of Bricks Magazine, was good enough to sort me out a couple of invites so I attended with my son who didn't need any encouragement to come along when he heard about the heady mix of LEGO, dinosaurs and videogames that we'd be checking out.


The event took place at The Lookout (above), a sizeable, self-contained eco-sustainable building in the middle of London's Hyde Park. On what turned out to be a pleasant, sunny day we took a tube to one of the nearby stations and after a 5-10 minute walk through the park we were greeted by event security who ushered us through. The Lookout is located within a fenced compound and surrounded by a number of walkways; these pass alongside small rockeries and water features and in some areas cut through thick undergrowth. Traversing the walkways was therefore the perfect start to the event as it wasn't difficult for anyone familiar with the Jurassic Park movies to suspend belief and pretend that prehistoric predators might be lurking in the undergrowth.... At the top of the walkways was an area of wooden decking, alongside which was the imposing sight below.


Refreshments and snacks were available on the decked area, as were a couple of skilled face painters who busied themselves decorating attendees with a variety of dinosaur-related designs. It was heartening to see so many adults getting in line with their kids and partaking in the face painting experience, although some folks such as myself opted to get other body parts painted instead (my arm, in case you're wondering....) with designs such as the diplodocus below and patches of colourful dinosaur skin.


The main space inside the venue was loosely split into two halves. One half contained a number of gaming stations running the LEGO Jurassic World demo, of which more later, while the other half was laid out with rows of seating and a large screen at the front connected to a laptop; this was used by one of the team responsible for the design of the LEGO Jurassic World game who at set times throughout the day gave attendees a brief presentation on the making of the game and demonstrated various gameplay features. A number of perspex display stands such as the one below were dotted aound the room; these contained the completed builds from the various Jurassic World retail sets. Having already built and reviewed a number of the Jurassic World sets, for instance here, I was obviously familiar with them but this didn't appear to be the case for some of the attendees who seemed to be encountering them for the first time.


One of the highlights of the event from my son's perspective was a dinosaur egg hunt. Prior to the arrival of the attendees a number of LEGO dinosaur eggs (below) had been hidden around the venue. Children, aided and abetted by their parents, were tasked with exploring the compound and finding the eggs, with prizes of Jurassic World LEGO retail sets and polybags on offer for the successful sleuths. Cue a mad scramble through the undergrowth to try and locate the eggs. I'm pleased to report that my son found one of the eggs, no thanks to his hopeless dad who managed to find absolutely nothing.....


As previously mentioned, a number of stations kitted out with a screen, a Playstation 4 and a pair of PS4 controllers were available for attendees to play on. The stations were running the LEGO Jurassic World game demo. LEGO Jurassic World is the latest in a long line of LEGO-themed offerings from developer Traveller's Tales including a number of LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones and LEGO Batman games amongst others. Having completed some of these games cooperatively, my son and I are pretty familiar with them, and after spending some time playing through the LEGO Jurassic World demo stages at the event both cooperatively and individually, I think it's fair to say that that the latest game sticks to the tried and tested formula with few obvious detours. It predictably looks great running on the PS4, and the gameplay seems very similar to that of previous TT LEGO releases. The demo levels we saw thankfully included scenes from the original Jurassic Park movies as well as Jurassic World rather than just focusing on the new movie.


Apart from the designer presentations and egg hunt the day was relatively unstructured, with attendees free to wander around both inside and outside the venue, help themselves to refreshments, make use of the gaming stations and chat to other attendees; I didn't recognise many of the people there. although it was good to catch up with Richard Hayes from Brick Fanatics and chat to Christina from the LEGO Press Office while my son burned his way through the LEGO Jurassic World demo levels.


All told my son and I spent an enjoyable  2-3 hours at the event, and when it was time to leave we were handed a goodie bag. As a collector I always look forward to digging through the contents of these bags after events to see if there's anything unusual within and I wasn't disappointed. Pride of place goes to the Dr Wu polybag below which carries the set number 5000193818. In addition to the Dr Wu minifigure the poly also contains a trans-orange 1 x 2 crystal printed with a black mosquito pattern. As far as I can tell the Dr Wu minifigure is identical to that which appears in Set 75919 Indominus Rex Breakout (you can see the minifigure here), as is the trans-orange crystal, but I'd not previously been aware of this particular polybag. My understanding is that a free Dr Wu minifigure is available from some retailers with orders of the LEGO Jurassic World game, although I have no idea if it's packaged in the same way as the one below.


Other freebies included a LEGO Jurassic World sticker sheet (you can see a scan of this below), a couple of LEGO Jurassic World postcards, an A3-Sized poster, a press release providing information on the LEGO Jurassic World sets, and a copy of Set 75915 Pteranodon Capture, all contained within a Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group cloth bag.


I'm well aware that I'm not the only collector who likes to get their hands on interesting LEGO-related items, and I'm therefore pleased to tell you that Christina gave me a few extra Dr Wu polybags for readers of Gimme LEGO. If you'd like one of them, please e-mail the answer to the question below plus your name and full address to me at gimmelego@virginmedia.com; I'll draw a few names out of a hat, and those people will get a poly each. The question is as follows:

On which island was the original Jurassic Park located?

You can enter the competition regardless of which country you live in and I'll cover the cost of posting out the prizes. Only one entry per household, please, and the decision of the judge (that's me) is final. Entrants must agree to their names being announced on Gimme LEGO if they win. Closing date is midnight GMT on Tuesday 30th June 2015. Good luck, folks!


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Raising the Roof

Having spent the last few weeks reviewing the largest of LEGO's new Jurassic World sets (here) and checking out TIE Fighters new and old (here and here respectively) in excruciating detail, not to mention taking some welcome holiday, I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms from my newly-resurrected LEGO City Layout. I was therefore delighted to find some time to work on it over the past week or so.


At the time of my most recent update (here) I'd pretty much completed the walls of the lower level of the layout (picture above) with only the front right section of wall needing to be finished off. This was therefore the obvious place to jump back in, and as you can see from the pictures below I completed the straightforward job of building the walls of the front right section up to the required height fairly quickly.

 https://www.flickr.com/gp/drdavewatford/FxoF01

Having reached this point in the build I figured that it would be as good a time as any to briefly pause and take stock of my parts usage to date. According to the original rough sketch I put together on LDD which I've followed reasonably closely, I've used around 500 light bley 1 x 1 bricks, 670 light bley 1 x 2 bricks, 240 light bley 1 x 4 bricks, 800 light bley 1 x 6 bricks and 810 light bley 1 x 8 bricks so far; the total part count currently stands at approximately 5,600 bricks, which seems a lot given how little there is to look at yet....


Having completed the walls of the lower level it was time to finish the job of enclosing the lower track loop by building a roof over the top of it; for those of you unfamiliar with the intended design, the roof over the lower track loop will form the floor of the planned upper track loop, thus providing a double-decker arrangement.


Covering the straight sections of track with a sturdy roof (pictures above and below) was a quick and simple task - the roof over these sections only has to span 15 studs so I was able to efficiently complete the job using a combination of dark bley 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates. The only real discomfort was financial - the 96 dark bley 6 x 16 plates needed to cover just the straight track sections alone don't exactly come cheap....


Although putting a roof over the straight track sections was simple enough, the corners required a little more thought as covering the curved track sections would necessitate spanning an area 34 studs square. My first thought was to use a 32 x 32 baseplate for each corner and support it at the edges, but because I wanted the corner roof sections to be at the same height as the straight roof sections this wasn't really viable. I therefore needed to use standard plates, but there obviously aren't any plates remotely large enough to span a 34 x 34 area on their own. I consequently needed to come up with a 'mosaic' of plates which would cover the area while providing at least a modicum of structural rigidity so that the roof wouldn't cave in under the slightest pressure. In the end I went with the arrangement below; the dark bley roof sections, again predominantly a combination of 6 x 16 and 2 x 16 plates, are supported underneath by a light bley 16 x 16 plate and a few smaller plates. The use of the large 16 x 16 plate turned out to be key, conferring an unexpectedly high degree of strength and rigidity.


It didn't take long to construct three more assemblies similar to the one above, and you can see the layout with all four corner roof sections in place in the pictures below. Time will tell whether this corner roof arrangement will prove to be sufficiently robust; a section of curved track will run over each corner, so the roof will need to support the weight of trains running over it, not to mention me accidentally leaning on it now and again.... Having tested the corner roof sections under modest weight-bearing, however, the early signs are that they'll do the job OK.


So that's the visible part of the lower level now pretty much done apart from the subway station, then. I still of course need to build the structures which will support the upper level, though, and I also need to figure out a way of rescuing stricken trains from the lower loop in the event of a breakdown; at present I can access the subway train through the arches, and the large opening in front of the subway platform is just about big enough to squeeze the train through when I need to remove it, but it's fiddly and not ideal.


Because I designed the lower level such a long time ago, I've predictably come up with a whole bunch of new ideas during the intervening period to tweak and potentially improve it. I'm going to do my best to keep a lid on those tweaks for now, though - having already taken the best part of 4 years just to get to this point it's high time I moved on, put the lower level to bed for the time being at least, and started to focus on the upper level so that's what I'm going to do.


With the lower track loop now fully enclosed I figured it was high time to power up the track and get the subway train running. You can see a brief video clip below of my modified 7938 Passenger Train running around the lower track loop at about 2/3 speed; click here to view the clip on YouTube if you can't access the embedded video on your device.