About Ralph

Ralph Savelsberg, also known as Mad physicist, is an actual physicist, but he's not all that mad. He has been building with LEGO ever since he could first put two bricks together. He primarily builds scale models of cars and aircraft. You can find most of Ralph's stuff on his flickr pages.

Posts by Ralph

Seventy years since Market Garden

This weekend, in the Netherlands celebrations are being held to commemorate the 70st anniversary of Operation Market Garden. This was a bold attempt by the Allies to capture bridges over a number of important rivers in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and build a bridgehead across the river Rhine. This would bring their forces to the doorstep of Germany’s industrial heartland and, in the words of Field-Marshall Montgomery, would end the war in Europe before Christmas 1944. Airborne Troops were dropped far behind enemy lines to capture the bridges, while ground troops fought their way from Belgium through the Southern Netherlands to relieve them.

Douglas C-47A Skytrain - 2

It was one of the largest airborne operations of the war, which inevitably involved large numbers of C-47 Skytrain transports, such as the one built by Kenneth Vaessen, still marked with the black-and-white stripes that were applied to aircraft that participated in the D-day landing a few months earlier. (Kenneth actually posted it a few weeks ago, but I decided to wait for this opportunity to write about it.)

Unfortunately, hings didn’t work out as planned. The relief columns were held up and German resistance, in particular in Arnhem, was much stronger than anticipated. The allied advance was halted, thousands of Allied troops were killed, as well as thousands of German troops and numerous Dutch civilians. The war lasted eight more months, but much of the Southern Netherlands was liberated during the operation by soldiers from Canada, the UK, US and Poland.

I built a car, it turned out to be an alien robot

Lugnuts, the online club for LEGO car enthusiasts, is currently running its 83rd build challenge, called Only in America. It’s all about cars from the USA. I decided I was going to build a typical American muscle car as my entry: a Chevrolet Camaro.

Bumblebee (2)

Some of you may think that there is nothing particularly special about it. It looks pretty much like all of the other cars I build: it has studs on top, brick-built windows that are pretty much opaque and, while some bits of it are built sideways, the construction does not look particularly complicated. I suppose that superficially it’s a bit old-school really.

Even if you are a fan of Transformers and have realised that it is in fact the Transformer Bumblebee, from one of the Michael Bay live-action films, in car mode. It serves as the latest addition to my ever-growing collection of vehicles from films and TV series. However, you may not realise that there is more to it than meets the eye.
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The Phabulous Phantom

We have featured a fair few trains built by Carl Greatrix (bricktrix) in the past. More recently he turned his attention to cars. Apparently there isn’t much that he cannot do, as he has now built an F-4B Phantom II jet fighter and it is gorgeous. I have been following his work-in-progress pictures for weeks, eagerly looking forward to the finished model.

Phantom F4-B VF-161

In the sixties and early seventies, the Phantom was the premier fighter aircraft in the US armed forces, serving with the Navy, Marine Corps and the Air Force. Carl’s model wears flamboyant markings typical for US Navy Phantoms. The markings of VF-161 Chargers, which was home-based in Japan as part of the Air wing assigned to USS Midway, were some of the most attractive ever to grace a Phantom and I applaud Carl for choosing this squadron. The model isn’t just good-looking, but has a lot of functionality too. It has opening cockpits, for instance, as well as a retractable undercarriage and moveable control surfaces. Although I actually like studs on a model and prefer my own aircraft models to be somewhat less reliant on stickers, it’s interesting to see Carl apply his typical style to this subject. The result is phabulous.

Do YOU want to be a professional LEGO builder?

This may be your chance. Carl Greatrix, who has been working for Tt Games since 2009 (after responding to an advert on this blog) has been in touch. Tt Games, who produce computer games for LEGO, are looking for a new Model Designer to strengthen their team.

LEGO Model Designer
Location: Knutsford (UK)
Advertisement publish date: 10/09/14
Start date: ASAP
Salary: £Competitive + benefits
Duration: Permanent

We are looking for a LEGO Model Designer with a keen interest in Tt Games LEGO Console Games. This is a rare opportunity to become part of the team responsible for bespoke LEGO Models as seen throughout our multi award winning published titles.

You will join the LEGO Models team and work together with designers and technical artists to provide quality LEGO Designs such as creatures and vehicles for in-game use, as well as props of all sizes as used by the Cinematic and wider LEGO Construction teams.

As LEGO Model Designer, you will be responsible for:

Designing vehicles, creatures, props, decorations and stickers for models, from idea to final in-game workable asset.
Ensuring that the LEGO Group’s visual identity is maintained within the LEGO Model Designs.

You’ll work with a variety of departments and with many different stakeholders throughout the development process. These include creative leaders and model designers as well as level directors, level designers and construction artists.
As part of the Tt Games Group, you will join a family orientated team where collaboration and creativity are cornerstones. By combining your experience and imagination, we trust you to help us find the best solutions for our products and help further develop our catalogue of LEGO Console Games.

You should be passionate about designing for our target family demographic. Your areas of interest in LEGO models should include the following: In-organic models such as vehicles and buildings as well as organic models such as creatures and plants.

To succeed in this position, you:

Are an experienced LEGO Model Designer and are able to master several different building styles.
Have an in depth knowledge of current and previous LEGO themes such as City, Creator, Superheroes, Technics, etc.
Are a team player, but are also able to work independently, structure your working day and manage your time to meet the many deadlines you’ll be set throughout the development process.
Thrive in an informal, innovative environment, where you’ll receive a wide variety tasks requiring both a creative and technical mind-set.

Apply to [email protected] with LEGO Model Designer as the subject.

People who have a keen interest in LEGO games and an experienced LEGO model designer? Surely some of our readers will fit this profile.

10242: Mini Cooper [Review]

As a child, I was a big fan of LEGO’s Model Team sets of highly detailed and realistic-looking vehicles. It will be no surprise then that I also liked the Classic Beetle LEGO released more than six years ago and that I also bought the Volkswagen Camper van. To my delight, LEGO has now introduced another classic car: the MINI Cooper.

Mini Cooper Review

The Mini started life as a humble economy car, but with a lasting legacy. To maximise passenger space within its short body, its engine was transversally mounted and drove the front wheels, which is a configuration copied in pretty much every small family hatchback built since. Sporty versions, called the Cooper and Cooper S, became successful rally racers and celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Paul McCartney, Prince Charles and even Enzo Ferrari owned Minis. From its humble origins, the Mini grew into a cult car, with a particularly British kind of cool.

The vehicle
The set represents a late-model Mini Cooper (produced in late 1997/ early 1998, judging from the license plate) in dark green, with white stripes on the bonnet (hood), white wing mirrors and a white roof. The dark green colour is a close match for traditional British racing green and the colour scheme just screams Mini. The front of the car is spot-on, with the shape of the radiator grille, front-mounted fog lights and the silver bumper pieces. The curved elements used below the windows have neatly-printed thin white lines on them, that run the length of the car. Small details such as the fuel filler cap and indicator lights are nicely represented. Remarkably, for a LEGO set, the finished model is almost completely studless, which suggests that LEGO also hopes to cater to fans of the Mini who may not necessarily be into LEGO.

Mini Cooper Review

The model is not without faults, however. Especially when seen from behind, it does not look quite round enough. Having built my own models of Minis, I know that both the front and rear windows ought to be curved, but on the model they are built using large flat window panels. I also don’t particularly like the way the pillars supporting the corners of the roof are built, using 75-degree slopes covered with stickers marked with a black triangle. The stickers are intended to make the pillars look narrower, but I don’t think it really works. In fairness, though, alternative solutions would either require completely new part shapes or would add greatly to the complexity, parts count and cost of the set. Despite the compromises, it definitely looks like a Mini.
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The workhorse of the Russian bomber fleet

A few months ago Kenneth Vaessen unveiled his 1/36 scale model of a Russian Tu-22M3. The reason why I didn’t blog it back then is that his pictures were taken against a fairly dark background. However, he has now posted this newly edited version.

Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire-C 1

The Tu-22M3, named the Backfire-C by NATO, is a supersonic bomber developed in Soviet times. The Russian military went through rough times after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Backfires are getting long in the tooth, but they are still impressive-looking machines. Kenneth has done a fine job recreating the sleek look. His model is 1.17 m long (almost 4 ft), is beautifully shaped and has many working features such as working variable geometry wings, a retractable undercarriage, opening cockpit canopies and an internal weapons bay. There don’t seem to be all that many LEGO builders willing to tackle scale models of military aircraft, certainly not compared to, say, Star Wars models or mecha, so it is always a great pleasure to welcome a new member to the flock, certainly one who produces models this good.

Arjan’s ocean-going tug looks ready to tow anything

Arjan Oudekotte (Konajra) does not post new models all that often, but given the size of most of them, that is understandable and they are always well worth the wait. His latest model is the largest ship he has built to date, with a length of 196 cm (or roughly 6’5 for those of you who prefer antiquated measurement systems) and built out of roughly 32000 elements.

Smit Zwarte Zee

The ship in question is a Dutch ocean-going tug called the Zwarte Zee (Black Sea). The ship was launched in 1962 and until 1984 served with the famous company Smit International, known around the world for large maritime salvage operations. As usual with Arjan’s ships, it is highly detailed and has a beautifully sculpted hull (in dark red, no less). I had the pleasure of seeing this behemoth with my own two eyes last Sunday, but if you want to take in all of it, I encourage you to take a look at Arjan’s album on flickr.

Sydag’s ultimate Grumman prop fighter

During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.

F8F-2 Navy Reserve in Hangar

Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.

Lego plus Pulp Fiction equals awesome

I really don’t care whether movie critics consider Pulp Fiction to be one of the defining movies of the New-noir genre, whether it is a prime example of post-modernist film or whether it is empty-headed camp.

Pulp FIction

I think it was a hugely entertaining movie and this black-and-white mosaic of Jules and Vincent by Joris Blok is awesome. Full stop.