When I saw this photo by Koen (Swan Dutchman), I thought it was 6761 Bandit’s Secret Hide-Out, which was my first Lego set. I then realized that this was a remake with newer parts and more advanced building techniques. You can see more photos on Flickr to compare to the original.
Mister Fedin (Fianat) brings us this great little diorama of a old west mining operation in full swing. It’s a very well put-together scene, with some nice details like the slanted beams around the mine entrance, and the brick-built rails. I particularly like that Fedin has included the headframe (the tower above the mineshaft), which is a cool structure that we don’t see as often in LEGO dioramas.
In the last four weeks I’ve been travelling through the US. During my trip I attended Brickfair Virginia and now that I am back home, I’m slowly going through my photographs to pick some highlights to share with you. Joshua Brooks (JBIronWorks), whose father built the ‘Defense of Little Round Top’ diorama I blogged a while ago won the best train award at the event with his General Haupt locomotive.
Like his father’s diorama, this also has a US civil war theme. The locomotive was named after General Herman Haupt, who was the Union General in charge of the United States Military Railroad, which was used to supply the Union Army and to transport casualties to hospitals safely away from the front lines. To me it doesn’t look as though it is a super-complicated model, but I like the overall look and the history.
The Western train by monstrophonic wasn’t at Brickfair, although I wouldn’t have minded having a closer look at this diorama with my own two eyes.
The train itself is nicely done. Like most good dioramas this one seems to tell a story. Was the derailment an accident or was it caused by train robbers?
Review of 79109 Colby City Showdown.
Colby City Showdown is the medium sized-set from the new Lone Ranger line, which is releasing tomorrow in North America and spans seven sets–a very large release for a new IP. Colby City is a small western town play-set, and the location of a dramatic action montage, judging by the play features. $49.99 USD may seem like a lot for two buildings, but with 587 pieces, it comes in well below that vaunted 10 cents-per-piece ratio that fans like to talk about. In fact, even without considering this is a licensed set, (which traditionally cost more per-piece than non-licensed sets) this set is a remarkably good deal.
The box contains four numbered bags, two booklet instruction manuals, a sticker sheet, and a loose 8×16 tan plate. The bags were packed pretty tightly into the box, and I applaud LEGO for their attempts to save cardboard with new, smaller box sizes. However, this only serves to highlight the necessity of packing the stickers with a stiff piece of cardboard, because again mine were a little worse for the wear. Ultimately, though, I decided not to even apply the stickers in this set, because I didn’t see myself re-using those pieces in my own creations with the stickers applied.
The first two bags build the sheriff’s office, and Tonto, the Lone Ranger, the outlaw Frank, and a shrubbery. I remember my brother having the old Sheriff’s Lock-Up set from the mid-90’s Western theme, and I was pleased to find many of the same fun features in the new Colby City version. The break-apart jail cell was a bit disappointing to me, though. The Sheriff’s Lock-Up cell had a cool little feature where you could insert the dynamite (a printed 1×2 tile) into a crack, and it would pop the back of the cell wall off. The new jail cell has a similar feature, but it’s simply lever activated, and you just clip the dynamite (now a molded piece) to the side of the building. On the other hand, the pop-down facade on the roof with a hidden cannon was definitely something the old set didn’t have. I’m not too certain I’d trust a rickety old timber-and-adobe building as an artillery platform, but you have to admit it makes a cool ambush. Like most LEGO buildings, both the sheriff’s office and the bank are facades, open in the back to allow easy access to the interior for play. The sheriff’s office comes equipped with two small tables, a chair, and a rifle rack, that oddly also holds a pair of handcuffs. Oh well, it’s LEGO.
The last two bags build Colby City’s bank, Sheriff Dan Reid, and Ray. This is a really fantastic little building. It’s built on a three-part base connected with hinges, and the design used some clever LEGO math to get the hinges to lock in place. This gives the building a lot more depth than a mere flat facade. The construction of the building reminds me of a miniature, budget version of one of the big modular sets, using lots of small pieces to create detailed walls, instead of resorting to larger prefabricated wall pieces. The interior space is small, of course, but it still manages to fit a teller station, so you can reenact a thrilling hold-up. Sadly, the set doesn’t include a frightened bank teller. I suppose a teller is somewhat unnecessary, though, since the Bank of Colby City has good faith in the local citizens, and therefore places the bank safe out in the lobby so it’s easily accessible to all. It’s a huge safe, too, definitely large enough to fit a minifigure. If walking inside the bank to access the safe proves too much effort, though, there’s a handy chunk of the outside wall that blows off directly behind the safe. There’s even a hand-cart included to truck away all your ill-gotten loot, which consists of two bars of silver and three $100 bills, as well as some green pieces to bulk out the stacks of cash.
I think a trade-off was made on this set, between having more buildings, or making the buildings more detailed. While I would have loved to have a longer boardwalk, maybe with a general store or a saloon, I think LEGO made the right decision paring this set down to the essential two structures, then spending more pieces bulking them up. The set as a whole has a good selection of pieces, with lots of dark green and brown/tan pieces. The five minifigures are terrific. Tonto and the Lone Ranger aren’t unique to this set in anyway, but the other three characters are. These figures have been very well designed, and all of them having printing on the front, rear, and legs, while avoiding using any flesh colored patches around the collar, meaning the translate well to use in yellow-minifigure land. There are three of the new pistols in the set, with two in pearl grey for the Lone Ranger, and another in dark pearl grey for Ray, plus I got an extra of each. If you get the entire line of Lone Ranger sets, you’ll be awash in the new pistols in no time. The new design of the cowboy hat for the Lone Ranger comes in black and white here. Really the only other piece here that’s new is Tonto’s hatchet. It’s a single mold piece with a two-tone injection, so it’s not painted. The head is slightly rubberized. It reminds me of the tools in the Collectible Minifigure line, and I’m not at all surprised to see that it’s in the series 10 collection.
All in all, it’s a very solid set. It doesn’t strike my fancy as much as the delightfully-oversized Stagecoach Escape did, but this is definitely not a filler set, and it looks ripe for customization by adding your own buildings to make a complete boardwalk. Be sure to read my review of the Stagecoach Escape from last week, if you missed it.
79109 Colby City Showdown is out now from Amazon.com and the LEGO Shop online.
Review of 79108 Stagecoach Escape
The Lone Ranger sets are finally about to ride out to stores in a few weeks, so we’re bringing you a few reviews of them so you’ll have a keen eye when they appear. The first set up is 79108: Stagecoach Escape. It’s a complete action set, comprised entirely of a large stagecoach and a separate horse and rider. Despite having a retail price of $30 USD for what amounts to fancy wagon, it actually feels like quite a good value.
Inside the box are three numbered bags, the instruction manual, and a sticker sheet. Sadly, the notion of putting the sticker sheets and instructions in a bag with a piece of stiff cardboard for protection seems to have been a short-lived improvement. No such accommodations were made here, and the sticker sheet was distinctly worse for the wear, having been banged around between the bags a few too many times. All three bags build various sections of the coach, with the first giving the chassis, the other two making up the cabin. Obviously, almost all of the 279 pieces are in the coach itself, which is ludicrously out of scale with the minifigs. Of course, this is nothing new for LEGO vehicles, and it’s rarely a problem. This set takes advantage of the large scale to do some really good shaping on the coach, and still have a fully functioning interior. So despite being a solid 18 feet high (in minifig terms) it’s a really terrific looking stagecoach. The chassis is quite nifty, being a bit more advanced than the standard wagon wheel attachment. It cleverly uses struts to give some degree of suspension to the rear axle of the coach. The front axle also turns to provide a small amount of steering. Oddly, when it came time to attach the reigns to the horses, I noticed that my string had a knot tied in it. It seems a very intentional knot, but I can’t figure out why it’s there, as it’s not called for in the manual. Another weird thing I found was the base of the cabin, which calls for a brown 1×2 plate on each side, placed onto the boat hull piece that makes up the floor. A tan 4×4 plate is placed over this, but they don’t actually connect, which makes the tan plate a bit wobbly. I can only assume this is a mistake, though fortunately it’s an easily remedied one.
The completed stagecoach cuts a fine figure, and is plenty fun to play with. Each side of the cabin features two opening doors, and the roof pops off for easy access to the interior. The roof is also home to a mail bag, and a removable opening bank safe, with a solitary bar of silver. The silver, much to my chagrin, is painted silver and not chromed, since LEGO has almost entirely phased out chrome now. The rear luggage compartment has some sort of catapult to fling luggage at unsuspecting pursuers. This catapult doesn’t seem to work very well, but at least it’s not more flick-fire missiles.
The Stagecoach Escape comes with five minifigs and three horses, a very respectable number for a set of this size. All the horses are, of course, the new posable style, and it’s terrific to get two black and one brown horse with very generic tack in a single affordable set. The five minifigs are the Lone Ranger, Tonto, femme fatale Red Harrington, and then two characters named Jesus and Barret. It should be no surprise to anyone that all the figures are immaculately detailed, with front and rear prints all around. Only Tonto and Red have double sided heads, though, mostly likely because the revealing cowboy hats of the other three would make this unnerving. One cool feature is that Barret is given two cowboy hats, a black Lone Ranger-style for his good-guy persona, and a brown Indiana Jones-style for his outlaw mug. And speaking of the hats, the Lone Ranger hat is a marvelous addition to Western headgear. It’s generic enough to look great in colors besides the Lone Ranger’s distinctive white, and it has that classic Stetson curve. This line has really stepped up to the plate with Tonto and Red’s hairpieces. Recall, if you will, the hair-and-hat combos from the Pirates of the Caribbean line, which were molded as a single unit, and consequently pretty useless outside their original context. Not so, here. Both Tonto’s bird and Red’s hat are separate pieces from the hair, attaching with a mini-pin, just like the Friends dolls accessories. Tonto’s bird is a pretty sweet new piece, and I can’t wait to incorporate it into a creation. I’ve already got some ideas. Next there is the new pistol design. They look great for the scale, though I can’t help but be a bit saddened that they’ve given up some usefulness as construction elements in the pursuit of accuracy. There are three of the new pistols in pearl silver, and two in dark pearl silver, counting the “extras.” The classic western rifle looks out of place with the new pistol now, though. The old pistol and the rifle were a matched set, sharing the same styling cues, but now the difference is jarring.
The Stagecoach Escape is a great set, and it’s destined to be one of my favorites of any of the Western themes. Despite the oversized scale, the coach looks awesome, and it’s highly playable. The minifigs are great, and easily recycled into more generic Western characters, and there are some good parts to boot. You can’t go wrong with this set.
79108 Stagecoach Escape is out on Amazon.com and the LEGO Shop online now.
Matija Grguric has been building American “Old West” dioramas for a while now and they’ve all been excellent. But his latest one is a particularly neat depiction of the construction of a railway line. The workmans’ tents are a beautiful touch. Great stuff.