BrickLink Designer Program Series 2 – Logging Railway: A trial of timber! [Review]

LEGO is releasing a second series of sets from its BrickLink Designer Program, including a fungal cottage, a pirate fortress, a modular train station, and a coastal villa. LEGO sent us an advance copy of Logging Railway by fan designer and LEGO train enthusiast Ties van Asseldonk. With pre-orders for BDP Series 2 coming up on June 6th (for $209.99 USD), read on to find out what we thought of this inventive take on LEGO locomotion.

LEGO sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

The build, part 1: The train

Just like with our Series 1 review, we don’t have instructions or a box to show off, as none of that exists yet. We’ll show off all the parts as we progress through the build, section by section. But one inclusion is worth noting before we begin on the locomotive: the sticker sheet. Even though these sets operate on a limited selection of available parts (things already being produced by LEGO), sets in the Bricklink Designer Program can leverage custom stickers. While mine did arrive a little wrinkled, the four decals are beautifully printed, and feature a logo for the logging company complete with a trio of standard LEGO pine trees on a dark red background. The other two stickers have the name of the train, Toto.

We begin the build proper by assembling the frame and cab of the locomotive. Toto, the 0-4-0 locomotive from the 1890’s, is rocking a reddish brown cabin with a fully decked out interior. While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking with the control configuration, I love the inclusion of the logs, ready to stoke the furnace and power the boiler.

And speaking of the boiler, that’s covered in our next section. The olive green tank showcases what will become a common theme throughout the set: The set’s designer Ties is an absolute master of the half-plate width. You can see exactly what I mean from the cross-section of this segment shown below. Pieces connect in every-which-way to give a properly rounded look to the locomotive.

With the cab and boiler all taken care of, the last stretch of black bricks assembles the smokebox, chimney, and side rods. Toto is ready for the rails!

The second section of this train is a flat car with a generator strapped down to it. Looking like a facsimile of the LEGO Power Functions battery box, the gray box holds a secret magenta frog as it’s “power source.” And I should also say that I love the detailed railing on each side of the car. So often on this train, the expertise of a LEGO train builder comes through, doing what no official LEGO set would. Taking a peek at the underside, Ties treats us to even more interesting construction techniques intended to get every strip of steel just perfect. He’s definitely bringing some of the Speed Champions magic to LEGO Trains.

The third car in this train is the titular logging car. The first step is erecting a frame upon which the timber can sit, which is fairly straightforward. The one detail of note is the design of the bogey covers over each wheel, made using minifig roller skates, among other parts.

Next up is log assembly, which is exactly what you would expect. Long technic axles help keep the logs together, with each end capped by a printed round 2×2 tile. The extraordinary part of this step, though, is how these logs are attached to the car. Using two standard LEGO chains, the 6 logs are stacked in a pyramid and bound to the frame. This can be a little tricky, and may require a couple of attempts to get right. But once it’s in place, I found this to be a stable build.

The last car in the train is of course the caboose. And we begin construction of the dark red carriage in the next section. Reddish brown beveled panel pieces make for some great stairs here. And the use of profile bricks turned on their side to make vertical slats looks gorgeous!

Finishing out the caboose, we add in more dark red and a pop of sand blue. The interior is fully detailed, with some pine saplings, lumber equipment, and other essentials. The real triumph on this car comes in the construction of the roof and the projection at its center. Typical of the “Bobber” style of caboose, Ties applies some brilliant technique and trans-clear 1×2 curved slopes to properly give the cupola the right look. The design does make picking up the car a bit hazardous, but realignment of the windows is quickly resolved.

And with that, we have the entire train ready to go. As quite possibly one of my favorite LEGO trains to assemble, this is a brilliant, unique design that feels like it could only come out of the Bricklink Designer Program. The builder is left with the challenge of how to motorize this beautiful engine, but I’m sure the community is up to the task (if Ties isn’t already on top of it)!

To be honest, I wish the review ended right there, with an exquisite train. It’s an easy A+, and a full-throated endorsement from me to grab one on June 6th. But Logging Railway tries for more, promising a bridge topped with brick-built track that will work like standard LEGO rails. As we proceed through the build process, you’ll be able to see where and why the concept collapses. The first section of parts starts out with 15 towers of reddish brown, each linked along an arc of plates and hinged plates of a one-stud width.

It was at this point that I needed to perform my first rebuild of the bridge. Hinged plates began failing as I lifted the frame up off my photo backdrop, and I was left with a bit of a mess. Understandable, as sets aren’t necessarily designed to be moved mid-build. I rebuild, and begin with the next step.

The second wave of parts fleshes out the top rails. The 1×8 dark bluish gray tiles are each held by 4 1×1 upright clips, and when laid out in pairs like so, make for some darn good brick-built rails. The promise of curving such a series of them in a way that a LEGO train could navigate them kept me pushing forward, even as a few towers collapsed and required rebuilding during rail assembly. Thankfully, I suffered no breakages during transport back to the photo backdrop.

Third in line, we’re set to give this series of rails the proper spacing to make the curve happen. This is done by forcing a half-plate gap on the exterior rail in the curve, by pushing a spacer up from the underside of the rail. Brilliant idea, but it also adds to the number of one-stud connections on this build. A build that constantly needs to be turned and re-oriented to apply all the parts. So, there were a few more collapses at this stage.

The constant moves to and from my photo background caught up with me once again, and I suffered another major collapse upon arriving back at my build area. This was definitely the point where I would’ve quit building if I didn’t have a review to write. But given the wealth of stabilizing tubing coming in the last steps, I continued on. For science!

More collapses when adding the black tubing running parallel to the track. Any inaccuracy on how far to insert the tubing into the 1×1 brick with studs on either side caused the supports to buckle and separate from the top rails. Attempts to reconnect the upper rails then led to a full collapse. A similar pattern occurred with the slanted brown tubing, with more rebuilding as I went, trying to triage as best as I could. I’m now constructing on my photo surface to minimize model movement. I’m about halfway through the second side of brown tubing, and I pushed too hard on one of the pieces. The center supports buckle, attempts to fix make the problem worse, and I’m left rebuilding the whole thing with less than 20 pieces left. Eventually, though, I do get to a finished model.

The minifigures

Let’s take a break from reassembly to talk about the minifigures briefly. There are three that come in this set. None of the faces have back printing, but all the torsos do. All the pieces are fairly standard options from recent sets, but the best detail has got to be the bandana mask for one of the train’s personnel. No doubt there’s a lot of smoke in the air when fueling that engine!

The finished build

This fan-designed train is easily more detailed than any released by LEGO’s professional design team in Billund while still fitting on the standard L-Gauge track. There are so many requirements of any new train that comes out anymore, which usually leads to disappointment. It’s got to be the right scale, easily motorizable with any and all of the many options in LEGO history, and still innovative. Somehow, Ties manages to achieve all of that and more with a wonderous creation! To its credit, the bridge is stable enough to be moved with two hands and no train on top once fully assembled. It looks phenomenal, conveying all the feeling of a logging railway. I think there’s possibility for this brick-built track to be used in a full circuit, especially when hiding all the spacers under a layer of ballast and inset into a base.

Conclusions and recommendations

I haven’t been reserved with my opinion thus far, so I won’t restate all of it here. For the money, I think there are better offerings in Bricklink Designer Program Series 2. I can’t in good conscience recommend a set that frustrated me repeatedly during the build process. And as good as the train is, it’s not “$200” good. But I know there are those of you who will brave the set anyway, and good for you! As such, I want the bulk of my recommendations here to be how you can make the bridge build process more successful, based on my experiences. First, read through all the instructions beforehand. If you see places where you want to do it differently, nothing is forcing you to follow the steps one-by-one. To that end, consider opening up all the bags for the bridge at once and working from that pile in the order that makes sense.

If I were to go through the process again, I would start with the rail sections, flip them upside-down, and build up from there, still attaching all the rigid tubing at the end. Applying the black tubing upside-down also allows you to see inside the 1×1 brick with studs on both sides to properly determine how far to insert said tubing from each side. Finally, for the last step applying the slanted brown tubing, I recommend attaching the clips first, and then adjusting them to meet the placement of the appropriate studs on the bridge. If you do brave the bridge, you’ll wind up with a beautiful fan-made set worthy of display.

Bricklink Designer Program Series 2 Logging Railway will be available for pre-order from Bricklink starting June 6th and retails for $209.99 USD. Models purchased through this program are expected to be delivered approximately 6 months after order.

1 comment on “BrickLink Designer Program Series 2 – Logging Railway: A trial of timber! [Review]

  1. Russell Chapman

    From my rough untrained analysis of the photos, it seems like there are a lot more pieces (and cost) in the bridge/rail assembly than the train, but all the coolness is in the train. It would have been a much better value proposition to sell the train by itself.
    Thanks for the honest review.

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