Tag Archives: Ambulance

The distinctive markings of British emergency vehicles

A lot of young boys want to become policemen, firefighters, or paramedics when they grow up. I, too, was fascinated by emergency vehicles. There was something about their bright markings, flashing lights, and sirens. As an adult, I realise that the work done by emergency services can be far from glamorous, but emergency vehicles do make for fun and attractive LEGO models. So, I have built models of vehicles from Tokyo, New York and the Netherlands. For years I’ve also had a collection of vehicles from the UK. In the last few weeks, I had a go at building a few newer ones to replace models of vehicles that are no longer in service. They are a long-wheelbase Ford Transit van, as used by the London metropolitan police, and a Mercedes Sprinter ambulance used by the London ambulance service.

For most builders, myself included, painting LEGO is not an option. I do use stickers, but I build most of the color scheme into the model. Because of this, it can become integral to the model’s construction, and I very much enjoy figuring out how to include a particular pattern. Given their colorful liveries, this applies to models of emergency vehicles in particular. Nowadays, most British emergency vehicles use a distinctive checkered pattern, known as “battenberg” markings, after battenberg cake. On the ambulance, I built its blocks using green and lime green parts. This was not easy. The vertical boundaries between them have to line up with features of the vehicle. Furthermore, the blocks on the side of the van body all have the same length. Due to the scale of my model, I couldn’t recreate them using the straightforward studs-up building. So, I had to get creative. I ended up building most of the blocks sideways, to make them just a plate narrower.

The London metropolitan police switched to yellow and blue battenberg markings in 2012. Older vehicles still use a livery called a “jam sandwich” though. This, too is very distinctive: it’s a gold-colored stripe with orange and blue stripes above and below it. This was a lot easier to build. Frustratingly though, I did have to contend with variations in the gold color of the various elements, including multiples that came from the same set.

A high-visibility pattern of yellow and orange chevrons covers (part of) the rear of both vehicles. As I did with most of the lettering, using stickers for those would have given me a cleaner look. However, I do like the LEGO-like look I get by building them using bricks and plates. My vehicles are unmistakably LEGO models. Yet, almost anybody who knows what the real ones look like will recognise them.

I can’t imagine that Transit vans like mine will remain in service for much longer, but that is just the excuse I will need to build a newer vehicle in a couple of years’ time.

New York’s Best and Bravest are life savers

My hair may be turning grey, and I have a job, a professional reputation and responsibilities, but hidden just under the surface is the same six-year-old boy who marveled at his first LEGO fire truck, back in the eighties. With the pandemic, for many of us, the last few months probably haven’t been easy. For me, personally, things could be a lot worse. I am healthy and so are my loved ones, I have job security and can work from the comfort of my home. Nonetheless, I am stressed by the uncertainty and by a never-ending amount of work, in combination with not being able to do many of the things I usually do to relax, such as traveling, meeting friends and attending LEGO events.

One thing that does help is being able to channel that six-year-old. I pop up to my loft and put some LEGO bricks together almost every day. And what does my inner six-year-old lifesavers? Well, fire trucks, of course. With a few decades of building experience under my belt and an adult’s disposable income, they’re obviously going to be elaborate. This pair of vehicles represents a Seagrave ladder truck and an ambulance, as operated by the New York Fire Department (FDNY). They are life savers in a real-world sense, but building them also kept me from going nuts.
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New wheels for my LEGO Ambulance service

Some LEGO fans primarily collect sets; others focus on building their own creations. I’m very much in the latter camp. That doesn’t mean I don’t collect anything LEGO-related, though. I don’t just build for the sake of building and sharing pictures on-line. Most of my models fit into collections, like my Japanese cars, that I display at shows. Because they are part of a collection, I tend to keep them around for a long time. However, as a result, by now some of my vehicle models are so old that their real-world counterparts were retired years ago.

Case in point: the Dutch Chevrolet Express Ambulance that I built in 2009, as part of a collection of Dutch emergency vehicles. If I were to display this at a show, some of the children there might not even recognise that an ambulance used to look like that. So, even though there aren’t any shows in the foreseeable future, due to the pandemic, I felt my Dutch LEGO paramedics could do with a new set of wheels. The current type in North Holland, where I live, is the Mercedes Sprinter. All its doors, including the sliding doors in the sides, can open, to give access to a detailed interior. The lights on the roof have a snazzy aerodynamic shape, which was fun. I particularly enjoyed building the colour scheme. Ambulances in the Netherlands are yellow, with a complicated pattern of diagonal red and blue stripes. As I did with the old Chevy, I recreated this using stacked plates. Stickers would have given me a cleaner look, but to me this looks more authentic as a LEGO model. It is good to go for a few more years.