Sure, those Romans were tough enough when massed in their Legions. But catch them isolated from the main army? In a small group? On a lonely stretch of forest road? Let’s see how tough they are then. That appears to be what Jesse van den Oetelaar is asking in this LEGO scene depicting a trio of unsuspecting Legionaries about to walk into a Barbarian ambush. The irregular base and the greenery are the stars of the show here, with an impressive mix of shrubbery and foliage providing cover for the Barbarian assailants. It’s worth a close look at some of the techniques involved, and the mix of earthy colours deployed — this is a great example of how to build realistic undergrowth in LEGO.
Do you have any 2×4 bricks in wild colors with unusual letters on their studs? If you do, you just might have a treasure from LEGO’s historic quest to improve the quality of its bricks back in the late 1950s-1960s. German LEGO fan Beryll Roehl (aka Fantastic Brick) enjoys collecting and artfully photographing such test bricks. We found Beryll’s pictures so impressive and intriguing that we reached out to her for an interview. Get ready for a fascinating and colorful journey into the wonderful world of test bricks!
TBB: Hi Beryll, and welcome to the Brothers Brick! Can you tell our readers little bit about yourself?
Beryll: Sure! I grew up in the late 1960s, so I come from the generation that built LEGO models with the few types of basic building blocks that were available. I currently live in small village in northern Germany with my three adult sons…and their LEGO bricks! Careerwise, I studied mathematics and art and currently work for a school in the special education sector.
TBB: Could you tell us why you collect test bricks and how you became interested in collecting them?
It is not intuitive, but this little article and the whole internet is really a direct consequence of the first press. German builder Michael Jasper recreates this monumental part of his national (and global) history in a build that can fit in one’s hand, and yet packs more detail than many larger builds.
There are not many names that have been so consistently present at the peak of the crop in the online LEGO community over the past decades, but Michael Jasper is surely one of them. Known for using exotic parts in unique ways, he does not disappoint this time either. Can you find the brown 2×2 magnet holder tile and the brown bar with side studs? The cutest detail for me though, is how the bed holding the “letters” slides between two panel pieces. But Michael does not stop there! The tiny press actually has moving parts, as seen in the little story below!
Back in April 1999, it would have been hard to imagine what LEGO Star Wars sets might look like in twenty years, but it would have been even harder to predict how the LEGO fan community would evolve over the next two decades. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the LEGO Star Wars theme, I also wanted to take a moment to reflect on how LEGO Star Wars has affected my life, along with the lives of countless other LEGO fans all over the world.
Where were you when the LEGO Star Wars theme launched twenty years ago? For me, it began with the January 1999 LEGO Shop-at-Home catalog. The front cover promised “LEGO Star Wars action” on pages 6 and 7, and it did not disappoint! My eyes widened at the sight of LEGO versions of the X-Wing and TIE-Fighter. As soon as the sets hit store shelves, I gathered my allowance money and purchased the Landspeeder as my very first LEGO Star Wars set. Now as an adult, I find the story behind the beginnings of LEGO’s first licensed theme just as exciting.
The foundations for LEGO Star Wars arguably existed long before the launch. Space exploration was a big topic of interest in the 1960s and 70s, giving rise to hit space-themed TV shows like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. In 1977, Star Wars was released and became a blockbuster hit. During this period, LEGO too began embracing the space age and released the first Classic Space sets in 1979. Instead of lightsaber battles and dogfights, the initial emphasis of LEGO was on exploration. Conflict would eventually make its way into LEGO space sets with the introduction of the thieving Blacktron I faction in 1987. The relationship between these defined “good guys” and bad guys” was relatively tame, keeping in line with founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s commitment to not make “war toys.”
It’s hard to believe, but trains are now more than 200 years old, going back to the early 1800s for the most rudimentary steam-powered rail engines. This model by Nikolaus Löwe shows one of the first such engines constructed, which hails from 1815 and was known as the “Steam Elephant” due to its large trunk-like smokestack mounted on the front. Nikolaus has done an excellent job recreating the lattice of ironwork with bars and clips surrounding the boiler. Interestingly, he’s chosen to photograph it on a brass model track, which although not LEGO does look mighty nice.
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, Kevin J. Walter probably built the Collesseum in a few hours. Made in the style and charm of the LEGO Architecture series. What made particular design possible is the new Arch 1 x 2 Jumper element to construct the arched columns in an accurate manner at this scale.
Seeing one of your national icons made in LEGO always gives a wholesome sense of civic pride, like the Mount Rushmore build we shared recently surely did for our American readers. However, living in a small country like Slovenia as I do can make such events scarce at best. Luckily for me, Isaac Snyder has given me this satisfaction and luckily for you, he has informed you about the largest cave castle in the world. Predjama Castle was first mentioned in 1274 as a small defensive fortress built inside a cavern with 6,5 kilometres of cave systems and a vertical 130-meter high cliff behind it. In 1570 it was expanded in the Renaissance style and remains this way to the present day.
The microscale build captures the real castle perfectly, as you can see from the reference used by Isaac. The build looks simple at first glance, until you start looking at the seams between bricks and notice how many difficult half-plate offsets and angles are scattered throughout the build. The landscaping is spot-on too, from the slanted cliff extending over the castle to the grass-covered hillside below. My favourite part is the staggered bricks on the side of the rightmost tower
The story of the Trojan horse is one of the most well known in ancient Hellenic lore. In the classical version, following a fruitless and decade-long siege of the city of Troy, the Greeks constructed a gigantic wooden horse in which they had hidden their finest warriors. The Greeks feigned defeat, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night, the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war. It was a brilliant coup, though historians have argued its veracity ever since. Regardless of whether or not the Trojan horse actually existed, Martin Harris wonderfully brings the story to life in LEGO form with his depiction of that fateful gift-giving moment.
One has to admire the simple but imposing Trojan walls and gate, which stood up to 10 years of determined Greek attacks (the angled walls are a great touch, though a bit more landscaping around the bottom edge would help break up the abrupt edges). The Trojans lined up along the battlements and the Greeks laboriously pushing the horse depict the sheer scale of this creation. Continue reading
I’m a sucker for history and trains, and Rob Winner delivers on both counts with this slice of the Illinois Midland Railway in LEGO-form. According to the builder, the real line was only 1.9 miles long. This was in large part because of a crooked businessman making big promises and running off with the community of Newark’s money. Regardless, the little town made use of the railway to connect with nearby Millington. Rob’s model is meant to represent the railway during the 1940s, back when World War I veteran William Thorsen was running the show. Thorsen is depicted with the vehicles he operated, including a Vulcan 0-4-0T steam engine and Ford Model T railway inspection car.
The engine shed plays its part well, looking weathered and forgotten. Rob pulled this off by adding vines and slightly tilting brown plates outward to simulate loosened wooden boards. It’s a stark contrast to Thorsen standing among railway equipment that looks well taken care of. Then again, he is their devoted caretaker! This juxtaposition is inspiring, symbolizing the fight to persevere against all odds.
This time of year is one of the busiest for toy manufacturers, including the LEGO Group. In an effort to associate the brand with holiday gift-giving, the months of November and December bring a flurry of wintry-themed advertising. While much of the LEGO Group’s current advertising campaigns exist online, the company has a long history of producing holiday advertising in magazines, comic books, and mail order catalogs (aka LEGO Shop at Home catalogs). Our elves have been hard at work, sifting through the archives for some of the LEGO Group’s most memorable seasonal ads. Hop in the sleigh and hold tight for a wild ride back through time.
Around this time of year, people enjoy the classic tradition of sending holiday greeting cards to one another. The LEGO Group, too, has dabbled in making Christmas cards over the years. Naturally, they’re LEGO-themed. From the 1980s through the 1990s, the UK LEGO Club mailed out Christmas cards to each of their members. The LEGO Group has also issued holiday greeting cards for its employees. For at least the past two decades, LEGO has included a card with each annual employee gift building set. They even designed cards for employees back in the 1980s. These cards often featured elaborate models designed by LEGO master builders that are quite interesting. Suit up and hop into our sleigh, because we are taking you on a nostalgia-filled trip through some of LEGO’s most memorable “Brickmas” cards.