While it’s more common to see LEGO models of neat and tidy downtowns that would look right at home in Disney, it takes at least as much skill to show a city in the aftermath of war. Builder Paul Rizzi has created this World War II diorama depicting the Soviet invasion of Berlin in 1945. Created using approximately 12,000 pieces, the 1/42-scale diorama’s centerpiece is a pair of large buildings that we can see were once quite ornate, before being bombed out, no doubt during the Allies’ extensive air raids. Paul has been careful not to simply build a standard LEGO building and then unbuild it partially, but instead actually provide some of the structural framework that’s typically not present in a LEGO building, such as the rafters and floor joists. The large number of scattered bricks and rubble blown from the buildings and street during the bombing, along with several large craters, give the whole diorama a sense of realism that’s sometimes missing in the “too clean” versions that many novice builders attempt.
The Soviet tank, a T-34/85, occupies the right half of the diorama accompanied by a handful of Soviet infantry facing off a smattering of German troops. The Soviet forces are crossing under Berlin’s famous Stadtbahn railway, which is striking in dark green. The tank itself employs an aftermarket flag and treads, and is a great version of the angular Russian tank that formed the backbone of the Soviet machine.
During the pandemic, a group of LEGO fans have begun playing a virtual military conquest game a bit like Risk, except each person’s army consists solely of the creations they build to populate it. Douglas Hughes has mobilized his military in a big way with this absolute unit of a transport plane, which he’s fittingly dubbed “Chubs.” The stylized aesthetics of both the plane and the dock equipment reminds me of the Micro Machines I had as a kid, and I can’t help but want to start playing with this epic transport.
Interestingly, Doug’s sculpted the plane studs-out, which allowed him to get the complex curves the fuselage needs, while still leaving the interior mostly hollow. That would be a difficult balance to strike using other methods, such as stacked slopes.
I’ve never been a huge train person. I mean, I like trains and all, and love watching them thunder by, and enjoy building elaborate tracks with my kids for those little wooden magnetic trains, but the LEGO train itch has passed me by completely. Perhaps someday I’ll construct a train if I ever get around to building a large-scale city diorama (after I win the lottery or suddenly come into money, to pay for all the bricks), but not until then. Not so for Josiah Durand, as he demonstrates with this superb military train scene. It’s got everything you could want, from a chunky engine to various types of cars, especially that anti-aircraft gun car, and the landscape is also eye-catching.
Unlike with most train dioramas, the tracks are completely brick-built, rather than using the standard track elements. Additionally, the wheels seem to be a combination of wagon wheels, dishes, steering wheels, and other round things, rather than the typical train wheels. The fill-in between the ties and rails is an odd assortment of small, textured dark bluish grey pieces, especially chains and stud shooter triggers (I love seeing those triggers pop up in builds!). The only thing that seems odd is that the ties are grey and the rails brown when usually it is the other way around unless it is such an old track that the wood has greyed and the metal rusted. It’s nothing to get steamed up about, since either way this is still one good looking train display.
Love trains more passionately than I do? Then check out the TBB train archives!
Way back in 2008, I built a LEGO US Army Chinook helicopter. It was one of my first models to be featured on The Brothers Brick, long before I became a contributor. While I do take older models apart every now and then, I kept this one around. It has been sitting on one of my shelves almost unchanged for years. It still looks decent, but LEGO has moved on and so have I. A lot of new parts offer possibilities that I simply didn’t have more than a decade ago. In 2018 I completely rebuilt my Pave Low helicopter, also originally from 2008, using new parts and techniques. Now I have turned my attention to the Chinook.
There was a bit of snag, though. I built the original using old dark grey, a color that LEGO stopped making in 2004 because it looked unattractively dirty or muddy. Muddy is great for a military model, and old dark grey was a nice match for the olive drab color of most US Army helicopters. Unfortunately, since LEGO stopped making this color, none of the new parts, such as curved slopes, cheese slopes, and brackets, that are so useful when building aircraft and helicopter models exist in old dark grey. So, I had to pick a Chinook variant in a color in which these are available.
Fortunately, the US Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), nicknamed the “Night Stalkers,” has been flying special operations versions of the Chinook, called the MH-47, for decades. Most of these are black, which is perfect in terms of parts. They also have a lot of features that regular Chinooks usually lack, such as much larger extended-range fuel tanks alongside the cabin, an air-to-air refueling probe and radar and laser warning receivers and various other antennae dotted around on the outside. Adding all of those details made this a more challenging and interesting build. The end result looks like an angry beast.
If you’ve watched Black Mirror or the recent War of the Worlds series on Amazon Prime, then you probably have the same healthy fear of robot dogs that I do. But if this 4-legged bot by Red Spacecat is on our side, I just might change my mind. The military bot is armed to the teeth with a large top-mounted gun, and with those padded feet, you won’t hear it coming.
If alien life does exist in the universe, it would likely come in forms that we can not even imagine, like this pair of critters taking a break outside their battle tank to stop and smell the methane flowers. This digital scene by Ivan Martynov makes about the best use of the hotdog part that I have seen in quite a while, to attach the crowbar-footed legs to the bulbous underside of this most unearthly “tank”.
LEGO Master Tyler Clites, fresh off a nationally televised victory, is already jumping back into battle with a not-so-tiny tank.
With deceptively chunky proportions (hearkening back to Metal Slug, Advance Wars, and other video game renditions) this new offering is impressive for it’s economical use of olive green pieces which aren’t available in as wide a variety of molds as many other LEGO colors.
This beauty is also notable for a unique tread technique made by stacking minifig legs. Besides LEGO’s own tread pieces, there have been a bevy of alternate techniques used by builders in the past including binoculars, coupling plates, and even behemoths so big the treads are entirely original builds.
During the war in Vietnam, the US Navy monitored the heart rates of some of their pilots. Flying though Hanoi’s air defenses understandably raised their pulse. However, their hearts went even faster at the end of the flight, when they had to land their jets on an aircraft carrier. These may be big for a ship, but they are very small for an airport. Unlike pilots, unmanned aircraft or ‘drones’ don’t have hearts and they are never tired. If a drone crashes or gets shot down, its pilot can’t get hurt or taken hostage. Instead, the operator is safely at his or her home base, in a comfortable chair in an air-conditioned container. So, it’s easy to see the attraction of unmanned aircraft. For the US Navy carrier landings remained a major hurdle, though. Enter the X-47B. Northrop Grumman built two of these weird-looking experimental jets, to demonstrate integrating unmanned combat aircraft into carrier operations. Between 2012 and 2014, the second of the two jets, nicknamed “Salty Dog 502”, performed several autonomous carrier landings and take-offs on three different aircraft carriers. At the time, the Navy expected to put unmanned combat aircraft into service in about five years’ time, but it has yet to happen.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying myself by building a series of LEGO models of experimental aircraft. Unusually, for me, these new models are mostly studless. I also built them to a scale for LEGO minifigures. Therefore there is a bit of irony in adding Salty Dog 502 to my collection. Not having to carve out space inside for a minifigure’s substantial rear end was a bit of a relief, though; I really struggled to fit a pilot in my YF-23. The X-47B is grey, much like operational US Navy aircraft. While its shape is certainly interesting, that is not enough for an attractive display. Fortunately, while the X-47 doesn’t need a pilot, it does require a ground crew to take care of it, like any other aircraft. So, I built a minifigure deck crew, as well as part of the deck and a small deck tractor to go with it. On US aircraft carriers the deck crew wears color-coded outfits that depict their different roles. These minifigures add a welcome splash of color.
As a kid, I built a lot of model airplanes. I loved gluing them together and painting them, but never liked applying the decals. I read books about military airplanes, too, and played with tiny toy planes. I loved airplanes, at least ones that carried missiles and guns. I’m going out on a limb here, but I would hazard a guess that James Cherry loved airplanes, too, and still does. Why would I guess that? Because he has built an amazing Eurofighter Typhoon airplane out of LEGO bricks. Measuring up at over a meter in length and 73cm across at the wingtips (it’s a European plane, so we have to use metric), this is one beast of a creation, too. The whole thing is tiled an oh-so-smooth, with a custom canopy and nose cone, since The LEGO Group does not manufacture anything close to these specs.
Click here to see details of this fabulous fighter jet
Aviation history is littered with beautiful and promising designs that did not make it into production. Famous examples are the Canadian CF-105 Arrow and the British BAC TSR-2. Imagining what they could have achieved can entertain aviation enthusiasts for hours. That also applies to my latest aircraft model: the Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23, unofficially known as the Black Widow II. It was the losing contender in the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition. It should replace the F-15 Eagle and counter the new Soviet/ Russian fighters under development in the seventies. To do this, it had to incorporate three features that were never before combined in a single aircraft: fighter-like maneuverability, stealth, and the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds.
The shape of the world’s first known stealth aircraft, the F-117A, was all straight lines and flat panels. At the time Lockheed designed it, they couldn’t yet calculate how curved surfaces would reflect radar signals. Northrop, however, experimented with much smoother Gaussian shapes. In the deepest secrecy, they built an aircraft called Tacit Blue. It looked like an inverted bathtub with wings, but it worked. They applied this knowledge to the YF-23 in an altogether more pleasing shape. Cross-sections of the forward fuselage have a rounded top and sloping sides that end in a distinctive fuselage chine. The wings have a diamond shape, as do the large, angled tailfins. These combine the function of traditional horizontal and vertical tailfins. Humps on the aft fuselage, known as bread loaves, hide the engines. To reduce their IR signature, the exhaust gasses are guided through long troughs. The jet is long and sleek. It looks unlike anything else ever flown.
Lockheed won the competition in 1991, with its YF-22 design. This became the F-22 Raptor, which is the USAF’s primary air-to-air combat fighter. It, too, is stealthy, of course, but its configuration is similar to the F-15 Eagle. If you let them, those same aviation enthusiasts that can rave about the Arrow or TSR-2 will tell you a whole plethora of reasons why the YF-23 lost. I think it was the prettiest of the two contenders, but perhaps its configuration was a bit too radical. Recreating it in LEGO certainly meant digging deep into my bag of tricks.
Ah, airplanes. What would we do without them? They make travel over long distances easy and affordable to everyone, which is great, and they make spreading contagion across the world lightning fast, too, which is not so great. Gone are the days when we had to wait for the rats in the hold of the ship to spread the pestilence! But military airplanes, deadly in ways non-viral, have a strong nostalgia attached to them for many people, from history buffs to kids who like to zoom things around and make machine gun noises while spitting on everything. Wesley has made a LEGO model of a RAF SE5a, a delightful WWI-era biplane, complete with said machine gun. The shaping is fantastic, especially on the fuselage, and I love the cheese-slope chocks under the wheels. The under-construction aerodrome gives depth to the image, especially when combined with the minifigures and the green “grass”; it’s a simple addition but brings it from a plain ol’ airplane to an immersive scene.
It’s not clear whether LEGO builder Shannon Sproule‘s roving habitat is meant for use on a distant planet or the apocalyptic future of our own, but this repurposed APC looks like it’s seen it all. Shannon says it used to have a turret, but that’s now been replaced with a hab module and comms equipment. The vehicle is battered and worn, with Shannon doing a great job with the weathering thanks to introducing some brighter colors like dark orange and coral. The simple digital background also gives the presentation that sense of place, which goes a long way in telling the APC’s story.