A fair few of the Dutch builders that I occasionally hang out with are very much into building heavy-duty trucks and construction equipment, such as cranes or mining excavators. And they tend to like to build them BIG. I’ve dabbled a bit in the genre, but I’ve always been somewhat the odd one out in our little group, mainly building smaller models. And I’ve gone progressively smaller: in recent years more and more of my models are scaled for minifigures. I rarely have the time or patience to build really big things. I am also running out of space to display large models.
If you take a big crane and build it to a small scale, you still end up with a fairly substantial model, though. Case in point: my Liebherr LTM-1350 mobile crane, as operated by the Dutch company Mammoet (Mammoth). Despite its relatively small scale, there is just enough room for some functionality. For instance, the crane’s outriggers and boom can extend and it has working steering on five of its six axles. When fully extended, its boom reaches a height of close to a metre (about three feet). Furthermore, cranes like this may be mobile, but they do require a fleet of support vehicles. This includes a separate truck to carry its counter-weights. The crane’s crew also tends to have a small “pool car” to drive around. If the crane is in transit, an escort van usually accompanies the convoy. The small scale meant I could build all of them.
This minifig-scale LEGO ship, The Charlemagne, was built by Brick Duvel over a period of 2-3 years, and it’s a massive 150 studs from bow to stern, translating to a scale 177 feet long. Months were spent on the rigging alone, and the proof is in the pudding with this gorgeous model. Unlike many LEGO ships, the rigging is extensive, taut, and tied down well.
Click to see more details including the interior!
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.
LEGO Minifigures are oddly-proportioned little fellows. Because I am fussy about the scale of my models I rarely use them with my builds. However, thanks to a number of collaborative builds I’ve been involved with, which all involved minifigures, I’ve grown to appreciate them a bit more. Recently I have been steadily building a collection of minifig-scaled military models. These are the latest two: a US Army M936 wrecker truck towing an M1025 “HumVee” armament carrier. There are countless quotes about how logistics are at least as important to fighting a war as tactics. Equipment used in combat may capture people’s imaginations, but modern armies include vast numbers of support vehicles that are true workhorses. To me those are at least as interesting as tanks or artillery.
What constitutes minifig scale can be difficult and LEGO themselves have muddied the waters. When I was growing up, LEGO cars were just four studs wide. About ten years ago, most LEGO city cars were five studs wide and trucks seven studs wide, including their mudguards. With the recent Speed Champions sets the width of a supposedly minifig scaled car has been bumped up to nine studs, again including the mudguards. The cars look cool and seat two figures side-by-side. However, if you pose a figure next to the vehicle, it’s clear we’ve moved firmly into silly territory. I based my scale on the figure’s height. The wrecker truck ended up being seven studs wide. The HumVee is only six studs wide, which is much smaller than most minifig scale HumVees that are out there. Despite this small scale, both vehicles still have enough space inside for a driver.
Looks like someone is still trying to fulfil their new year’s resolution. Kosbrick has created a perfect brick-built gym scene for his current Iron Builder contest, and the use of the paint roller handle is genius.
On his blog, Kos explains the build was a reminder of official modular builds, and I’ve got to say it does. It also reminds me that I do have to hit the gym really soon!