Thursday, 17 March 2011

Big......and finished !

OK, so I'm a slow builder, but I got there in the end...... After seemingly spending weeks building for an hour here and 30 minutes there (I was about a third of the way through when I last posted about it) Tower Bridge is complete, and stunning it is too !

Having got to the end of instruction booklet one, I set about booklet two where my next task was to complete the first tower up to level of the horizontal walkway (pic below; click all pics to enlarge).

Then came the dreaded "x 2" where I had to go back to the start of booklet one and do it all over again, building the second tower from scratch. I'm aware that people deal with repetitive builds differently, some like myself constructing the repeating parts of the build one after the other, while others build them in parallel. I don't think there's a right way - it can get a bit dull whichever way you do it.

Once I'd also completed the second tower up to the level of the horizontal walkway, I was able to put the two towers and the road bridge together, at which point the model really started to take shape (below).

The next task was to construct the horizontal walkway. This includes some interesting parts such as the white lattice fences and a couple of lovely printed shields. There's also some nice colours on view, particularly Medium Blue and a smattering of Pearl Gold. Once constructed, the walkway can be moved into place, joining the two towers together (below).

Once the walkway is in place, the tops of the towers can be completed, at which point the model is almost finished. All that's left to be done is to build and attach (using Technic pins) the approaches leading up to the bridge on either side, and finally construct the four 'chains' (I'm not quite sure what they're called) which run from high up on the towers to the approaches on either side. These are probably the weakest part of the build, looking a bit clunky and crude against the beautifully detailed splendour of the rest of the model.

Except we're not quite done yet. The final finishing touch is four scale vehicles - a red bus, a yellow truck, a black cab and a green convertible (below) to add some authenticity in the form of the notorious London traffic.....

Once the vehicles are built and placed on the bridge we're done, and I have to say it was worth the time and effort. Beautifully designed, interesting to build (apart from the unavoidable repetition), and it now has pride of place in my home in the hallway atop the piano. This in itself speaks volumes - the fact that my wife is happy for it to be prominently displayed in a communal area is testament to how beautiful the model is.....

One slightly disappointing post-script is some possible quality issues affecting the Tan bricks in the set. On a number of occasions I noticed that areas of the build involving Tan parts weren't 'flush' with each other. At first I thought it might just be a trick of the light as I was building under strong spotlights shining directly from above which I thought might have been casting shadows and fooling my eyes. I believe however that it's more than that.

Looking closely at the Tan brick below, I reckon that the plastic forming the sides of the brick denoted by the numbers 1 and 2 in the picture (click to enlarge) is thicker than the plastic forming the sides of the brick denoted by the numbers 3 and 4. I don't have a micrometer, but my distinctly amateurish attempts at measuring the thickness of the plastic would tend to bear out my suspicions. Furthermore, this seems to be the case for all the Tan bricks I examined, and would explain the appearance of ridges or overhangs when the Tan bricks are stacked on top of plates.

Has anyone else noticed this, either with this set or with Tan bricks in other sets ? Or am I imagining it ?! It thankfully doesn't detract from the finished model, but it's noticeable and I think a little unsightly close up. Let me know.

Anyway, the final verdict ? Notwithstanding the possible quality issues highlighted above, this is a magnificent model, and if you can afford it, buy it !


  1. Branko Dijkstra18/3/11

    I've noticed the variations in thickness and location on multiple sets. it is most noticeable when building straight walls (like with the modular houses) and I think it will be very hard to avoid completely for LEGO.

    My feeling is that I have become more critical of the quality of LEGO but the quality hasn't changed much at all.

  2. It's a beautiful model. I'd love to buy and build it too. Think I'll stick to minifig-scale models for the time being though.

  3. Hi Dave,

    I'm working on something massive (no surprise) built out of tan and had actually noticed the same myself. It isn't a major issue, but I am fairly confident that this is a continuation of the drop in parts quality seem over the past three to four years.

    Lego Monster

  4. Cheers, guys - it's reassuring that I'm not just imagining these quality issues, although thankfully they don't detract from the final build.

    I really can't wait to see what you're building with all those tan bricks, Ed.....!

  5. Anonymous5/4/11

    This surprises me since the only argument for LEGO's cost is the 'strict tolerances' they use. Not to mention those tolerances aren't as expensive or rare as people seem to believe - at least not anymore. Maybe 30 years ago.

  6. I have been an avid lego collector since 1981, just years after I was born. I inherited some older sets belonging to my brothers. Within a few years (by 7 years old) it was my only Christmas and birthday gift request. I am now a 36 year old AFOL proudly turning my son into sets of his own. I have every police lego set made between 1980 and 2014. I am horribly dissapointed by the most recent observations I've made about lego... The quality is definitely slipping and its not your imagination.

    There are blocks in single sets of different thickness, many blocks feel cheaper, more flexible, more rounded, less dense. The colors are variegated...several of the same block of the same set are different color. Worse than anything... Sets newer than 2010 seem to have issues with staying together. My son has a helicopter that includes angled bricks. They simply fall apart 15-30 times a day. He hands the crumpled prices to me saying "mommy fix?". I get it. He's young. But I watch him. The prop blades fall off after being spun. The entire back tail of the helicopter falls off when he pulls on the ancor/rope on the pulley on the back. Just the force to unroll the wound string and lower the hook, causes the set to crumble. As someone who spends some months, more than $1000 at a time at lego stores, I don't expect this kind of lego quality. Its rapidly getting worse... First I'd see one or two cheap feeling pieces, now, several newer sets are not able to even be played with (by an adult nonetheless!) because the dry crumbles. My father asked me yesterday if he could "super glue the damn thing" because of his annoyance with the tiny toys. I'm obviously not ready to commit that mortal sin, but I am going to call lego and voice my concerns and talk about the various sets leaving me feeling like I've accidentally been slipped some megablocks. Not good, Lego. Not good.


    1. Thanks for your comments, Kayt; they echo some of the concerns I'm hearing from other AFOLs.

      I would urge you to report your observations to LEGO customer service, particularly as you're clearly able to describe the issues in detail, and knowledgeable enough to highlight particular sets and elements of concern. Having heard a talk from LEGO's Senior Manager Consumer Perceived Quality a year or so ago, I was left in no doubt that they take customer concerns about quality seriously and will look into your complaint. Who knows if anything will actually come of it, but the more people who complain, the more chance there is that some of the issues will be addressed....

  7. Anonymous8/3/14

    Their answer was to replace the entire helicopter from the large coast guard boat and lighthouse set that I'm referencing in my above post. The well-trained customer service woman assured me they don't hear many complaints about quality, that my issue was rare and that their fix was to just give me a new one. To be honest, I realize sending one a single piece of a four pieces set (boat, light house on rocks, small helicopter, smaller boat to rescue I believe) isn't the typical... But they didn't send instructions or the stickers. So I got a new one some thirteen days later... But put it together based on the mostly broken one and of course the stickers aren't replaceable, so the broken heli has the decals. The new one does not. Bummer.

    I think it's critical that we call every time you observe differences. Even if you don't want or expect a new or replacement pieces, it's important that LEGO know that we know that theyre scrimping to save. That we notice the subtle differences in size and color. Especially if you buy a ton of sets like I do, make written notes of the faulty pieces and differences even if the faults don't affect the build. We need lego to know these "rare differences in quality" aren't as rare or different as they claim. The two calls I've made to customer service have assured me over and over and over that this "almost never happens" and that it's very rare for Legos to suffer in quality. Personally... I don't buy it. I've see it first hand.

  8. Anonymous21/1/15

    I can confirm that Tower Bridge tan pieces have serious quality issues. I've found a dozen 1x1 bricks with cracks. Very disappointing for such a pricey product.

    1. Give LEGO customer service a call - tin my experience they're very responsive and will replace the cracked parts.