So I recently placed a shop.LEGO.com order, primarily because the small London Bus 40220 was being offered as a free gift with purchase over $AU120. And I am glad I did. It cannot be a coincidence that there has been a rush on nifty London based sets appearing this year. Any Day Now (well… November 17th) will see the opening of the LEGO Flagship Store at Leicester Square. This promises to be quite a store, indeed one of the largest in the world.
So in 2016 we have seen the Creator Big Ben (10253); Buckingham Palace in the Architecture range (21029) and now the iconic Double Decker London Bus (40220) has made an appearance, along with the teasing images of Lester, the minifigure mascot for the new store.
More correctly designated the AEG Routemaster, this vehicle served as the mainstay of the London Transport bus fleet from 1956 to 2005. An updated version of the (real) bus was released in 2013. Is there a vehicle more associated with any city in the world? I cannot think of one.
This is not the first time a double decker bus has been rendered in a LEGO set. Back in
1973, in the days before minifigures, licensed sets and a preponderance to conceal every stud possible, there was such a set. Larger than minifigure scale, but smaller than mini land. This set, 384, was eight studs wide, thirteen bricks high and twenty studs long. Heading to Piccadilly, its livery encouraged us to visit Legoland and read the LEGO Times every day. It also featured headlight bricks representing actual headlights. The model survived over a number of annual LEGO catalogues, however I have never seen this classic set in real life.
There was also the promotional set released in 2011, to coincide with the opening of the London Westfield LEGO Store.
There have also been a number of microscale builds, one with the Tower Bridge 10214, and one with the new Buckingham Palace Set.
The set itself comes in a small box, with a few bags of parts: in total there are 118 parts, and none are unique to this set, with the exception of the sticker sheet. The front grill is attached via a 1×2-2×4 bracket, and there are a number of curved bricks, 2×4 tiles and plenty of transparent 2×1 bricks. It is a quick and sturdy build, bearing a good resemblance to the source material. it is quite zoomable, and withstands a few drops from an unreasonable height without breaking.
A great nostalgia trip
One of the most appealing things about this set(40220) to me is its blatant disregard for currently employed scaling within LEGO sets. Please let me explain. It is definitely smaller than what is now minifigure scale: that would now start at 6 studs wide, possibly eight, and be significantly longer and taller: probably with enough seating for 5 or 6 mini figures. At the same time, it is too big compared with the scale of the new Creator Big Ben, and way too big to compared with the scale used in LEGO Architecture sets. (A truncated version of 21013:Big Ben features with some of the pictures with the bus.)
“Excuse me… can you tell me where this bus is going?”
“Not yet, it hasn’t had it’s stickers applied yet.”
This misfit of scale takes me back to my childhood – vehicle scale was not too important back in the mid 70’s. In those days, it was pretty optional to try and make a figure fit into a vehicle. Infact, this was before mini figures as we now know them…
Even when minifigures arrived, there was no necessity for figures to fit into the vehicles. Virtually all vehicles were four studs wide, with wheels being set up on a steel axle through a 2×2 brick. It didn’t matter whether it was a bus, a car, an earth mover or a semi- trailer/lorry. Aaah, happy days.
Stick around. Things might get interesting.
The sticker set allows you to make this a number 211B bus. It is travelling to Westminister (sic.). Just across town from Trafaligar Square I suspect. The spelling error is a little unexpected given the typical attention to detail we see from LEGO. However, 211 does indeed go to Westminster amongst other places. The letter ‘b’ may be a reference to 221b Baker Street, the home of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Or not. The 211 bus doesn’t go there. The London transport website doesn’t list a 211b bus. There is no doubt though that the stickers add a lot of feeling to this model. So I have decided to apply them.
I was also pleasantly surprised when I found an
additional sticker sheet inside my shipping box. This has new banner advertisements for the bus – three of them!- and also a replacement for the 211B label on the front of the bus. We can change the destination for a more accurately spelled Leicester Square, site of the new LEGO store. The number 48 bus runs from London Bridge to Walthingham, but doesn’t get closer than a few kilometres from Leicester square . Leicester Square will be the (believe it or not) 47th LEGO Store outside of the United States. As such, I am struggling to break the code on this sticker. Can you make the connection with number 48 here? Why not comment below. [Edit: thanks to Nancye for suggesting that the address is in part 48 Leicester Square. Plausible? Probably]
Also on the bonus sticker sheet is Lester, the mascot for the new store. Resplendent in his union Jack Waist Coat, he bears more than I passing resemblance to comic performer Tim Brooke-Taylor, who appeared in the 1970s comedy program ‘The Goodies’.
1970’s British Comedy Mystery offers.
As you may have observed, I sometimes like to draw a long bow in order to make a tenuous connection between ideas: the other unexpected surprise I received in my recent order was the 30472 Creator Parrot. Although it does not obviously depict a Norwegian Blue, famously deceased in Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch , it certainly isn’t active, pining for the fjords or likely to go ‘Voom’ if you put 10,000 volts through it.
Lester and the parrot have become the topic of debate and distress recently: During the opening week of the new Flagship store, people making a purchase of £55 or more will be given a scratch ticket. Some will win Lester, some will win a parrot. Goodies or Monty Python. Who’d have thought?
On placing the new alternative sticker sheet I received through by shopping order, I discover that the stickers here are marginally larger than the bricks they are supposed to cover. As you can see: the sticker with the set is slightly smaller than the side of an 8 stud long brick. This allows for slight degrees of clumsiness, and no sticker overhang. The stickers from the bonus sticker sheet fill the side of the brick entirely and are not so forgiving for those without nerves of steel and corrective lenses.
I love the new bus: both for the (simple) build, as well as the look. It is robust, inspires a healthy dose of nostalgia in me and I am glad to have obtained one. The additional sticker sheet adds a great option, free of spelling errors. The meaning of 48 on the sticker remains a mystery to me however, and I would be grateful for your ideas. I award this set 4 out of 5 arbitrary praise units.
Did you build this set when you got it as a promotional bonus? Or are you saving it for a rainy day?