So You Want to Build a Roller Coaster? Roller Coaster 10261 (Review)

In which I assemble the new 10261 LEGO Roller Coaster, build a couple of white pillars, troubleshoot a skipping chain and consider what I’ve learned. It’s a big set. I wrote a lot.  Why don’t you prepare yourself a drink, sit back and work out whether this is a set that you would like to put together.

IMG_0307-2The appeal of a roller coaster is hard to deny: action, excitement, lights noise, adrenaline, nausea, terror and relief, in various orders. When we first saw the new LEGO® Roller Coaster Track appearing in the Joker Mansion last year, it wasn’t long before people began to speculate about how long it might be before we saw one appear in the Creator Expert Theme Park series.  About eight months it turns out. I’m glad we got that cleared up. When the Roller Coaster (10261) was announced early in May, many people, myself included, were impressed by the build: a moving model almost always has more appeal than a static display. But it raised a number of questions: How easy would it be to power? How stable would it be? How easy might it be to draw inspiration for other Roller Coaster themed MOCs? And just how challenging would it be to build all those white pillars?

Some of of these questions were easily answered. Others might take a little more thought.  [Do you just want to skip forward to my a video of the run? Click here, or scroll through to the end]

I was invited to review the Roller Coaster by the AFOL Engagement team at The LEGO Group, and I hope I might be able to answer a few of the questions posed. Read on and see where this review takes us.

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The set comes in a large box, with taped seals.  The code on the seals of my box reads 12S8 : This means it was packed up in the Kladno Factory, in the Czech Republic, during the 12th week of 2018 (Between the 19th and 25th of March).  On breaking the seals, all manner of goodies fall out:  a collection of plastic bags, and two cardboard boxes.  These boxes contained the instructions and even more plastic bags. Most are numbered. The bags containing large green plates, and roller coaster rails are un-numbered.

IMG_0078All in all, there are over 45 bags in the box. I could barely fit them all in shot: I’ll look briefly at the numbered bags as we go through the building process.  The instructions are divided into two sections: Bags one to six in the first book, and seven to eleven in the second.  The first book describes construction of the right hand end of the build, and the second book describes the left half.  The final bag covers the trains/roller coaster cars and joining the two halves together.IMG_0058

Just looking at the set, you know there are going to be some parts that are likely to be pretty repetitive, due to the nature of the build. We are, after all, putting together a lot of poles, and supports.  How much of this will we be able to deal with during the course of  a build with over four thousand pieces?

The Build

As discussed, the build is broken up into eleven bags.  I will discuss the mini figures as we encounter them. They arrive from time to time, as a way to break up the build, and I shall use them here for the same purpose.

Bag 1: Laying down the Base

As you can imagine, when a set spends more time going up than across, you spend a little time wondering about how things will stay up, and not fall down as nature intended. These bags start the process and leave you feeling intrigued with where things will go from here…IMG_0061

As you can see, there are a lot of grey 1xn plates and tiles, and a whole bag containing almost nothing but 2×2 green jumper plates.  We open the bags, and start off by picking out the minifigure parts: there are three minifigures in this section: a girl, an older man – possibly her grandfather, and the fairy floss vendor, with her machine. The vendor has a light bright yellow tousled hair piece, and  brightly candy coloured blouse. The hair appears to be making its first appearance in this colour, and is the only unique minifigure component in the set. She sees no need for a reverse head print: she loves her job and can smile all day. We also have a Child and her Grandfather.  The Grandfather appears to have overdressed in his argyle knit sweater.  I am unsure as to what terrifies him more: the rollercoaster, or the price of the cotton candy! The alternate print of the Child’s head appears to be bitterly disappointed on occasion and I suspect she won’t be tall enough to go on the ride.

The construction of fairy floss using a pink minifigure head and behive is very clever. The fairy floss machine is a simple but compelling build, with a great realistic look.

IMG_0088The rest of bag(s) 1 focusses on building up the base – using several 16×16 green plates, and placing the jumper places along.  The offset plates get built up rows of grey plates and tiles, with seem to feature a vertical clip at each end. There is also sufficient variety in their length, and placement, than they do not become too boring…yet. The exact purpose of these grey ‘rails’ is yet to be clarified.  I expect we shall be better informed as the build progresses. With so many seemingly repetitive steps, I am relieved to see that the new elements in each step are outlined in red in the instructions.  This is a great way to help you to find the where all the parts you place are due to go.

img_1008This section also includes a few landscape features: tree, featuring lots of the new leaf elements, a small pond; a map; and a bench seat: just what Grandpa will need after an overdose of cotton candy and adrenaline. The map features the Ferris Wheel and Carousel only.

I was wondering, whatever became of the first of the sets in the current Creator Expert Carnival rides, the Fairground Mixer (10244).  Then I remembered: the Mixer was  delivered on the back of a truck, as a carnival ride. The more recent sets have featured non-transportable rides. Will we see the gateway in the future? Or perhaps we should just build our own.

A cap beside one of the grey ‘rails’ has obviously fallen off the head of somebody who was wearing it while riding.  A small pond with reeds and a frog completes this part of the build.IMG_0083

Bag 2: Stacks of Stacking – masterclass in roller coaster frame construction.

IMG_0062This is possibly one of the most interesting  steps in the build. During this collection of bags, we build the first layer of columns, and come to appreciate just how strongly engineered this set is.  The columns are built up with 2×2 round bricks, with technic axles providing additional reinforcement down the middle. The columns click unto the adjacent rails though the use of a modified 2×2 round plate, with octagonal rails, on a 2×2 brick.  These click into the clips on top of the rails. The rails help to ensure the columns go in the correct place, as well as hold them firmly in place. Round 2×2 plates allow incremental changes in heights. The first layer of columns are topped with a variety of plates with bar attached on the side; bricks with half technic pin; or ball joints. These connect to horizontal  braces. Combining right angles with diagonals, these braces ensure that the lowest level of the frame will be able to support the rest of the structure. Once this layer is complete, it feels quite robust and solid.IMG_0103

Bag Three: Enter the rails.

IMG_0068In bag three, we build another 12 pillars, as well as several horizontal and diagonal braces.  This step is not as repetitive as step two, as there are six different pillar designs.  Of course you need to keep your wits about you.  Once the frame is constructed, we install the first of our rails: the curved rail, 12 studs internal radius, and the ‘downward dip’ rail: three bricks high, and 16 studs long. We can now see that we are working towards a roller coaster at this stage.

Bag Four: Enough With The Pillars Already.

IMG_0066Ok, the pillars are starting to get a bit dull now.. Sure, there many different designs, but this step has just about taxed me to the limit: I’m having difficulty keeping my focus. Brick, plate, rod, octagon, plate, repeat. Pictures in the instruction manual are dancing; the locations of Technic pins are shifting, and I am making more mistakes than I would like. Perhaps it is the fact that I have been building for several hours without a break: no food, coffee, wine or water.  Back in a moment…

Bag Five: A Sign of the Times.

IMG_0067I suspect the designers were suffering from the same issues as I was, and this is a relatively column free section.  We start off by building the signage: the word COASTER is put together with dark azure plates, bricks and arches.  Quarter circle 2×2 tiles in navy blue contribute to the letter ‘S’ in the middle of the word, ornamented by three pearl gold roller skates to represent a micro roller coaster. The letters clip onto a row of fence pieces, which in turn clip directly onto the frame. I really like the overall effect of the brick built lettering.  We also install a gate with flags, reminding our minifigures not to stand up as they approach the first curve and the major descent.IMG_0146

This step is our first exposure to the element that many builders have been waiting for: the 45º straight rail, which will ultimately be strung together with others of its ilk to form the main climb.  This bag also brings us some of the important mechanism behind the roller coaster: we build the top end of the mechanical ramp: a number of cam elements will ensure smooth running of the chain, which will ultimately be driven from the bottom of the ramp. We also build a gear box, which the chain will drive.  Through the miracle of universal joints, we construct a system that provides wheels by the side of the first curve at the top of the track.  These spring loaded wheels push the cars around the track to the first descent.  From there, I expect it will follow the force of gravity.  Once the track achieves continuity.

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And so we reach the End Of Book One. Time for a cup of tea.

Bag Six: Putting in the Groundwork for Book Two

Before I opened book two, I slip a small board under the model so far, and moved it out of my build space.  It was simple enough, and the structure was feeling pretty rigid.

IMG_0069Bag six sees us laying down the ground work for the other end of the roller coaster: it measures 48 x 56 studs, with an undeveloped region in the middle. We return to the world of green offset plates, grey alignment rails and occasional landscaping. As well as a path, we set up some plants as ground cover, using the new leaf and flower elements.  We also set up a dark tan footpath, a pond with an ornamental sculpture and a tiled area, which might be getting set up for a special purpose.

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Bag Seven: Give Me Strength

IMG_0071Seventeen more pillars, as well as their cross braces: save me now.  This was the most mentally challenging step for me – more for maintaining the drive to push through. Once the pillars were completed, there were a number of other different tasks to complete with this bag: we buildthe gear box that will be installed at the bottom of the starting ramp, and used to drive the chain that hauls the Roller Coaster up to the top.  In the landscaping department, we see some clever use of the ‘Go Brick Me’ glasses, installed here as part of the fence.

Bag Eight: Respite!

IMG_0072Finally, a complete break from the columns with this step.  It is like entering an oasis in the desert: peaceful, and a restful escape from the harsh realities of the last few bags.

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Grandma is not actually the juice seller, but the booth was left unattended, and she couldn’t help herself.

Here we find one of our Coaster Operators.  In a bright, double sided torso, with the LEGO Logo printed on the back. He has a single sided face, and tousled hair. The other figure is the billed as the Grandmother of the Child we built back in step one. She has green spectacles and a double sided head print: fresh and happyon one side, and perhaps a little tired as the end of the day approaches.

We also build the stalls: the combined ticket office/photo booth – unfortunately the photographs have not been brick printed, so there is a need for 4 1×2 stickers. The Juice stall features a nifty pale yellow and white awning, as well as a good looking blender. While the juice bar does not appear to have its own attendant, Grandma has seized the initiative and prepared herself a fresh, zingy beverage. The ticket booth has a clip on the roof for the curved rail overhead to connect to.

To continue our oasis motif, we also build a tree: similar to the one in bag one (which I failed to photograph at the time, using the new grass and leaf elements. Finally we have the measuring sign: I suspect our girl from bag one will bring out her disappointed face when she discovers that she may not go on the ride…

Bag 9: Time To Get In Gear

Bag nine sees the construction of the ‘user interface’: the gear box under the main platform, and the platform itself. There are also another three minifigure reveals in this bag. We have three controls to operate here: the main chain drive,  the platform brake control, and the handle to advance the cars once they have been stopped at the platform.  IMG_0208

The ‘advancement control is clever: as you turn it anticlockwise, it turns a wheel, whose tyre advances the car.  If you turn the control anticlockwise, a floating gear to ensures that the mechanism disengages. This will be one of my ‘go to’ reference mechanisms for future use.  The rear of the gearbox has an axle that can be readily accessed if you choose to power that with a motor as well.

The brake control can withdraw this wheel, so that it does not protrude from the platform, and the car can continue on its way. The use of a rubber ‘suspension element’, gives the wheel a bit of wriggle room while driving the car, and a definite ‘in/out’ appearance. The lever is designed to protrude through the gap in one of the ‘ninjago’ fences which are used to good effect on the from of the gear box.

Both stickers and printed tiles are used for the directional controls.

Having constructed the gear box, I went back to put the mini figures together: there are three in this bag: the ride operator, and  a couple of slightly anxious teenagers. Let’s call them them as Cautious Rider (her) and Queasy Rider (him):  I like to imagine that they they have come to the theme park on a date. He has combed his hair within an inch of its life and gelled it in place, while she has a simple ponytail. Both are wearing hoodies with different prints.  Their double sided head prints suggest that they may not find the rollercoaster quit as enjoyable as they hope. The young lady appears to progress from mildly apprehensive to extremely vocal about her levels of terror. The Coaster Operator has long wavy hair, and is wearing sunglasses. The flip side of her head allows her to go inside without the brightness reduction factor, and have a quiet smirk.

The young man is carrying a camera, and there is a measuring stick for rapid, accurate detection of those too short to go on the ride. It’s a good thing all teenage and grown up mini figures are the same height.

Next we set about constructing the platform: barriers have our riders lined up to get in place, and the ride operator has her control console. there is an elegant piece of SNOT work to mark out the safety markings as you approach the edge.  There is also some clever use of elements to construct the balustrades as you climb up and down from the platform.

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Given we have only two bags to go, and this end of the ride seems fairly light on for frame work, I am fearing the next step just a little bit: will it be a a repetitive column fest, or have the designers come up with a new way to support the raised rails?

Bag 10: The Final Pole-Work

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Look at those bags: more 2×2 round bricks, axles and octagonal frames. You might understand why it is with a small degree of dread that I tackle this bag – more column and spacer work. But is it more of the same?

This curve of track is supported from cantilevered platforms attached to a central pole. There are two angled blue braces, which stabilise this pole. Construction of this level was more interesting than I had anticipated. the cantilevers and the angled braces add more tools to the armamentarium of the budding rollercoaster tycoon. Placing the final flag on top of the pole gives me a sense of accomplishment. Only one bag left to go.

Bag 11: Bringing It All Together IMG_0076

There is quite a variety of pieces here, but also, as you can see, four bags containing lots of chain linkages.  We have build the carriages, and put the roof over the platform, so that the waiting riders have some shelter from the elements. But first, let’s look at the riders we are going to set on the ride for the first time:

Three very different characters: We have our Classic Space Lover, a Cheerful Rider and one Extremely Cool Customer. I love the Classic Space shirt that our space lover is wearing.  I wonder if Uniqlo have any in stock?.  This is also the first time his hair has appeared with a non licenced minifigure. Plainly he is a little terrified of the downhill descent. The Cheerful Rider takes it all in her stride – still fresh faced and freckled, she can just as easily relax as she hurtles along the track.  The cool customer is made of ice. Smugly rejoining the queue as soon as he gets off the ride, he spends his day perfecting his relaxed smirk as the roller coaster goes past the camera..  But just what do those sunglasses hide?

The roof that covers the platform involves staying a collection of fences and plates, including the 4×4 modified plate with the quarter circle cutout (in reddish brown). Plates with bars complete the farm, and then 6×3 hinged panels click into place across the structure.  This is the first time that see these panels in Dark/Earth Blue. On the back of the structure, we install a row of signs – six stickers to add here, but they are not too challenging to get square.  Now you know the roller coaster rules: no camera, no drinks, no food, no carrying your baby or pets!But nothing about hats.  that explains the cap we found back in bag one. The roof clips onto the supporting poles that are to be found next to the platform.

Next we build the roller coaster carriages, and string them together.  We have one train in blue, another in dark azure. They are simple enough to put together, and the final look is quite effective.  There is certainly scope to do them up, to give your coaster a novel theme, rather than the utilitarian design we see here today. The cars can clip over the rail, or we can use the sliding rail system to add them to the circuit.

The next thing to do is to bring the two halves of the set together: they snap together at the ground level and then we add in the rails to complete the circuit. Then comes the most challenging part: clipping together two hundred and three small technic chain links.  The connection is not hard.  The counting is.  Brick link lists 9 spares in the set – including a few in bags containing general elements as well. I recommend looking out for all of these as the easiest way to ensure you get the piece count right.  Threading the chain is a little fiddly, but once it is done, you are finished.

WOOHOO!

Now the fun begins.

I load the riders into the first train and run it through the carriage advancer: you need to do this with commitment, to ensure the train has enough momentum to engage the elevating chain. My first few attempts to run the train were accompanied by gentle cursing as the chain slipped, occasionally jammed and struggled to get the carriages up to the top. I had not yet discovered the number of extra links, and naively used all of the supplied links the chain. Since I removed the extra links, I have had nothing but smooth running.

Once the train made it to the top, the wheels beside the track ensured that the train was advanced all the way around the first 180º turn ( with a short straight in the middle.) Then ‘Geronimo!’ down the first dip, past the camera and back up, regaining half the height of that dip. A tight U-turn and a small dip, followed by another 180º (With another short straight rail in between the two 90º rails.) We continue to descend, and twist around and down one more rounded square of track to reach the final layer.  If the brake is deployed, the train will stop at the platform.  Otherwise there will be enough momentum to carry on to the start of the ramp again. Rinse and repeat.

There is a limit to just how smooth the chain will run if you are turning it by hand, and it you are planning to display it, I would recommend motorising it.

Adding a motor is so simple, you could learn to do it from the introductory video.  Adding a greater level of automation is also pretty simple. But we can talk about that in another post.

Thoughts on the construction

IMG_0103Building the Roller Coaster was an interesting experience, full of ups and downs in its own right. The build is broken up between ‘structural’ and the decorative and functional steps nicely, so that you do not fatigue from the stacking of 2×2 white round bricks (there are a total of 530 included in the set). While there is enough variation between the different supports and braces to stop it from being totally repetitive, such steps do become a little frustrating. I did miss a couple of occasions where I was instructed to build ‘x 2’ or ‘x 3’ of a column, and found I had nothing to put the track on. There were times where I felt I needed to take some time off, to get a break from it. Ultimately it was immensely satisfying to finally join up the tracks and chain and get the action happening.  I could feel the excitement building as I assembled the trains and joined the chain together.

It is interesting looking at the pacing: the first book starts with landscape and mini figures, builds up the structure with the pillars and braces, and finishes with mechanism for propelling the train on its way past the topmost curve.

The second volume only brings you two of six pole based bags, and yet by the time I was building poles here, it took an effort of will, compared to the other bags: landscape, buildings and mechanisms.  My state of mind went up and down: something new – up; more poles down; minifigures – up ; different pole – some sort of bump in the track – so on.

IMG_0085The furniture, fairly floss machine, barriers and the actual platform were clever builds.  I always love the opportunity to explore a new tree design too. balancing the ‘technical’ aspects of this build with the aesthetic is a challenge for the designers, and I appreciate the additional thought that has gone into the set – including the stray hat and the pond. That said, I never found any specific step to be ‘too long’ before the time came to open The Next Bag.

stickers.pngStickers: I mentioned some in passing, but they are not onerous.  They are used for signs and photographs, but not much else.  All but one of the stickers used in this set are rectangular, and easy enough to place.  There are nineteen stickers, all up.

If you have family or friends interested in joining in the build, you could split the books up between members, so someone is working on the second book, or even just building the poles and braces in preparation for the actual construction.

Now, all I have to do is work out where to put it! at 40×100 studs, it occupies a significant footprint.Time to clear up the LEGO Room again (I’m pretty sure I said that last year too…)

Trouble shooting

I had problems initially with the train slipping while trying to be pulled up the hill. Removing a few links from the chain, ensuring that it was reasonably tight, fixed the problem almost instantly.  If only I had managed to successfully count the 203 links at the time!

Everything I learned about roller coaster design:

The thing that excites me most about this set is that it acts as a tutorial and springboard for future roller coaster MOCs:

It presents you with pathways and mechanisms:

  • the full range of rails currently available ( albeit all in red),
  • Nifty use of cams as part of the pulley mechanism.
  • Mechanism for driving the cars around that first corner. The spacing used is ideal for three car trains, but can be adjusted for a tighter turn to shorter trains
  • Use of a tensioner on the driving wheel
  • A braking mechanism, doubling as the drive wheel to propel a train stopped at the platform
  • The system uses a one way mechanism

There is also inspiration for frame design for larger coasters:

  • how to build strong poles, and attach them to the ‘ground’
  • different techniques attach poles to braces – both on and off the grid
  • Remembers to build in lots of strength at the bottom, less necessary at the top
  • Cantilever supports – straight/descending rail and level curve

The instructions also provide a simple Boost connection and program, that can keep the system running (until your phone goes to sleep anyway). It looks like a great starting point for inspiration, with many more possibilities. I’ll talk about that another day.

In Conclusion:

This is the largest set that I have put together for some time. I spread construction over several evenings, and between photographs probably took around seven hours for me to complete the build.

IMG_0313The minifigures, while not offering much in the way of specific new elements capture the spirit of the set.  The attendants in their LEGO Branded shirts;  the cotton candy vendor, the grandparents (and their disappointed grand daughter); the thrill seekers and the young couple in love… they all make up part of the crowd that you would expect to see in a theme park.

IMG_0314.jpgThe build is challenging: accuracy is essential, given the level of actual engineering involved, and the act of stacking round bricks over an axle can be a little tedious. But the mechanisms are inspirational, as is the frame design; the trains of carriages are a great starting point for design.  The lack of a specific theme for the Roller Coaster allows for effective customisation by any builder who is more artistic than mechanically minded; while the lessons to be learned from the construction can be applied by those engineers. Such ideas for decorating the track can be found at any theme park, or indeed the new LEGO Creator 3-in-1 Pirate Roller Coaster.

At $AUD500/£GBP 300/€330/$USD380, this is an expensive set! It is disappointing that a motor is not included. Given the imminent arrival of the Powered Up Bluetooth Battery Hub and motors, it is probably best to leave the choice of motor used up to the purchaser anyway. and it is by no means compulsory to use a motor to get enjoyment from the set.  But it might help!

I found the poles and spacers interesting at first, but putting them together ultimately required perseverance and encouragement to complete in a timely fashion. The payoff for completing the task was, however, well worth it.

IMG_0309-2I give this set four point five out of five (4.5/5) Arbitrary Praise Units.  It is a great functional model in its own right, as well as proving inspiration for many ways to build up structures around it, or design your own track. In short, I enjoyed putting it together, and enjoyed the sense of achievement.  After several days, it is still very easy to just send a train for a run when I am walking past…

I would like to thank the AFOL Engagement Team for providing the set for review. Provision of material for review does not guarantee a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

The Roller Coaster is available now to LEGO VIP customers, and is officially released on June 1 2018.  It has 4184 elements, and costs $AUD499.99/ £GBP299.99 /€329.99/ $USD379.99.  Measuring 48 x 100 studs (or a small overhang greater than two large baseplates, it makes a great addition to any LEGO City Theme Park, or provides some great resources to design your own.

What do you think of this set? Are you excited by this set? Are you looking to modify it to build your own? Were you inspired by the Joker Manor last year, and already started work on one for yourself? Why not comment below, and follow the Rambling Brick to receive updates as they are posted.

Until next time,

 

Play Well!

 

 

6 thoughts on “So You Want to Build a Roller Coaster? Roller Coaster 10261 (Review)

  1. Thanks Richard. Good articulate review. ‘Madam Modular’, (The good lady wife), spent best part of a day putting this together & the only problem we found was one of the tower legs didn’t seem to be, ‘sitting properly, (on the climb up the hill), so the cars were, ‘catching’ on their way up. We resolved that problem by putting a red flat 2×2 plate underneath which seemed to pull it all back into place. She’s quite happy with it & our next goal is to motorise it, (& hit Lego or one missing piece). – Cheers, Alec, (Quartermaster).

    .

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