If there is a single vehicle that might be described as an icon of the City of Melbourne, Australia, it would be the W-Class tram. This vehicle was introduced in 1923, and continued to be built locally through to the 1950’s. These green and yellow trams continued in general service throughout Melbourne until the early 1990’s, when they were moved to the City Circle line. In recent years, a fleet these trams has been restored, to allow for modern electrical controls and safety standards, and put into service around the inner city. Today, the Big Brick – a Melbourne based company specialising in custom printing of LEGO Bricks, tiles and minifigures – have released a custom set based on this cultural touchstone.
With 345 parts, this set includes 42 printed elements and one minifigure., Measuring 18 1/2 cm (~23 studs) long, 6 cm wide (6 studs with overhang) and a little over 8 1/2 cm (8 2/3 bricks) tall, the model features printed window panels, and wood grain finish tiles in reddish brown and dark tan.
The build took me a little under an hour to complete, and provides an appropriate appoint of detail for a vehicle of this scale. The instructions were easy to follow.
The extensive use of woodgrain tile helps to capture the original feel of the tram, and brings a certain degree of Olde Worlde charm to the model. Printed inhouse, the tiles are clearly printed with no discernible colour bleed. The printed tile with the ticket design will trigger little bursts of nostalgic joy amongst people of a certain age, for whom such tickets were not just a way to commute, but a ticket to travel free of parental influences.
The set comes with one minifigure, a conductor, with dark green printed blazer, featuring the 1980’s logo used by Melbourne’s public transport in the late 1980s. The figure comes with a printed 1×2, representing the tickets used in that time.
One of the challenges with producing a custom model lies in sourcing the elements in sufficent quantities for distribution, and there is no doubt that LEGO are in a far stronger position to do this at a better price point, than a small business relying on the secondary parts market to be able to source the elements.
I view this as being primarily a display model and anyone with an interest in tramway history would benefit from taking a look. For myself, as I was becoming dependent on the public transport in the mid 80’s, the conductor and ticket design fill me with nostalgic feels.
The set is now available from the Big Brick and is priced at $AUD120. This is a limited edition, with only 200 sets being produced. I was little surprised at first glance about the price, and asked one of the designers, Dean Niclasen, about it. “We don’t have the ability to source elements in the same way LEGO can, and a short run set doesn’t have the same benefits of scale that they can take advantage of. Using the secondary market, we have had to rely on shipping from over 20 suppliers around the world. Some elements were not available in sufficient quantities, and we needed to use 5 or 6 different suppliers, in order to fill our initial production run. The postage for these elements becomes a significant part of the cost. While we print the elements in house, I still need to pay our graphic designer, and there is still a real cost involved in the actual printing. Add in the instruction booklet and packaging, as well as time spent designing the actual model, and it all adds up.”
Certainly, when you take these factors into account, and look at sets produced by other custom kit manufacturers, such as military model maker Brickmania, the pricing feels quite reasonable.
Does this sort of custom set appeal to you? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,
NOTE: at present – 16:30 September 1 – the Big Brick Website is listing this product as sold out. I have been told that they are awaiting on a Bricklink order before accepting further orders. The ‘limited edition’ has not yet been exhausted. please use the contact form on the Bicg Brick’s Web Page to leave an expression of interest.
The Big Brick provided a loan copy of this set to the Rambling Brick for evaluation purposes. All opinions are my own.