We are approaching the 90th Anniversary of the LEGO company, on August 10. This is our fourth instalment in our survey along the history of the LEGO Group. We have covered the early years of the company, the move towards plastics and the development of the System in play. Today, we are heading to the 60s, where things will really be getting moving…literally.
Let’s get things moving: Wheels and Trains
As the 60s are getting underway, the company has essentially abandoned further wooden toys: A factory fire destroys much of the wooden toy factory in 1960. The decision is made to focus on the manufacture of plastic toys, continuing to develop the System in Play. As part of the ongoing development of the building brick system, we see the first wheels developed. Using a specialised axle brick, as well as a brass axle attached to a wheel, this sees a great improvement on the playability and dynamics of LEGO toys. The tyres are air filled, during this time
The development of these wheels allowed for further development of vehicle models, adding a new level of excitement to playing with the brick
Meanwhile, we see further development of the building brick system, with new plates – one third the thickness of LEGO Bricks – also released in 1962
In 1963, the first set to come with separately printed instructions is released. Couple this new found innovation, with the wheels, and in 1964, we see the first LEGO Train kit released. With regular wheels, and no rails, the train will go anywhere you push it.
In 1966, we see the first motorised train set, running on blue rails.
This new set came with a simple loop of rail. – with the blue motor, wheels bound in rubber bands and several carriage bases. Using three x 1.5 batteries the train could go on for hour, or so, it would seem. Careful placement of the battery box over the power terminals on the motor, so that no connecting wire was necessary.
In 1968, the electronic train was released: this train would respond to the sounds of a whistle, going forward, stopping and going backwards.
In June of 1968, LEGOLAND Billund opens its gates for the first time. Until this time, people coming to visit the LEGO Showroom would visit displays of brick built models, designed by Dagny Holm, and her team.
The popularity of the models is such that peoples enthusiasm starts to outweigh the space available to display them. Company owner, Godtfred Kirk Cristiansen engages the help of the Arnold Boutrop, a designer from Copenhagen behind many of the city’s most popular window displays, to create an open air showcase for the LEGO Brick.
Doubling up for the Kids
Designed as ‘Bigger bricks for tiny hands,’ DUPLO Bricks are released world wide in 1969. Twice the size of a standard brick in every direction, these bricks become a mainstay for the youngest LEGO Fans.
The first JUMBO bricks were tested on the Swedes, before the brick was redesigned, to include a hole in the stud. This hole allowed compatibility with traditional LEGO Bricks.
Gearing up for a new decade
In 1970, we saw another innovation in the building product: the introduction of gear wheels. These large colourful wheels gave us scope to add more action to our models. I spent hours playing with these gears, learning about gear ratios and the like.
This ends our survey of some of the great events of the 1960s, in the life of the LEGO Company. Come back tomorrow when we shall look to the 1970s, a time when story telling comes to the fore.
And until then, Play Well!
While you are here, there is still time to join the 90 years of play classic themes challenge on Instagram, hosted by myself and Jen from @brickfambuilds. You can find further details here…