Lee McG went on the first 2014 tour and the final tour finished today, which means he can now tell you about the most exciting gift that every participant received.
One of the main rewards of attending The LEGO Inside Tour is an exclusive set designed especially for attendees. The set usually is themed around LEGO's history in some way. This year's set is 400014 The LEGOLAND® Train; a model of the train that goes round Billund Legoland, following the original park's perimeter.
You don't get many reviews of the LEGO Inside Tour sets. There are very few sets made in the first place. Those who appreciate the value and rarity of such a set seem a lot less likely to even open the set and the more, shall we say, casual LEGO fans are not the kind of people who do reviews. I always intended to open and build my set, and thought it best to break the seal as soon as possible to avoid opener's remorse. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to put my review on New Elementary.
The subjectWhilst some aspects of all Legoland Parks are the same, I don't think that they all have the same train going around the park - certainly Legoland Windsor doesn't - so it might not be well known if you've not been to Billund. This photo shows one of the trains, taken during our backstage tour at Legoland. It was quiet season so only one of the trains was out and this one was in the shed.
As you can see the train is designed to look like it's already made of LEGO bricks and the set's designer, veteran Steen Sig Andersen, joked that it was therefore easy to turn into a set. But you can see that the set is at a smaller scale than the pretend large bricks of the real train (one brick to two or three bricks) so the designer has had to be quite imaginative to capture the essence. I think he's done a very good job, although the model isn't without issue.
The set comes in a plain white box with a sleeve. As you can see each set is individually numbered. I have number 20 of 80. I think in previous years it has been presumed that the 80 refers to all the sets made but, given increased numbers on Tours this year, it's now apparent that 80 is not enough. LEGO keep some; employees who help out on the Tour get one and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen "likes to keep a few". So it seems that the 80 refers to the number per tour. They are very exclusive sets then, but maybe not quite as exclusive as we might previously have thought.
Only the inside box is sealed, but there is extra 'security' (this set isn't meant to be resold) in that the group photo we had taken at the beginning of the tour is printed on the back of the sleeve. [Ed: faces have been pixellated to protect the innocent.] The back of the box also has some interesting background about the Legoland train and a photo of Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (grandson of LEGO's founder) being shown the model. The box is nicely shiny and just as good quality as a normal LEGO box. I got mine signed by Steen as well as Mads Nipper (outgoing Chief Marketing Officer) - they were ready for this with silver and black pens, depending on where you wanted them to sign.
Inside, the plain white box has a sticker-type seal, and inside that several normal numbered bags. This is unlike what I'd read in a review of a previous LEGO Inside Tour set, Si-Mocs review of 4000001 Molding Machines, where the bags were ziplocs - the kind you get when you request replacement parts. (We visited the area where they pick such orders whilst on the tour, with its 'chaotic' storage system. Unfortunately we weren't allowed in the aisles, much less to grab a handful of interesting or rare elements.)
There is also an instruction book, nicely laid flat, filling the base of the box (but with no other protection) and a small sticker sheet inside the book.
There is a nice page in the instructions which shows the LEGO Inside Tour sets from previous years - possibly as this year was the tenth anniversary. I'd never seen the model for 2008 - it looks enormous. There is also some information about the official LEGO message boards - I assume this is there because we had a chat from the moderators on the tour (although there is also an advert for ReBrick, which didn't have any relevance to our trip).
ElementsNobody gets this set for parts and the chance of someone parting it out on BrickLink is minuscule. But this is New Elementary, so it would be remiss of me not to talk about more unusual elements. Most of the elements are very common: simple bricks and plates that will be in most people's collections anyway, but there are a few gems nonetheless.
There are three (plus a spare) Trans-Clear [BL]/ Transparent [TLG] 1X1 tiles (Element ID 6047501 | Design ID 30039), previously only in a couple of very new sets; 400010 LEGO House and 21020 Trevi Fountain. The fences (Element ID 6062482 | Design ID 2486) used on the station platform are new for 2014 in Dark Bluish Grey [BL]/ Dk. St. Grey [TLG] and have only been in one other set: 70808 Super Cycle Chase. The two Black 1X2 bricks with '132' printed on are, I'm presuming, exclusive to this set (Element ID 6094115 | Design ID 3004).
There are plenty of extra parts: of all of the tiny parts, as usual, but also surprisingly two extra 2X14 Light Bluish Gray [BL]/ Medium Stone Grey [TLG] plates - this must be an error, perhaps from early on in the process, as each of my Bag 3s had an extra one in.
Many of the minifig components are very common indeed - some of these blooming torsos are really starting to bore me now. But we do have plain minifig legs in Olive Green, which were only in one set; 76008 Iron Man vs. The Mandarin: Ultimate Showdown. The man with camera has young Obi-Wan's hairpiece, only used on the young Jedi before (I wonder if this means it's not a licensed part any more for Bricks and Pieces?) There is also a new female pony-tailed hairpiece (Element ID 6093515 | Design ID 18227) for 2014, which the Reddish Brown [BL]/ Red. Brown [TLG] version is currently only in this set.
Bag 1 contains the parts to build the small platform and the six minifigs who are all passengers on the train. The platform also doubles as a display stand when the figs are not on the train (or when the train is not yet built). The build here is mostly very straightforward but with a quite nice technique to build the sign, as you can see in the picture earlier in this post. It ends up exactly three plates thick with tiles on each side. I have not been able to bring myself to apply the set's only stickers to both sides of this sign. This isn't just because I don't like stickers (which I don't) and don't like STAMPs (which I really don't, but is less relevant here as I'm not going to make this set into anything else) but mostly because I find it very difficult to apply stickers straight and I'm terrified about ruining My Precious with a wonky application. I'm not going to put any high-quality photos in of the stickers because I don't want to be the person who affects the set's exclusivity, but you can see the look from the front of the box.
There are two Bag 2s, which contain the parts to make the locomotive, driver and track. I initially thought the amount of track was very generous, but it's only just about the same length as the finished train. The locomotive is lovely when finished but for one thing that makes it look a bit odd - the wheels are so recessed into the body of the train that they are essentially invisible. The real train does have somewhat concealed wheels, it's just that it looks particularly odd here. It isn't the angle either - even if you're down at ground level you can hardly see them. I actually think the angle of the photo on the front of the box has been deliberately chosen to give the impression that the wheels are obscured by the platform.
SNOT technique, which requires a special characteristic of 1X2 tiles - that a stud can sit anywhere in the back. These studs probably connect 2/5ths of the way along. I think the roofs are also nicely done. They just sit on the top of the trains, so are easily removed, but aren't going anywhere (unless you turn the carriages upside down).
Sure, there are a couple of issues: the STAMPs, the invisible wheels and the repetitive build on the carriages, but overall this is a set I'd want to own if it were for sale. It's LEGO, it's a train, what's not to like?
If you're interested in attending in 2015, the LEGO Inside Tour page explains what you can expect and (currently) tells you the 2014 prices - yes, it's incredibly expensive but believe me, if you can afford it, it's worth the money. Registration opens around October/November and the tours sell out within minutes. Keep an eye on Brickset closer to the time, as I'm sure Huw will advise everyone when it is going to go on sale.
All post images are ©LeeMcG.