28 June 2019

LEGO® Inside Tour 2019: new and exclusive parts

Every year The LEGO Group run a few “Inside Tour” events where they open their doors to a small group of fans. The lucky participants – I say lucky because although they are paying for the pleasure, tickets sell out almost instantly – are given behind the scenes access to LEGO HQ, hang out with designers and receive all manner of goodies. The most notable goodie is the Inside Tour set, a set designed for the tours that (sometimes) remains unavailable elsewhere. Each celebrates an aspect of LEGO history such as the Ferguson tractor, or the LEGOLAND train.

This year’s set is especially exciting to New Elementary as it contains a new element, produced exclusively for the set. It is 3D printed rather than injection moulded, so while its quality is much lower than regular LEGO pieces, it’s still super exciting... and rare. Participants were told it is the first 3D-printed piece ever to appear in a LEGO set (unless any of you readers know otherwise?). They’ve even given it ID numbers; Element ID 6286866|Design ID 66237, but don’t expect it to ever become available anywhere!


Dries Arnolds (MinifigMan) attended one of this year’s tours and was kind enough to send us these pictures. “The print resolution is really good, according to my enthusiast friend who has multiple 3D printers,” says Dries. “There's no visible layering, and the texture is a little like paper. Of course, the piece misses the gloss of traditional ABS.”

LEGO drafting machine

This new 3D-printed piece represents the arm of a drafting machine. This is a device for producing technical drawings that engineers, product designers and architects use – although hardly any more, since the advent of computer-aided design. I’m especially excited as it’s a familiar object to me; my parents were architects who worked from home and I remember Dad once teaching me how to create a perspective drawing using one (which was met with all the interest of a child who would rather be playing with LEGO, ironically enough).

A drafting machine comprises a counterbalanced arm leading to a protractor head with a right-angled ruler attached. This enables the draughtsman to draw lines accurately at any angle from anywhere on the page, and it can also be locked to either the horizontal or vertical axis. Of course, the LEGO version isn’t quite that flexible! However it is not entirely fixed, as this video shows.



As Dries says, “one advantage of its material properties is that the arm can move a little when clipped in, in a non-traditional way for LEGO elements. It's flexible and returns to its original position when released. I was anxious at first that it would break easily but it seems to be very sturdy. Only time will tell how this element ages I guess.”

The instructions booklet also shows an alternate brick-built version of the piece, for those people who did not attend the tours but wish to build the set.
© 2019 The LEGO Group
You can see the difference in colour below, which is to be expected given the differences in material and production method. “Colour is pretty good,” says Dries. “If this was a traditional LEGO piece I would definitely have noticed the difference, but considering the process of 3D printing they did a great job matching Sand Green.”

The connection point is a 3.18mm bar on the back. This enables it to rotate upwards away from the drafting board, which is true to life. I asked Dries if there were any unintended connection points he could find on the element, such as the knob on the protractor head and the right-angled rulers. “The knob on the front is too wide for a clip and the other areas are too square,” he explained.


I love that they’ve chosen to show the 4x8 curved plate [Design ID 712] being designed on the drawing table! It is one of those surprisingly early LEGO elements that disappeared soon enough; indeed it was among the first few LEGO plates ever designed. It was first used in 1955 as the roof of a small house. In those days, the undersides of LEGO plates had what we now refer to as “waffle bottoms” thanks to their square holes. With the advent of the modern LEGO brick design patented in 1958, this and all plates were redesigned with the underside patterns we are familiar with today. Given this Inside Tour set depicts a scene from 1958, we can perhaps imagine that the drawing is back on the table to have its waffle bottom redesigned! I’m not sure that the set’s graphic designer really gave it as much thought as I just have, but I love any excuse to say waffle bottom.

Speaking of the graphic designer, here is the set's sticker sheet including some famous items from LEGO history – the 1958 patent and the wooden plaque carved with the motto "Det bedste er ikke for godt".


So… what is the set?

4000034 System House

© 2019 The LEGO Group
The drawing table sits inside System House, a flagship office in Billund built in 1958 and the set represents its opening ceremony. Our resident LEGO history expert Francesco Spreafico has kindly translated for us more information about System House from his original Italian article on his blog, Old Bricks.

In 1958 LEGO opened a new HQ called System House, in the street called Systemvej, right in front of the (then) factory.

© 1958 The LEGO Group

Two years before, the first local LEGO office outside Denmark had been opened in Germany and all the work with representatives from other countries had called for a better administrative building. So, on September 12th 1958 the System House opened. During the opening ceremony, flags of the countries where LEGO had sales contacts (not necessarily LEGO offices, yet) were raised on the roof, and next to them stood the local sales directors.

Courtesy Gerhard R. Istok, The Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide


It then became a tradition that every time representatives from local offices came to visit, their flag would be raised on the roof of the System House. (They still keep those flags - well, maybe newer ones - inside the building. I wonder when they use them!)

Three years later, in 1961, the System House added a two-storey building, built in the same style (with "studs" on the walls), set between the existing part of the System House and Ole Kirk's House, in Hovedgaden.

Later, in 1972, when a new HQ opened in Åstvej, the System House started to be used by the Product Development Department (so, many sets of your youth might have been developed there!) and finally, in 2005, it became part of the private LEGO museum known as the LEGO Idea House.

A video, recently found by fan Faust Chang, shows the opening ceremony of the System House from September 12th 1958. In the video, besides Godtfred Kirk Christiansen speaking, we can see a 10-year-old Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen looking around and serving food and drinks to the guests!

For many years, through the windows of Idea House, it was possible to see a public exhibition of historical models and panels telling LEGO history; now that LEGO House has opened with its wonderful History Collection, those have been substituted with drawings made by local kids mixed with drawings of LEGO parts.

© 2019 The LEGO Group

New window pane 1x4x4

Speaking of windows... there's another new element in 4000034 System House; one which presumably will also be appearing in sets that we can get hold of! It is a glass (Element ID 6275866) to fit the already existing 1x4x4 frame and the set contains 11 of them.

You might be unfamiliar with the existing 1x4x4 frame (Design ID 6154, changed to 40527 in 2017) simply because, with no accompanying glass, it doesn't get used all that much. Instead it has a sort of shutter piece that BrickLink calls a lift door (Design ID 6155). Indeed, at time of writing BrickLink don't even list the 1x4x4 with other window frames, instead categorising it as a door frame. It has been around since 1994 but throughout its first 16 years of existence was only utilised in four sets! Although it has been included steadily since 2011 it is still only found in a total of 33 sets, a number we should now see rise. 

Here it is alongside the more familiar 1x4x3 (Design ID 60594).


LEGO are perhaps paying some attention to the family of windows at the moment; in case you hadn't noticed, a 1x3x3 window frame (Element ID 6278709|51239) has been introduced, initially appearing in Medium Lilac [TLG]/ Dark Purple [BL] in LEGO Harry Potter 75957 The Knight Bus, with the matching glass (6278710|51266).



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6 comments:

  1. Excellent article about a so special set.
    I was wondering what were these windows, as there have never been glasses for 1x4x4 frames, but I'm now very excited! I thought these were SNOTted 1x4x3 windows.
    By the way, there have been another new window in 2H19: the 1x6x6 frame with its corresponding glass, frame is in two Friends sets, and glass is in Tr.Lt.Blue in the lighthouse.

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  2. I can't believe after 25 years LEGO actually created the glass for the 1×4×4 frame that was clearly desiged to accommodate it all along. The bizarre thing is that the frame no longer matches the style of the other window elements. The glass inserts from the "back" and sits behind a wider window frame, similar to the old 1×4×5 windows which are long discontinued. All of the other current window elements feature a narrower frame, with the glass inserted from the front.

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  3. I have been waiting like 15 years for that 1x4x4 window glass, and i pray it becomes available outside of this set...

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  4. Interstingly the 1x3x4 door frame #3579 used from 1973-1980 has connection holes for glasses too. They were used for doors only, but could be potentially used for glasses too. It would be fun tu use these frames for windows too :-)

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  5. Scrutinizing the two 1958 images carefully, I can't help but wondering...

    Where is the dog?...

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