I was contacted a few weeks ago by the creator of a great looking submission on LEGO Ideas called The Old Workhorse – Traction Engine. His name is John (he must be a great guy with that name), and I reckon the submission is stunning! So much so, I asked him if he would be up for an interview.
Tell me a bit about yourself!
My name’s John Cramp although I’m better known on LEGO forums and fan sites as Bricked1980. I’m 37 years old and work as a graphic designer in the UK. I’ve been a fan all my life but my love for LEGO was re-sparked in a big way a few years ago when my daughter reached the age where she wanted to start playing with LEGO.
Where did the inspiration for The Old Workhorse come from?
I’ve always had a keen interest in history and especially anything to do with steam engines. I volunteer for a local heritage railway here in the UK and this is what inspired me to design a traction engine. They are beautiful old machines, full of character and charm which I’ve always felt would translate well into a LEGO set. My hope is that if ever this model could go all the way and enter production, then perhaps it could play a small role in helping to get the next generation interested in steam heritage.
What was your process?
I started by scouring the internet and gathering as much information and images of traction engines as I could find. I wanted the model to be minifig scale but still feature as many accurate details as I could possibly fit in. I then designed the model using LEGO Digital Designer. It was quite a challenge keeping the model to this fairly small scale and finding parts that are suitable to represent all the classic features associated with traction engines, like the large rear wheels and slender boiler.
After I’d finished work on the engine itself I felt it needed something more to make it stand out, so I added a wagon and several side builds to the set. The finished result is a model which I hope has dual appeal. It has lots of accurate details and makes a nice display model for adult fans, but also has play features and moving parts to keep the kids happy.
What’s been a favourite LEGO Ideas set so far?
The first set that really made me stop and take notice of LEGO Ideas was the fantastic Ghostbusters Ecto 1 car. I also really like the Doctor Who Tardis, and more recently the Ship in a Bottle and Old Fishing Store are all favourite sets of mine.
Have there been any sets you wished got through to the approved stage, but didn’t?
A few years ago there was a model called “Victorian London Christmas” I think ultimately it was turned down for being too big, but that was a stunning model that would have made a beautiful set. I would also have liked to see some of the other models by RobenAnne get approved. The Dive Shop and Boat House Diner would have complimented the Old Fishing Store nicely.
Any tips for submitting something to LEGO Ideas?
It sounds like an obvious thing to say but the model you design has to be a subject matter that you are interested in. It takes a lot of time and effort to promote the models and I think if the model isn’t something you’re genuinely passionate about, then it would be easy to lose interest.
It also helps to make the images as good as you can. When you submit a project to Ideas you are basically showing people a concept for a model and asking them to imagine how it would look as a retail LEGO set. The easier you make that process for people, the more likely they are to vote for you.
Thanks very much for the interview, John, and all the best with the project submission on LEGO Ideas! There’s a video above in John’s Flickr for a great little video on The Old Workhorse – Traction Engine.