40 years of tractors

Lego Technic tractors 40 years ago, LEGO introduced “Technic”, a range of sets aimed at older children. The red tractor (set 851, introduced 1977) was one of the first sets in the new Technic range. Most of the bricks are standard LEGO pieces, but the Technic range also introduced axles, gears, and bricks with holes to mount the axles. The tractor featured working steering, and the implement at the back rotates when the tractor is pushed along.

There have been about 10 tractors in the Technic range over the years, of various sizes and qualities. In 2016, LEGO released a new model (set 42054), based closely on a real tractor, the Claas Xerion, with a logging crane attachment at the back. This model includes an electric motor to power lift and rotation of the logging attachment, and the rotation of the cab.

The two models embody two separate developments over the last 40 years. Tractors themselves have changed dramatically, in terms of size, power, driver comfort, controls and many other aspects. And LEGO Technic has also changed over that time. The Claas model contains hardly any “traditional” bricks, and instead uses stud-less beams connected with pins and axles for its structure, as seen in most of the current Technic range. This leads to a very solid robust model (unlike early Technic models, which relied a lot on clutch power between the bricks, and were often flimsy).

The instructions for both models are distributed in paper form. The instruction book for the red tractor also includes instructions for four or five alternative attachments for the back. The book for the Claas only includes the instructions for the tractor and the logging attachment: plans for an alternative attachment are available on the Internet. The World Wide Web didn’t exist when LEGO introduced the Technic range.

I enjoyed rebuilding 851 for nostalgia. The build is somewhat frustrating in places because it is flimsy. The instructions are also less detailed : kids had to do more thinking and counting on their own back then. I enjoyed building 42054 for different reasons: it is quite challenging to assemble, like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, and quite robust from the start. It felt like half the instructions concerned the construction of one sort of frame or another from smaller elements. Then it all comes together at the end, and there are a number of “aha” moments when one realises what certain features are for. Especially that rising rotating cab. The guy who designed that is a genius.

Pick-a-Brick Wall

I visited my local LEGO Store (Watford, UK) yesterday and filled up three Pick-a-Brick cups. I posted photos on my Flickr to show what part are available.

Here is the low-down on my haul:

IMG_2651With care, it is possible to get loads of pieces in each cup. Here you can see how I put larger plates (the red ones) in later, around the edge, after filling the bottom with smaller parts. Those googly eyes are irresistible!


I filled a small cup too. Around the edge of the cup are tan 2×6 plates partially connected. In the middle is a block of 2×4 bricks. Into the gaps, I pushed a whole bunch of small black wedge-shaped pieces (these parts). On top of these, I threw in loads of 2×4 plates. I could have spent another hour stacking them, but I wasn’t quite that patient.




The third cup is similarly stacked full of small parts. Back at home, I use these sorting trays to sort out the parts. These are from Really Useful Boxes, and they have sufficient curve at the bottom and sides of each compartment that it is easy to pick up the parts.


In the UK, large Lego PaB cups are £11.99 and small ones are £6.99. If you re-use a cup, you get a discount (75p off the large cups, 50p off the small cups). I also had a voucher and some Lego VIP points, so I got all three cups for next to nothing.

The geeky bit:


  • Weight with cups 943g.
  • Total 1525 pieces
  • Weight of small cup (empty) 55g
  • Weight of large cup (empty) 83g

Cup 1: 244g incl. cup. 189g excl. cup 183 pieces.

  • 29x black cheese 1×2
  • 11x tan plate 2×4
  • 17x tan brick 2×4
  • 50x tan plate 2×6
  • 76x white plate 2×4

Cup 2: 248g incl. cup. 193g excl.cup. 581 pieces.

  • 62x red tile 2×2
  • 157x grey tile 2×2
  • 4x tan brick 2×4
  • 28 dkgrey hinge 1×2
  • 21 yellow hinge 2×1
  • 22 grey hinge 2×1
  • 77x black round plate 1×1
  • 52x green headlight 1×1
  • 148x white round tile 1×1 eyes
  • 1x grey plate 1×2

Cup 3: 450g incl. cup. 367g excl. cup. 761 pieces

  • 13x red plate 2×8
  • 134x yellow tile 2×2
  • 129x grey plate 2×2
  • 106x dkgrey plate 1×2
  • 3x orange round plate 1×1
  • 2x black round plate 1×1
  • 4x tan brick 2×4
  • 8x tan plate 2×4
  • 25x white round tile 1×1 eyes
  • 85x white jumper plate 1×2
  • 87x white jumper plate 1×2
  • 30x black hinge plate 1×2
  • 30x pink tile 1×2
  • 67x black cheese 1×2
  • 38x brown plate 2×4




Can you make a jigsaw?

I was messing around with slopes, trying to make a jigsaw-puzzle.


I discovered a problem: the 45 degree slopes don’t exactly match. If I try to align a slope and an inverted slope, the bricks aren’t all aligned. The top image shows the bricks aligned: there is a growing gap between the slopes rising from left to right. The bottom image shows the slopes aligned, exaggerating the effect in the bricks. IMG_2235 IMG_2236

When applying this to my jigsaw puzzle, the effect looks untidy:


There is a simple solution – turn one of the pieces upside down. Then the slopes and the bricks line up very nicely.



The result is reasonably satisfactory. Unfortunately the gap where the studs are (at the top here) is less than a plate tall, so I can’t easily fill it with a normal piece. The gap at the bottom is even thinner. But everything is nice and square.

EDIT – immediately after posting this article, a friend suggested I read about a new 1×2 slope piece that LEGO produce. There are two of these: the older new one has exactly the same slope angle (and problem) as the traditional 1×2 slope, but the newer new one has a different angle, and solves the alignment problem without having to turn one part of the jigsaw upside down.