(Written by William)
Ask any train buff in the United States about the most important event in train history and they will most likely mention the Golden Spike Ceremony; the key moment of the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States. This was a huge deal in those days, because for the very first time the East Coast and the West Coast were connected by rail, revolutionizing cross-country travel overnight. Now, instead of traveling West in a covered wagon for several months along dangerous routes, you could travel all the way to California in less than a week! 🙂
The Golden Spike Ceremony took place on 10 May 1869 in Promontory Summit, Utah. During the ceremony, the rail-line was symbolically completed with the driving of a final railroad-spike made of solid gold using a silver hammer, ending years of building from both ends of the line from the East starting at the Missouri River and from the West starting at Sacramento, California (it was extended to San Francisco Bay by the end of the year). Even now, almost 150 years later, the Golden Spike Ceremony is considered one of the most important milestones in 19th Century American history, and already organizations like Union Pacific are preparing to have a large reenactment of this momentous occasion for the 150th year anniversary in May 2019.
So what does all of this mean to LEGO fans? Well, if you are into LEGO Western or LEGO trains, this is an excellent opportunity to rebuild the scene in LEGO! And that’s exactly what LEGO train fan Jack Little (a.k.a. jackdude101) did with his LEGO Golden Spike Ceremony project. His two train models, as well as the scene itself faithfully recreates the event in LEGO. Not only that, but Jack also submitted his model to LEGO Ideas, where if the model gets 10,000 public votes within a year, it will be considered by LEGO to be made into an official LEGO set.
Jack shares the following on his LEGO Ideas page: “My primary goal with designing this LEGO set is to see LEGO sell a train set based around non-fictional, 19th Century American railroading. For most Americans, the first image that will pop in their heads when you mention this topic will be of trains from the 1860s, just like the ones in the Golden Spike Ceremony set. This LEGO set was a labor of love and an absolute joy for me to make. I am completely thrilled to be able to show it to the world on LEGO Ideas and I hope that you get just as excited about it as I am.”
The Golden Spike Ceremony 150th Anniversary LEGO set is meant to replicate the famous photo taken during the event showing a crowd of people posing on and in front of two steam locomotives facing each other at the point where the two railroads making up the Transcontinental Railroad met. The two figures shaking hands are Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific Railroad; and Thomas C. Durant, Vice President and main stockholder of the Union Pacific Railroad. Leland Stanford was meant to be the person to drive the Golden Spike, but when he swung the silver hammer, he missed! Thomas C. Durant decided to give it a try, but when he swung the hammer, he also missed! At this point, the two men agreed to have a regular worker do the job, who drove the spike successfully. The two figures standing on the locomotives toasting with bottles of sarsaparilla (a popular non-alcoholic drink at the time similar to root beer) are the engineers. Standing in front and away from the crowd is the photographer taking the famous picture with his glass-plate camera. Rounding out the remainder of the figures are two women, a soldier, and a worker.
The two locomotives are the Central Pacific Jupiter (bright-blue) and the Union Pacific #119 (dark-red). Their design is based directly off of full-size, operational replicas of the original locomotives at the Golden Spike National Historic Site (the original locomotives were both scrapped long ago). The Jupiter uses wood as its fuel while the #119 uses coal. These different fuel types are the reason why their smokestacks are shaped differently. Burning wood gives off a lot of sparks, which need to be caught in a large cone-shaped smokestack to prevent them from escaping and starting fires. Coal burns better than wood and gives off fewer sparks, so only a straight smokestack is needed. These locomotives are set upon eight sections of straight track and are compatible with all existing LEGO train track. They are also designed to be compatible with power functions, and the top of each tender can be opened to insert a battery box and an IR remote receiver. The back wheel section of each tender can be easily switched out with a train motor.
The total piece-count for the LEGO Golden Spike Ceremony train set is 2,019 total, with each train using up about 970 pieces. There are also a few tracks, minifigs, and accessories to complete the set. The dimensions for the whole layout are: 124.8 mm (13 bricks) H x 520 mm (65 studs) L x 256 mm (32 studs) W. Judging by the size and piece-count, this set can easily be in the $200 range, which means that if this project gets the required number of votes and is accepted by LEGO, it would become the largest project created through LEGO Ideas to date. This would be a huge milestone considering that so far no LEGO Ideas set has been even close to $100 to this point.
Another key feature that LEGO fans around the world might find interesting is the style of trains in this set. The LEGO company is based in Europe, which means that most of the trains they produce are done in European style. The few times we see real Western style trains is in licensed sets like LEGO The Lone Ranger or LEGO Toy Story. Needless to say, these licensed trains have been designed to be less realistic in their attention to detail. The LEGO Golden Spike Ceremony set features actual historic trains with realistic details and colors, capturing even subtle differences like the different smokestacks for the wood and coal burning engines.
While this would be an excellent LEGO train set that would appeal to both LEGO fans and train fans to commemorate an important anniversary in the USA, I’m not sure it would be interesting to anyone else outside of the United States. It is also designed to be a very expensive set, which does put LEGO into an awkward situation; do they commit to a set that takes up a lot of shelf-space and will likely only do well in a single region? Whatever the case, the first step for this project is to reach 10,000 votes. If that is achieved within one year, LEGO will review the project according to their own criteria, and they will also take into consideration the feedback supporters left when they voted. For example if a lot of people choose that they would pay less than $200 for this set, LEGO may still consider it, but could reduce the piece-count to make it more affordable. The same goes for what you said when you voted about the types of people this set would appeal to, and the level of difficulty in building.
So ultimately the decision about the LEGO Golden Spike Ceremony set comes down to the supporters. If you think this set is a good idea and you would like to have it made into an official LEGO set, you can vote for the project here: VOTE FOR LEGO GOLDEN SPIKE CEREMONY. You can also leave comments and feedback for Jack, the creator of the project, on the same page. And for currently available LEGO Ideas sets designed by LEGO fans you can check the Online LEGO Shop.
So what do you think? How do you like this LEGO train set? Did you vote for it? Are there any other LEGO train projects that you are supporting on LEGO Ideas? Which one is your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below! 😉
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