Category Archives: History

From Rails to Rocket Fuel (1971)

This week’s piece of LEGO train advertising history was published in France in 1971. This is probably my favorite example of LEGO train advertising. The stylized drawings and explosion of color make this a feast for the eyes.

There is also some creative storytelling going on here. If you look closely, you will notice a Darwinian depiction of trains. The 4.5V train moves into the world of 12V, is transformed into a monorail, a boat and a supersonic jetliner. All of these illustrations lead your eyes to the final focal point, which is a space-bound rocket. From trains to spaceships, “LEGO is a new toy every day.”

P.S.: Be sure to take a second look at that monorail. You might find that it bears greater resemblance to more recent fan designs than LEGO’s official monorail system of the 1980s & 1990s.

North America – At least we had 4.5 Volt (1982)

Back in the 1980s, 12 Volt trains reigned supreme in the UK, continental Europe and Australia. Meanwhile, across the pond we “Yankees” were less fortunate and missed out on the joys of 12V trains. Fortunately, we were able to get push trains and 4.5V battery-operated trains.

This hard-to-find brochure is from 1982 and advertises the 4.5V system for the North American market. The front cover features a charming illustration of set #7720, displayed with a mix of LEGO and traditional model railroad landscaping. We might not have had all the bells and whistles, but at least we had trains!

“Trains with unlimited possibilities” (1983)

If you walked into a toy store in 1983 and saw this, how could you not fall in love with LEGO trains? The following illustration comes from a set of photographs of dealer displays distributed to toy stores in Germany. This display designed to promote LEGO trains is absolutely gorgeous and features an operating signal light. Other themes covered in the packet include Town, Classic Space, Fabuland, etc. However, only the train-themed display featured functional lighting! Were any of our German readers fortunate enough to see this display in stores?

Throwback: RAILBRICKS Kits

We posted these few photos on the BMR Facebook and Instagram pages on Sunday, and I felt they’d be fitting to throw in this article.

For those that don’t already know, Brick Model Railroader came into existence after the previous Lego train community hub, the online publication RAILBRICKS, fell apart. Many of the contributors and staff members got busy with other aspects of their lives, and so could not channel energy into RAILBRICKS.

The creator and original editor of RAILBRICKS is a gentleman by the name of Jeramy Spurgeon. Before stepping down from the Editor position, he managed to sell a couple limited edition kits. Both of these kits are 6 stud wide models but are still packed with detail.

Continue reading Throwback: RAILBRICKS Kits

The Name’s Blond…Jim Blond

Introduction – The Golden Era of LEGO Advertising:
The period of the 1980s-1990s was  arguably the golden age of LEGO advertising. With handmade scenery and practical effects, advertising photographers were able to do wonders. Back then, flipping through the catalogs and brochures that accompanied each set was always a treat.

Outside of loose brochures, LEGO frequently placed colorful advertisements within the pages of popular comic books. In Europe, Donald Duck comics were quite popular. In fact, the ad featured in this article came straight out of a German Donald Duck comic book.

Enter Jim Blond:
Different regions often produced different types of advertisements, and this one was certainly unique. This 1995 ad was designed to promote LEGO’s 9-Volt trains by sponsoring a special contest in which kids could win a t-shirt, roller skates or a mountain bike (the grand prize).

LEGO gave special attention to this ad, going so far as to paste a special brochure which featured comic-book style illustrations. The artists blended together hand-drawn artwork with photographs of actual LEGO sets. The end results were often bright, colorful and fun to look at.

The story in this ad follows the exploits of action-adventure detective, Jim Blond. Who is Jim Blond, you might ask? Mix together James Bond’s name with TinTin’s hair, and add a splash of Johnny Quest…That’s the recipe for a perfect Jim Blond.

In the “comic,” Jim Blond is tasked with safely delivering a special microchip to Cape Canaveral. Those spaceships don’t fly themselves, you know! After being handed the chip, he boards the iconic Metroliner (set #4558). Little does he know, he is not alone…

Turns out, some dude named Karl Kralle has been following him the entire time. Having caught wind of his persuer, Blond attempts to escape by jumping on a passing Freight Rail Runner (set #4564). Kralle manages to catch up with him, but Blond is always one step ahead.

Sets 4555 (Cargo Station) and 4552 (Cargo Crane) also make brief appearances. In fact, Kralle’s cronies use the Cargo Crane to blow out a bridge. However, the missing section of track proves to be no match for the mighty Freight Rail Runner, which makes like E.T. by flying over the gap. The final panel consists of Blond watching a successful shuttle launch on TV. THE END

International Man of Mystery:
When I attempted to research this piece of advertising, I found surprisingly very little information on Jim Blond or if he appeared in any other LEGO advertising. It is possible this may have been his first and last appearance. If any of our German readers have any information on the elusive Mr. Blond, we’d love to hear from you!