The case of the missing hospital...

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Road Plates, Junction

Road Plates, Junction

©1979 LEGO Group

I am indebted to ajsantos for this week's #ThrowbackThursday article who wrote to me saying "I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your recent Throwback Thursday features so I took the liberty to write to you about a hospital set that never was..."

In 1979, LEGO issued a trio of road plate packs (551, 552 and 553) in the US. Their cover picture showed a town scene that included a never released set of a minifig-scale hospital, along with official sets as 376 and 381.

552-1 and 553-1

This particular Hospital set also featured in the 1979 US catalogue, which you can find at Peeron.com

1979 US catalogue (medium) page 11

This is a very rare instance of an "official" LEGO set being referenced in other LEGO products but actually not getting to the market.

It's remarkable that the promotional image in the 1979 catalogue displays all of the town sets for that year, they are individually represented on the catalogue itself but the hospital has no set number or name.

This never released set is also interesting because it has a patient in a brick-built wheelchair, an event that made the headlines earlier this year with 60134 Fun in the Park.

Ajsantos adds "let me thank you for all of the hard work that you, your colleagues and your team have done at Brickset since its inception. You were instrumental in helping me back from my dark ages, more than ten years ago."

It's always nice to read comments like that so thank you Antonio for being a loyal user, and for your article.

While we are on the subject of unreleased sets, you can see all that we know about, that were given set numbers but never produced, in this query. Many of them are polybag-sized sets that were designed and offered to co-promoters but which were never used in their promotions, so were never actually manufactured.

27 comments on this article

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By in United States,

That is very interesting! Makes you wonder what other 'missing sets' are out there...

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By in United States,

There's a Spiderman Set missing from Lego Studios - Peter Parker with mask and fighting in a boxing ring!

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By in United States,

I'm sure that Lego, and indeed all companies that produce something for sale, produce a variety of design concepts that don't make it to production for a variety of reasons. Most of them are halted at the "design-on-paper" phase. This phantom hospital just happens to be an example of a prototype that made it all the way to the catalog picture phase before it was cancelled for whatever reasons Lego decided to cancel it.

I wonder how many budding pre-AFOL's built this hospital from spare parts, using these pictures as a guideline, when they couldn't find the actual set on the store shelves...

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By in United Kingdom,

Its interesting to find one this obviously made and used for photos. I 2nd the thankyous to bricklink team on helping many many AFOLS to spend more and more money on Lego. I for one "own" 8 of these never released sets, purely by finding them on Brickset and either guessing parts / instructions or using the links. We don't care when or if it was available to the public... if there is a pic / inventory / instruction we can build. Thankyou again. Be interesting IF there was a People who own how many say they have, like me not 100% true but I have a 2nd flag called Made up the set.... so I know which I REALLY own and which I own the bits for..... result is the same on the shelf.

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By in United States,

I find it odd that Lego produces so many Police and Fire sets, yet rarely do we get a Hospital set worth shaking a stick at. The last couple hospitals have been horribly juniorized and undersized. The last "proper" hospital Lego has made came out in 1987, and even that one was smaller than the police and fire sets of the day.

When I read the title of the article, I figured that was what would be discussed. I would LOVE for the next modular to be a hospital.

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By in United States,

@natro220: I think it probably has something to do with fire and police play being very action-oriented and hospital play being less so. Even on TV, hospital dramas are light on action and heavy on suspense compared to a lot of police procedurals.

This isn't just about kids being action-obsessed either — less action-driven play is just trickier to integrate into a product in a way that will resonate with kids at a glance. Especially at the small scale of LEGO sets, it's a lot easier to act out a prison break, a car chase, or a fire than, say, a surgery, which involves people using tiny tools to perform precise actions rather than a whole lot of zooming around.

People complained about http://brickset.com/sets/4429-1/Helicopter-Rescue being heavy on vehicles relative to the size of the building itself, but the vehicles add a lot more playability than it would have without them.

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By in United States,

Speaking of Hospitals, they should do an Advanced Model set of one. There are several Advances I've been waiting for them to bring. They normally do two sets a year. A building and something with an attraction to it. A Police Station would be a bit hard to do being it uses alot of vehicles with the City Police sets but others like even a Comic Book store or a Taci Co. Building maybe would be cool

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By in United States,

Speaking of hospitals, our Cities need one soon.

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By in United States,

@Aanchir - I agree Fire and Police provide more action. But a hospital could be ancillary to those themes...I mean, where do the people who get shot by the robber or burned by the fire go to get treatment? It just seems like the 3 go hand in hand, and instead of treating them equal, medical based sets either don't get made as often or get made to a lesser standard.

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By in United Kingdom,

Aanchir, I can't agree with your suggestion that hospitals aren't action-heavy. In the last month alone I've needed a hospital to heal all the beaten-up robbers (they broke out of the police station with the help of a dragon), half-drowned pirates and frostbitten polar explorerers currently cluttering up the play-room.

As I write, Sami Khedira is lying on a stretcher having injured himelf in a training session with Stephanie , and I have a reasonable fear that in the next few months I'll need to open a new burns unit to assist the volcano boys.

On the subject of unproduced and speculative sets, was 4905 'Giraffe' the first draft for a Toys Are Us promotion?

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By in Canada,

Great description Space:1979 hospitals are indeed action packed and full of drama at times. Sure would love to have a decent City or Creator hospital.

Just reading above I wonder if the Brickset team would be interested in having someone review their "missing set" sets. Could perhaps make for an interesting review. Just another idea for some content.

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By in United Kingdom,

Can imagine Lego thinking that a town with just 1 house would be a bit over served with 3 emergency service facilities. A hospital set may only be stealing sales from the Fire and Police Stations without actually increasing them. Whole-heartedly concur with Ajsantos' sentiment: thanks for the fantastic website & all the effort that it requires.

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By in United States,

@Space:1979: The scenario you described sounds interesting, but it also sounds to me like the healing at the hospital was maybe the least action-packed part of any of those scenarios. The dangerous things people did that made them need a hospital involved a lot of action. Getting them to the hospital might have likewise involved some zooming around (and that's part of we have gotten ambulances and ambulance planes fairly recently). But at the hospital itself, the drama comes more from suspense (i.e. "can the doctor heal them or not?") than from actual action/kinetic play.

Doctors don't have fire poles to slide down, and patients don't have cells to break out of (hopefully!). The most physical action at hospitals tends to be rushing through hallways or dispatching ambulances to the site of an emergency. I'm not denying the importance of hospitals, or how much the people of LEGO City could really use more of them, but I understand how when LEGO has to choose between a hospital OR a set with more action-intensive play features (like a crook hideout or airport or construction site) I can see why hospital sets tend to get the short end of the stick.

This isn't a recent thing either, as this article kind of shows. Hospitals/clinics in classic town were still really rare compared to police and fire stations. There were just two medical buildings, released six years apart (not counting this unreleased one), versus like eight police stations and seven fire stations!

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By in United States,

I echo that sentiment--discovering Brickset and creating a catalog of my entire set collection was a big part of coming out of my dark ages.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the article! As a kid in the late '70's I really wanted this hospital set, I asked for it for several birthdays, etc. Only later as an AFOL did I realize it was never produced. I looked over the pics and built it about five years ago and it now occupies a place of honor in my Classic Town layout.

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By in Australia,

Well, I know I'd like to see a decent-sized hospital back in Lego city. My cousins had the '87 hospital and I loved that set. A hospital's such a thing that town should have.

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By in Germany,

How about a competition: Build a hospital which LEGO could release as a set (max 1000 pieces). The winner should be submitted on LEGO Ideas. I'd love to see the creativity on what everyone thinks could make a hospital really cool.

@KLF: Thanks for the link. Very cool!

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By in United Kingdom,

Good spot. It's not a great model IMHO (even by 1979 standards), which may be why it was never produced. My favourite from this era has to be 6364 Paramedic Unit, albeit more of a clinic than a hospital.

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By in United States,

Kids don't want to deal with pain and injury. Hospitals make such things enter their imaginations. Without a hospital, they pretend everybody's magically better after the battle. Throw a hospital in there and you'll need some patients. Not many kids want their minifigs hurt!

At least that was my thinking as a kid :)

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By in United States,

Wait has the there really never been a Lego hospital??

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Nice!

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By in United States,

Thank you for this article. Many years ago, my son had always wanted to build the Lego city exactly like the one in the picture, but we couldn't find the hospital. With the advent of the internet, we both tried finding it and finally figured it was never a set.

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By in Germany,

The explanation why it was not released in 1979 is plain simple and very obvious if you just take a closer look at the lower right area of the picture. See that yellow construction vehicle with that black liftarm raising the red bricks? The hospital just wasn't completed in time! (A very common issue with publicly funded buildings even in 2016: https://youtu.be/jJCuarDukpc)
;-)

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