10258 London Bus represents the latest addition to the Creator Expert range and a series of vehicles which have proven extraordinarily popular over the last few years. Previous models have depicted a wide selection of different cars but this classic A.E.C. Routemaster bus marks a significant departure from the existing line.
Nevertheless, it appears to maintain the high standard which we have come to expect of these sets, comprising an exceptional level of detail both inside and out as well as some fascinating building techniques and a satisfying array of parts in new colours. Furthermore, the price of £109.99 or $139.99 seems reasonable given both the considerable size of the set and the 1686 pieces included.
Box and Contents
The front of the box displays the Routemaster bus driving across Westminster Bridge, with a row of trefoil balusters, the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower shown behind it. The dark blue background contrasts beautifully with the bright red of the bus and I love the muted lighting which only visibly emanates from the Gothic lamp posts along the bridge as well as the distant clock face. Inset images along the right hand side show the dimensions of the model and the rear platform which is particularly detailed.
Some of the play features included are displayed on the reverse alongside another shot of the bus with classic advertisements fitted. I think this angle is more impressive than that shown on the front in some respects, particularly since it exhibits the famous rear platform and the attractive curve found at the back of the roof. You can also view images of the interior which includes rows of upholstered seats, a spiral stairway and the driver's cab.
Twenty bags of pieces, numbered from one to four, are found inside along with the instruction manual and a sticker sheet which are wrapped together. There are a total of 28 stickers included which seems rather a lot, although most are easy to apply. The instruction manual contains 176 pages, all of which are devoted to the build. A few pages of details about the Routemaster and its history would have been welcome but is not a necessity.
Construction begins with the chassis which consists primarily of Technic beams. It is fairly sturdy and is pleasingly reminiscent of the real Routemaster bus when compared with a cutaway image showing the chassis. Large plates cover this entirely and the Technic elements are not visible at all upon completion of the model, unless it is turned upside down.
Red 3x4 panels line the walls so they are built up quite quickly, although one encounters many intricate sub-assemblies too. This mixture defines the duration of the build as the focus of the instructions frequently switches between large elements and tiny details. Such variation often makes for the most enjoyable construction experience in my opinion.
The spiral staircase is constructed around a single stud at one end so is initially very wobbly before being fixed in place by a 6L bar. This technique has appeared in several previous sets but works perfectly here, even incorporating precisely the correct number of steps in relation to the actual bus, all of which are set at just the right angle.
Assembling the seats is repetitive but cannot be avoided given the nature of the source material. Fortunately, this stage does not take too long as each seat consists of just eleven pieces and they are assembled using an interesting combination of clips and curved slopes which yields a very realistic final appearance. I find the black taps which form the legs underneath to be particularly effective.
The curved bodywork around the stairway is particularly interesting as a whole assembly is attached sideways using studs and clips. This is very clever and also incorporates a couple of the new 1x1x1 2/3 brick with studs on the side, one of which is shown above the window in the image below. A total of nine such elements are included in this set, all cast in red and dispersed throughout the model.
The floor of the top deck is quite flimsy at first but is soon strengthened by rows of plates and tiles. I was interested to discover how the destination blind at the front is inset as clips allow you to attach this section upside down. A similar technique has been used to create lettering in some of the Modular Buildings, although this example is a little less intricate.
Further destination blinds are fitted using window frames which are laid sideways, recalling the design of 10223 Horizon Express. Those at the front are attached to a pair of light bluish grey 4L bars which serve a structural purpose but also represent the metal bars found in front of the seats on an actual Routemaster bus.
The most satisfying moment of the build comes towards the end as the curved slopes and 5x5 round corner bricks are slotted into place at the rear. The designer of the set, Morten Graff-Wang, has confirmed that the model was constructed around these 5x5 round corner bricks and I think they look perfect. It is worth noting that this element has only previously been available in dark azure so appears in red for the first time here.
The final section is the roof which is constructed around a core of bricks and brackets. Four 6x6 tiles, exclusively available in red here, are fitted on top while the curved slopes at the sides are attached sideways, thereby completing the curve which runs all the way from the base of the model to the top. This panel appears quite fragile but is remarkably strong, as in fact is the entire bus!
The Completed Model
10258 London Bus measures over 34cm in length and 18cm in height so is the largest Creator Expert vehicle yet released, as one would expect given the relative size of the subject matter. However, this model is not in scale with the others in the range which may be slightly disappointing for some, although to construct a Routemaster bus to match the scale of much smaller vehicles like 10242 MINI Cooper MK VII would have required many more pieces and a higher price point. I think the present size captures just the right amount of detail.
Official images suggest that the bus might be designed to interact with minifigures as the set includes some standard minifigure accessories and the seats appear to be about the right size for them. It is actually considerably too large and this is particularly apparent when a figure is placed beside the rear platform, as shown below. I do not consider this to be an issue though as none of the previous large scale vehicles have been designed with minifigures in mind but with a view to capturing an appropriate level of detail.
The set was announced just a few days ago and the reaction thus far seems to have been very positive on the whole. However, the radiator grille at the front has been the subject of some criticism and this is not entirely unwarranted in my opinion. The light bluish grey 1x3 tile in the centre appears too wide in relation to the rim at the top and this is not present at all around the sides which is disappointing. Perhaps the radiator should have been constructed sideways so these smaller details could have been included.
Opening the bonnet reveals a small engine assembly which is remarkably accurate to the original A.E.C. 9.6-litre diesel engine installed during the late 1950s. Two light bluish grey ingots represent the cylinder heads and a 4L bar depicts the exhaust manifold present on the real Routemaster bus. You may notice that this area of the model also includes a red 2x3 tile which has only appeared in this colour once before.
The cab includes a seat with black upholstery for the driver along with a large steering wheel and the hand brake. Both controls are attached using clips so the angles can be adjusted and the steering wheel is able to rotate, although the steering is not actually functional. I am glad that the set includes historic and modern registration plates at the front and back of the bus, both of which feature the initials of the set designer alongside the set number.
The cab is accessible through a sliding door on the offside and a small step is included behind the wheel arch, demonstrating excellent attention to detail. The black side view mirrors hang from clips above the windscreen and look great against the red bodywork, although they are rather fragile. The dark red wheel hubs also present an attractive contrast and have not appeared in this colour before. The same applies to the 2x2 sliders which are also used beneath the bonnet, bringing the total number included to four.
Either side of the bus is decorated with a large advertisement formed using three dark blue flags. Stickers are applied to both sides of each flag so you can switch between a modern banner urging the viewer to explore London and another which is intended to resemble an advertisement from the 1950s. The latter shows some biscuits, styled to look as though they are built from 4x4 plates, while the modern design depicts a few London landmarks.
Personally, I prefer to use the modern advertising boards as I like the bright blue and white colours of the Union Flag against the red bus, although the option to display either is very welcome. Both designs are appropriately British and they are well suited to their respective eras in my opinion. It is also worth noting the black 1x1 round plate fitted on the offside of the bus which represents the fuel cap.
Rows of tiles are fitted to the sides, just above and below the windows. The real bus does have some visible seams at the edges of each bodywork panel but nothing as pronounced as these raised tiles. In fact, these serve a practical purpose as the translucent 1x4x3 panels on the windows are partly covered by the tiles, thereby ensuring that their proportions are correct. It strikes me that the 1x4x2 panels introduced in 2014 would have been equally effective but I quite like the additional texture of the tiles.
I find the rear view to be especially attractive as it exhibits the famous rear platform as well as the curve at the top of the bus. The destination blinds are not recessed here as there is no room to fit the required assembly inside but they still look good to me, as do the windows which are each six studs wide. Unfortunately, the yellow band which runs around the entire bus is broken at the corners. Printed designs would have been required to continue over multiple parts in each instance and while that would certainly have been nice, I think it looks reasonable without them.
The rear platform includes several light bluish grey bars which look superb and the rear platform stanchion in the centre is particularly pleasing. Moreover, I like the shaping around the top of the entranceway as this looks perfect in relation to the source material, as do the spiral stairs situated inside. A yellow fire extinguisher is stored next to the stairs and there is a small luggage rack underneath which makes good use of the available space.
A black box for used tickets is fitted to the wall and two printed tickets are found inside. These were introduced just over a month ago with 10257 Carousel but are re-used here to good effect, as is the umbrella introduced with The LEGO Batman Movie range and carried by Lester, the minifigure mascot of the Leicester Square LEGO store. This accessory slots into a metallic silver umbrella stand which was not present on the original Routemaster, although it adds an extra bit of detail.
The tyres are brand new and feature an authentic tread pattern. Narrow tyres like these are lacking from the current LEGO range so I am sure they will be in demand once the set becomes more widely available. However, it is slightly bothersome that the rear axle does not include the dual tyres present on the real Routemaster. This minor inaccuracy is hardly visible when the bus is on display but it would still have been a pleasing addition to the model.
The rear seats face sideways to allow room for the wheel wells beneath, just as on the actual bus. I like the light bluish grey grille tiles which add some detail at floor level while the dark tan boards running through the centre look splendid. The original Routemaster was laid with Treadmaster flooring and this tiled texture is an almost exact match for the real vehicle which is very pleasing to see.
28 people are able to sit on the lower deck and the model is designed accordingly, with ten paired seats in addition to the longer benches at the rear. The backs of the seats are fitted using hinges so they can be reclined, although this is simply a result of how they have been constructed and is not intended as a play feature.
The front of the topic deck is among the most detailed areas of the entire model. The destination blinds employ stickers but they look splendid. I appreciate the 'Brickston' pun and route number nine is very appropriate as a classic Routemaster still follows this route today, leaving Somerset House and passing through Trafalgar Square before eventually arriving at Hammersmith. Another sticker is used to divide the panoramic window, perfectly completing the front of the bus which looks very impressive on the whole.
Climbing the stairs to the top deck reveals eighteen more rows of seats, three of which are hidden beneath the roof at the front and back. I like the tan upholstery and a sticker is used to represent some scuffing on one of the cushions, perhaps suggesting that the bus has not been refitted since it began service in 1959! These authentic details are an absolute delight but I am a little disappointed not to see vertical stanchions included. Presumably this is due to the removable decks, in which case I think it was a good decision to leave them out.
Litter is an unfortunate feature of many buses, not just those found in London. A few items are accordingly included here such as a discarded newspaper and a can but the most notable is definitely the pink 1x1 round plate representing chewing gum under one of the seats! This level of detail is exactly what I hope to find in a Creator Expert set and I think it fits with the realistic nature of the vehicles range.
The bodywork is almost entirely free of exposed studs but for a few on top of the roof. I think they look great, not only because the studs could represent rivets holding the panels together but also because they clearly identify that this is a LEGO model. Other Creator Expert vehicles have included a similar smattering of studs so I am very pleased to see that trend continue in this instance.
The Creator Expert range represents the pinnacle of current LEGO design and I think 10258 London Bus is a worthy addition to the line. The subject is undoubtedly iconic and it has been rendered very effectively in LEGO form, using some unusual or even entirely new building techniques as well as many rare pieces. I love the shaping of the model, particularly towards the rear where the attractive curves have been perfectly replicated and the attention to detail is thoroughly impressive throughout.
However, there is a little room for improvement in my opinion. The radiator grille at the front lacks its metallic rim and the windows could probably have been constructed more accurately using simpler techniques. Nevertheless, the model looks brilliant on the whole and is not immediately identifiable as LEGO when viewed from a distance which is testament to its accuracy. At a price of £109.99 or $139.99 this set does not offer quite the same value as some of the previous Creator Expert vehicles but I would certainly recommend it to collectors of the range as well as fans of the classic Routemaster.
You can find out more about 10258 London Bus by reading our interview with Morten Graff-Wang, the designer of this set, as well as Jamie Berard, the design manager for the Creator Expert theme. The set is currently available at the five LEGO brand stores in the Greater London area and will be released for all LEGO VIP members on the 17th of July.
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