The latest LEGO locomotive rolls into the station on December 1, and recreates one of the most iconic trains of all time in 21344 The Orient Express Train. Based on a concept by fan designer Thomas Lajon, the finished model represents a radical change from the idea originally submitted to the crowdsourcing platform, switching the scale and completely overhauling the colour scheme.
That’s allowed the 2,540-piece set to run on regular LEGO tracks, in contrast to both the initial submission and last year’s 76405 Hogwarts Express Collectors’ Edition. But what it hasn’t allowed for is motorisation. If you want to pop 21344 The Orient Express Train into an existing train layout, you’re going to have to push it along manually – or solve a puzzle the LEGO designers couldn’t crack.
“We looked into it,” LEGO Ideas Design Manager Jordan Scott tells Brick Fanatics and other LEGO Fan Media. “Believe me when I say we tried as hard as we could to make this Powered Up-ready. The train is simply too heavy for our motors, so it is not Powered Up-ready. The trade-off would have been removing one whole car and actually shrinking [the other] to make it run.
“We did months and months of extensive testing with our motors and our battery boxes, and it just wouldn’t work. And we felt that removing this whole car and shrinking this one is not a premium Orient Express train. You really need at least two cars for this to look and feel like the Orient Express train. So that’s why it doesn’t come Powered Up-ready.”
While the team had to find a mass-produced solution that would work for everyone, within the restrictions all LEGO sets face to be easily buildable right out of the box, individual fans have the freedom to experiment with unorthodox ways to motorise 21344 The Orient Express Train – and Jordan is sure ‘people will find a way’. But even just removing one of the carriages is not necessarily the answer.
“I don’t want to promise,” Jordan says. “It might work [with just one car], but it might be quite slow. It’s a very heavy train. When you’re just pushing it, it’s got a lot of weight to it.”
If you do fancy giving it a go – and judging by the response to its lack of motorisation, there are plenty of people raring to try – the good news is that there’s already a readymade spot inside the train to place the necessary motor(s). But it wasn’t left blank intentionally for that purpose. Instead, it was just a matter of convenience.
“It’s pretty hollow inside [the tender], so there is space for a motor or battery pack if people want to try to work out how to motorise it,” Jordan explains. “If it’s hollow, it’s easier to build. And it means that people can try [to add a motor] if they want. We could have just filled that up with bricks, but you don’t see it – and then we’re just adding bricks for the sake of it.”
With motorisation off the table, the designers instead focused on making sure the train could easily manoeuvre any and all LEGO railway layouts.
“There was a lot of mechanical testing, like two or three months of non-stop mechanical testing,” Jordan adds. “So that was very intense. We built massive tracks to simulate, what’s the minimum track someone would have? And could this go around bends? It can take corners. It’s just not motorised.”
So if and when someone figures out the key to motorising 21344 The Orient Express Train, it should at least be able to handle whatever kind of crazy track layouts you can throw at it – whether it’s rolling through flat terrain or winding around a mountainside.
21344 The Orient Express Train launches December 1 for £259.99 / $299.99 / €299.99.
- I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.
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