Despite playing second fiddle to more prolific subthemes such as Police or Fire, freight has been a mainstay of the LEGO Group’s product line since before the inception of the minifigure. Among the many sets released through the years some of the most impressive have been the minifigure scale freighters. Like their real world counterparts, some of these models have been enormous. Let us set sail to discover their origins.
Freighters have come in fits and spurts over the last 30 plus years. The LEGO Group has seemed to go through a season where several are released in quick succession followed by a long period of drought. Currently we are in a drought, the last official minifigure scale freighter was released almost six years ago – 4645 Harbour in 2011.
This set was viewed by many as a disappointment due to having followed the most colossal freighter of them all – 7994’s massive City Lines ship from 2007. The hull component from that set currently holds the Brick Fanatics Hall of Fame distinction as the largest piece ever made. With such a large hull in front of it, the building at the rear of the ship was absolutely dwarfed.
Those two sets represent the last spurt of freighters. When 7944 was released, it was a complete surprise because it had been so long – 16 years since the last one. Regarded by many as the height of sea freight sets, Nautica was a sadly short lived subtheme that burst onto the scene in 1991 and then quickly vanished. It included three different sets with harbours, two of which had beautiful brick built freighters. 6541 Intercoastal Seaport sported a blue freighter loaded with two crates and 6542 Launch & Load Seaport included a similar looking but larger red ship that could carry four pieces of cargo.
Nautica came along only a few years after the second oldest minifigure scale freighter – set 4030 Cargo Carrier. I will freely admit to being the right age to see this set with rose coloured nostalgia glasses, but I consider it to be the most attractive freighter ever released. Both on deck and below deck cargo space, a fantastic 80s bridge, onboard crane, and nice thick hull component.
Venturing further back we finally find our original minifigure scale freighter – 4015 Freighter from 1982. This set is under scaled to an almost hilarious degree, one has to wonder at the economics of shipping anything on a ship so small. With that being said, 4015 undeniably influenced later freighters, especially in terms of colour scheme. Furthermore, it packed a lot into such a small space including both above deck and below deck storage, an onsite crane and two minifigures.
With five years having elapsed since the last freighter set, we can only hope that the latest drought is drawing to a close and the LEGO City design team will gift us with another cargo carrying ship in the near future.