Let's meet Michael Dineen aka michaeldineen7, the designer whose civil engineering creation - The Forth Bridge is part of our latest review. The icon of Scotland is recognized as the most famous of balanced cantilever bridges throughout the world. This LEGO The Forth Bridge applies the same engineering principles used in the real world and therefore brings more than just the joy of building.
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- What do you study or do for a living?
I’m a Chartered Civil Engineer.
- What hobbies do you have?
I’m a very keen footballer but tend to do more watching than playing these days. I’m also an amateur close-up magician and enjoy bringing a combination of joy and confusion to the minds of many unsuspecting participants.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud of it and do you have a photo of it?
Since creating The Forth Bridge I have also created what I consider to be an excellent idea for a set that I tried to submit to the IDEAS platform but was unable to do so due to there already being a FRIENDS set in production. I was trying to think of something that would look great on a shelf and this is what I came up with. It also allows folk to play about and recreate the opening scene, changing the line-up each day if they like with something new. I recreated just a few of the scenes but am sure there are plenty more that could be recreated.
I also created a map of Scotland but in the theme of Scotland’s national drink (unofficially) – IRN BRU. It was a gift for my brother-in-law.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO products come about?
Like most, it started at a very young age and after falling away from LEGO during my later school and university days, my interest was reignited in my early thirties after seeing some amazing sets that were clearly aimed at the older LEGO fan.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
As a father of two LEGO is starting to find its way back into the house in greater volumes, but this time ending up in the kid's room. LEGO always has and always will hold a special place in my heart as it was a cornerstone of my childhood and is already something I have introduced one of our kids to. It holds a unique attraction unlike any other “toy”, has done for generations, and will no doubt continue to do so in years to come. In my younger years, the thrill of opening the box and find the instructions as quickly as possible has now evolved to creating my own designs and taking great pleasure in transferring an idea that only exists in my head into a tangible, recognizable LEGO model. The challenge is very addictive!
In terms of how it fits into my life... I seek opportunities to design something new... what’s next is at the forefront of my designing mind. The ones I do build, like the Friends one I created, are on display in my house, as is the Forth Bridge which sits proudly on a shelf in my kitchen.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
Favourite LEGO theme is Ghostbusters! I love the films and was delighted to see someone create the ECTO-1. The car and firehouse are just so beautifully designed and great fun to play with.
I can’t say that any theme inspired my building style, I take inspiration from not having a great deal to go on and thinking of a way to create something unique on my own.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
Anything that relates to either Ghostbuster or Back to the Future. Two of my all-time favorite movies so any opportunity to display something relating to either is well received.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
I don’t want to upset any of the other elements so I like them all the same. :)
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I enjoy visiting Bricklink as well as The Brothers Brick.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
My interest initially came from being a Civil Engineer and being fascinated by how bridges “stay up”. Such complex structures often have massive spans yet remain standing for centuries. I work very close to the Forth Bridge and one day looked at it and just thought “that should be a LEGO model”. And the rest is history.
I was also inspired to get Scotland’s most recent World Heritage Site represented in LEGO to help teach the younger generation all about World Heritage.
- How long was the process of making the project, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
The design process was probably both the most enjoyable and most frustrating part of the process. I love a design challenge and this Bridge did not disappoint. It may look a bit bland and simple, but once you start putting the bricks together you soon realize just how complicated this bridge is.
It took me 4 months to complete. That’s 4 months of 3 hours a night (every night) of trial and error. I found multiple ways of how not to build it! The first 3 months were plagued with a host of design challenges. I had numerous iterations of the tower (about 7) and just could not get anything to work. The arms were also a major challenge as I couldn’t get the lowest member to curve. During month 4 I discovered a “ball and socket” joint and this was revolutionary in resolving the challenges I faced. Without this piece, building the bridge wouldn’t be possible.
Working so close to the bridge allowed me to take numerous pictures for reference and with the help of Google, I found the original design drawings from which I was able to extract dimensions and scale the bridge to something practical.
- What special challenges or frustrations did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
I seemed to face a challenge with each separate element, but the most challenging was the arms. Trying to get a LEGO piece to curve to a varying radius is pretty tough! Not only that but I had to then ensure the cross-bracing members aligned properly and connected seamlessly to a varying radius. The discovery of the “ball and socket” joint was pivotal for me. This enabled the lower member to appear curved and also allowed me to connect the arms to the tower perfectly. To then get the deck sitting at the correct level and tie into the abutment perfectly was probably the next challenge. As per most of the design, a lot of trial and error was deployed but to great avail as I found something that worked.
I can’t finish without mentioning the deck. This was VERY tricky as it is so intricate. Ironically I had to paint the 1x4 fence piece as it doesn’t come in dark red. This is ironic because the Forth Bridge is renowned for needing to be painted constantly due to the environment it’s in.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Be patient. Just because you think it’s a great idea doesn’t mean everyone else will. Promote as best you can and don’t get despondent if you’re not climbing towards the 10,000 as quickly as you would have liked.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
It took 4 months to complete. I certainly did not finish it quickly! I think it took me around a year and a half to hit the 10,000 mark.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
It was like Christmas had come early! I actually felt extremely privileged to have submitted an idea that 10,000 people thought merited taking the time to support me. I also felt remarkably proud that I had taken what was an idea a number of years ago and turned it into something that LEGO was now going to seriously consider adding to their shelves as the first-ever Scottish set.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
Well, I’m proud of the fact the model can educate builders about how The Forth Bridge was built and why it stays up. The model could be tweaked to colour code members in tension and compression and help demonstrate load paths. How amazing would it be to learn about Engineering through LEGO! The model supports STEM which is something very dear to me so that’s a massive bonus the model can do that.
In terms of favourite building technique… using the tower to “hang” balanced cantilevers from (the arms) is not something I’ve been in a LEGO model before so I’m really pleased with how that’s turned out.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I built it using actual bricks.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
That depends if mine is successful or not! Looking at what LEGO tends to approve I would suggest submitting something different. There are way too many similar themed ideas on the ideas platform and I feel you would be better placed if you can offer something original.
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
Like most, I used Social Media. I was also featured in a number of newspapers as well as being lucky enough to appear on the BBC in a documentary called “Inside Central Station”. I was displaying my model at the train station when I was approached and asked if I minded being part of the show.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
Home Alone house. I know it’s not out yet but I thought about doing one but had no idea where to start! I’m delighted someone else did! I think the one called “Seasons in Time” should have been approved as I thought it was brilliant!
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I really like the fact that LEGO engages with their fans through this platform as it’s so easy for them not to and just release what they think would be popular sets. The fact that a fan could see their own idea become a reality is simply amazing!
Tips for uploading an idea… make sure it’s different.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
Not at the moment. I did have an idea for the “It’s a Wonderful Life” set but see someone else has already submitted one. But you never know what idea might just pop into my head…
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- lego idea
- the forth bridge