10K Club Interview: Meet Kevin Szeto of Vintage Tram
10K Club Interview: Meet Kevin Szeto of Vintage Tram
Some say he lives in a Yellow Submarine, others say he lives in Toronto. What we're 100% certain of is that this week's 10K Club member is the one and only Kevin Szeto, a.k.a kevinszeto, whose Vintage Tram project hit the magical 10,000 supporters mark in December 2016.
If you've got a strange feeling that you've heard that name somewhere before then we're quite certain we know why. Kevin was propelled into the LEGO Ideas hall of fame last year when his Beatles Yellow Submarine project was selected to become one of the next LEGO Ideas sets. Now Kevin is back in the spotlight with his latest 10K project.
Help us congratulate Kevin on becoming a part of the exclusive LEGO Ideas 10K Club - once again!!
- Where are you from?
I'm from Toronto, Canada.
- How old are you?
37 years old.
- What do you study or do for a living?
I work as an aerospace engineer for a large corporation that designs and manufactures turbine engines for aircraft.
- What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy playing and composing music, travelling, photography, reading, hockey, volleyball, and playing with LEGO (of course).
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
Like many adult LEGO fans, I started playing with LEGO since I was a little kid, and just never really stopped. It was by far my favourite toy growing up, as it allowed me to foster my creativity and imagination. Most of my early sets were space or castle themed. Later on, I became fascinated by LEGO Technic, which perhaps led me to engineering as a profession.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
I don't think I have one favourite official LEGO set, but I very much appreciate the Creator Expert models such as the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mini Cooper, and the Ferrari F40. These sets tend to feature a lot of unique building techniques and innovative uses of parts that I find very interesting and rewarding.
^ Kevin's LEGO workspace includes a display of some of his favourite LEGO Creator Expert cars, but we're admittedly intrigued by his road sign displayed in the top left corner.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
I really like creating studless models. As such, I love using SNOT elements that allow me to attach tiles, slopes, curved slopes, and other elements in interesting ways.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
There are plenty of inspirational creators in the LEGO community, both on LEGO Ideas and on other forums. If I had to mention one, it would probably be Jason Allemann (a.k.a JKBrickworks). I find his creations so elegant and original. In my opinion he really takes LEGO design to a whole new level!
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
One of the sites I frequent is the YouTube channel from Jangbricks. I enjoy watching his set reviews, as well as his huge and everchanging MOC city.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
In the Fall of 2015 I took a 2-week backpacking trip to Portugal. Among the many places I visited was Porto, which is the 2nd largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. Among the many neat things I encountered in both Porto and Lisbon were historic trams. After my trip I endeavoured to learn more about the fascinating history of trams – how they evolved from horse-drawn and steam-powered predecessors, how they were later replaced by buses, and how they have made a comeback. This model was my attempt to replicate the historic Porto tram, and also pay homage to cities around the world that have made efforts to preserve the living history of rail transport.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
This tram model had several challenges. The first was that I wanted to have a removable top, include the interior seating details, while still keeping the walls reasonably sturdy. This was complicated by the fact that the main panels below the windows were built sideways. Overall I'm happy with the result. Perhaps yet another challenge was incorporating functional doors. The doors on the real tram open and close in the middle (i.e. like French doors), but it was too difficult given the 3-stud-wide space. I simplified it with just a hinge on one side instead. Lastly, the tram's roof at the front and rear sections are 7 studs wide, while that of the main body is 8 studs wide. It was a little challenging to get the transition right.
^ Kevin prototypes his Vintage Tram in LEGO Digital Designer
- How long did it take to complete the model?
This Porto tram model actually evolved from a Lisbon tram that I had built first. Nevertheless, I did spend a lot of time refining the details and improving the build, even after I had submitted the model. (You can see these changes in the “Updates” section). I definitely spent considerably more time on this model than on my previous submissions, and I think it shows from the level of detail in the final version. But I couldn't tally how much time I spent because I changed, refined, and tweaked it so much!
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
This model took about 13.5 months to reach 10,000 supporters. It was, of course, a magical moment for me as well as for my family and friends who supported this creation. I should mention that I was overwhelmed by the support from all around the world, even though the model was based on something from one particular city and would not be immediately recognizable. Perhaps trams are inherently beautiful; I imagine that trams from other parts of the world could potentially be turned into LEGO models as well.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
Including the 4 minifigures, the model consists of just over 700 pieces.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
There are perhaps two pieces of advice I can give. The first is to try to ensure that the title / thumbnail image is the absolute best and most attractive it can be. You want to entice people to click on your creation. The second and most important advice is that promoting your submission is an absolute must. Look for sites, pages, forums, etc that are related to your submission and try to get people to talk about and share your creation.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas project (besides your own of course)?
Hard to choose. There are so many excellent submissions. Perhaps a recent favourite is the “Ship In A Bottle” project by JakeSadovich77. It is such a wonderful and unique idea.
^ Kevin poses with the Yellow Submarine at the hugely popular signing event in Liverpool, England.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
The LEGO Ideas platform allows people to share their beautiful, amazing, innovative, and original LEGO creations, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religious beliefs, etc. It is a pleasure to discover, discuss, and learn from what LEGO enthusiasts from all around the world are capable of producing. As exemplified by all the projects on LEGO Ideas, imagination is truly the only limit.
On top of the aforementioned tips, I think it is important to submit projects that are meaningful to you. Create things with which you have a real connection to or by which you are inspired. Also, do not be discouraged to submit new projects even if past projects do not garner the support you had hoped for. Learn from the experience, and see what can be done to improve your approach. Stay positive.