10K Club Interview: Adam Hickey, creator of Queen - The Miracle Express
Be sure to congratulate Adam in the comments as per usual, down below!
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
- What do you do for a living?
I am currently unemployed.
- What hobbies do you have?
Writing. Studying history. Walking/exercising.
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
Whilst I haven’t actually finished the model yet, I am currently in the process of building a diorama from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I am actually con-sidering getting an Instagram account to post it once finished.
When I was younger, I used to build my own Star Wars spaceships to a similar scale to the 4492 Star Destroyer set. I still have some of them somewhere in storage.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I have loved LEGO ever since I was 5 years old. One of the first sets I ever owned was 6037 Witch’s Windship from Fright Knights. Ever since then I have been a collector.
- 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.
LEGO Racers 1 and 2 were my childhood! Going to my local toy store and seeing all the LEGO boxes on the shelves, wishing I had them all. LEGO al-ways had a Christmassy feeling to it. I have never had a ‘dark ages’ when it comes to LEGO, just a lack of money! I also remember the LEGO World Club magazine and still have my membership card!
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
It will always have to be LEGO Adventurers. Egypt, Amazon, Dinosaurs and the Orient Expedition. They were the best LEGO sets. Johnny Thunder FTW!
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
A very difficult question! If I had to choose one, it would have to be 5988 - Pharaohs Forbidden Ruins. I got that set for Christmas and, whilst now in-complete, it is still one of my treasured sets. Saying that, I’ve always wanted to own 5986 - Amazon Ancient Ruins and I would love to have a complete Santa Fe Super Chief with all the carriages. Gosh, I want it all! So, if Father Christmas is reading this…
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
It took me a while to think this over, however, going back to my childhood, it would have to be the ruby gemstone from the Egyptian theme. When later on LEGO began to release them in different colours, I had to get all the variants! Also the sunplate from the Amazon Adventures too. Anything to do with treasure!
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
I must admit, I do like Bricked1980s models, particularly his Traction Engines. I love AdWind’s and BrickyBrick’s models too.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I go on Eurobricks and Brickset when looking for new LEGO release news. I do feel, however, that there aren’t enough websites dedicated to MOCs. It would be nice to see one sort of like Instagram where you can favourite it, have a MOC of the day feature and post comments etc.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I have always been a massive fan of Queen. To me, they are the greatest band ever. I grew up lis-tening to them, and I remember the video Breakthru specifically because it featured a train and I am quite a train enthusiast! Then, after the release of The Beatles Yellow Submarine, I felt that The Miracle Express would be a good companion piece to that set. I wanted to create a LEGO Idea that would appeal to both children and adults. Something that would look good on display but you could also play with.
- How long was the process of making the project did, 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 building of the Express was quite a long process. I had to cannibalise pieces from the LEGO Hogwarts Express and the LEGO X Wing to build it. I had to source pieces on eBay and the LEGO website. It turned out to be quite a costly model to build!
I bought a LEGO Trains book by Holger Matthes which gave me some useful information about pistons and pivot points which proved invaluable. It was the first time building a scratch model with technic pieces and gears, so it was a steep learning curve! That book proved invaluable to me.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
MOTOR FUNCTIONS!!! Turning the Express from a static Mark I model to a moving/working Mark II model was the most challenging aspect of the build. The pistons were the most frustrating as-pect of the build. I didn’t realise at the time that there were two versions of part 2780, one of which had friction ridges whilst the other is smooth. I couldn’t count how many times I had to re-build the model because the wheel refused to turn, when the solution was I had used the wrong pins to hold the pistons! So, if I had a LEAST favourite LEGO piece, part 2780 would easily qualify for that!
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
It is NO easy task! This will be something that will take up all of your time. I am not a fan of social media and am quite a shy person, so I wish now that I had spent time learning more about how aspects of social media work, such as algorithms and hashtags before rushing headlong into it.
- 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?
I could not give an exact number for how long it took to make the Mark I model, as I remember having a go at building the train many years prior to actual submission on LDD. However I soon found that LDD had its limitations and to build the express as I wanted, I needed to build a physical model. The Mark II variant, however, took me about 2 weeks to convert. The actual process of motorising it took a very long weekend to complete, as described earlier.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
With all honesty, once I had reached the 10,000 number, I was so exhausted from the campaigning that I lacked the energy to celebrate! However, it was a miracle to get there!
If anything, I felt more thankful to the 10,000 people who voted and those who promoted it and shared it, taking time out of their day to help. Also, both the Queen and LEGO fans who were constantly promoting my set online on their own platforms. I am honestly grateful to them!
I believe the project took around 449 days to get to 10,000, which is a large chunk out of someone’s life!
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
I would say there are in the region of 900-1,000 pieces in the model. I guesstimated the number based off of The Emerald Night.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The railings for the stage truck. That is my favourite part of the build. It sounds silly, but I feel that the whole idea hinged on the railings. If the right pieces did not exist in the right colour, then I doubt I could have done the idea.
- If you used custom stickers or prints for your design, how did you create them or where did you get them?
The stickers on my LEGO Idea were actually created with the help from my friend Harvey Jones, as I am useless with computers and programmes like Photoshop. I am very grateful to him and feel he is proof that Friends Will Be Friends.
Later, I did learn enough to create my own sticker, which is the “3822” numberplate on the cab of the locomotive. I also edited and changed the sticker on the stage truck between Version 1 and Version 2 after rewatching the video for the ump-teenth time.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Brace yourselves. This is gonna be long…
I would like to emphasise the point I made earlier. Reaching 10,000 votes on LEGO Ideas is no easy feat. It is almost like running a marathon or competing in a bicycle race. It is a 24 hour existence. Every day of the campaign counts. Weekends do not exist when promoting a LEGO Idea! You have no days off!
Those who want to succeed on LEGO Ideas really must commit to planning ahead before evening considering publishing their idea. First, I’d advise to build a portfolio online, whether it be on a website, a blog or using social media. You have to build an active following, a fanbase almost. Most of the users that seem to reach high numbers with consistency are those who already have a strong online presence. Engage online.
Do some research. See what other models have made it to 10,000 and ask yourself why did they get there? Read the descriptions of the models. Look at the photos. Check out their social media provided in the links and see how they have promoted their ideas. Research algorithms and hashtags too. Find out which accounts may feature you online.
Unfortunately, it seems nowadays that people are much more willing to feature/listen to someone who has 1,000 followers compared to someone with 100. More so, someone with 10,000 followers will curry more favour than someone with 1,000!
That is NOT to say that it is impossible to get to 10,000 votes without a big follow-ing. Moreover, I feel that a small, yet dedicated following can yield better results. Yet if your idea isn’t an IP with a fanbase already associated with it, your chances of reach 10,000 are already much more difficult.
Submitting Your Idea
Take good photos of your idea. Use dramatic angles. Pose the minifigures/vehicles etc in the midst of action. Curate your model. In some ways, refer to the front of your favourite LEGO set box and see what it was about the box art that made you want to buy it. Emulate that!
DO NOT submit the idea until you have drafted, redrafted and re-redrafted your description. Read other descriptions. Fine tune it. Make sure it is concise, exciting and, above all, easy to read. Check spelling errors and grammar too! Again, refer to the product descriptions on the LEGO website or the LEGO magazine. You have to try and sell your idea to 10,000 people. As such, look at your idea as if you were in the eyes of another person. Would YOU take time to click that support button?
You cannot expect your LEGO Idea to reach 10,000 supporters without ACTIVE campaigning. Refer to my other LEGO ideas on my page to see why. For the Miracle Express, I spent practically every day and night campaigning and promoting it. My other three I did no active campaigning. The results speak for themselves.
The main goal for the first part of the campaign is to try to keep your LEGO Idea on the front page for as long as possible! Once your idea disappears from the front page, the support for your idea will plummet, which is what happened to me a third of the way through my campaign.
You have to keep your idea in the eyes of the community. Social media works won-ders… if you know how to use it! When I went into this, I knew little about the world of social media. I still don’t! I had to learn on the fly and I feel that my lack of expe-rience made the campaign much more difficult than it needed to be.
On Instagram, find out which pages will feature your Idea. Use their hashtag and tag if appropriate. However, DO NOT OVERSATURATE! Whilst I emphasise that active campaigning is key to getting to 10,000 supporters, there is a fine line between promoting an idea and being a nuisance.
That is why I feel that building a portfolio first is necessary. One key mistake I feel I made with regards to my Instagram account was that I kept the focus toward the Miracle Express instead of making an account showcasing all of my other LEGO Mocs or even my collection, which I feel could have garnered me more followers. In fact, I feel that focusing on just the Express led to over saturating the idea and is what hindered me greatly midway through the campaign.
Don’t forget the wonders of Instagram Stories too! You can use these to promote OTHER ideas. Social media is not a one sided affair. Engagement is the key! If you do not engage in other people’s content, you will not get anywhere. Why should someone care about your project if you do not take the time to care about their projects?
Contact websites, blogs etc. to see if they will feature your product. Contacting Queen was the best decision I made and I shall always be thankful for them in fea-turing my idea! Again, however, I must emphasise the point of not pestering people.
Also, think outside the box! Whilst promoting my idea, I thought of as many differ-ent outlets to try promoting my idea, with a wide range of success. One of these was to promote the train to Railway Modeller magazines. None replied to my enquir-ies but I still feel it was a good idea worth trying!
Above all else though… HAVE FUN!
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I predominantly used social media. I tried many different websites with vary-ing degrees of success. Instagram, I feel, yielded the best results and en-gagement. Reddit, too, proved to be useful. Twitter, however, was not the best for promoting.
The best method, however, was in contacting Queen themselves to feature the model on their website, which they did. But that was A Kind of Magic in of itself.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
From the previous round, it would have to be the Home Alone house. In the current round (aside from mine), I really do like the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car and the Fishing Trawler. One idea which unfortunately expired, but I feel deserved to reach 10,000, was Bricked1980s The Old Workhorse - Traction Engine. With regards to overlooked ideas currently on the site, I would say the Vintage Bus Garage by Seppdemba deserves more recognition.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea
Again, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of pre-planning and researching before jumping into your project. I honestly feel I got lucky with my idea. Had Queen not promoted it, I doubt I would have reached 10,000 supporters. On the other hand, had I created a portfolio online earlier, I reckon I may have been able to keep the momentum going to stay on the main page.
I feel as well that the fans of the project, my family and my friends helped to keep word spreading around and I am indebted to their kindness and gratitude. Thank you to all of them!
- 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
Possibly. For now, I want to take a nice, long break and recoup some of my energy! I do have several ideas though, so watch this space [ ] or you can watch this one instead ( ).
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