6355 Derby Trotter (1989)
Well, it's been a while since my last review. I've had two sets sitting on my desk for a while, fighting to be the one that gets to be my silver medal review. This one, and another non-Town set. I ended up going for this one, since there is actually a single part missing from the other set (woe is me!). Hopefully within the next few weeks, I'll be able to get my hands on one of those missing pieces and review that full set (instead of the full set - minus one piece). Which set that is, I'm going to keep secret for now. ;)
Anyway, long story short, it was this set that won out. One of the first buildings I ever got (the Post Station was my first) and one that I've had for a very long time. It was never at the center of my city and may not have gotten as much playtime as my fire brigade or jetport, but it was always sort of there, just sitting of the edge of my town, its inhabitant waiting for me to think up adventures for him.
Lucky for him, reviewing is giving him a second chance to shine.
This 1989 set features a quaint little stable with one of those lovely classically built red roofs. Its color design is very primary - white building, red roof, blue doors - and the printless minifig follows suit. Even though this basically is just a stable with a jockey and a horse, I always saw this as the minifig's home. He came with the set after all, so surely, he'd live in that building? Obviously, he just sleeps on the floor in front of those big blue doors, next to his trusty brown horse...
The box, courtesy of Peeron
Item #: 6355
Name: Derby Trotter
Theme: LEGO System / Town / Classic
Price: $14.00 / Fl. 29,95
A modestly-sized box shows the stable and its inhabitants on the front. There's a nice amount of alternate models on the back. I like the one with the barbecue that uses the trough upside down, but particularly enjoy the picture that shows the horsecart rebuilt into a carriage. It really is an example of how you can build anything with Lego if you put the right pieces together in the right way.
Parts & Pieces
I was surprised to find there's only 140 pieces in this set. That's less than in the Stunt 'Copter N' Truck and yet this is a complete building! I guess the amount of detail in the other set calls for a higher piece count, but the point is I didn't expect the Derby Trotter set to be made up of only so few pieces. Being a building that takes up the same space as an airport terminal, I always figured it was pretty part-heavy. Guess not.
The color palet is primary yet modest, because of the ample amount of white pieces. You may notice that I've had this set for a while. I think this is the only white 1x6x2 arch I own and it shows. It stopped being white a long time ago. But hey, it adds to the charm. Now my stable looks like an old ramshackle barn, lovingly kept running by its owner. :P
There are no printed parts (unless you count the minifig head), but there are some pieces of interest. Surprisingly, there's actually some Technic stuff in this set. In fact, I think I didn't even know what Technic was when I got this and just passed it off as some quaint Lego pieces.
Two wedge belt wheels and tyres along with two axle pins: for a long time the only Technic parts I owned
The set's only blue appears in the building's two large doors and its classic windowframe with those lovely oldfashioned opening windows. The horse's trough is actually a cleverly employed excavator bucket.
Digging equipment re-employed!
There's a fair amount of accessories as well. A saddle with single clip, a broom, a shovel and a whip. The whip, being twenty years old is in a pepetual state of being bent. It's hard to believe it's actually the same part as some green vines on one of my other sets!
Finally, there's some plantlife included as well.
A small tree and some yellow flowers... horse food!
The instructions come in a nice little booklet showing the same image as the front of the box.
The manual is pretty clear and easy to follow. The only leap they probably wouldn't take now anymore is the last step in the horsecart build. Notice also how the first step shows the floor plan from the top. They don't do this anymore, but it's actually pretty handy for building structures.
Redundant parts of the images are cut off in early stages of the build
The lower roof's support structure (step 11)
A lonely jockey without any defining torso print. And truth be told, he doesn't need anything more than that. He could work at the stable, live there or just own it and have a house elsewhere in Lego Town. Anything more than just the plain red shirt would be overdoing it. Instead, he just gets some neat primary colors and a jockey hat.
I suppose the horse also fits in this category.
There's several ways to build the horse and I'm sure you're all familiar with them. You get a 1x2 brick and a 1x2 tile to fill the gap in his back or you can put in a saddle. You can also put in the cart and put only the brick on top as you'll see later on.
The jockey mounts his trusty steed
This is the only brown 1x2 brick I own and for a very long time this was also the only brown 1x2 tile I had. These two parts have probably only rarely been apart and frighteningly, it shows. There's a crack in both of them!
The strain of eternally attached Lego pieces
After the minifig and the horse, we're off to the proper build. But wait! First there's the horsecart to put together. For some reason I always forget this is a part of the set. Probably because again, this is something that has rarely ever been apart. Only the horse hitching would come off when I chucked the little model in my big bucket of Legos, so putting it together usually required hardly any effort at all. I disassembled the whole thing for this review and once again came to a startling discovery: the Technic pins had been pretty dented by having the wheels attached for about twenty years! I never knew this could happen (even though it makes a fair amount of sense) and it's a strange thing to discover. Just look at the damage on these parts:
Anyway, the cart does exactly what it's supposed to: attach to the horse and carry its owner.
There's no fancy seating or even special wheels. In that respect, it's pretty bare bones. No cartwheels, just some Technic stuff added. They'd probably do that different these days. I never saw the problem though, mostly because I didn't have a clue these were special parts for a long time. Oh well.
Add some details to this and they could probably sell this as a stand-alone set
Moving on to the stable, we get a nice combination of two 16x16 baseplates into a 16x32 floor plan. I really like that they used two different colors for this, giving us a small meadow next to the more concrete floor of the stable. The building's floor plan connects the two baseplates and is set 1 stud away from the baseplates' rear eand, giving the building a little breathing room and a place to put in the bar that marks the room to place the horse.
Soon enough, the horse's trough and the rack where our jockey will keep all his accessories is put in.
The building is made up of a lot of white bricks, but if you think it's just going to be a whole lot of the same stacked on top of each other, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Thanks to the size of the doors and the two seperate roof areas (apart from one roof starting lower, the top end is also at an offset), there's some fun small-level variations going on here and there. Take a look, for example, at one of the inner walls halfway through the build.
The door has been opened for this shot: it usually closes towards camera
To create the middle roof support a 1x5x4 arch is used. Notice again the plates for the 1-plate offset you'll get on the upper roof. This single plate difference is not added on a single level throughout the building. It is instead gradually layered in at several stages, which used to confuse me a bit as a kid.
The 2x2 corner plate that sticks out supports the top of the lower roof
Nearing the end, this is one of my favorite phases in this model. You can see exactly where it's going to go, but the roofless supports give it a funny look. Actually, drop the doors at an angle and it can be a war ruin. Oh wait, that's not funny at all.
A plate-built structure over the doorway adds a nice touch of lights
Shortly before the end, we get to put in the tree and flowers, and add a stack of hay in front of the stable. And of course we get to put that lovely classic red slanting roof on top.
The meadow's enclosure is made up of some bars and the roof gets a nice little chimney. The jockey's tools go in their proper place and we're...
The full set finished and the jockey gets to drive his cart around the meadow - in very small circles...
Taking about half an hour to build, this set is surprisingly fun. Despite the large amount of simple white bricks, the carefully layered 1-plate height difference at the end makes for some interesting combinations along the way. It's not a huge megastructure, but it's a fun little building that looks simple but good enough for what it wants to be: a small edge-of-your-city set.
Old Browny gets some invisible snacks
All the tools stored together
Off for another day in the country...
...or turning heads on the road
It's a very nice starter set that gives you a building, a cart and a horse. The build is a little more complicated than you'd expect because of the seemingly randomly inserted plates, but the result is a nice looking stable to put in the quieter parts of your city. It's a set that's always been overlooked in my collection. I totally see why, since there's a lot more fun to be gotten from swooshing airplanes or vrooming cars around, but if you're more in the mood for a taste of the quiet life, this is the set for you.
The Final Tally
Design: 7/10 The inclusion of the meadow is a nice touch. There's not much fancy color in the building and the addition of single plates on different levels makes the build a bit more difficult than expected. I like the little details like the trough, the tools rack and the chimney though.
Parts: 7/10 You're not likely to use the large slope bricks for anything else, but I do get a kick out of having those. Some useful parts are the bars and the included plantlife.
Minifigs: 7/10 Would have been just a 6 for the plain minifig, but you do get a horse with it, you know.
Playability: 6/10 Does it vroom? No. Does it swoosh? No. It neighs, though. There's probably plenty of fun to be had from playing with the horse and his owner - if you're into that. If only they'd included a brush along with the shovel and broomstick, so he could actually take care of his horse. Also, that moment when he had to put on the saddle or cart always came off as awkward. "So, yeah, I'm going to destroy part of your back now..."
Price: 8/10 I was shocked to see this went for only 14 dollars. Then I found the original Dutch retail price. Oh yeah, a buck was worth a lot more back then. Still, I don't think $14.00 is a bad deal for this at all.
Overall: 7/10 It's a modest set that will probably disappear quickly under the violence brought on by your Town's resident police, fire department and airport. Luckily back in 1989, there were actually some other sets that fit in with this theme, including an even larger horse range. In fact, it was all part of this sort of Leisure subtheme, sort of like how we now have the Farm subtheme within City. Look at all those lovely white houses with red roofs! I'm sure it would fit better if I had some more stuff from that theme. Instead, it drew an unfortunate short straw. Still, it was nice to revisit this one and I'll make sure it gets a nice place in my next city layout.