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REVIEW: 6542 Launch and Load Seaport

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Poll: How do you rate this set? (78 member(s) have cast votes)

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  1. Outstanding (71 votes [91.03%])

    Percentage of vote: 91.03%

  2. Above Average (6 votes [7.69%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.69%

  3. Average (1 votes [1.28%])

    Percentage of vote: 1.28%

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#1 paanjang16


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 05:31 PM



This is my 6th review for the academy and going for Silver in the academy. A little story behind this set; The first time I saw this set was back in the early 90s when I was only in primary school. The set was on the shelf in our local TRU in Subang Jaya, Malaysia and it was instantly on my wishlist. It's too bad it cost quite a sum during those days (it was the largest Town set at that time) and out of my parent's budget. So when my dark age recently ended early last year, I went about looking for it online. Unfortunately for me, the cost of this set was extremely high and coupled with the fact I need to ship it from the States or EU to Malaysia, it seem like it will be difficult for me to get this set... until 1 set became available in Singapore!! The price was right, I have a friend working in Singapore, 1 friend with a paypal account to help me buy, so I instantly ordered it!! :cry_happy:

The shipping cost was nil since my friend was able to collect it from the seller in Singapore. Two weeks later he came back for a friend's wedding (2 weeks before Chinese New Year, so my ang pow came early!) and pass the set to me. After waiting almost 2 decades, my dream set has finally arrive!  :cry_happy: The good news was that the set was in excellent condition although it was 2nd hand. Anyway, enjoy my review! :cry_happy:


"It was the early nineties; the Lego nation was on its best economic bullrun in recent memory. With the increase in trade, came the need for better transportation of goods, particularly the movement of goods and products from one Town to another. Rail networks were already stretch thin and some towns are hampered by extremely hilly terrain which prohibits the building of rail networks

In an effort to satisfy the urgent need to facilitate trade as much as possible, The Lego Government (TLG) decided to embark on a massive logistic facility project. The project shall equip strategic Lego Towns with its own seaport where each seaport complex shall have 2 sections; a Launch and Load Seaport to deal with standard 4x8 stud containers and an Intercoastal Seaport for oversized containers or goods.

It was am immerse project to undertake; in some Towns it was the largest project the local LG has ever undertaken. The scale and number of bricks required dwarfed even the largest airport constructed at that time. The best designers and engineers TLG had at that time was recruited to facilitate this mammoth project.

But what good are ports when there are no ship to dock with? Hence for every seaport TLG  build, 2 large ships is included in the project; 1 a standard single cargo deck freighter while the other a 2 deck container ship.

Today in Lego City, a launch and load facility specializing in standard 4x8 containers has been in operation for almost 2 decades since 1991. The port is highly efficient and well equipped with its own pilot, container crane, docks, security and on-site container delivery and storage. Ships generally prefer to call at this port although a newer port was opened in 2007. It is the only port in the City equipped with a container crane that can load and offload containers with great speed. The massive container crane can be seen by every ship entering port and is now a famous landmark in Lego City. "

Set name: Launch and Load Seaport
Set number: 6542
Theme: Classic Town
Sub-Theme: Nautica
Year Released: 1991
Number of Pieces: 1022
Price: Bought it for USD 180. Can go up to USD 500++ for a MISB set on Bricklink

Some Records this set has:
Largest Classic Town Set in terms of number of pieces
Largest City Set (excluding modular 5 digit buildings) in terms of number of pieces
First Classic Town set to break 1000 pieces.
Second Largest set in terms of number of pieces when it was released in 1991. The first is the Model Team set Whirl and Wheel Supertruck at 1063 pieces.
Second set to have more than 1000 pieces when released in 1991. The first is the Model Team set Whirl and Wheel Supertruck at 1063 pieces.


My photobucket

The box

The box shown below is the blue version and have a giant flap with a plastic tray inside. At the top right corner is the Nautica theme logo. The front picture shows the port busy with activity. Picture taken from Bricklink. There is also a yellow box version.
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The front page of the instructions have the similar picture as the box.
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A random page showing the installation of the claw onto the container crane. You might need sensitive fingers to let the rope through the wheels on the claw.
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Another random page showing the build for the hull of the red ship. As you can see, the hull is made with common bricks and do not have any large segments unlike the ships from the pirate line.
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In this massive set we get 7 minifigures, 2 of them with life jacket. From the left; a police officer, the ship's captain, the pilot boat's captain, the ship's first mate and 3 dock workers in black, blue and red overalls. The pilot boat's captain is using the same torso as the ship's captain, but he is wearing a life jacket. Apparently you must know how to swim to be either a captain or a dock worker here!
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Build Sequence

Below are the build sequence for the forklift, trailer, pilot ship, the large red ship and the container crane. I have skipped the build pictures for the individual containers and the dock as both do not require large amount of bricks compared to the other parts of the set.  


We start of with the chassis of the forklift and proceed with the fork and cabin.
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In the instructions the prime mover is build first followed by the trailer. However for this review I am showing both at the same time to reduce the number of photos required.
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Pilot boat

The pilot boat starts with the bottom plates and bricks to create the hull. Later steps include the windows and the antenna at the top of the boat.
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The red ship

The red ship have 18 steps in the instructions. Some of the steps will require lots of similar individual bricks to create the hull of the ship. Once the hull and cargo deck is complete, the build then move onto the superstructure of the ship. The final step is place the completed containers, minifigures and an antenna onto the ship.
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Container Crane

The container crane build starts of with the rails that allow a trolley to move horizontally between the crane and the ship. Once the rails is complete, the pulley and gearing mechanism in the cab is built. This is followed by the 2 large legs on either side of the crane and the wheels to allow the crane to traverse the length of the dock.
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Completed set


The forklift in this set is a 4 stud vehicle with 4 large tires and a spring operated forklift. Both the doors on either side have stickers to show the "transport" logo which is still used today. The forklift also have warning signage at the front and front and rear lights. The lift can tilt back to better carry the container.
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The picture below shows far the fork can be pressed. The fork can be pressed all the way down to lift up containers. The spring is strong enough to lift a standard 4x8 stud container.
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There are 4 different types of 4x8 containers given in this set. We get 2 standard white containers with doors on one side as well as 3 other containers with various goods inside. The white containers have stickers to show the transport logo on its side, but this set being a 2nd hand set, only 1 container have the sticker still attached. Each 4x8 stud container represents a Twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) container which is commonly used in the shipping industry. A similar Forty-foot-quivalent (FEU) is represented by a 4x16 stud container found in another railway set.
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One of the containers carries a large V8 engine...
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... another carries a small red tractor...
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... and lastly we get a container with red, white and black bricks in various 2x2 bricks.
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The container trailer

The prime mover is a simple 4-stud wide truck with square headlights and a cab. At the back there is fifth wheel to connect the trailer.
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The trailer meanwhile is also 4 stud wide. The top surface of the trailer is smooth to allow the container to rest on the trailer. Also, the 1x2 smooth grey plates that are slightly higher are used to hold the container in position so that the container does not slide off the trailer. Like its real-life counterpart, the trailer can carry either 2 nos of 4x8 stud container (2 nos of TEUs) or 1 nos of 4x16 stud container (1 nos of Forty-foot container or FEU).
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A great design consideration when TLG designed the trailer is to allow both the rear wheels to touch the ground even when the trailer is lifted or when it is going up the steep ramp of the dock. The rear wheels are mounted on a plate which is then inserted into a technic hole.
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Below is a combo picture showing the the trailer with the landing gear in position and the trailer connected to the prime mover via the fifth wheel.
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Pilot Boat

The pilot boat meanwhile is a 6 stud wide jet boat made of mostly blue bricks. It is supposed to have a large "PILOT" sticker on its side. Other details include the red and green antenna and horn. Like all brick-build ships in this era, rounded black plates are placed on the bottom of the ship to create the "hovering" illusion.
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The controls of the pilot boat is simple; 1 steering wheel and 2 levers to control the boat. It has a holder for a radio and a loudhailer to warn incoming ships of danger. The pilot have to stand to operate this boat.
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The mid-section of the ship can be opened to allow access into the hull. However the hull is devoid of anything and will require some modification to create some interior.
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Red Ship

The red ship is a fully brick-built vessel which is 10 studs wide and 37 studs long. It cannot float unlike the 2007 container ship due to gaps between the bricks in the hull. There is a humongous sticker on either side of the ship that covers multiple bricks that is not shown. This is because as a 2nd hand set the sticker is long lost.  Similar to the pilot boat, it has rounded black plates to give the "hovering" illusion.
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The bow of the ship features a sticker showing the name of the ship "Atlantic" as well as a light and hook connected to a pulley. A simple lever operates the pulley. When not in use, the hook is placed next to the pulley.
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The mid-section of the ship have space for 4 nos of 4x8 stud containers.
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Removing the containers shows the raise portion plates on the floor of the container deck where the containers rest. A relatively simple and ingenious way to keep the containers in position yet easy enough for the removal of the containers.
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As an added bonus, the 8 hinged doors can open to reveal a large cargo area below deck! I can imagine a variety of goods stored in the area. The containers need to be removed for the area to be accessed.
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The stern of the ship holds the superstructure containing the smoke stack, bridge and a mast equipped with radar, lights and horns. Portside (left side) and Starboard (right side) is denoted by the red and green lights on the superstructure respectively. The bridge have large sloped windows so that the captain can have great visibility around the ship.
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Looking from the rear, the smokestack runs almost the full height of the superstructure and have a red brick with a cargo sticker on either side. Under the bridge is an empty inaccessible compartment that is surrounded by windows. That area could have been the engine room(maybe that's where the blue V8 engine goes?) there but since TLG has more than 1000 parts already, they would have likely skip that portion.
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The top of the bridge can be opened to allow the placement of minifigures into the bridge. Inside the bridge is a steering wheel and 2 computer panels. There is space for the captain and his 1st mate.
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The red ship is much larger when compared to the pilot ship.
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Container Crane

The container crane is unique where it mimics the type of cranes used at container terminals around the world. Due to the limited space between the 2 legs of the crane, the crane can only lift 4x8 stud containers. Modification to the crane is required if one is to try lifting a 4x12 or 4x16 containers found in other sets.
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The claw of the container crane has rubber grippers on either side to "grab" the container. This piece is unique as it only appears in yellow color in this set and a "crane accessories" pack (5078-1). The red version can only be found in a limited number of railway sets. The claw mimics the "spreader" which is used to pick up a container.
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A ship weight is used to ensure that the container crane does not tip over when it is loading containers. On either side are warning stickers showing the maximum clearance height and the legs of the crane. Red ladder pieces protect the 4 wheels which allow the crane to traverse the length of the dock.
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The control cabin is located at the very top of the container crane. Under the operator's seat is a knob to control the horizontal position of the claw while the knob behind the cabin is to control the claw's vertical position.
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I have made a simple video to show how the container crane loads and unloads containers from the ship to a waiting trailer and vice versa.


The dock is huge; so huge that I have problems taking a good picture of the entire set without having those dreaded studio lines. The background piece of paper is A1 size and yet the dock is longer than it! Fortunately I can erase the studio lines. Anyway the dock is full of features that can be found in a real dock such:-
1) Ship bumpers, denoted by the 1x8 smooth plate on the side of the dock. This is to protect the dock should the ship ram it.
2) A guardhouse for security.
3) Rails for the gantry crane to traverse the dock.
4) Stoppers at either end of the gantry crane rails to prevent the gantry crane from going further than it should go.
5) Warning signs and gates to prevent vehicles and Legomen from going off the dock.
6) Hooks on the dock so that the ship can tie and secure their ship to the dock.
7) Ladders on the side for people to climb up to the dock.
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A view of the dock without the large container crane. There are rails on both side of the dock to allow the container crane to traverse the dock. At either end of the rails are rail stoppers as well as rope hooks. At the end of the dock is a fixed gate and a large radar for communications.
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The picture below shows how much can the container crane travel from one end to the other end. The coverage is sufficient for the red ship provided.
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A close up of the rail stoppers. At the entrance to the dock with the container crane are 2 warning signs to warn the dock users that the dock is narrow.
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A typical scene when a container ship is berth at the port. Notice the ship is secured to the dock using the rope and hook.
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At the intersection of the dock are warning signs and directional arrows to guide vehicles around the dock. Smooth plates are used to cover the joints between the large harbor base plates.
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The guard house is a simple structure with a chair on a turntable and a small computer screen. The roof have a siren and a long red antenna.
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The boom gate is operated with a telephone dial and have red lights. Opposite the guard house is a small traffic light to control incoming traffic.
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Another view of the entire dock, this time buzzing with activity!
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Design: 9/10 The designers of this set obviously have done some homework and have paid a visit to an actual container terminal. This is because alot of the features mimics the operation of an actual container terminal such as the pilot boat, the container crane and the dock itself. The ships which are brick-built with common bricks and have internal storage compartments which is another plus. The use of the raised platform from the Railway line as a dock is great as it provides a harbor which is solid and strong.

Playability: 10/10 This set excels in playability due to the sheer number of vehicles and stuff to do. The standard design of the containers which is similar to other Lego Town and Lego Railway sets at that time allows one to load the containers onto the ship and ship it across the "carpet" to another port! Those lucky enough to own sets like 4555 Cargo Station, 4549 Container Double Stack and even 6539 Victory Cup Racers can easily integrate those sets to use the port facilities provided.

Parts: 9/10 This is the only set that has the grabber claw in yellow color. Other notable pieces include the raised platforms, 2 pairs of the red gantry crane legs and lots of red bricks from the red ship.

Minifigures: 8/10 The variety of minifigures provided is sufficient for this set, with the dock workers having different colored torsos and the captain sporting an admiral torso.

Conclusion: 9/10 It is obvious TLG wanted this set to be a flagship Classic Town set for the year 1991; it's large, have 7 minifigures and broke the 1000 piece barrier, the first for any Classic Town set. They also ensure it is true to the source material, in this case a container terminal that is typically found all over the world. The only downside is that some of the stickers cover over multiple bricks. However, overall this is a great set worthy of remake as a legend set.

#2 Matt Dawson

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Posted 25 February 2010 - 05:40 PM

Nice review! Shame lego doesn't know how to produce excellent (save rare/special/AFOL aimed) sets like this one anymore

Edited by Matt Dawson, 25 February 2010 - 05:42 PM.

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Want to see more photos? See my Flikr!
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#3 Zorbas


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 05:50 PM

:cry_happy:  :cry_happy:  :cry_happy:

Public! I waited for this like a madman!

This is it! The most desired LEGO town set since my childhood (even now) and one of the greatest classic town sets in my opinion! The boat/ships/harbor subtheme is my favorite and this set is a gem.

It literally has everything. Two ships, a large dock, (the dock pieces in here are the best IMO when it comes to creating a harbor), two vehicles, 5 containers, a greatly designed movable crane and 7 minifigs. What else....

The brick built ship is excellent and the colour scheme really does the job.

I own the 6541 Intercoastal Seaport and I would love to have this set too in my collection. :cry_happy:
I must get it!

Excellent review paanjang16! :thumbup:  Amazing photos, the video was also great and I really liked the "Record Facts".

A great thanks! :sweet:

Gongrats on the Silver! :wink:
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#4 Johan J

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Posted 25 February 2010 - 06:00 PM

Great review!

I own this set, off Epay when I left the dark ages. Didn't know that it was such a huge set until now.

#5 polarbomber


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 06:58 PM


#6 ZO6


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:12 PM

Thank you for this wonderful review!  Congrats on acquiring your dream set!

I remember during the early 90s always drooling over this set in those little catalogs, and now thanks to the internet I can drool over pictures of this set online!  :tongue: I too hope to one day owe this set.  In my opinion this is the definitive port set - fantastic brick build boats, giant docks, multiple vehicles to move and ship cargo on, functional crane, lots of figures and accessories  :wub: I can't think of any criticisms, except that TLG may have set the bar too high with this set...

#7 lightningtiger


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:12 PM

Thanks for the review 'paanjang16' ! :sweet:
It's nice to see this one up close, I have the 2007 design which is also great - though in some respects where that one was the right size for everything.......the 1991 one had a few more features which a real dock has........including a pilot boat !
Also it's back to the future this year with the new cargo train using roughly the same crane design again almost 20 years on - good ideas don't die, they get re-hashed every couple or dozen years ! :grin:
Keep on bricking ! :sweet:

#8 Joebot


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:34 PM

Wow, great review!

This is right up there with the Airport Shuttle in the pantheon of Best Town Sets Ever. I have just about every other harbor set from this era ... but for whatever reason, I never got this one. That is probably my biggest Lego regret. What a terrific set.

The recent Lego Harbor set was nothing but a pale imitation of this bad boy.

#9 paul_delahaye


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 10:36 PM

I have 2 copies of this amazing set, I never got intercoastal seaport until much much later in my adult life, the 2 sets connect together so well.  Also the little police station, some of my all time favourite sets.

just behind 6399

#10 prateek


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Posted 25 February 2010 - 11:00 PM

Wow! 7 figs, two boats, and an amazing truck and dock!  :thumbup:

#11 sens1992


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 12:53 AM

Thanks Paanjang16 for your awesome review.   I own this set and remember the excitement I had when I purchased it in early 1990's.  This is for my one of the greatest set ever made.  It has everything you would want in a port.  I also LOVE the fact that you actually build the whole ship.  I don't really like the newer ships with the one huge floating base (no need in my idea to have a floating LEGO boat as you can't really use it anywhere).  This was a well designed set and the whole city port idea was great.  In my opinion, this old classic set is better than the newer version (7994 LEGO City Harbour).  Once more, thanks for the review. :thumbup:

#12 Piranha


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 03:01 AM

Great review  :thumbup:

Truly an amazing set  :cry_happy:

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#13 TheBrickster


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 05:47 AM

If I could give this set higher than an "outstanding", I would.  Wonderful review with some beautiful images of a set that put the CLASS in Classic Town. :thumbup:


#14 CommanderFox


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 08:22 AM

Thanks for the Great review paanjang16! :thumbup:
Wow! :cry_happy:  This set looks incredible! :wub:
So many figs, and vehicals. I really all the detailes on the port. :wub:
Thanks again for the review!

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#15 DashIngG


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 09:35 AM

Great review. Nice detailed photo's. I especially like the tractor and engine on the freight ship and the fact that the ships are made up of bricks.

I remember this came out during my dark ages. I still picked up the Lego catalogue in a toystore once in a while and I was seriously regretting I quit playing with Lego.
Luckily I made up for that :)

Edited by DashIngG, 26 February 2010 - 09:36 AM.

Nothing is as iconic as a 2 x 4 red brick
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#16 castlestrike666


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 11:11 AM

Good old times! So far away..  :cry_sad:

Great Review!!

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#17 samuraiturtle


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 01:00 PM

I did not realise this 7994 LEGO City Harbour had a dad.

#18 Big Cam

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 01:20 PM

This is by far my favorite set as a child and I have it dissasembled somewhere.  I loved reviewing it, silver badge well deserved.

#19 Scorpion


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 02:10 PM

Ah, this brings back the memories... I was one of those blessed by having this set while I was still a boy. Good times...

#20 legotrainfan


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 06:09 PM

I wasn't even ten when I first saw this amazing set in Lego catalogue. I was completely fascinated. Unfortuntely, it was quite expensive, and in the same year 9V trains were released. I went for 9V trains, but I'd love to have this set.  :cry_happy: It's really outstanding!!
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#21 Loganwan


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 07:11 PM

First of all, amazing review.  Great back story, wonderful pictures, and a great explanation of how it all works.

This is a great set.  I would love to get my hands on one.   I think the best part, and the thing I noticed right away is that the cargo ship is all brick made.  I think there is a place for the giant hulls so boats can float, but to have one that is all made of bricks is outstanding.  

Thank you for sharing.
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#22 Brick & Mortimer

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 08:39 PM

Ah! One of my favourite sets ever  :wub:

I always loved to see a review about this gem; great job  :thumbup:

The entire "economy" of my Lego town was built around this harbor.
Combined together with 4563 Load and haul railroad I created a true intermodal transporthub (even though I didn't realise it at that time  :grin:)

BTW, who voted (above) average :angry:?

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#23 Rick


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 08:55 PM

Thanks for the extensive review. This is indeed one of the great sets of the classic town era.  :classic: Too bad to see some of stickers peeling and the yellowed white bricks on your copy of the set.

The construction of the ship is much more detailed than I expected from just the box art. Same goes for the forklift and the truck. Also, I never realized this one really a huge set (in terms of piece count) back in the days.

Edited by Rick, 26 February 2010 - 09:18 PM.

#24 Robinson


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Posted 26 February 2010 - 09:21 PM

This is my very very best wanted set. When I was a child I want this very much, but I have never buy. I wish I'll buy this set in the future.

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#25 Tom Bricks

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 09:38 PM

Wow I had seen this set before but never knew ho large and detailed it was. Great Job with the review, it was one of the best i've read.
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