I cannot count the number of times I stared longingly at the last remaining copy of 2007's 7994 City Harbour on the shelf at Toys R Us, but there always seemed to be something more important to buy. When that last set finally disappeared, I got that familiar hollow pang of regret, and wished I'd splashed the cash for what looked to be a lovely set. I was therefore overjoyed to learn that 2011 would bring us a whole new nautical line to LEGO's CITY range, and that among them would be a new Harbour set! I snatched it up as soon as it appeared on the shelves at TRU. Does this new Harbour fill the hole that my failure to buy 7994 left, or am I doomed to regret it forever? Read on to find out...
Review: 4645 Harbour
Year: 2011 May Release
Price: GB £71.99 | US $89.99
Price per part: 13.0 p | 16.3 c
It’s a busy day down at the LEGO® City Harbor as ships dock and unload their goods! Use the crane to unload the grain from the cargo ship, then drop it onto the conveyor belt and move it into the awaiting truck. The chief officer keeps his dock running smoothly as trucks and ships come and go full of cargo, while a fisherman is busy catching his dinner on the pier!
- Includes 4 minifigures: fisherman, worker, crane driver and chief officer
- Vehicles include large cargo ship, crane and heavy-duty truck
- Features conveyor and light tower
- Accessories include fishing rod, fuel tank, trash bin, pier elements, trolley, a rat and grain
- Store grain inside the ship’s compartments!
- Move the crane to drop grain onto the conveyor belt!
- Turn the conveyor belt to transport the grain onto the truck for transport!
- Measures over 15” (38cm) wide, 9” (22cm) long and 8” (20cm) tall
- Large cargo ship measures over 16” (40cm) long, 3” (7cm) wide and 5” (12cm) tall
- Truck measures over 5” (12cm) long and 3” (7cm) tall
Links Brickset ... Bricklink ... Shop@Home ... Peeron*
*Not yet listed
Click for a larger full-frontal picture
The smart blue surround, present on CITY sets since the start of the line in 2005, and a familiar feature of other ranges before then, frames an action-packed scene of the set against a stylised harbour background. Round tan bricks rain from the crane, and pelt from the belt into the waiting truck, while a distracted fisherman concentrates on his catch, ignoring the drifting ship approaching at his rear. The box designer has done well to demonstrate the play features all together in one diorama.
It's the bearded Captain's turn to reveal the play details on the box rear with his grandiloquent 'Hey!':
Click for a larger picture
The opening ship compartments, working crane, and tipping truck all get their moment. On the left is a panel describing the modular construction typical of CITY sets:
The crane jib intrudes somewhat into this area...
... as it does onto the box top:
Click for a larger picture
Here the rather measly inclusion of minifigures is supplemented by various accessories. I like the way the fisherman has tied up his rod, whilst proudly fondling his cod.
The three modules each get their own manual, the surface area and thickness of each corresponding to the relative size of that build. The manual for build 2 - the harbour itself - is of noticeably better paper quality than the other two...
... and also contains various extras at the rear. On the back cover is a diorama of the entire maritime range against a bunch of large town buildings that will sadly never make it into sets:
The complete maritime range is displayed in box format.
The build process is frustratingly simple and slow:
Here we're at step 29 and have added all of about eight pieces total to this section of the build. Piece callouts are not included, indeed unnecessary given that the instructions call for only one or two pieces per step. I reckon the instructions themselves are largely superfluous on this simple set.
Manual 3 - the ship - includes the set inventory:
Click on each page for a closer view.
Decal Sticker Sheet
My sticker sheet came out of the box only slightly curved, which is a blessing as so far I've seen no sign of the 'cardboard backed' instructions and stickers promised this year.
Click for a larger picture
It's a colourful range of stickers; I didn't apply them. Unlike my lucky wife, I only got one sticker sheet with this set. It is great to see the tie-in with the Farm range emphsised with these stickers.
Bag 1 builds the truck:
It's the usual collection of plates, this time in red, white and bley, with a few colourful parts and one or two interesting pieces. The last include a City Corner Windscreen in solid red, and a dark bley 4x6 plate with hinge pins, set ID 92099, which I initially thought was the trap door part 30042, but is actually slightly different:
Four of these are included in the set, two dark bley and two white.
Bags 2 and 3 build the harbour:
Bley, blue and yellow are the featured colours; the parts selection consists mainly of large bricks and panels. There are some useful grille tiles, and bley plates; the 2x2 round plates in green, red and white on the left promise some Octan presence in this set
It's worth noting at this stage the two black fishing rods. One is spare; in contrast to the ones found in the Collectible Minifigure sets, these have a very small closed hole at the tip - no handy slit - inducing needle-threading anxiety as we shall see later.
Not bagged, some baseplates, a 6x16 plate, and a composite conveyor belt piece are also included in this part of the build:
I'm not sure how useful those baseplates will be
The conveyor piece, part 92715, I haven't seen before:
I'd rather have had some track and a little bit of Technic than this single piece, but I guess LEGO need to keep things simple for the kiddies.
Other pieces of interest:
The big crane piece I remember from when I was about 9! It's part 3492, and has been around since as early as 1976. The spring is looser than I remember, but I do recall that if the spring becomes dislodged it requires time, patience and tweezers to replace it.
Otherwise, there's a 16L steering arm, some 1x4 slopes with 'smooth' slope, some 2x2 round bricks with ridges, introduced with the Atlantis range, in red, and 2x2 round tiles in red which are probably commonplace but I haven't seen before in that colour. The big blue piece (see the underside here) is a train part, ID 87619, appearing here for the first time in blue.
Lastly, bags 4 and 5 build the ship's details.
White is the featured colour, with some plates in brown and green; the 8x8 grille plates in bley will be useful for sci-fi MOCs. The 2x2 corner panels, new this year in tan in the Pharaoh's quest line, make an appearance in white; the 36 tan round bricks are most welcome! Remember we also had 6 of these in bag 1, making 42 in total
Next we come to the boat base, loose in the box, and probably accounting for the size of both the box and the price:
This is actually two parts, pre-assembled in the box, and allows for the 'Boat really floats!' boast of the box cover, if that sort of thing... well... floats your boat It's a singularly useless feature, unless you get bored in the bath, but woe betide anyone who tries to re-enact Titanic adventures with the stickers applied.
The boat bottom isn't entirely featureless:
I'm not sure what the clip in the centre is for; perhaps it allows attachment of a motor, however precariously (and foolishly, since I'm sure LEGO motors aren't waterproof!) The 'gaps' at the sides presumably act as outriggers to prevent capsizing.
The two parts detach easily, revealing the non-standard connections:
This is actually a design feature; the instructions show this as a means to decant any bilge-water that accumulates during bathtime adventures.
Four minifigures in a seventy quid set? Daylight robbery!! Actually not, considering the minifig selection in the larger Exclusive sets; however, it seems a little stingy for a play set like this, especially given the 4644 Marina - at just over half the price - has five. Anyhoo, here they are:
From the left, as I've named them: Frederick the Fisherman, Terence the Truck Driver, Clive the Crane Operator, and Captain Gerald. No ladies are permitted at the Harbour it seems . I'm not so keen on Clive's 'bad tan' eyes, which are mean to represent spectacles; none of these faces are new or particularly rare, and Freddie's face and hat combination might be more at home in the Police range. He looks a little miffed; perhaps he was hoping to catch a larger fish.
Their torsos aren't anything new, with the exception of Gerald's; his shirt and tie combo is supplemented by almost-invisible epaulettes and an anchor emblem to desginate his nautical role.
Only the farmer torso, seen before in the Farm range (7634 Tractor to be precise), has any back printing.
Their bare head-backs look dated now. Some rear printing on the heads would be nice, or some way of attaching hair and hat.
Build One: The Tipper Truck
I love LEGO's 6-wide trucks. They've got the cab design pretty-much perfect. New to this design is the use of the aforementioned solid-red windscreen to form the rear wall of the cab, and the tipper action. Let's have a look around.
From the side:
It's a three-axle truck, with mudguard pieces only used over the front wheels. I like the colour scheme, particularly the way the red and bley stripe continues down the length of the truck, but this has a price as we'll see. Note the 1x4 red tile attached SNOT to the front of the tipper section; this allows the tipper to sit flush with the cab when in the lowered position - nice touch! I'm not so keen on the fuel tanks, which are a little bland, and why use bley and black?
The front is typical for these trucks; an attractive design, but nothing new:
Notable for their absence on this truck are wing mirrors, which could easily have been attached via clips at the sides of the black stripe above the windscreen. The truck looks oddly incomplete without them from this angle. The 1x4 white panel on the roof is intended to host a sticker.
From the rear:
The usual tail lights flank a tile to which should be placed a vehicle registration sticker. The tipper is a simple construction of wall element panels on plates; two black 1x2 cheeses prevent the tipper's contents spilling too easily. I'd rather have seen a hinged panel here, but this is a minor point.
The underside is where the colourful pieces are hidden :
I don't know why yellow and blue were used, although when I MOC I tend to use random colours for hidden parts of models; perhaps this is why. Note also the right side fuel tank is different, using a printed Star Wars round tile instead of the black bits; I don't know why the fuel tanks themselves are white .
The cab has opening doors, made possible by the introduction of this piece which holds the windscreen securely:
The cab itself is a little bare - not even a gearstick breaks the monontony; there's also no handy place for Terry to put his mug. The price paid for the nice stripes along the side is the white floor of the cab, which looks a little odd here.
Under the tipper are some nice bley tiles:
The white fuel tanks appear especially incongruous against the bley. Take a closer look at the tipper mechanism: this is comprised of some SNOT bricks attached via clips to the 4x6 plate with hinge pins introduced earlier; four SNOT brackets then attach the tipper. It's an interesting technique, and probably the most advanced construction method in the entire set. The disadvantage is that the tail lights also move when the tipper is ... umm ... tipped.
Finally, the money shot: the truck with the tipper in the 'up' position.
The precious cargo of round tan bricks is deposited safely, and without bricks flying across the room into inaccessible nooks.
The truck is a relatively simple design, but attractive and functional, and makes a useful addition to the range of CITY trucks. It'd make a nice set in its own right.
Build Two: The Harbour
Bags 2 and 3 contain the most pieces, and come together to form the rather colourful harbourside structures. Straight away, you can see the area is dominated by the tall blue and yellow crane; besides that and the conveyor assembly there isn't really much to this. This is reflected in the build process, which is a little tedious; most of the parts are large blocks which don't require much brain-power to assemble, and as I've already commented the build crawls along.
Looking down at the set with this aerial view, the area looks especially Spartan:
The baseplates are rather plain, and the buildings somewhat insubstantial. Really they are simply structures to hold the crane up. A few minor details scattered around help to break the monotony. We'll now take a closer look at what the various structures have to offer.
First up, there's the colourful crane. This is the one and only part of this set which seemed to have any thought put into it; the colour scheme of blue and yellow is quite striking, and the use of the blue train piece, bows and slopes contrast nicely with the long yellow jib, making this quite attractive. The red knob at the rear winds the windlass, which raises and lowers the grab-bucket; however, you can just move the jib to attain much the same effect.
Rant number one - String Theory
One thing I found really tricky is the string. It comes as a single piece one metre long, and you have to cut it to provide cable for the crane and line for the fishing rod; there isn't a guide in the instructions as to how long to cut each segment, requiring a degree of guesswork. Then you're left with two frayed ends which you have to thread through quite small orifices, inducing needlework terror in the average consumer, made worse by the lack of a slit in the distal tip of the fishing rod. I found this difficult; I dread to think what kind of porcine auricle the average six-year-old would make of it! The contrast to the soporific simplicity of the rest of the build is striking.
The crane jib consists of a dark bley Technic liftarm inside the long yellow crane arm; the former then meets a derrick piece at an angle. The steering arm also connects the latter to the crane cab roof, making a rough trapezoid that keeps the structure stable whilst allowing some movement:
Above the crane is at (nearly) full stretch ...
...and below, it's at minimum reach.
The derrick can also be extended by pulling the liftarm from the crane arm a little way ...
... allowing the grab bucket to reach the hopper of the conveyor:
I've placed it low over the hopper deliberately. Too high and there'll be a deluge of tan round bricks in unwanted places.
Access to the cab is granted by lifting the roof:
But this requires the jib to move into upright position, and doesn't allow that much room for big adult fingers to place Clive inside. The two levers only compound the problem; I was unable to get the levers into a position where Clive could hold them without disassembling the crane entirely.
We've already seen the single composite piece that makes up most of this structure. The two red knobs turn to move the belt forward; the red slopes form a hopper allowing the cargo to fall onto the belt ready for moving. We'll see it in 'action' later.
The conveyor is held in place only by the two dark tan axles with stud towards the rear; these allow the whole conveyor to tilt backwards to about 90 degrees: an accident of design rather than functional feature I fear; I could see no use for this.
The Ancillary Buildings
Clive has a peek into his new office to find ...
... it's empty! Not even a coffee machine There's also no ladder or stairway to access the crane, requiring either the Hand of God or the magical gift of Levitation to allow Clive to do his job. Something brushes against his leg ...
Arrrrgh! A giant dirty rat!
The instructions call for Ratty to be placed here, next to the Mysterious Crate and near the eco-friendly green Recycle Bin. This picture also highlights another complaint about this set - the unsightly gap between the baseplates, which brings me to...
Rant number two - Caution: Beware Flooding
Why oh why oh why is the harbourside set apparently at sea level??? The floor of the harbour, and the road the baseplates form, is a mere baseplate-thickness above the waves, with a meagre brick-wall separating road from water. Surely the roadway should be raised? The use of baseplates here becomes deeply questionable: there is no way easily to modify the set to correct this anomaly, as bricks cannot be connected to the underside; either a large Bricklink order would be needed to create verisimilitude, or such a hefty dose of disbelief-suspension that I'm sure even the average six-year-old would struggle with.
This unsurpassable design flaw is more apparent at the other end of the harbour, where a plate forms a raised pier in a more sensible arrangement:
Various minor accessories decorate the otherwise bare harbourside area: there's a stand for broom and shovel; the promised Octan cylinder makes its appearance, and a new-style lamp-post illuminates the water, rather than the more logical option of the roadway.
The little pier forms a platform from which Freddie Fisherman can cast his line:
It's worth a good look at the rod here. Unlike that of the Collectible Minifigure fisherman, this rod requires you to tie the line at each end, once it is threaded (with great difficulty) through the infinitesimally-small hole in the rod tip. The red-and-white blob at the end of the line looks like it could represent a float; it seems to catch fish without the need for any cruel hooks.
A few minor - but much appreciated - features embellish the pier. The SNOT brackets with grille tiles make 'bumpers' to prevent ships being damaged by banging against the harbourside; I'd have liked to see these along the length of the wall rather than the single brown grille tiles used. The red-and-white warning beacon is a nice touch, but my favourite addition here has to be the Box of Fish
Build Three: The Ship
Lastly, we get to put a few pieces onto the big green thing. It's a cargo ship all right - it is recognisably a ship, and can carry cargo. What else does it have to offer? We'll find out, but first we'll have a good look around the outside.
The front is the most imposing view:
Here, a few bricks and a mast are the only decoration, but there's a nice perspective view up to the bridge.
This view from the side shows the bridge section near to the rear, with a little space behind:
The twin cargo holds are each covered with a bley grille plate attached to two 1x8 plates with door rail; these allow a little movement, as you can see from the forward hold. Yellow handle-tiles demarcate the holds, and apparent here is the open bridge, exposed on the sides to North Sea gales *shiver*.
This doesn't seem to bother Gerald, who looks happy to be at the helm, despite having no-one to help man the ship:
Note the small but nicely striped funnel; what purpose it serves I don't know - this ship has neither engine nor propeller. The open bridge with its green floor reminds me of a cross-Channel ferry: prior to the early Nineties - and the advent of the Channel Tunnel - it was the usual means for us Brits to access the great Continent of Europe and its plethora of cheap booze .
Also visible here are the radar mast, lever and binoculars (a horn?) that embellish the roof.
The roof lifts, allowing easy access to the bridge:
A steering wheel for the helm and a radar display are Gerald's only controls; at least he has somewhere to put his walkie-talkie.
The entire bridge lifts off to reveal a small cabin for Gerald to bed down for the night:
There's not much headroom there! If Gerald wakes with a start from some nautical nightmare he's going to get a rather sore head. This is all the more likely since, while he's snoozing down there, there is no-one piloting the ship.
Behind the bridge is a recessed area of unknown purpose; perhaps for recreation? Gerald is clearly suffering from the rough seas.
It's worth at this juncture mentioning the navigation lights - red for port, green for starboard . Yes, little details like this matter greatly to me.
The low-headroom, rather featureless cabin disappoints me a little, particularly when you consider there's a whole lot of wasted space beneath the cabin:
It wouldn't have added much to the piece count to put a door in the rear recessed area, with a full-headroom cabin beneath, surely?
The twin cargo holds are separated by fence-pieces, and hold the supplied quantity of round bricks with room to spare:
Some of this room is under the brown plate at the front, unfortunately rendering a few errant bricks out of reach of the grab bucket.
On the whole, the ship is okay, but it's a little on the small side when compared to that of the previous Harbour set, 7994. It's length is 38 studs from the rear of the tapered bow section, exactly the same as that of the 7287 Police Launch, which I suspect uses the same upper dark bley deck piece.
The Complete Set
Here are all three subsections together: the ship delivers her round, tan cargo, ready for the crane to lift it onto the conveyor, ready to deposit on to the tipper truck.
Seen next to the two-dimensional harbourside buildings, the ship doesn't look nearly so small, and gives the illusion that the set is rather more substantial than it really is. Looking beyond the size, the three main elements come together nicely, and form a colourful arrangement that does promise a load of fun play features, the centrepiece of which we'll look at presently.
Now that the whole set is assemebled, we can have a good look at the main play feature of the set in action. The ship has arrived, carrying her precious cargo of Round Tan Bricks, but Gerald and Clive need to work together to offload them onto the waiting truck. Gerald uses his walkie-talkie to help Clive guide the grab bucket into the cargo hold (I don't know how, since Clive doesn't have a corresponding walkie-talkie; maybe he has the Power of Telepathy in addition to Levitation).
The tan rounds apparently represent grain; I'm happy to believe instead that they are much needed bricks for CITY construction projects. Grabbing the bricks is a bit hit-and-miss; I managed to load five or six after several unsuccessful attempts. The studded bottom of the cargo hold doesn't help here.
The loaded bucket is winched into the air:
The crane swivels and jib extends to manoeuvre the bucket over the hopper:
The bucket opens, depositing the bricks smartly onto the belt with the aid of the red slopes, and the conveyor carries them forward, eventually depositing them onto the back of the waiting truck:
Once the difficulty of grabbing the bricks in the first place is overcome, the process runs smoothly and works surprisingly well. Several foreseen snags didn't occur - for example, I was worried that bricks would fall into the small gutter either side of the conveyor belt, and either remain there for eternity or worse still jam the mechanism, but the belt carries them all the way. I anticipated bricks bouncing out of the truck onto the roadway, into the 'water' or - worse still - back into the ship, but they landed on the tipper and stayed there like the well-behaved little tan angels they are.
Admittedly I didn't try the process for all of the bricks, the Hand of God assisted with loading the remainder:
And we're ready to roll! Terry swigs the last of his tea and prepares to drive his delightful load off to ... wherever they need to go.
On the whole, the offloading action - the centrepiece of this set - works really well, and is fun in the process (though I can't imagine doing this for hours on end).
Having missed out on the previous Harbour offerings, I was looking forward finally to getting my hands on LEGO's latest seaport diorama. At face value, it seems to offer a lot: a sizeable ship, harbourside structures with working crane and conveyor, an attractive and useful tipper truck. However, now we've scrutinised the various features in some detail, some major flaws have started to show.
Compare this set to 2007's offering, the 7994 City Harbour:
Image from Brickset
7994 - a set I deeply regret missing out on - has a much larger, wider ship; a tall gantry crane with a longer reach; a container lorry, and a roadway likely to spared the threat of regular flooding. There's even a fisherman among the five minifigures. And all for three-quarters of the price!
Even 1991's 6542 Launch & Load Seaport had rather more to offer: (thanks Big Cam )
Image from Brickset
Ok, the ship is quite small, but there's a pilot launch and forklift in addition to the usual items, and it too has a raised platform.
Having built and reviewed LEGO's latest Harbour offering, I can't help feeling disappointed. It seems such a step down from the previous harbour incarnations, with second-rate buildings that look like mere support for the working features, a smaller than expected ship on an ugly hull, and flood-prone baseplates that are next to useless. And all this with a sizeable price-hike: blame inflation and the boat hull all you like, but at 13 pence per piece this set doesn't return nearly enough for your outlay.
I can forgive high prices if the overall end product is a thing of beauty, or a remarkable structure or talking point, but 4645 is none of those things. For me, it'll supply a few useful but rather expensive pieces to the collection, while the boat hull and baseplates will go into the useless parts bin next to the Fight in the Flying Wing's wing-piece.
Design 6 The set has a 'thrown together' feel. I suspect the designer concentrated on the crane function as top priority, and the rest followed. I can't forgive the 'sea level' harbour platform; the ship is ok but it's not a patch on the big blue leviathan from 7994. The saving grace is the crane function and conveyor, which work well as the central play feature.
Build 4 Possibly the dullest build I can recall, and the most over-simplified instructions, which are hardly necessary - a quick glance at the box will tell you how to build this thing. I imagine it will keep six-year-olds amused, but they'll be screaming for parental assistance when it comes to threading the winch cable and fishing line.
Playability 9 Here 4645 scores some points. There's plenty to do with this set: dock the ship, grab the bricks, swivel the crane, move the conveyor, load the truck, drive the truck, tip the cargo onto the floor, drive the truck into the the water, swing the crane so the bucket knocks over the figures and bashes the ship, sink the ship into the murky depths of the bath... loads of fun!
Figures 6 Four figures seems stingy, especially given the much cheaper Marina set has five. And these aren't so great - only the Captain has what I believe is an original torso. And where are the ladies? This is an enlightened age you know!
Price 4 For what you get, and considering how little that is compared to the previous harbour sets, 4645 is vastly overpriced. If you're thinking of getting it for your kids, wait till it's on sale.
Overall 58%. I rate it 5/10. The most disappointing set I've built in a long time: LEGO, you can do better than this
Thanks for reading! Do let me know what you think of the review, and of the set itself.
See all the pictures on my Flickr
7994 City Harbour Review by xwingyoda
6542 Launch & Load Seaport Review by paanjang16
And finally ....
The tan bricks have been delivered. Next week's cargo:
2x2 red tiles and Collectible Minifigure heads! I wonder how the crane will deal with these?
Edited by Zorbas, 21 May 2011 - 05:09 PM.