LFC Blog: Welcome to the latest edition of the of the Lego Fire Community Blog! Today, we have the privilege and honor of having one of the founders of the community itself, Bob K! His work has inspired so many people, including me! So we are really thrilled to have him here with us today! Enjoy the interview below!
LFC Blog: Welcome to the Blog Bob! Tell us about yourself. When and why did you start building Lego fire trucks?
BK: I started building fire trucks back in 2002. Bear in mind, I grew up playing with Lego. My friend had the Lego Set “Engine Co. No. 9” and I loved the set and loved to build with Lego. My very first Lego set was the Exxon Gas Station from 1980. From that point forward, I collected the Town System sets. My first firehouse set was Fire Station (Set #6382) from 1982. Sadly, I never got the Engine Co. 9 set. Growing up, I had a fascination with the fire department. I made sure I would get every fire related Lego from that point forward. At some point, I had lost the garage rollers for my fire station and some small parts. Eventually, I dismantled it and created a firehouse similar to the one near my childhood home. Growing up with Lego, I had always built the sets as instructed. I seldom deviated from the instructions. Replacement parts were very difficult to come by. Aside from buying a set to get a particular piece, there was the Lego Shop at Home Service. But not all parts were available. If I was lucky to have spare Lego parts, I would build something from scratch. I never purchased a duplicate of anything. Then, Lego decided to change things around. Come the mid 90’s, the quality of the Lego sets were just…junk. It looked more like Duplo designs. Lego had taken a major step backwards in design and fun. I stopped collecting. It wasn’t until late 2001, early 2002 when my cousin introduced me to the world of ebay. Once I learned what ebay was all about, I began to search for some old Lego sets. Sure enough, both the Fire Station and Engine Co No 9 sets were on there! I purchased the Fire Station….but not Engine Co. No. 9. To this day, I still do not have that set. I also searched ebay and found some custom Lego builds on ebay. I decided to search the internet for Custom Lego Fire Trucks. That decision changed my life forever. That is when I found Eric MacDonald’s Lego City Fire Department and Tom Duggan’s St. Lego Fire. I was just floored at what I saw from both of these builders! My desire to get back into the Lego hobby was reignited. After seeing the detail in their websites, I thought to myself, yeah I can do that. That is when the Lego Twp Fire Department was born.
LFC Blog: That is a really cool story! I guess too many of us take for granted that specific bricks that we want/need are able from from Bricklink. It sure must have been difficult to acquire pieces back then! Who/what inspires you to build?
BK: My initial inspirations were Eric & Tom. My first attempts at custom Lego Fire apparatus was interesting to say the least. I built originally in 4-wide scale, to be consistent with Lego. 6-wide, although more detailed, just seemed too big. My 4-wides were long and narrow, and somewhat awkward. I then made the switch to 6-wide and converted all of my apparatus. I like to be as realistic as possible, so I decided on streamlining the apparatus. I decided on Pierce, since that is what we run in my firehouse and I can sit all day and take all the pictures I want in the firehouse and just study the truck. I then studied the different models of Pierce apparatus and went from there. I also looked at what other builders did. I had a hard time finding the look of a Pierce through various build attempts. Finally, I saw something in a build that Paul Bock had done. I found it! I found what I was looking for! Once I got the front of the truck looking correct, I began to focus on cab length and match the lengths with the lengths of the actual models for Pierce. Now, someone once asked me why Pierce? Can I build ALF, Seagrave, Mack and other brands? Absolutely I can. But did I want to have multiple brands? At the time, I was not sure.
LFC Blog: It is interesting how you developed your department and stuck with Pierce all this time! Haha! What's in the name Lego Twp. Fire Dept. and why did you settle on the current color scheme?
BK: Back then, there were not as many Lego Fire Departments on the internet. I wanted to keep it simple and not sound like an actual town name. Lego Township popped in my head. It sounded right. As for the color scheme, when I first began to build again I tried different color schemes. Back in the 80s & 90s I tried a white over red look and did not like it. During the rebuild, I tried the white over red in 4-wide and thought it looked better. 6-wide looked awesome….but so did black over red and all red. Great…now what? I couldn’t make a simple decision. So I decided to keep all 3 colors. Later, I decided to make each battalion a particular color scheme. After a while, I thought about making the department uniform in color scheme. But what color scheme do I do? I kept coming back to a picture of Engine 5. All red with a white roof. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I also liked the color scheme that the Fairfield NJ Fire Department had for the pumpers. So I decided to go with that. During this time, I had been adding decals, courtesy of Matt Jacobsen. For the black over red trucks, the gold leaf had red borders. The white over red and all red had black bordered gold leaf. Some of the decals had inverted colors or something completely different. So now, I needed to do something to make the decals uniform as well. That is when the gold leaf with blue trim came to mind. I did one truck in the new color scheme and loved it.
LFC Blog: I love how you kept all three colors for Lego Twp. I might be a bit biased, but I love the red fire trucks the most :) What is the most challenging rig you've ever built?
BK: The most challenging rig I ever built was my first custom 4-wide. I didn’t have any instructions and wasn’t sure what I could and could not do. Heck, I didn’t even have all of the necessary parts.
LFC Blog: I love that you mention this because too many of us (myself included) are not as creative/innovative because of the plethora of available parts today. I think that not having the necessary bricks is what really drives the creativity of an individual. What is your most favorite rig and why?
BK: My favorite rig is Engine 8. That Engine was one of the first 2 rigs I build it 6-wide (the first 6-wide Engine 2 was its twin). Aside from cab, lighting and pump upgrades, the rest of the truck is untouched from 2002. It truly is a 16 year old piece. I don’t want to part with it or put it in reserve status.
LFC Blog: That is astounding to hear one apparatus last that long! None of my rigs last that long haha! It would be lucky if they lasted 2 years, let alone 16 haha! What is one Lego piece you wish were manufactured and why?
BK: Hands down the 1x4x4 lift door in red. I spent wayyyyy too much money on bricklink for these parts. I’m a Lego purist. I hate to cut, glue and paint Lego. I bit the bullet a year or so ago and painted white rollups red. So far the red paint is holding up well.
LFC Blog: I remember wanting to get those at one point, but I could not justify one part being over $20. I didn't know you painted the white rollups! That means you really did a good job lol! What are your future plans for your department?
BK: I plan to furnish the interior of the firehouses and possibly go modular with them. New apparatus will be built as well. Possibly a new dispatch center at a separate building, or an expansion of a couple of firehouses. I’ve been mulling over adding EMS to the LTFD. So, I would need to add bays or new EMS buildings. Not sure I want to do that though.
LFC Blog: Your stations are really incredible! I would love to see the interiors for your firehouses! And of course, seeing new apparatus (fire or EMS) from you would be a welcome sight indeed! What is the best part of the Lego Fire Community?
BK: Sharing of ideas, running incidents, and helping younger builders with their up and coming creations.
LFC Blog: I completely agree with you! I wouldn't have been able to build using strange connections if it weren't for the countless of individuals who have helped me along the way! How would you like to see the LFC grow better?
BK: I stepped away from the LFC groups because I saw that builders no longer need any input from me. They learned from me and they were helping the next generation of Lego Fire department builders. It made me smile. I felt like my work here was done. Plus, being self employed I did not have the time to devote that I did when I worked for someone.
LFC Blog: I, for one, am truly grateful for the help you've given me in the past, and I do hope to be able to pass that along to the new guys. Any tips or advice for new builders?
BK: Keep building. It's fun. Learn new techniques. If you are stumped, ask questions.
LFC Blog: Yes! I'm glad you said that because I think too many people simply don't build anymore, and thus don't really learn the techniques they need to know to build the kind of rigs they want. Thank you so much for your insights and wisdom Bob! It was really, really awesome to hear your story! To those reading this blog, thanks for hanging in there despite the lack of posts recently XD I'm constantly humbled by all your kind words and support. You guys absolutely rock!
Blog Updated: 04/04/19
Welcome to the Lego Fire Community Blog! Presented here are outstanding builders who captivate their audience with their MOCs (My Own Creation). The purpose of this blog is to educate others of exemplary builders both past and present.
This blog is dedicated to Eric S. McDonald, the Fire Chief of the original Lego City Fire Department who died unexpectedly on Aug. 21, 2002. His vision is what started the whole LFC, and for that we are eternally grateful.
About the moderating team
Michael P. - Owner of Castle Beach Fire Department, Studington Fire & Rescue Station 11, and Los Angelego County Fire Department
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