As Cold as Ice

Grab your little conductor’s cap and a red bandanna, it’s train time!  The latest effort by Hungarian builder Gabor Horvath is impossibly cool, with inspired windows, striping and one of the most complex examples of a driver’s cab that I’ve ever seen.  The model is a recreation of the German Intercity-Express 3 train, which has a distinctive nose that must have been very challenging to capture in the brick.  The final result may not be quite as rounded as the real thing, but it’s no less stunning.  I think I like the slightly angular treatment better anyway, it looks like it cuts through the air with ease.  Being inclined to see things through the lens of Science Fiction, I couldn’t help but wonder how the nose would look on a spaceship or a train that was more stylized for the future. It’s all about that nose.

For some people it is unfathomable to spend a year on a model of this size, or any size for that matter, but the result is such perfection that I can’t fault Gabor in the slightest.  When I blogged for TBB I made it a point to diversify my interests as broadly as possible and that meant seeking out interesting trains to talk about.  Even though I don’t often build trains and I’m not really that interested in the subject matter, over the course of a year my appreciation slowly increased.  And while I can’t honestly claim to be a ‘train guy’, I still find myself looking for the next great iron horse.



Beyond the build itself, I really enjoyed the way  Gabor enthusiastically describes his build process on Flickr, it’s both genuine and insightful.  The personal anecdote he provides is more evidence that you’re not really a builder/junkie until you wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect solution for a model and start building when you should be sleeping. Gabor also has all the technical stats and train-speak on Flickr, so if you’re interested follow the link at the top of the article and check out the full presentation.

I’m really happy, that it is ready! It took me almost a year to build and become satisfied with the result. You may know, if someone build a train, the front is the most important thing. If it’s not good, it’s unnecessary to build the other sections. Everything started with an LDD model from a front-idea. I built something in the program, but I didn’t like it. Later it came always into my mind and didn’t allow me to be calm. So I started to develope the construction. Some month later it looked nice enough to order some parts and make it in real life. It contained so many interesting and strange techniques, that it was a real challenge to put the bricks together in the program, and with real bricks it was hard, too. And the real 3D model was ugly! But I said, that it has to be possible to find out something, which makes the model better. So I made some changes, and some more, and some more, and finally I liked it, and I thought that I found the maximum! I stored the train (only the front section) and some other parts on the table in the middle of our house. And one night, I couldn’t sleep. I woke up and went out to the table to do something. And I don’t know why, but I put an element into the middle of the front. And I said ‘wow’! It was perfect (for me of course, for you, I still don’t know, but I will read the comments 🙂 )! Some gaps disappeared, some sections got new positions. That element made so big changes on the overall look, that it was incredible! I felt high, but next day I was very sleepy. 😀

I included the video because this train demands some dramatic music and it’s cool to see the ICE in action.  It’s also easier to appreciate all the SNOT work that went into the brilliant nose.  Gabor has a nice Catamaran Sailboat too, if you’re a catamaran kind of person, not everyone is…you have to have a real sense of style.

Elevating the Theme

I’ve always considered Blacktron II (aka Blacktron Future Generation) to be the weakest of the early official Space themes: the set designs were bland, the trans-neon green was obnoxious and the minifigs looked more like a pro-sports team than an intergalactic force.  It reminds me of a terrible sequel to a cult favorite film, like Highlander 2 “The Quickening” or Escape from L.A. The original Blacktron was perhaps the coolest theme ever created by our corporate overlords, it featured minifigs that still hold up with the best of today’s offerings despite not having modern features like two-face craniums or printing on the back of the torso.  Blacktron II replaced those bad-ass space criminals and replaced them with a bunch of milquetoast “B” boys who looked more likely to serve you a corn dog than steal your spaceship.  In all the years I’ve been looking at models online I don’t recall a single example of a Blacktron II done right, with the one exception of Nathan Proudlove’s outstanding SHIP from 2007.  So I was both surprised and delighted to run across the “Ghost Stealth Ship” by Stephan Niehoff.  The shape of the hull is just wicked and it somehow looks incredibly fast even while sitting still at the dock.  Every time I look at it, I hear the Miami Vice theme playing in my head.  While the accompanying diorama seems like a bit of an afterthought, it is very clean if under detailed.  My biggest issue is with the crane, the legs are nice but it doesn’t quite look minifig scale.  The simplistic lights also seem like a missed opportunity but the cargo crates are pretty nice.


I’m a little confused by the tiny cluster of plants in the corner, they look good but it seems like there should be more of them scattered around the diorama.  The entire dock might benefit from being raised a bit, or those crates would wash away with the first decent sized wave.  The plants might look better tucked under the dock where it can’t interfere in the cargo loading operations.  The hexagonal background is a great touch, it elevates the presentation above the typical blinding-white space that is so prevalent these days.  I could probably do without the water marks and do-dads in the corners, but it seems to be a millenial thing to slap your brand on everything.

If you enjoy the Ghost, be sure to take a trip through Stephan’s photo-stream, where you will find a plethora of builds in his “Projekt Blacktron II Special Forces” series.  Although I think the Ghost is the best of the bunch, I also enjoyed the slick engine on this  “AT-04 Rhino” space-train.  One of these day’s I’ll get around to an Omnibus posting dedicated to Sci-Fi trains and this one will no doubt make the cut.  So thanks for proving me wrong Stephan, Blacktron II can be cool after all.