I was almost dreading putting together the Lego Roller Coaster. Not because it didn’t look really cool – because by god, it did – but because of the sheer size of it. It’s absolutely huge. I was all ready to write about how it’s a great set to build but unless you have a ridiculous amount of space in your house then don’t bother buying it. And that’s still kind of true. But after finishing building it, and playing with the thing, I absolutely love it. Yes, it may be half a metre tall and the best part of a metre wide, but damn it, I will find somewhere for it to live without having to dismantle it. The Lego Roller Coaster might just be the most fun set I’ve built to date.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Released in June, the Roller Coaster (10261) is the latest Expert set to join the small fairground theme line. It joins the Carousel (10257) and Ferris Wheel (10247) and the now-retired Fairground Mixer (10244) sets. But at 4,124 pieces, it absolutely dwarves the other sets in the series. And at £300, it’s almost twice the price of the Carousel or Ferris Wheel, both of which are £160. Whether or not it’s worth the asking price is entirely down to you, but this is a seriously impressive set – both in terms of its design and in its mechanics. It’s a fully-working roller coaster, complete with a winch system. You can make it even more impressive by adding power functions, too, but the built-in wind-up system works really well.
Due to the size of the Roller Coaster, the build is in two halves, which are joined together during the last stage of construction. Each half has its own instruction book, which makes it an ideal model to build in a pair. That’s exactly what I did – I roped my partner in to help me build this beast, him tackling the beginning of book two while I ploughed through book one. The second half is slightly bigger than the first, so for the last two bags he was demoted to brick finder and general assistant. The whole build took around six hours in tandem, so expect to spend somewhere between 10-12 hours on this by yourself. As you can tell from just a quick glance, a lot of the build is simply putting together the white beams and supports – I’ve never seen so many circular bricks in one place before. But even those manage not to be too repetitive and laborious due to the fact that most of them are slightly different in some ways. Still, as always with Lego Expert sets, it’s the smaller details that give it real personality and life.
Laying the foundations
There are 11 sets of bags altogether for the Roller Coaster. Bags one to five make up the first half of the build, and six to eleven are the second half. The first bag of each half is concerned with laying the foundations. So very early on, you have some idea of the size of the footprint of this thing. Spoilers: it’s a bloody big footprint. You’ll need the entirety of your four-person dining room table to build it.
The result of the first set of bags.
The footprint you can see above is about two-fifths of the final build. The second half is quite a bit bigger, and houses a lot more of the nifty details, but bag one had three minifigures, a very cool candy floss stand, a park map, a bench and perhaps the funkiest Lego tree I've ever seen.
The first three minifigures of the set – there are 11 altogether – and the most oversized candy floss I've ever seen.
The candy floss stall.
The park map, that includes the sister sets, Carousel and Ferris Wheel. Thanks for making me feel the need to buy these now, Lego. Damn you.
That awesome – albeit a little bare – Lego tree.
As you can probably see from the pictures above, the Roller Coaster contains its fair share of those dreaded stickers. Unfortunately there are no unique printed bricks; instead, there are over a dozen stickers that make up various signage across the park. It's always a little disappointing, but it's pretty much to be expected in most Lego sets now.
Bags two, three and four are mostly concerned with getting the coaster up into the sky. The highest parts of the track sit on this side of the build, so there are a lot of multi-layered support beams to be built. While most of them look similar, there are subtle differences in most of the supports that allow the Roller Coaster to join together in clever ways. A structure that's half a metre tall and supported just by thin piles of bricks doesn't sound so sturdy on paper, but the way that support stands have been interlaced between the poles offers a surprising amount of rigidity to the model. It's not something you'll want to pick up and move around willy-nilly, but it's not so flimsy that you're likely to break something off by being a little too heavy-handed.
The main trouble with laying the supports is that the instructions aren't always the easiest to follow. It's a large set (have I mentioned that already?!) and when it has nearly two dozen white pillars jutting out of the base, it can be hard to differentiate one from another. There were a couple of instances where I'd placed something in the wrong place, but it's usually not too long before you realise you've gone wrong somewhere, and thankfully nothing was too troublesome to fix.
After finishing the second set of bags
After the third set of bags - and only half its final height!
Laying the track in the right place was also a little tricky. Again, it was hard to tell which of the twenty-odd white posts you needed to connect with. And with five or six types of track piece, some with only very slightly different undulations, you have to be careful to make sure you're using the right one. But, providing you get everything in the right place, it's exciting to begin to see the whole thing come together.
One of my favourite parts of the build is the "Roller Coaster" sign that attaches to the side of the coaster. Just look at it! It's an incredibly simple thing – using bricks to spell out letters – but the execution of it is much more intelligent and well thought-out. It's the small touches like this that truly make you realise just how much care and effort goes into creating a Lego set, especially one of this size. Each letter is its own structure that incorporates a clip, and each then attaches to the fence-like structure at the back to keep them all together. So simple, but so clever.
The little details
As I mentioned earlier, what gives the Roller Coaster so much personality are the little details that have gone into the finished product. Of course, the giant coaster itself is pretty damn impressive, but paying attention to the smaller touches also pays, too. There's the little seagull that sits on top of the queue booth, for instance, and the incredible expressions on the minifigs' faces (many of which are double-sided) make for hilarious snapshots.
The little booths are brilliant, too. Aside from the candy floss stand, there's a ticket and photo booth, and a juice bar.
The level of detail that's gone into each is fantastic, especially the ticket booth – the back of it doubles as the photo booth, and on display are a number of "photos" captured from past coaster passengers. And yes, the coaster does have a camera set up along its tracks!
No photos, no drinks, no ice creams, no babies, no dogs. This goes inside the queue booth to keep those rowdy minifigs in check.
A roller coaster attendant minifig sports a Sigourney Weaver-from-Ghostbusters hairdo.
Annoyingly, it's only a sticker, but the height restriction sign is yet another cool little detail that rounds off the Roller Coaster.
As much as I may wax lyrical about the booths and details in this set, the shining glory surely has to be the mechanisms in place that make the roller coaster work. Once fully constructed, most of the inner workings are hidden under the queue booth, but it's here that you'll find the manual controls. Along with a brake that can be released by a lever, there are two handles. One gets the carriage moving from the brake position, and another operates the winch that moves the carriages up the tall climb. Once the carriage is in motion, you can deactivate the brake and the carriage will keep travelling, so you'll only need to operate the winch.
Part of the mechanism that operates the winch
The handles on the mechanism that controls the whole coaster
It's incredibly clever how the whole thing works, the winch and chain resembling a real-life rollercoaster. The chain is a pain to put together – over 200 tiny links that need joining manually. Thankfully I had my assistant on hand by this point to do the tedious graft for me! It's a little fiddly feeding it through the cogs that it needs to connect with, but seeing how all the systems come together to work in unison is very impressive – especially considering how the coaster was built as two separate parts.
Once the Roller Coaster was completed and I saw it in action, it was impossible not to love it. How it works is seriously impressive. Sure, it's massive and completely impractical unless you happen to have ridiculous amounts of space in your home – but it's an absolute marvel. Once I'd started winding up that winch and seeing the coaster in action, I couldn't stop, and watching it go round and round is a hell of a lot of fun (even my cats rather enjoyed it).
Its sheer size is definitely an obstacle, though. For me, it's going to stay on the dining room table for quite some time – but since my dining room has long since been a Lego repository it's not the end of the world. If you do have adequate space for this in your collection, then in my opinion it's well worth purchasing. Just take into account the cost – especially if you want to add power functions. The set is £300 on its own, and the battery pack and motor will cost at least an additional £35. Motorising it is not at all necessary though – cranking the handle manually works just as well, and it at least makes the set more interactive. The Lego Roller Coaster might not be as solid or as intricately detailed as some of the larger Lego building sets, but hands down it's the most fun.
- The Lego Roller Coaster set is 4,124 pieces and costs £300.
- Unfortunately it's got a damn sticker sheet - nooooo!
- But it's still a fantastic model.
- The working parts are phenomenal, and making the coaster move is a lot of fun.
- You can upgrade it with Power Functions or Lego Boost (£35-£150) but it's not necessary.
- It's absolutely massive - approximately 52cm tall and 88cm wide.
- It will make you want the rest of the fairground sets.