My fire station project took more that a year to finish. The length of time was due to two primary reasons;
First, the project was something that I worked on as a distraction to work and other projects I was involved in. When things were getting too stressful, or I was stuck on a problem, I would take some time and play with the LEGOs. Afterwards, I felt better, and if I had to start back on the problem, at least I had cleared out the smoke and cobwebs. This helped me break out of 'tunnel vision' more than a few times!
Second, since this was all coming from inside my head rather than from instructions, the project went through a few different phases of construction, as I changed my mind about what I wanted to build. Since I built this over a long period of time, I had lots of time to think about it between the chances I had to actually work on it.
I had already collected a half-dozen (or so) fire vehicles, and designed a couple other Emergency Service vehicles. My first plan was to build a garage for them. I bought a fire station (model 6571), but this didn't fit my needs. One of my fire trucks wouldn't fit through the door, and the garages were very short. I needed more space, and more parts!
I tried, unsuccessfully, to buy more of the roll-up door pieces from the LEGO Shop at Home folks. (I really wish they would put together a service pack for this!) I finally broke down and bought a second fire station, and construction began on a regular green 10" x 10" base plate. I would have three garage bays, with roll-up doors on one end. I gradually needed to add windows and doors for folks to get in and out as well. Here are some pictures of the first garages;
Early pictures show the concept getting started. The fire vehicles were used to show me how tall and wide the garage bays needed to be. I fussed with the skeleton for a few weeks, during my spare time.
During this time, I also decided to build a dispatch center, modeled after my experiences as an ambulance driver, and 9-1-1 dispatcher. This started out on a 5" x 5" grey base plate, and included ergonomic features such as swivel chairs, and swing-out keyboard and display screens! There were two dispatcher positions, and a supervisor position. While not trying to duplicate any existing center, I took what I thought were the good features of others I had seen, and added my own ides as well, and scaled it for the three positions while trying to make it as realistic as the scale and elements would allow.
I decided I still didn't have enough garage space for all my rigs, so I tried to extend the garage bays back with a 5" x 10" yellow plate. I also tried to attach the dispatch center to the side of the garage, which led to problems with staff access and windows. I wanted to use the roof as a heliport, but I couldn't find a good way to allow for stairs to the second floor and roof. (The stairs would have been 'outside' the regular structure, and I didn't think that would be realistic.)
Construction also began making a second floor for the station, for crew quarters, on a second green base plate. I wanted to make this as realistic and detailed as possible, including roof, and real walls. I also built a 3-story 'drill tower', for training the firefighters, complete with stairs and guard rails, windows with shutters, smoke machine and exhaust fan and roof vents. I even took pictures of a drill at the tower, using the aerial ladder truck and crews.
Phase two was really the time when I tried to turn a bunch of separate projects into one (really big) unified project. It was when I finally decided that it would be OK if this was a bigger project than anything I had done before. That was when I finally approached it like a real project, and looked at the needs of a real Fire Station. I would need plenty of beds, in at least two different crew quarters, plus living quarters, plus good access between floors without having to go outside. I wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish it all, but I wanted to go through the planning (which was a puzzle itself).
I also figured in some design constraints. The two floors had been separate models until now. I had to make walls match, and I wanted the windows to line up between floors. I had to figure out some type of supporting structure that would allow removal of the second floor, with anchor points that would keep it together as I moved it about for photos. The roof also had to have some center supports, and also be removable, and still stable.
I did more thinking than building in this phase. Whenever I tried to build some part of the station, I would think about other options, and different ways to build it. I basically tried quick mock-ups, to test ideas. But, once I had made some plans and decisions, construction in Phase 3 would proceed quickly. I didn't jot many ideas down, they just existed in my mind. To help record some of the ideas, I took a few more pictures during some of the mock-ups.
The garage was moved to a 15" x 15" grey base plate, and the dispatch center added on the side, to allow for having the stairs to the second floor to be inside the structure. There was a setback from the front of the building, allowing access to the Engine Bay from the 'outside', with a lighted foot walk and flower bed. There was a set of windows installed above the dispatch consoles, so the dispatchers could look into the truck bays. The roof of the dispatch center became an outdoor patio for the crews. Where the stairs came down before, I put a sliding pole between the floors, and then wrapped a stairwell around the pole. I also added equipment storage under the stairs, and another access door at the side and rear of the station.
The truck bays were finally deep enough, but I didn't have enough door pieces to put roll-up doors on both ends. I grudgingly bought a third fire station, but I still couldn't finish them all. A search finally turned up an older fire station (model 6389) that had only been advertised in one of the Shop at Home catalogs, three years earlier! So, while I was buying my fourth fire station, at least I was getting another set of instructions that I didn't have yet! This gave me another different fire engine, as well as enough doors to finish the truck bays. Here's what that older Fire Station looked like;
The extension of the truck bays also gave me a chance to extend the second floor, so I had two separate crew bedrooms, a kitchen, and a combination living room and lookout area. The large windows at the rear of the station look out upon the training tower and equipment yard.. The second floor was also built to be removable in two parts, so you could see into the engine bays. The patio/dispatch center roof was also removable, so you could move the mini figures within the Communications Center. The large windows allowed plenty of light into the center. There were also skylights above the stairs to the second floor.
I also added a heliport with three pads. One for the medical evacuation chopper, one for the fire tanker, and one for the site survey chopper. There was also a shelter/windbreak, to protect ground crews from the air during takeoffs and landings, and a fire extinguisher hand truck, based on a device used at the local heliport at nearby hospitals.
After building the helipad, I also needed to put up aircraft warning lights along the rooftop of the station and the training tower, and add area lighting for night landings. (I said that realism would play a big role in this. :-) I also put air conditioners on the rooftop, and some communications antennas. (There is one antenna that I fashioned by adding a metal and plastic rod to the top of a white, round 1x1 plate. This is one of less than a dozen elements I have modified.)
I finally took my LEGOs out in the sun to play, and take more pictures. You can view the pictures of the station, and the drills here soon.
Now that the Fire Station is finally "finished", I have moved on to other projects. I'm currently getting very interested in the LEGO trains, after receiving my Load & Haul freight train. The last bricks of Fire Station 1 have fallen , giving its collection of roll-up door parts to a working 5-bay round house and turntable for my trains. (The round house project.)
These pages are NOT sponsored or endorsed by the LEGO companies.
They are the creation of an enthusiast of LEGO bricks.
The official LEGO home page is www.lego.com.
(The LEGO companies have their own pages. This page is mine. :-)
K. Z. Harris, N6UOW
Questions? Comments? Additions? Email frenezulo at baylug.org
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