More on VIA Rail in Lego

Back in May I posted about Nick Lafreniere’s “Lego Canadian” and “Lego Corridor” projects to get the LEGO Group to issue the VIA Rail “Canadian” and/or the “Corridor” train as LEGO kits. He needs 10,000 supporters for it to be considered, and he’s just over 75% there on the “Canadian”. Click the button below to support it!

I asked him a few questions to follow up. These were the questions:

  1. What inspired you to design these trains?
  2. Is the design software web based?
  3. Can you describe the process of designing these sets, in a paragraph or two?
  4. Do you have any idea how much a set would actually cost to the customer? (I know it’s up to LEGO)

Here are his responses.

What Inspired You To Design These Trains?

I have personally taken the VIA Rail Corridor route many times visiting my family in Ottawa, my hometown. I currently live in Toronto and visit my family once or twice a year. The Toronto-Ottawa trip is just a 4 and a half hour trip, and I’ve done it over 10 times now. I have travelled in the LRC economy cars, as well as the business class! I really enjoyed my experience on the train, and my interest for it began to grow. I wasn’t really much of a train fan at first, but the design of VIA Rail’s F40PH livery really seemed “attractive” compared to some other trains I have seen.

As a kid, I loved looking at the pictures of the train sets in the LEGO catalogues and always dreamed of making my very own detailed train model. I always preferred making my own original models than building from the instructions, so my desire to make my own LEGO set was always there from an early age.

We now have an opportunity to make our own official LEGO sets on a crowd-sourcing platform called LEGO Ideas. I have actually made another LEGO Ideas train in 2015, a LEGO City Subway Train Car. Although the build was ok, it didn’t perform very well and the project expired after 1 year with only 600 supporters…

I learned from that poorly-performing LEGO Ideas project that a good LEGO train needs more realistic details, more color, more train cars, and a well-known real-life brand. So after moving on from the subway train project, I started building a VIA Rail train! It seemed like a really good idea for a LEGO set and I think has a realistic chance of getting approved. I also see that VIA Rail is great match for LEGO. VIA has very strong branding, and they already sell their own merchandise. An official LEGO set (or two!) would be a very engaging product to buy.

Is The Design Software Web-Based?

I used a free software called by Bricklink. With this software, you can digitally design with LEGO. You can use any part, and any color! It is not web-based, it is an application.

Can you describe the process of designing these sets?

It all started with just the yellow, blue, and grey F40PH with the VIA “Delivery Scheme” livery. I started building it in 2015, but only finished the project in 2020! At first, I would only work on the train on-and-off for the first few years. I would usually get most inspired after coming back from an Ottawa visit. After a visit, I would work on it for a few days, then forget about it for a few months.

The train started off very rough, and it kept improving the more I worked on it. After a few years, LEGO would release new parts that allowed me to get even more detail. At one point, I was so happy with how the design was going that I decided I must finish the project no matter what! So in the summer of 2019, I made finishing this project a priority. I worked on it for several hours every day.

The project started off as just The Corridor, a yellow/blue/grey F40PH with one LRC car. Then I decided that the train consist should be at least 3 pieces, so I wanted a second LRC car. I didn’t want the second LRC car to just be a repetition, so I made it the Business Class variant. The Business class car is a different color and features a different interior.

When looking at pictures of the F40PH for research, I also saw many pictures of the newer “Renaissance” livery. I also experimented building that specific version and was also happy with the results. I also thought The Canadian was a beautiful, historic, and impressive train, so I decided to make some Budd cars!

The sleeping cars interest me the most, so I made the Chateau car. I thought the staggered windows on the Chateau car was extremely interesting, as I have never seen something like that before. It was a challenge to make it all fit, but I was able to condense all the details of the Chateau into a compact LEGO train car.

VIA advertising material on the Chateau cars
VIA advertising material on the Chateau cars

Next, I made the Skyline dome car. I enjoyed watching videos of The Canadian train on YouTube to see what it is like on the inside. I built the dome with some innovative techniques that hardcore LEGO fans will be impressed with. After finishing the dome, I still wanted to make one more car. I wanted the last car to be very unique compared to the other two, so I ended up choosing the baggage car. It is so unique that VIA transports canoes, kayaks, and other gear for their travelers. The baggage car is like a garage on wheels! I also think that many older adults will appreciate the kayaks, sled, and fishing equipment I have included with it. I wanted to mix in some other hobbies into the set to make it have more mass-appeal.

So what started as 1 model ended up as 7 models split up into 2 sets: The Corridor, and The Canadian. Because I made both at the same time, I designed them so that they could be combined together in various ways. I submitted both projects in the same week and have worked every day to spread the word and answer every question and comment I get. So far the amount of support is going great!

Do You Have An Idea of How Much It Will Cost?

Based on how LEGO prices their products, I can give an estimate of how much I think the sets will retail for. The Corridor is 1402 pieces, so about CAD$159.

The Canadian has 2312 pieces, and I think CAD$219 seems realistic. The Canadian is a “deluxe” train, while The Corridor is the cheaper option.

I think kids will enjoy the The Corridor for its bright colors, playability, and the inclusion of fun accessories like the snack cart. Adults will appreciate The Canadian for it’s bold and mature color scheme, as well as the inclusion of kayaks, fishing gear, and some minifigures that are more “relatable” than what you typically see in the more child-oriented sets.

I designed the sets to be as cost-effective as I could, while still holding a high level of quality. As you may know, LEGO is quite expensive. But these estimated prices are at the lower end of the spectrum and would be a great value, price-wise, compared to other LEGO sets. Even If you don’t like the VIA train, this set also contains many great pieces in new colors that would be incredibly useful to make your own train models. All around, I think consumers would see the sets as “a good deal” or “worth the money”.

Support the Projects!

Click one or both of the buttons or links below to register your support. You will have to create an account on the LEGO site, but you won’t get any extra email from them if you don’t want it.

Support the Corridor!

Support the Canadian!

While you’re supporting those, why not support Nick’s Canada Post truck kit too?

7 thoughts on “More on VIA Rail in Lego”

  1. Neat idea. In model railroading there’s this conflict with the Lego modellers that creates a barrier where one side doesn’t hear what’s going on on the other side of the wall. So, while it’s impossible to not know what VIA thing Rapido is working on I’d never of heard of this project in Lego.

    So many of us have such a powerful connection to Lego and it’s exciting to see it cross into other interests. The way it teases our imagination is exciting.

    • I’ve often thought that model railroading and LEGO should be more closely integrated. If you look at, say, O scale, I think you could do a lot with LEGO on a layout… and make the layout more interactive and fun.

  2. I think the VIA advertising material of the Canadian are actually CPR photos.

    These make the Lego train equipment I tried to model look like bricks and 2×4’s!


    • Hi Eric, I guess it makes sense that VIA would repurpose the CPR’s work.

      As long as you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter how detailed it is!

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