7777 - Trains Ideas Book
A year after the release of the first wave of grey-era Trains sets, LEGO introduced Ideas Book 7777, arguably the only all-trains ideas book ever published by LEGO. The book has gained a cult status over the years, and many of its models and designs keep popping up every now and then on fansites and e-commerce websites.
Ideas Books: a History
LEGO started releasing ideas books as early as 1960. These early ideas books were more about explaining the LEGO system and introducing the concept of rebuildable toys. There's a great overview of these early ideas books on brickset. In the 1970s, LEGO developed the concept further with ideas books 220-7 (1971), 221 (1973), and 222 (1976).
In 1980, LEGO redesigned the concept of ideas books with the release of ideas books 6000 (Town) and 8888 (Technic). These redesigned books were split into chapters. Each chapter would start with a 2-page diorama, and the remainder of the chapter showed building instructions and details of parts of that diorama.
Ideas Book 7777
In 1981, LEGO released this 7777 Trains Ideas Book, again divided into chapters and dioramas. The set number 7777 was of course similar to that of 8888, with 7777 nicely falling within the 77xx-78xx range that seemed to be reserved for the LEGO Trains. 7777 contains many great dioramas and designs. The most popular seem to be the locomotive designs on page 24, the Steam Train on page 38, and the great layout on page 48-49.
LEGO introduces the book as follows:
The great thing about LEGO trains is that they can be built in many different ways. This book gives you lots of ideas for building locomotives, wagons, tracks - and settings. The major part of the book deals with Electric trains and the remainder with Battery trains. But you are sure to get ideas from both sections - no matter what type of train you have.
You may not have exactly all the pieces used in the various model suggestions. Do not let that stop you. If you use your imagination, you will almost always be able to build the models in a slightly different way by using bricks you already have. So be creative. Be inventive. And have fun.
Let's take a closer look at the ideas and designs presented in 7777.
Hand-lever Draisine (p. 2-3)
The book starts off playfully with the introduction of the main character of the book, the minifig with the black hat. On this first page, he builds himself a so-called hand-lever draisine, which he then uses to visit the many dioramas and ideas in this book. He pops up on pages 4, 14, 30, 42, 49, 50, 53, 63, 65, 67, 75, 77, and finally on page 82.
Maintenance Wagon (p. 4-7)
The first real diorama of the book depicts a railway yard. At the back, there's a fueling station which is clearly based on 7816. To the centre, builders are working on a new stretch of tracks, assisted by a crane which is pulled by a motorized 7710 locomotive. In the front, an alternative design of 7760 has positioned a maintenance wagon to install a signal post.
The next pages contain the building instructions for this maintenance wagon, which has a platform that can be rotated to allow easy access to the signal post. The wagon uses some interesting SNOT techniques. LEGO most have liked this design, as they released 7821 in 1983, which is of quite a similar design.
Page 6 also features a clever little tip for guiding the cables along with the track layout.
Tipper Wagon and Conveyor Belt (p. 8-13)
The next diorama depicts an intricate system for filling and emptying tipper wagons. The tipper wagons are designed in such a way that they can be automatically emptied by lowering a gear rack into place on the side of the tracks. This gear rack grabs the cog of a passing tipper wagon, forcing it to tip and empty its contents.
To refill the tipper wagons, the chapter presents a design for a conveyor belt. Both the conveyor belt and the tipper wagon are largely based on LEGO Technic bricks and parts.
Container Crane and Buffer Stop (p. 14-21)
The railway yard on pages 14-15 is all about loading and unloading goods from cargo trains. At the heart of all the activities is a container train, pulled by an alternative built of locomotive 7720. The containers are lifted by a container crane, of which the building steps are presented on pages 16-21. The design of the crane again is an interesting mix of LEGO Trains and LEGO Technic parts. And again, LEGO must have liked the design as it is quite similar to the design of Container Crane 7823 from 1986.
This part of the book also presents a design for a buffer-stop which, based on the number of times it shows up in train layouts, is quite popular.
Car Loading Platform (p. 22-23)
Pages 22 and 23 present an interesting 2-level car transport wagon, pulled by yet another 7720 based locomotive, similar in design to the maintenance wagon from page 6. It comes with the building instructions for a (again very LEGO Technic based) car loading platform that allows loading cars onto both levels of the wagon.
Three locomotives (p. 24-29)
The 3 locomotive designs from ages 24-29 are among the most iconic designs in this 7777 ideas book. These locomotives pop up regularly on fansites and e-commerce websites alike.
The A-model represents an American-style (one-way) shunter locomotive. The B-model might be based on the Swiss Rhaetian Railway Ge 6/6 locomotive. The C-model looks like a European-style passenger train locomotive. This last locomotive design is a bit odd as it contains both a 12V motor and a battery wagon for powering the lights of the locomotive.
Turntable and Coal Crane (p. 30-37)
The diorama on pages 30-31 presents the third rail yard of the book and introduces 3 popular designs. The first one, and the most popular, is the steam engine at the front, for which the building instructions are available later in the book on page 38 onwards. The second one is the signalman's house at the back, which later returns as part of the diorama on pages 48-49.
The third one is the yellow railway tunnel on the left, which, through clever use of hinges, allows you to reverse trains. To my knowledge there's no similar device in the real world, and my guess is that this is a simple alternative to an actual turntable, which is much harder to do in LEGO. The workings of the tunnel are explained in more detail on pages 32-33, and the building instructions are provided on page 34.
Pages 35-37 focus on a design for a coal crane. The coal crane is part of the diorama on pages 30-31 but could have been in any ideas book as it is not specifically aimed towards trains.
Steam Locomotive (p. 38-41)
This large steam engine, first introduced on pages 30-31, is probably the most iconic design of Ideas Book 7777. In fact, so much that it's sometimes advertised as LEGO set 7777 on e-commerce websites. This huge locomotive requires many of the unique elements of set 7750, like the large train wheels, the red 12V motor, the black hoses, the black windows, and the black 1x2 brick with a cut-out for the cable.
This model is the largest LEGO-designed steam engine of the grey era, and the only one to feature smoke deflectors.
Station at Night (p. 42-47)
The station on pages 42-43 is an ambitious extension of 7822. The bridge now spans 2 tracks, and the station building is extended with a restaurant and an indoor ticket office. The train visiting the station is a variation of the B-Model of 7725. The railway station has working lights, not only in the light posts but also on the bridge and inside the restaurant. The station comes with a luggage car, an idea that was later re-used for 7824.
The Great Diorama (p. 48-53)
Pages 48-49 contain perhaps the most iconic diorama of 7777, a result of the sheer vastness of the layout, the impressive ramp leading up to a bridge, the large number of remote controllers for signal posts and points, and the many iconic locomotives circling the track, like 7740, 7750, 7760 and the B-model from page 24.
Other sets included in the diorama are Trains sets 7814, 7816, 7820 and 2x 7834, and LEGO Town sets 376-2, 608-2, 646, 671, 675, 6364, 6365, 6610, 6627, 6629, and 6680. The signalman's house to the right of snack bar 675 was introduced earlier on page 30. The Shell oil refinery at the centre-top of the diorama is a fan favourite, even though it's hard to see any details. Luckily, the refinery is also displayed on the back cover of 7777.
Pages 50-51 focus on different ways of creating a ramp. One design uses LEGO Technic 874 for creating hinges in the ramp supports, another uses minifig legs as hinges, and the third one has no hinges at all. Page 52 introduces another very popular tip, colour-coding remote controllers with their corresponding signal posts and points using LEGO 2x1 plates. The close-ups of the bridge on page 53 introduce the next theme: bridges.
Bridges (p. 54-57)
The next pages present the building instructions for a blue bridge, which is different from the bridge of the previous diorama. On the last page of the chapter several more designs are presented, this time without any instructions. The bridges again use LEGO Technic pieces and parts.
Track Layouts (p. 58-61)
Before the focus of the book changes from 12V to 4.5V, pages 58-61 present 7 track layouts, some more complex than others. Page 59 also comes with a yellow track layout template in a 1:13 scale which, after cutting out of the book (!), can be used to design new track layouts. If you're considering adding a used copy of 7777 to your collection, make sure to check the template is still there.
The template is yet another idea that LEGO later re-used, as a similar template was included in the 1985 starter sets.
Crane Wagon (p. 62-65)
The first 4.5V diorama shows an alternative build of a motorised 7710, with an interesting 2-wagon-based design for a crane. The crane wagon is equipped with 4 extendable stabilizers. LEGO re-used this idea for crane wagon 7817.
The Circus (p. 66-73)
The next diorama shows a circus being unloaded from a 7720 style battery train. This circus theme is actually a continuation and an extension of the Circus diorama on pages 20-23 of Ideas Book 6000. The stickers used in 7777 for the trains also come from 6000, as do the basic designs of the animals - horses, camels and elephants.
The circus comes with building instructions for both an elephant cage (with matching wagon) and a horse wagon (with extended 28x6 base plate). The special 2x2 sloped brick with red and blue 'U' stripe pattern used for one of the horses was only available at the time from set 6609.
The Steam Engine Factory (p. 74-81)
The last diorama of the book revolves around a train factory. Using a crane, a rotating platform, and specialized tools, the worker men and women build 2 types of rolling stock, a battery steam train and an open-top hopper. The remaining pages of the chapter provide the building instructions for that stream train, and for a boxcar that uses some parts from LEGO Space sets.
Rocket Train (p. 82-83)
On the last page of the book, the main character of the book decides to build himself a rocket train, with a crowd gathering to wave him off.
The Cover (p. 1 & 84)
The cover of the book is itself a large diorama that combines many of the designs and ideas of the book. Interestingly, the cover also presents completely new ideas and variations of designs that are presented inside the book. Examples of this include the impressively large red train shed on the left, both cranes, and the alternate versions of the 7818 wagons pulled by the 7730 steam engine.
The cover also contains the yellow tunnel from pages 30-31, the station from pages 42-43 (again in an alternative version without the snack bar), and the oil refinery from pages 48-49. And of course, the main character and his hand-lever draisine from page 3 are present.