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Same problem the SSD had, it really should have been a foot longer, that would have fixed most of its problems (that, and another thousand parts), but then it would have been $499, and even fewer people would buy it due to lack of places to display.
I see what your thinking and it could work quite well.
My cat then tried to jump inside the tall Amazon box (he loves exciting new cardboard boxes), was startled to find a massive upright Tower Bridge set awkwardly positioned in his landing spot, so deployed his claws to ensure a safe landing.
Even though the front of the box now has huge slash marks down the front of it, I had to laugh :D
- Extended the middle part by 16 studs (though it should have been more like 14).
- Changed the way the bascules are attached so they no longer rely on those stupid blue pillars sticking out of the water for support.
- Redid the suspension such that there are more links with fewer studs each (four rather than six). Looks much slicker that way.
- Got rid of studs wherever possible, replacing plates with tiles.
- Added the five Olympic rings, brick-built, to scale.
- Made all pillars one brick taller, lifting the whole thing out of the water, it was drowning!
- Also on the pillars, did the usual shtick with the new masonry bricks and the old profile and log bricks for the peeled-off-plaster effect. Nothing too intrusive, just here and there.
- Added the inside walls to both towers. I mean, come on. The thing was a hollow shell.
- Lifted all the four large middle windows by 1/2 plate so their tops now align perfectly with the new-style raised-arch bricks. (Why would TLG switch to these? I am yet to find a single set where that extra gap does not hurt.)
- Etcetera etcetera.
To answer your original question, the lack of the gates on each side has been bothering me from minute one. I've been looking at tons of photos, preparing to model and build them, but as you can see from the above list I was pretty occupied fixing other issues, so it's still just an idea in my head. And frankly, at this point I am sort of secretly hoping someone did it already and will share the LDR or at least a couple photos I can steal from.
I was also thinking about adding some sort of lifting mechanism, but after doing some studies it turned out to be a major PITA, unless you permanently attach the bascules to the pillars, i.e. so the lower middle part is no longer modular. Which I didn't quite want to pursue further.
Oh and as far as the size is concerned, the thing thrones atop my piano, fits fine with still room to spare. (And remember that mine is already extended by 16 studs.) It's a glorious sight, too. Forget tables, guys, get yourself a piano. It's worth it. If you can't afford one, just build it out of LEGO, duh.
Bridge, meet piano. One brick taller and 16 studs longer than the official model. The bascules now rest on protrusions from their pivoting points, so the stupid blue supports sticking out of the water are gone. Lots of other tweaks, too — see my post above for a quick overview, or read on for closeups with explanations.
First off, here's a direct comparison for your convenience:
Photo of the original bridge by DAVID ILIFF, license: CC-BY-SA 3.0.
You'll note that it wouldn't have hurt to raise the thing by more than just one brick. The official model is all but flooded, but mine is only marginally better in that regard. However, while you'd think dark bley was common, the parts you'll need here actually aren't. And remember that you have to multiply everything by four or even eight, for just one additional layer. So even though I own around 160,000 parts, I didn't have enough of these particular ones, and had to BL, and it wasn't too cheap, and I have no use for them should I disassemble the thing one day (which my wife is already subtly hinting at), so I stopped at one layer.
One more thing to note is how all the fences in my version are evenly spaced, with medium blue 1×2 bricks everywhere. Makes for a much more uniform appearance than the official set.
Turns out, the microfigs kinda work fine on this model. They are obviously a tad too big when compared to the cars, but actually not too big even there. And staying put right here they make do.
(Oh, and someone asked for a scale comparison to the Mini Modulars. Sorry for the abhorrent lighting on that one, I shot it separately as an afterthought, in the late afternoon of a rainy day, and I am not a photographer by any stretch of imagination.)
Also in the above closeup, you can see how a whole lot of studs had to go. I like my surfaces slick. You might also notice how you can't see through the windows all the way to the other side anymore, because the tower is no longer an empty shell.
On the left you can have a glimpse of the aforementioned protrusion the bascule now rests on.
Lastly, I'd rather have all baseplates be 32 wide and not 16, but these hearties are not precisely a bargain, and I haven't come around to taking up a second job yet. (Do ignore the hideous cardboard for a moment. Pianos open up, so the surface isn't flat because of the hinges.)
Look ma, no studs on the suspension cables! And they now have more and shorter links, too, so they look curvier. The six red dots mark parts that came in weird colors, so of course I had to fix that as well. Would love to also replace the parts marked with the blue dots, but I'm no Croesus, even if I opted for getting them in used condition, which I prefer not to.
And look ma, no gap where the arrows point to! For that, the middle windows had to be raised by ½ plate. That's not a typo. Curse you, new-style raised arches, curse you threefold. Then again, simply using old-style arches didn't work. Hm. I guess I should actually be thankful for the raised arches for once.
Clear the way for the flying shark! I have no ships whatsoever, sorry. Now, keep in mind that the bascules are now 8 studs longer each, so you have to tweak their center of gravity such that they can still stay put in upright position when raised. The leverage is a real nightmare on this model, and you can't add much counterweight to the end that's closer to the respective tower, so you'll find yourself removing as much weight as possible from the longer end.
Of course you can also try and improve the leverage by pivoting the bascules one stud further away from the towers, but that's only simple in theory. You'd basically have to rebuild everything from scratch.
The shark is not an official set, but it can be if you vote for my CUUSOO project. That's right, you asked for free pictures of a bridge, the shameless plug comes with the territory.
Red arrow: no changes here, just to point out I don't like this speed bump at all. Wasn't aware of this issue from any official photos, sneaky TLG! But fixing this would directly translate into a lot of goofing around, and I'm a serious man.
Oh but look at the blue arrow! Research has shown that the British don't stop at building façades, they actually like to put walls inside their buildings, too. Amazing! I had to immediately copy that idea in LEGO. Which ate up every last one log brick in tan that I had — remember how you have to multiply everything by four. So I had to order more, since I can't stand not having spare parts left. What a costly endeavour already.
Now, before you ask, I never kept track of how much I spent on the modifications, plus as I mentioned I have a huge collection so didn't have to BL all that much. But if you start completely empty-handed, 50 Euro is the ballpark. Seeing how I got the set for a mere €160, the total for the model presented here is still way lower than the official RRP of €240 for the unmodified set.
Duplicated arch elements on the outer sides, with a one-plate offset, to better mimic the looks of the portal in real life. Perhaps still meh, but better than nothing.
The Olympic rings. Plus the changes I made to the upper part of the bridge in order to extend it. Some compromises there, as the fences only come in one size. Not much to say about the rings themselves, except that I did invest quite some time in trying out and rejecting seven and a half alternative designs, so no criticism of the one you're seeing here will be accepted. Note how they intersect properly and all.
Speaking of criticism, if Jamie Berard ever happens across this post: contrary to what it might suggest, I love your work, Jamie, and own a copy of every single one of your sets. Keep them coming.
Maximum havoc time! Did I mention my Ultimate Animal Collection yet?