The coaching in was born out of the need to have another free standing building in the center of my slowly expanding 80's era medieval town. The inspiration for the coaching in is the George Inn in Southwark, London, the last of the galleried coaching Inn's in the capital.
To capture the essence of a coaching inn a couple of things are needed:
Large gates allowing access to a courtyard
Timbered galleries overlooking the courtyard
Simple enough, but tricky to accomplish in a limited number of bricks and with the bricks that were available in the late 80's. I knew from the outset that this was going to be larger that the 6074 Black Falcon's Fortress with 430 bricks and 6 minifigs.
The design evolved from a number of directions at once. The first job was to capture the volume of space that I wanted in as few bricks as possible, primarly this meant working out how to do a large roof for as few bricks possible. The construction technique that I opted for is the same one as the half-timbered building in [url=""]6086 Black Knight's Castle[url], plate's with peg-holes are stuck onto the undersides of large plates which form the roof slope. Peg-bricks in the gable ends hold the sloped plates. It order to do support the central roof sections the pegs through the gables needed to be 3 studs long.
The next design task was The Galleries. I knew I wanted the pillars here to be delicate, ie. 1x1 rather than 1x2. Initially this posed me with a problem because I wantted to spring an arch off of a 1x1 pillar in either direction. I could have used jumper plates at the bottom and connected to the mid-point of a 1x2 plates at the top but that would have led to a situation at the corners where the arches couldn't be offset properly by half a stud. The next option was to use 1x3 double inverted slopes at the mid-pillars and 1x2 inverted slopes at the edges. The advantage here is that it left space directly above the pillars for extra arches to sping back to the main wall. This orientation also helped with the roof, the gables sit directly above the pillars and the 1x6 arches on either side fit neatly with the 6x10 plates forming the slope of the roof.
With the galleries and roof designed it was simply a case of adding the wall and dividing up the space into rooms. The back was kept open for play access. Stables, stairs and a bar-room form the ground floor. Two bedrooms occupy the upper floor.
in Yellow form the upper floors and give a bit of much needed colour differentiation.
The archway attatches to the side, the room above being intended as a hay loft. A couple of yellow 2x2 bricks become hay and start the process of interior design. With the brick budget running close to my targets simplicity in the interiors was essential. The usual barrels, chests and goblets populate the rooms. The bar-room gets a table and fireplace, the bedrooms get beds. Horses in the stables.
For minifigs it's a fairly standard collection: barmaid, stable-boy/groom, merchant, a travelling knight, peasants. Yet when I line them up in LDD it feels like there's something missing.
What does the Coaching Inn lack? A coach! Historically coaches didn't arrive until the late 17th century before that everyone either rode on a horse or in a cart. Therefore I need cart, but I need a cart in just a handful of bricks. I started playing with the Bar 7 x 3 with Double Clips (Ladder) as sides to a cart based around a Plate 4x8. A couple of little clip bricks to hold the bottoms of the bars was fine but how to secure the top. Whilst it's not historically accurate I felt that Arm Mechanical, Straight with Clips at 90 degrees (Vertical Grip) might prove a good solution. The twist in the arms allows them to connect the bars but also to some vertical Antenna pieces. The disadvantage was that there's nothing to stop the sticks pulling apart, after various attempts at fashioning something from brick I settled on the use of a 1x6 hanger pushed down over the sticks. the version in LDD doesn't have the through holes but thankfully the version in my bricks box does. A fairly respectable cart in less than 20 bricks.
Story:None, but I somehow feel that it could if it had the right characters...
The minifigs and props means that you can enact the comings and goings of a busy coaching in, the only downside is that there's very little in the way of conflict and it's conflict that drives the drama hence the modern trend for everything being "Attack this..." or "Escape from that..." I think the cart was an important part of fleshing out the set as it provides a bit of "swooshability" (to use a phrase that the Star Wars collectors use to describe their space-ships) where you can drive it around. The two horses are also important because the cart needs one and the knight the other.
Playability:As a standalone set it's not bad. Everything but the very back of the bar-room is easy to access, the open back allowing little hands to place minifigures in the various rooms. On the courtyard side the galleries are similarly accesssible. The one design decision that I'm not fully happy with is that the hay-loft and attic spaces aren't as accessible as they could be, it would have been nice to have lift-up rooves.
Buildability:Once again the lack of 6x10 plates in green comes back to haunt me! A hasty reconfiguration of the baseplate layout is needed and it's not optimal. It also complicates the archway section and I need to change the design slightly to account for the fact that there's now a seam between two 4x10 plates across the width of the arch.
Aside from a slight pause to allow more 4444 timber panels to arrive the build progressed quickly. The most complex portion being the attachment of the roof plates, they're just a bit fiddly to get into position, definitely a sub-assembly and guidance arrows in the instructions...
As a final post design tweak I added 1x2 technic bricks so that it could be clipped into the castle wall if desired. I'm not sure I want to clip it directly into my town wall but I wouldn't want to stop others from doing so. Given that almost everything else has been clip-able it seemed wrong not to make this one clipable as well. I've retrospectively applied the changes to LDD.
There are a couple of loose plate joints that I'd rather weren't there, if I had access to the moulding machines a quick run of green plates in the missing sizes would easily solve the issues.
Cost:At 476 bricks it's in the 6067 Guarded Inn because it has a larger brick budget but it's the obvious comparisson that is innevitably going to be drawn because both sets draw on similar subject matter. The ultimate argument always becomes economics, would a parent pay for little Johny to have a Coaching Inn or a castle of some sort. I feel that the castle would generally win the purchase because the attack and defend storyline is the more obvious. At it's lower price-point the 7189 Mill Village Raid which works as a stand-alone domestic medieval set. Putting design differences aside, as they're from different eras, The Mill Village Raid shows that a high-priced domestic orientated set can sell. Mill Village Raid's advantage is that there is conflict, even if it's been artifically introduced. The Coaching Inn doesn't have that conflict and I don't think it would be right to artifically introduce it and therefore we complete the circle and go back to comparing it against the Guarded Inn where the conflict is implied (in the "Guarded") rather than explicit.
Consistency:The robot arms used in the cart didn't arrive until the late 90's. Additionally the curves on the bed in the big bedroom are anachronistic, not arriving until the early 90's. The 3 stud long pins are similarly a 90's invention but since they're well hidden they're not as obvious. Everything else is of the era.
How does it look alongside the other sets from era? Comparing it against a 6074 Black Falcon's Fortress would be more appropriate but it's substantially bigger. Seen here in both a town setting where it's a stand-alone building and clipped into the castle wall.
IMAGES TO COME
Another build that I'm very happy with. It's ended up with all the playability that I desired and all of the features that form the essence of a coaching inn.
The arguments about wether it would work as a sellable set have been described above. As a castle collector I'd have bought it but I don't think it would have sold to the general public in enough volume to warrant production. Still I've got a nice addition to my 80's style medieval town.