The LEGO® Project

November 12, 2015

When Crossrail Ltd. set out to make its new east-west rail line across London a model for sustainable construction on a massive scale, it knew one of the biggest challenge would be digging 13 miles (21 kilometers) of tunnel beneath one of the Western world's oldest cities using huge tunnel boring machines, or TBMs. Armed with rotating cuts at the front, a TBM can tunnel up to 492 feet (150 meters) through the ground in a single week. At 486 feet (148 meters), the size of a small cruise ship, and weighing 1,000 tons, TBMs are as massive as they are efficient.

On Crossrail, these machines needed to work around the clock moving through ground that's honeycombed with networks of sewer lines, water and gas mains, foundations of buildings, and even some London Underground tunnels dating to the 1860s.

Crossrail's partner, Bechtel, commissioned the creation of a TBM assembled from 50,000 LEGO bricks. The model was built to celebrate the company's national sponsorship of the 2013 First® LEGO® League for the UK and Ireland, a robotics tournament designed to motivate young people to become STEM leaders. Bechtel was a national sponsor, and 70 of its employees donated more than 500 hours mentoring students from 10 schools near the Crossrail project on how to build an autonomous robot.

During its history Bechtel has delivered roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) of tunnel infrastructure projects.

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