34-year-old Merijn van den Berg is making good progress as "Bananenbuurman" on YouTube with the videos of his lego train. It traverses the most extraordinary landscapes and water worlds.
Merijn creates these worlds all by himself, simply with things that come his way. And of course his lego train and 125 meters of lego track. Today we followed the filmmaker during a shooting day and that is hard work for Merijn. He does not want to disappoint the three million people who tune into his channel every month. (Broadcasted in 2017)
I make videos with LEGO trains. I let the LEGO train run on all kinds of crazy places.
That can be, for example, in a factory, on the beach or in a forest.
This is a very sensational environment because of all the thing you can drive through.
You can experience how it's like to be a little LEGO man and see what all those big objects around you look like.
I think it stimulates our fantasy. Most of us played with LEGO when we were younger and it remains something magical.
It's very nice that I can put in all my passion and creativity.
My videos are being watched In 172 countries around the world.
August 2018 I was in Boekelo to visit the MBS LEGO days event in Boekelo. I was interviewed by RTV Oost as can be seen @ 4:40.
In March 2017 I got a visit from Dutch website Dumpert.nl on the Brick Valley Location. They made a very cool report on how a layout is build. The video is in Dutch only and there are not yet subtitles available.
Full post: https://www.dumpert.nl/mediabase/7089443/335e7a86/dumperttv_bouwt_een_lego_treinbaan_buiten.html
Meet the pro Merijn van den Berg a.k.a Bananenbuurman
For our new series ‘Meet the pro’, we interview Merijn van den Berg from The Netherlands, a.k.a Bananenbuurman. Merijn runs a popular YouTube channel with over 123.000 subscribers, on which he builds incredible LEGO® railways. We asked Merijn about his favorite projects and his inspiration sources.
ToyPro: to start with, which of your own YouTube projects are you proudest of and can you tell us about the greatest challenges you faced when building these projects? Merijn: absolutely!
LEGO Train DreamRide
The DreamRide is my best project. I got the idea for DreamRide from my wide interest and passion for techical engineering. I discovered my own creativity in finding possibilities for the use of background setting elements(props), as you can tell from the DVD doors. I consider myself a multifaceted artist, and as such, I own a lot of stuff I can use when building the rides. It is not just about building backgrounds, it is in fact a complete arrangement: the exact timing of the pictures to the music, the atmosphere of the music, the order of the themes, highlights during the ride, technical aspects concerning electricity, light, sound and movement. I had thick cable cords running through the entire house.
There are so much hidden technical elements built in. It is an all-encompassing project, very nicely assorted to my expertise. Of course, I do not know everything and I am regularly confronted with problems. But I consider them a challenge.
The DreamRide has been watched over two million times now. In the way of earnings, it is more like a hobby project, because I have put so many hundreds of hours into it. All the same, this project is so close to my heart that
I have now started building a complete DreamRide studio. I have rented space to this effect, and have been working on it, of and on, for over a year now.
I want to automatize everything in this new version and have already built several electronic systems with Arduino's, a.o. I have also been writing software in order to direct the ride and all the elements. The new DreamRide will hold 32 cameras to follow the train automatically, mostly to check the ride and to program all the elements. However, this project is nowhere near completion yet, because of the amount of work. Something an amusement park might pay millions for, I try to build for a few thousand euros.
LEGO Train Vertical Loop
The idea for the looping came up after I had created a 6 m long ramp in the stairways, in order to set up a train crash. This was my girlfriend Laura’s idea. I made the train crash though a glass window, through a pie, against a train filled with coins, and against window blinds. While building that ramp I wanted better effects and thought: ‘wouldn’t it be cool if the train went through a looping too?’ And not just a tiny little train – the full size train, just as you can buy in a toyshop, should perform a looping!
The making of video of the LEGO® Vertical Train Loop
This turned out to be quite complicated and building it took me about 6 months. New problems kept popping up. I had done some math to calculate it should be possible. But I would never know for sure whether it would work before actual completion. Suppose it didn’t, then all the hard work would have been for nothing.
I had never built such a large object yet, it only just fitted into our staircase. Fortunately, the neighbors didn’t mind stepping through the loop-hole now and then, when coming in or going out of their houses! And more fortunately: the looping trick worked, except for a few times, and it produced spectacular crash images!
The greatest challenge, besides building the looping trick, was retrieving all the bits and pieces flying into every direction after a crash. I soon got myself a so-called donor-train, to be able to continue recording quickly.
LEGO Underwater Train
At my parents´ place I had built a little railway tracks around the garden pond. During preparations and setting up I had the idea to involve the pond itself a bit more. It seemed so cool to have the train cross right through the pond.
The water was muddy, the pond leaked and needed replacement. I decided to get on with it and to build a temporary pond in the meantime for my LEGO® train.
It was difficult to send a train full of electronic equipment under water. So I thought of the solution where the train runs through a glass tube: it would stay dry and we would be able to see underwater anyway.
The making of video of the LEGO® Underwater Train
The greatest challenge was to make both ends of the tube watertight. But I managed to find a solution, with the aid of the inner tube of a bicycle and pipe clamps.
LEGO Train at Train/Tram Hotel
I am always on the look-out for new locations to run my LEGO® trains. The surroundings are very important, as they will become part of the background, the views from the train. I search everywhere for these spots, and on the internet, too, and of course this was a fabulous spot. A site full of old trams, a train, all sorts of railway accessories and other interesting stuff.
The greatest challenge here was to involve all the trams in the video. The site was simply enormous! In the end, the LEGO® train does not pass by a single tram. You have to choose, check what is feasible. Wind-force 7 caused problems concerning the drone shots, and thus we had to come back for 2 whole days to take the drone shots.
LEGO Train Spiral in Romania
I got to chat with one of my YouTube subscribers. He mentioned this very big LEGO® project he was working on. It was a 3 meter high LEGO® train spiral he was building as an attraction for the owner of a toy shop in Romania. I saw the first photo, did not hesitate for one second and booked a ticket for Romania.
The greatest challenge was to prevent the accidental collapse of the spiral! One nerve wrecking moment came up when the train holding the camera derailed when it was at the top of the spiral. It was all the way in the back, a spot difficult to reach, even with a very high ladder. The train with the camera fell all the way down and crashed onto a LEGO® pirate vessel. Fortunately LEGO® allows for complete reassembly – there I was, on my knees in the toy shop, piecing a pirate vessel back together again! The camera had continued shooting during the crash, which of course produced some spectacular takes!
ToyPro: when did your passion for LEGO® begin?
Merijn: as I child I played a lot with Duplo and LEGO®. Later on I also had a LEGO® train, but it was only a short track. 15 years ago I found a place of my own, a little studio. Now that I had a place of my own I wanted a larger railway track, but the actual space was confined. I decided to hang the railway track on the ceiling and to have the train run through the entire place. Thus, I got what I wanted: a long railway track.
Merijn’s first long railway track on the ceiling of his studio.
ToyPro: what is it that attracts you so in building LEGO® railway tracks?
Merijn: You send the train on its way, and it follows the track you have built. The engine is not very intelligent, it moves ahead or backwards. It is built into the LEGO® train model, and the vehicle ‘comes to life’. The magic begins when it reaches tunnels, bridges, switch points, the views along the railway track, and the many carriages peacefully following the locomotive. It is a clear system, it is predictable, and as such it provides a certain peace and quiet: you can see the rails as a metaphor for safety, they keep you on track. In fact, it is what many people search for in life. Railway tracks are more than mere toys. But of course, I mostly enjoy the fantasy aspect, and the large imaginary trips the LEGO® minifigures are taking! The camera inside the train reflects what a train driver would see and almost turns this fantasy into reality!
I have always had a passion for picture and sound recording. This started when my mother explained a cassette can be used for playing but also for recording sounds, such as your own voice. What an eye-opener! Finally I knew what that red button was for! For years after that I always had a cassette recorder with me to record all sorts of things and I made reportages. Sometime later, my mother gave me an old mirror reflex camera and I started taking pictures. This is when my passion for ‘framing’ and telling a story in pictures began. At the time you still had to take your rolls of film to the shop to be developed, and there was no screen on the camera yet. You had to wait for days or weeks to find out whether your picture was a success, and the film rolls and their development were quite expensive.
In 1995 I found an old film camera at a flea market. A simple device. It didn’t actually work but I could see through it, play with the zoom lens and practice my ‘shots’. I made long reportages without any film in the camera, all for good practice. When I was 12, I started making videos with my grandfather’s video camera. At the age of 15 he gave me my own first video camera, a Sony Video8 for the connoisseurs. Again, I never stopped filming around me and soon earned a reputation as 'Merijn with the camera'. In that same year I started work as a volunteer with the local broadcasting organization, as a cameraman and editor. With one of the first computers to assemble films, I produced news items and reportages which were broadcasted on the local TV channel. It is so wonderful when people can actually see your work!
With this experience under my belt I tried to find a job with the Dutch national TV broadcasting organization. I found one via a temporary agency and every day I rode my very old moped 50 km to work as a cable carrier, which consists of walking behind a cameraman and making sure he can film without tripping over the cables. You also fetch him coffee. I had a wonderful time there, today TV has changed. Later on, I did all sorts of different jobs for national TV, gained a lot more experience and in 2001 I started my own company. I filmed and put together reportages, promotional film, commercials, TV-programs and films. But I was always working for someone, for a customer, and thus I never had complete freedom regarding the end product.
After the financial crisis in 2008 when I almost went broke in 2010 I also took on other jobs, set up a few new companies, because TV offered less employment. YouTube was up and coming at the time, and I had always been hoping that one day there would be a platform for me to make money with my own films, and thus ‘create my own job’. In 2012 YouTube introduced the advertising model that allowed film producers to receive part of the publicity generated revenues. The film of my ceiling-hung railway track had been on YouTube once before, and it was viewed quite regularly. I thought it might be good to develop this idea, and that is how my YouTube canal came into being.
ToyPro: have you got any future targets?
Merijn: the YouTube earnings model is rather unpredictable, and producing popular videos for a very large public time and again is not easy either. I make nice train films which cost a lot of time and money while vlogs and hastily made videos seem to be the thing on YouTube.
All this makes growth relatively slow. It is my job and my revenues depend on it. After a bad month on YouTube, I’m sometimes very short of money and unable to buy new LEGO® trains or to visit train locations. It doesn’t matter because I like what I do and that is worth everything to me! I don’t know what future holds in store for me. Probably better, that keeps things exciting! Who knows, it might become so big that one day we will be able to ride a LEGO® train on the moon. Hahaha!
ToyPro: have you got any tips for our readers?
Merijn: be creative and use items already in your possession. Sometimes you needn’t buy anything extra and you can make wonderful little films with simple means and your mobile phone (with camera)! Also, a restricted length of traintrack can create the illusion of a very long railway just by putting shots behind one another and changing the place of the rails in each shot.
ToyPro: which YouTube channels are your own favorites?
Merijn: I myself am a great fan of YouTuber Akiyuki. Akiyuki is not really a LEGO® train builder, but his creations are wonderful and often involves the use of train- track and parts.
We wish to thank Merijn for his time and his inspiration. Do you want to keep following Merijn, a.k.a. Bananenbuurman? Then take out a subscription on his YouTube channel.
Do you want to build a LEGO® train yourself? ToyPro has a very large assortment of LEGO® train sets, LEGO® train parts and LEGO® train minifigures.
"The Magical World of LEGO Trains"
By: Hanin Ballan
Text under photo: "Merijn van den Berg is very successful with his videos of LEGO trains."
Eight hours he needed to build his 125 meter long trainlayout - made of lego -.
As a child, Merijn van den Berg (34) from Hoofddorp already dreamed of a long train layout, but there was no room at that time. Nowadays, he has all freedom and makes railways in the most unusual places, such as by a pond or on the beach.
The concept is simple: during the ride, he connects a camera to the mini-train. Next, this video will be posted on YouTube to share the experience with the audience and take them to another world.
On Saturday he chose a warehouse in the IJmuiden harbor area, originally owned by his grandfather. A maritime company makes this space available.
Many might not find the contents of this storage space to be very inspiring; car tires, a car wreck and a crane. But for Van den Berg this can produce beautiful pictures. He drives the lego train along the stack of tires and drives through the car wreck.
For three years, the train lover has shared his videos on YouTube. He produces everything himself: from design to recordings. Most of the time goes into editing the videos. Van den Berg tries to make the production run as smooth as possible. He worked as an editor for television shows such as the Golden Cage and Big Brother.
Being a full-time YouTuber, he also experiences the other side of the success: "Occasionally, I have production stress. You must be on top of everything and keep people entertained. Every time I have to come up with superfluous ideas. "So far, he succeeds in drawing attention.
Currently, his channel, called Bananenbuurman, has more than 61 thousand subscribers. As the channel grows, the YouTuber can earn its bread.,, My best viewed video has ten million views. There you will see a lego train on an old railway line in IJmuiden. "
With another video you will be in magical world where the lego train leads you through a luminous tunnel. You also go through a discoball-filled room. All this is combined with matching music. The design is an indoor attraction that the maker believes would be suitable for amusement parks.
"Secretly, I hope Disney or Efteling calls me one day," confessed the 34-year-old creator. For him it is not hard to imagine original train layouts. "I'm full of ideas and I can put all my creativity in here. Sometimes I see myself as an artist who just wants to make beautiful things. Next week, I hang a train from a drone and let it fly through the air."
Bananenbuurman on Qmusic (MP3 format)
Audio clip is in Dutch language (The Netherlands) so here is an English translation:
Kai Merckx: 15 past ten and this is Kensington! I just get this message from Johannes de Boer, he says: "LEGO World is unfortunately over. It were 7 very cool days!" And speaking about LEGO. Merijn van den Berg really likes LEGO trains. He even dedicated a complete Youtube channel to this!
K: Good evening Merijn!
M: Hey there Kai good evening!
K: Hey good evening! Is this an hobby that got out of control or...?
M: Well, actually it was already out of control quite some years ago when I started with those trains.
M: I came to live on my own and as a child I already loved LEGO trains but of course, I had just a small track. And by the time I came to live on my own, I finally had the space to build a larger trainlayout, but still.. I just had a small appartment, so as a solution I hanged the complete trainlayout on the ceiling!
K: Yes! That's what I saw! Those traintracks are running everywhere in your house! Doesn't that make you crazy at some moments?
M: Well, in the meantime those traintracks are removed, because I started creating those layouts outdoor
K: Ah that's nice!
M: Yes, I bought 100 meters of tracks, and now I just lay a track outdoor on all sorts of locations.
K; Ow yes, outdoor, but what if there are leafs on the track? Because that is always misery!
M: Yes, no, this train doesn't bother. It's right on time and there are no leafs on the tracks!
K: Ok good! very good! But sometimes you have to overcome things don't you? I saw your Youtube channel, you build complete worlds actually, for your trains, it's all really big! But sometimes it can also go wrong because I also saw this; listen with me:
[ SOUNDCLIP FROM TV REPORT ON SBS6 ]
M: We are going to hoist the LEGO train with this crane!
[ audible crane sound ]
[ audible loud crash sound ]
M: That is also what can happen...
[ END SOUNDCLIP SBS6 ]
K: Haha Yes that is also what could happen... You see a train getting pulled up with the crane, and then it just crashes in pieces!
M: Yes! Such a luck! Exactly when those guys from SBS6 "Hart van Nederland" (Heart of Netherlands) came by, my train falls 3 meters down and shatters into pieces!
K: Hahaha Yes Are you then long busy with repairing that? Because it broke down in thousands of pieces?
M: Yes that takes some 10 or 15 minutes, especially in this case, because the pieces flown everywhere!
K: But how long are you busy with such a world? And tell me how such a world looks like.
M: Well of course I have all sorts of videos but what I try to do is work with the material onsite. so if there's a pallet with bricks, I create tunels with that, if there's a tube laying around, I'll drive the train through that.
K: Ok, very creative, and how long are you busy with such a layout? on average because it varies per layout I can imagine.
M: Yes it's different for each layout but for example, the soundclip you just played, There I was busy 5 days...
M: of which 3 days of building and 2 days of recording, and after that I also spent a couple days on editing to make it all look nice.
K: Yes absolutely! Very good! But Merijn? do you also do something else in your daily life? or is this... are you dedicated?
M: Well, for years I worked in the TV industry...
K: Ow that's nice!
M: Yes that was very nice indeed! On a particular moment I had to make a choice if I would continue working for television or do something in which I could put all my passion and creativity. And of course I had that video of the LEGO train on the ceiling, and that had become such a succes on Youtube, that I decided to do something more with the LEGO trains.
K: Ok, and you can live from that? All with Youtube?
M: Yes, well, there are ads shown and once per thousand views or so I get a few cents, so yes, but it's not yet something I could complety live off. And that's why the channel needs to grow! That's why I want take this opportunity to ask everybody to subscribe to my channel for free, because the more subscribers I have, the more locations I can visit.
K: Ok, Where can we see that?
M: You can see that on youtube.com/bananenbuurman
M: But you can also go to bananenbuurman.nl
K: Ok, and now you got to stop saying that name! Or I have to send you an invoice! Haha
M: Haha, of course you understand that I have to make a little promotion for the channel!
K: Haha, Yes you have done that already now!
M: Yes, haha
K: I'm closing the track! I'm going to put you on a side track! We're going the other way now!
K: Thank you for your time and have fun with the trains Merijn van den Berg! Good evening!