He Sat In An Old Recliner


Rebuilding The Classic K'NEXosaurus Circa 1997

My introduction to K'Nex was over 20 years ago. One of my older sisters went on a field trip to the Museum of Science... or was is it the Ecotarium? One of those had a K'Nex exhibit and everyone was allowed to follow instructions on building a simple space shuttle. When she brought hers home, I was fascinated by it. These were like Lego, but way cooler! I didn't visit the museum until two years later, I believe it was a 5th grade field trip. Luckily I didn't have to wait that long. It was either my 8th birthday or the Christmas of that year when I got my very first K'Nex building set, the K'NEXosaurus!

Space shuttle built like the one from the Museum of Science.
Various K'Nex pieces in a blue tub.

Along with instructions to build the K'NEXosaurus, it came with instructions for two additional builds, a crab and a mouse. All three could be built, individually, to work with the Power Pack, a two AA battery-powered motor that rotates two rods in opposite directions with a flip of the switch. I still have that motor, although the box and manual are long gone now, and I still have most of the original pieces mixed together with a couple other sets.

What better way to kill time on a dull weekend than finding your blue tub of K'Nex buried in your bedroom closet and building the K'NEXosaurus 20 years later? I couldn't remember exactly how to build this thing, so I checked out the official K'Nex website. You can search and find instructions for just about all of their newer kits. Without the building set code, searching the building set name gave me a few results. Unfortunately, none of those were from the kit I had as a child. Their newest K'NEXosaurus Rex set is from their Imagine brand released in 2017, and I also found instructions for their Beasts Alive brand from 2015. They still appear almost exactly how I remember it, besides new pieces for the eyes, but more differences appeared when I began building.

I know for sure that these blue washers didn't come with my old set. Luckily I had a bunch from that blue tub I got in 2006... which was a gag gift from my oldest sister, but I'm glad she got it for me! These washers were much better as spacers than using the grey single connectors. Another difference between the new K'NEXosaurus Rex and the classic K'NEXosaurus are the hinges used as the leg joints. I only have one blue-and-black pair that came in a green suitcase of K'Nex I got even earlier. However, I remembered using the black chain link and gold track splice pieces. Yet another difference I've noticed was the grey single connectors are now purple in these new instructions. The purple quadruple connectors, that are typically attached to the blue septuple connectors, are now grey. I'm not sure why they swapped these colors! No big deal. The worst change they've made was with the red triple connectors, that should be snapped along the middle of the tail and neck, which were replaced with the purple single connectors in the instructions. The tail swaying mechanism, unfortunately, required two sets of hinges, and I tried my best to build a make-shift one. I didn't think of using the chain links and track splices...

After finishing the build and turning on the Power Pack, my face was flushed with disappointment. The tail and neck flopped side-to-side because of the grey single connectors, they just aren't weighty enough. My mechanism for the swaying tail was junk, so I had to remove it. Now the tail was just dead and dragged across the table. With a little digging on the internet, I found out the model number was 12511 and the kit was released in the year 1996. I had no luck searching the building set number on the K'Nex website, so I got a little cheeky with the URL of the Beasts Alive instructions by wiping out the file name and extension. Doing this brought me to their directory of all of their scanned instruction booklets. So, I hit Ctrl + F on my keyboard and searched for the original model number. Eureka! Now that's the cover of the instruction manual I remember.

Instruction booklet cover from building set number 12511.
Completed K'NEXosaurus with some personalized tweaks.

All the differences I pointed out proved my memory correct. So I had to take apart the tail and neck and rebuild them following the proper instructions, using more red triple connectors than grey single connectors. The only thing I couldn't remember how to build was the mechanism for the swaying tail. It originally made use of the chain link and track splice pieces along with a straight orange connector. There were a few aesthetic pieces, some green rods near the base of the tail and red triple connectors on the back also missing in the newer instructions, so those were added to my current build. I also had to remove a single section of the tail because it was too long and dragged on the table. I also added blue washers to the base of the neck and tail to keep them centered. One final detail that I came up with when I originally built this was adding a blue rod and two tan clip connectors to hold the battery pack to the motor. I think the finished product turned out perfect. Watching the K'NEXosaurus stomp across the table sure is a blast to the past!